Travel Misconceptions: Mexico City

Mexico City, Mexico - Travel Misconceptions

One of my goals on The Atlas Heart is to break down travel misconceptions or judgments about places and ideas. Perhaps it could be that destination that everyone warns you not to visit because of how dangerous it is, or maybe you yourself had preconceived notions that were proven wrong once you arrived to where you were going.

My aim is to present a variety of different opinions and experiences through the eyes of other travelers. It’s important to hear travel stories from all different perspectives in life, I call it seeing the world through a kaleidoscope lens.

So, I’m starting my first ever guest posting series about these travel misconceptions we find throughout our lives and epic journeys. I’ve asked a few writers to talk about their own misconceptions and perhaps how they were proven wrong in their travels.

Without further ado, I’m happy to introduce the next guest poster on this blog – Megan from Forks And Footprints – talking about the misconceptions surrounding Mexico City. Take it away Megan!

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Mexico. Let me guess, you thought of either two scenarios: a Marriott hotel on the beach in Cancun or dirty Mexican cowboys with guns lurking in the dark corners of Mexico City. I’m here to speak about those travel misconceptions of Mexico, specifically Mexico City. As the famous Lorax once said, “I speak for Mexico City. I speak for Mexico City, for Mexico City has no tongue.” Or something like that…

I have to be honest, my three weeks in Mexico were REALLY spontaneous, I didn’t research much and I didn’t expect to stay for more than a few days. I was traveling solo during my time in Mexico and thought it was absolutely out of the question to even consider traveling in that country by myself.

My parents, the news, the media all speak rather negatively about Mexico as a country. My mom did all she could to try to talk me out of even going to Cancun by myself. I was scared. I hadn’t been living in a shoebox the last 10 years; I heard the reports of rapes, murders, and other crazy occurrences happening on Mexican turf.

Slowly, though, as I began reaching out to other travelers for info on Mexico, my eyes opened.

At a travel conference in Florida, I actually met a fellow travel blogger who was a mom, and who willingly chose to move her family to live in Mexico City. And she was wickedly normal. Wow. Hmm… maybe I was wrong. I read plenty of blog posts and spoke to plenty of people that absolutely RAVED about Mexico City and the rest of the country.

Basically, I give in to peer pressure really easily and I decided to brave Mexico City solo after all.

Mexico City, Mexico - Travel Misconceptions

When I stepped out of my taxi in the Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City, I actually laughed at myself. It wasn’t dirty; there weren’t shady guys lurking in corners. It had a Brooklyn vibe but less smell and cleaner. The hipster feel, the architecture of old Mexico and a happening food and beverage scene combined lent themselves to a gorgeous little neighborhood.

Sure, I thought, this was just one neighborhood, it had to be the exemption. Nope. I galavanted all around Mexico City for what wound up being 10 days (I just couldn’t leave once I was ok to stay!) and everywhere I went was clean, felt relatively safe for a city and was gorgeous!

Even after a couple days of exploring, however, I was still REALLY apprehensive to try taking the subway. Before getting to Mexico City, I had heard plenty of warnings to not ride the subway because it was INSANELY dangerous. When I got to the city, everyone continued issuing these warnings. The people working at my hostel, taxi drivers I asked for directions, locals I chatted up, everyone said to stay far away! I bet you’re going to guess where this is going…. I rode the subway.

To be fair, I rode it for the first time with another female traveler I had met during my wanderings, at noon, from one tourist area to the other, spent 20 minutes securing all of my belongings before hand, and was having diarrhea cramps the whole way to the subway from being terrified. And you know what? Once we got in the subway car, we laughed.

We were surrounded by men and women dressed in suits. We were actually drawing more attention to ourselves because we were being so sketchily cautious. I ended up taking it a handful more times during my stay and every time felt the same. For a 6 peso trip instead of an 80-90 peso trip, it was worth the risk.

It wasn’t all butterflies and rainbows though, there were police officers at every corner, some were armed in riot gear. This definitely added an edge to sightseeing. When I got a couple streets over from major tourist areas I felt people staring at me more so than usual. But, ya know what? I feel that way in NYC, Chicago, Bangkok, London. Major cities have their dangers and Mexico City is no different. But Mexico City is one city that, I feel, doesn’t deserve to be so drastically misunderstood.

Megan from Forks And Footprints - Mexico City Travel MisconceptionsMegan is a girl that shouldn’t travel. She’s gluten free, allergic to everything else,  falls off motorcyles, poops her pants, gets bit by stray dogs and yet she’s been traveling the world for 3 years and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. She writes about all of this and more at ForksAndFootprints.com. And lucky for you she  even captures some of it on video! Subscribe to her new Youtube Channel, or Facebook page to see her blunders in action.

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Travel Misconceptions - Mexico City, Mexico

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Interested in being a part of the travel misconceptions series? Make sure to contact me with an idea for your story, I’d love to have you on board!

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Mimi McFadden

Travel Writer/Blogger at The Atlas Heart
Mimi founded The Atlas Heart to create a community of travelers inspired to see the world. The Atlas Heart is a space where you'll find anecdotes on slow travel, craft beer, outdoor adventures, and all the eccentric bits in between that this world has to offer.
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14 comments

  1. It looks like a beautiful city from your pics, I visited once while in high school. Did they build the subway away from the earthquake fault lines? My co-worker went to Mexico City last week and her local contact advised her to hire a bodyguard. She’s not famous or rich, but they just advised that was wise for a white American traveling there. I think one can be lucky and have nothing happen to them in a dangerous area, but you should always take advice from those who know the risks.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Anna. Megan did a great job of portraying a very misunderstood city. I always recommend having your wits about you when you travel – regardless of how safe or unsafe an area is deemed – but I think what Megan did a good job of showing in this article is that some of those risks are over exaggerated. I’m sure there are still plenty of dangers in Mexico City, but are those dangers anymore prevalent than other big cities around the world such as New York? Honestly, I wouldn’t know until I visit Mexico City myself..but I know I would want to go in with an open mind and not a fearful one. It’s also important to remember that cities and places change. The Mexico City from a decade ago could be a very different city today. Just my two cents.

  2. Wow, I would have never thought that! Mexico city does look and sound beautiful. I think this is a great initiative to make people aware of some long standing travel conceptions, you go girl! I love riding the subway and miss them since moving to Seattle from NYC.
    xx, Kusum | http://www.sveeteskapes.com

    1. I know Kusum, me either! I hope this series can shed some much needed light on some of the more misunderstood places around the world. I’m looking forward to seeing Mexico City sometime in the near future to understand the culture around the city better myself.

  3. I was born and raised in Mexico, and my husband in Mexico City. We travel to the D.F. a lot because we have so much family there. I love it and hate it at the same time. We’re always on the defensive just walking around Polanco or the Zocalo and a little apprehensive about taking taxis. Otherwise, this is a regal city and I recommend visiting Mexico City at least once in your lifetime. (Cabo San Lucas is not really Mexico, but it’s nice.Lol!)

    1. That’s really interesting to hear Suzette, thank you for your perspective. It seems like a place that would have a lot of pros and cons but an intriguing place to visit all the same. I would love to experience it for myself one day to see what I come away, especially with all if the negative comments I’ve heard about the city up until now.

  4. I haven’t gone to Mexico city but I would love to go again, I’m glad you decided to go after all and that you had a nice time!

  5. I’ve been to Mexico City twice for business – the first time i was very apprehensive. I stayed in Polanco and only walked around that area. On the weekend my friends that live in Mexico City gave me a grand tour but kept telling me how dangerous the city was. The first time i traveled by myself. The second time another guy traveled with me and we quickly found that my friend’s concerns for my safety may have been a little too protective. We wandered all the way down to the Zocalo and back, walking through various neighborhoods. Only once did we turn a corner and say to ourselves, this doesn’t look like a safe area. We simply retraced our steps. This can happen in any city. Granted 2 males may be safer than a solo female, but i didn’t get the feeling that there were people lurking in the shadows waiting to pounce.
    I am headed back to Mexico City in a couple of days for a long weekend for “fun”, this time taking my wife because i enjoyed the city so much. An “undiscovered” gem to us gringos from USA.

    1. Thank you for sharing your story Tony! I had always been apprehensive about going to Mexico City too, and even other parts of Mexico when I was in college in San Diego and constantly hearing about drug violence & beheadings. I’m really glad more people are starting to travel to this part of the world now, I can’t wait to go to Mexico and see it for myself one of these days. Have a great time on your upcoming trip!

  6. I am really glad to hear this! Ever since watching that Leo diCaprio Romeo and Juliet remake I have been dying to go to Mexico City. But, yeah, I haven’t been living in a shoe box either. We did spend almost a month in San Salvador, El Salvador several years back. I guess after that Mexico City really would feel more like NYC!

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