Mexico City is a vibrant and dynamic metropolis that has been in the international news quite a bit lately. Unfortunately, not all of the news has been good. Despite this, the city has become increasingly popular with foreign residents, including digital nomads.
The influx of people willing to pay more for rent and other services is being blamed for gentrification in popular neighborhoods like Polanco, La Condesa and Roma Norte.
As basic costs of living increase, the locals are being forced out, and they’re not happy about it.
Since we’re in the business of exploring popular areas where expats and digital nomads like to live, we couldn’t really cross this hotspot off our list.
However, we were very hesitant to go there. We didn’t know what to expect or if we’d even be welcome.
We did enjoy our time in CDMX. It has a lot of great things going for it, but several drawbacks and one thing in particular that will probably keep us from going back.
Mexico City Pros
One of the biggest advantages of living in Mexico City is its affordability. Compared to other major cities in North America like New York City or Los Angeles, the cost of living in Mexico City is much lower. Rent, food, transportation, and other basic necessities are all quite affordable, making it an ideal location for those on a budget.
We stayed in an AirBnB in the neighborhood of Polanco, which is very high-end. There was a Ferrari dealership across the street from the condo building and several nice malls within walking distance.
Despite how nice the area is, we found it to be more affordable for similar areas in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. And certainly a LOT more affordable than many capital cities in the US.
Mexico City is a walkable city with a rich cultural heritage. Its colon
ial architecture and beautiful parks make it an enjoyable place to explore on foot.
On our first full day in CDMX, we walked from Polanco, through embassy row, a huge park called Bosque de Chapultepec and into La Condesa for lunch.
We logged over 8 miles of walking that day, but I convinced Amelia to take an Uber back to our AirBnB in Polanco. The cost for the Uber was $120 pesos or $6 for a 25 minute ride.
We walked about 8 miles per day during our stay in Mexico City so we had a good vantage point for the city’s cleanliness.
There were a lot of street cleaners picking up trash, but we didn’t see much trash for them to pick up. Most of the dogs we saw were leashed and we don’t remember seeing any stray dogs, so that means we didn’t see much dog poop, either.
The public restrooms in the parks had attendants who keep those bathrooms clean, too.
The climate in Mexico City is generally mild, with cool mornings and highs in the 70s, making it an excellent location for those who prefer temperate weather.
The air was dry and the sky was blue during our entire trip. We wore a light jacket in the evenings, but jeans and short sleeve shirts during the day.
Reliable Internet and Cell Coverage
As a digital nomad, having reliable internet and cell coverage is crucial. Fortunately, Mexico City has excellent coverage and reliable internet service.
The WiFi at our AirBnB was super fast and reliable.
We used an eSIM with Airalo during our stay and had no connectivity issues while we were wandering around the city on foot. We use the mobile data for maps so we don’t get lost, to find things to do near where we are, and to request Ubers. It works great and we don’t have to pay international roaming charges!
Lots To Do
Mexico City has a rich cultural heritage, and there is always something to see and do. The city boasts a vast array of museums, galleries, and cultural sites.
Lots of Parks
Mexico City is home to several beautiful parks, including Chapultepec Park, which is one of the largest urban parks in the world. We spent a lot of time in that park, but only covered about half of it.
There were also lots of smaller parks in all the neighborhoods we visited, especially in La Condesa. And Polanco has a linear park along the old railroad track that runs through the area.
Mexicans are known for their warmth and hospitality, and the people of Mexico City are no exception. The locals are generally friendly and welcoming to foreigners.
Despite what we were led to believe and expect from the recent international news coverage about gentrification in Mexico City, we never felt unwelcome. In fact, quite the opposite. The locals made us feel right at home!
However, they seemed very surprised and appreciative when we spoke to them in Spanish. I guess they don’t get a lot of gringos who can speak Spanish so they don’t expect it.
Wide Variety of People
Mexico City is a melting pot of cultures, with a wide variety of people from all over the world calling it home.
Walking down the streets and sitting at restaurants in Polanco and La Condesa, we heard a variety of languages, including Spanish, English, German, French and a few Asian languages.
Mexico City seems to be a real melting pot!
From local markets to upscale shopping malls, Mexico City has a wide variety of shopping options. It’s easy to find products you need, and prices are generally quite reasonable.
We saw several vintage stores in La Condesa and Roma Norte if that’s your thing. What’s old is new again.
However, if your tastes go the other direction, we also saw all the high-end brands like Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, etc. in the embassy area near Parque Lincoln.
Great Restaurants and Grocery Stores
Mexico City is renowned for its delicious food, and there is no shortage of great restaurants to try.
The malls have everything from food courts to fine dining, as well as chains like P.F. Changs. However, we really enjoyed the streetside cafes in La Condesa and Roma Norte.
The city also has several high-quality grocery stores that offer a wide variety of products, way more than we’re used to seeing in Ecuador. There were several Sorianas in the area, which is Mexico’s version of Safeway. But City Market was by far our favorite! It reminded us of a really nice Whole Foods.
Close to the airport
Mexico City is home to one of the busiest airports in the world, making it easy to travel to other parts of Mexico or beyond.
We don’t consider it one of the nicest airports for a variety of reasons, but you can go anywhere in the world from there so that’s nice.
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Mexico City Cons
One of the biggest drawbacks of Mexico City is gentrification.
Popular neighborhoods like La Condesa, Roma Norte, and Polanco have become more expensive because of urban renewal, which has brought in more foreign residents and digital nomads. As a result, the locals are being forced out, and they are not happy about it.
Some areas of Mexico City are seeing price increases, especially for housing. A lot of landlords are converting their rentals from yearly leases to short-term AirBnBs, which has created a shortage of long-term housing and driven up the cost of rent.
Mexico City is one of the most populated cities in the world with over 22 million people! That’s more people than the entire country of Ecuador, which only has 18 million.
Due to its high population, it is really crowded. The roads were packed with vehicles, the sidewalks were full of people, the restaurants often had waits even during off times.
The traffic in Mexico City can be terrible, especially during rush hour. This can make it challenging to navigate through the city, especially during rush hour. It took us almost as long to drive in the city as it took us to walk the same distance.
We didn’t realize how spoiled we are by living in Ecuador until we were driving home from the airport on Saturday morning and there were virtually no cars on the road.
Mexico City has a reputation for being unsafe, and while it is not as dangerous as some other cities in Mexico, it is still important to take precautions.
Crime rates are higher in certain areas of the city. Theft, pickpockets, robberies and even kidnappings do occur so travelers should be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Mexico City is located in an area that is prone to earthquakes. While the city has taken steps to prepare for earthquakes, they can still be quite devastating.
The newer condo buildings are built to modern earthquake standards, but the older buildings, especially in La Condesa and Roma Norte, are at higher risk of damage or collapse during a large tremor.
The water in Mexico City is not safe to drink, and travelers should stick to bottled water or other beverages.
Upon arrival, I sent our AirBnB host a message asking if the water was safe to drink in our super nice condo building. He replied immediately and said absolutely not. He even told us not to use it to brush our teeth, but we did anyway.
We always travel with our BeFree filtered water bottles from Katadyn so we can minimize our plastic water bottle use.
The city has a reputation for having a strong sewer smell in certain areas. This can be unpleasant for some travelers.
We noticed it in a lot of different areas, but we did walk 8 miles a day. It’s gross, but we’re used to it after living in Denver and Manta, Ecuador. If you spend any time in a big city, you’re going smell the sewers.
Smoking is still prevalent in Mexico City, and travelers who are sensitive to smoke may find it challenging.
We were really shocked by the sheer number of smokers. We saw people smoking while driving, walking, eating at streetside cafes, standing outside buildings and in every area we visited.
Smoking in Ecuador isn’t nearly as common. It’s more like the US where smoking isn’t nearly as common anymore.
Mexico City has a serious air pollution problem, and the air quality can be hazardous to health, especially for those with respiratory issues.
The sky is often yellow, and some travelers may experience symptoms like coughing, shortness of breath, or eye irritation.
We experienced ALL of those issues during our stay in Mexico City. In fact, we felt so horrible by our last day there that Amelia was convinced we were sick!
Within 24 hours of leaving CDMX, we both felt fine so we’re almost certain the air pollution was the main culprit, although allergies and the dry air could have been contributing factors.
It’s really unfortunate because we loved our time in Mexico City and we now understand why so many foreign residents have chosen to call it home, but the low air quality is enough to keep us from going back.
Overall, Mexico City has a lot to offer, from affordable living to friendly locals and great restaurants.
However, there are also some drawbacks to living in this bustling metropolis, such as the air pollution, traffic, and safety concerns.
You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons and decide if Mexico City is a good fit. You may find that the pros outweigh the cons, or you may decide that the drawbacks are too significant to overlook.
Watch Our Video About The Pros & Cons of Mexico City
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Hola todos! Welcome to my author bio page! Let's see. Where to begin... I grew up in the country on a lake outside a small Kansas farm town. As soon as I could, I got the hell outta there! Since then, I've lived and/or worked in Kansas City, Washington D.C., Denver, San Francisco, and Ecuador. I started and sold a dotcom, wrote a book about it, started a YouTube channel, and now I write a lot. Amelia and I have embraced the Unconventional Life and we want to help you do it, too!