Driving to Mexico City - Road Trip Mexico Series

What it’s Like Driving into Mexico City

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Leaving Morelia that Friday morning we were just a few hours as we were driving into Mexico City. We needed to be in town by that evening in order to meet up with our house sitting hosts.

They were taking off the next day, but because of Mexico City’s “hoy no circula” program which has a complicated set of rules for what days and times you can and cannot drive (depending on your plate numbers and origin), we could not drive in Mexico City at all on Saturday’s because of my foreign plate.

Supposedly you can request special tourist permission online, but in my research I was under the impression that it was only available to cars made after a certain year and that my 1991 truck was ineligible. Nonetheless, we arranged to arrive on a Friday, a day with no restrictions for my plate.

Passing through Toluca and we got our first taste of the madness of Mexico City traffic. Indeed it was only but a taste.

There was heavy roadwork, crazy drivers, and even construction workers shouting out “Hello America!” to me from the scaffolding above as I drove by. The construction work really messed me up with the directions that my GPS device was giving me which didn’t make things any less stressful.

I was happy to finally be out of Toluca and we climbed up high mountain passes covered with pine trees.

It was a beautiful landscape that reminded me more of Washington State than of anything I had ever associated with Mexico.

When we hear about tourism to Mexico we usually hear about the beach resorts—Cabo, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Cancun, etc—or we hear about the ruins or the colonial pueblos. You don’t ever really hear too much about Mexico City.

As we got closer to Mexico City or the DF (Distrito Federal), we immediately saw the increasing presence of police and military.

They were all over the road. Numerous checkpoints, convoys of vehicles full of armed men in the back.

We weren’t sure what to make of it—whether we should be scared entering this place that looked like the streets of Iraq or if it was all just for show—demonstrating to the cartels and would be criminals that what happens in the rest of Mexico is not tolerated in the capital city.

Indeed, we hadn’t really seen much police presence (thankfully, since they often have nothing better to do than mess with foreign tourists) since leaving Mazatlan. Cabo San Lucas was the most heavily watched city up until now—but those were just normal cops or transit police, not the military like presence we were seeing now.

As we topped out in the mountains we finally began our descent into the valley where the sprawling metropolitan city stretched out as far as the eyes could see.

mexico city-2

We were arriving into Mexico City precisely at rush hour and on a Friday night—pretty much the worst time.

Traffic slowed down to essentially a parking lot and we inched forward ever so slowly. Whenever we would move at a slightly more rapid pace that’s when the local drivers would shift into absolute chaos.

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It was as if the road lines didn’t exist and they would abruptly plunge themselves into and out of your lane. Any millimeter of space that you allowed between you and the vehicle ahead would be capitalized on by a driver in another lane.

I suppose there was an unwritten code of order without the disorder, but as an outsider it was quite overwhelming.

There were transit police standing on the corner of every block or every overpass, it seemed. I’m not sure why—even if they did see an infraction, I’m not sure how a transit cop could track down a car in this mess.

Andrea told me to be calm and not worry about it more than once.

But it was stressful, chaotic, and not something I’d recommend to all!

Finally we made it to our exit in the La Condesa neighborhood, one of the more upscale neighborhoods in Mexico City.

We tracked down the apartment where we would be staying and were quickly able to meet up with our house sitting hosts.

She showed me into the parking garage at the apartment complex and we had finally arrived.

I wouldn’t need to drive for another three weeks!

We’d be looking after Zoe, their adorable little shih-tsu mix, for the next three weeks from their beautiful, modern apartment building in the heart of one of the best neighborhoods in the city.

mexico city-1

We were very excited! If you’re interested in learning more about house sitting to travel affordable, don’t miss out on my article about how to travel the world on a budget.

Traveling to Mexico City on your next trip? Book the perfect room on Booking.com today!

Mexico Travel Guide

What it's Like Driving into Mexico City

Read Next: My Mexico Travel Guide, Tips, and Resources

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Driving to Mexico City - Road Trip Mexico Series

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What it's Like Driving into Mexico City

Ryan

Author, Writer, and Head Honcho at Desk to Dirtbag
Ryan is an author, adventurer, perpetual wanderer, and self-proclaimed dirtbag (but that might not mean what you think). Originally from Seattle, he headed to Washington D.C. where he spent five years working for Congress before heeding the call of the wild. He set out living in his pickup truck to road trip across the American West. Since then he backpacked through Colombia, drove across all of Central America, and also wrote a best selling book: Big Travel, Small Budget. He just finished driving his old truck across all of South America -- support the adventures by visiting the D2D Shop. Follow the adventures on social media or read more about me.

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