Mexico is one of the best destinations for people looking for a cheap getaway. The great thing about a trip to Mexico is that it is not only very affordable, but very exciting and rich in beauty and culture. While you will already be saving some money on your trip, you could still be doing some more to actually make your trip hit the “ridiculously cheap” levels. If you do a few things differently you may find that anyone can visit Mexico and still have money in their pockets on the way back.
Forget Fast Food Chains
A lot of people will head to the big fast food chain restaurants as a way to save money and because they are familiar with the menu. When compared to some of the more formal restaurants in the city you will be saving money, but you do have better and more affordable options. Check out the smaller “Comida Corrida” restaurants that you can find all over the city and walk in. While you could be spending close to 6 dollars or more per person at a fast food chain, you could spend 3 to 4 dollars at a comida corrida and get traditional Mexican food including a drink and sometimes even dessert.
You should also not be afraid to try street food in Mexico City. For the most part these spots are very clean and give you food at an even lower price. A tamale and coffee for breakfast will cost a little under 2 dollars and fill you up. For lunch or dinner you can get 5 authentic Mexican tacos, sopes, or quesadillas plus a soft drink for 3 dollars or less. If you are a bit concerned about the cleanliness of the food the rule of thumb is to do as locals do; that means that if a stand is full of customers, then that stand is probably a great choice for your food.
There are also ways to save on your lodging options. Again the trick is to not necessarily go with the familiar names which could cost anywhere from 70 to 150 dollars a night. You can look for locally owned hotels which are available even in centric areas in Mexico City. There are hotels close to Metro Allende that range from 13 dollars a night (with a private room but shared bathroom) to a really comfortable room with cable, AC, private bathroom and a lot of space for under 45 dollars a night. Close to Metro Hidalgo there is another area to find cheap hotels which range from 20 dollars a night to 45 dollars a night usually with all amenities.
If you are a student or a young traveler you may also want to check out the hostels in the center of the city right by the Zocalo. This is the best area to stay as there is a lot to do, and it makes it easier to get anywhere else in the city. The hostels here can cost anywhere from 11-30 dollars a night. The area is very safe and there are several attractions nearby like the Templo Mayor ruins, the Mexico City Cathedral and the center of Mexican Politics where congress and the presidency come together.
Use The Mexico City Metro
The best way to get anywhere in Mexico City is the Metro system and the good news is that it is the cheapest. Each trip in the metro including all connections between trains at the moment is 3 pesos or close to $0.27. The metro can take you anywhere you need to go in the city and it is cheaper and less frustrating than taking the buses. Even the smaller buses can cost anywhere from 2 to 3 pesos more than the metro, so unless you need to use these buses you should take a train. The metro system is very safe, but it can get very crowded during rush hour. The first two wagons in the train become a women only section during rush hour times and that is more comfortable for them. Taxi Service could be rather expensive especially from the airport; fortunately the Metro has a stop at the airport as well as a MetroBus that will take you to the city center.
One thing that you do have to keep in mind is that the Mexico City Metro does not run 24 hours a day. It stops running at midnight with very few exceptions so if you want to save money you will have to catch one of the last trains or otherwise you will need to take a bus or a taxi. Late at night the small buses or peceros are not always safe depending on where in the city you are.
Money Matters And Shopping
Several ATM's in Mexico City have seen an increase in the price that you pay for using it when that is not your bank. There are some however that have kept their rates down. Some of the better choices to save money include IXE, HSBC, Banco Azteca, Inbursa and Banco Bajio. If you see those ATM's they will charge anywhere from 2-3 dollars for each use, while the others can charge anywhere from 5-7 dollars. Some banks have partnerships with Mexican banks which also means reduced fees on ATM use. Check with your bank to see if they are partners with any other bank in Mexico.
Your shopping is something you can save a lot of money on if done right. You should never buy your souvenirs at the airport as the premium you will pay is too high. There are two great spots for shopping that you will be able to get your souvenirs for a lower price. First try the Mercado de Artesanias in Balderas. There you will find a lot of hand crafts and great souvenirs for a low price and you can even negotiate the price down. Also check Xochimilco on the weekend as the same rules apply and souvenirs are traditional of the area. Make sure you pay attention to the prices that others are paying so you are not given the tourist price.