What to Do on a Layover in Mexico City

Layover in Mexico City

When I went to Singapore to meet my family I had a layover in Mexico and another one in Tokyo. Considering the timing of the purchase of the flights and where I was coming from, it was already a very good deal. The downside of it was the total duration to get to the final destination (not the movie, please). Layovers included, it was 44 hours and 40 minutes. One-way. Yup, no typos there.

Aside from the reasons already stipulated, I happened to have visas for my stopovers and my arrival in Singapore given the almost two days of transit coincides with the arrival of my folks from the Philippines. And what did I get from a nine-hour and 25-minute layover in Mexico City? You’re looking right at it.

With my usual gear for a five-day trip, I egg rolled to SJO airport and was of course already given all the boarding passes despite the airline from Mexico onwards being different (but an ally). It was my first time flying with Interjet and I was very much delighted that they had enough leg room to accommodate my long-legged legs. “I’d like Rum and Coke, please.” (Sosyal-sosyalan.)

Interjet flight

For some weak passports, a US visa comes very handy because it’s acknowledged by some countries—Mexico being one of them—in lieu of an actual visa. Despite declaring that I was only there for a layover, I was stamped with 180 days of stay. No fuss. After which, I hunted down Telcel for a SIM card.

Layover in Mexico City

With data connectivity, CDMX was mine to conquer. (In case you’ll encounter it, the acronym stands for “Ciudad de Mexico”, the city’s official name.) My first destination was Biblioteca Vasconcelos, my most coveted stop.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos

Biblioteca Vasconcelos

I wrote about the place in a separate post so if you’re as curious as I was, read on. It was absolutely breathtaking, if not neck-breaking.

Biblioteca Vasconcelos

It was nearing 30 minutes past 7:00 PM when I first caught a glimpse of Zocalo, the city’s main square, and the buildings surrounding it. With the decorations around, it didn’t fall short of a holiday feeling.

Layover in Mexico City

Metropolitan Cathedral

I left Biblioteca Vasconcelos in time to reach Catedral Metropolitana before it closes but unfortunately even the gates were no more when I stepped out of my ride. As for knowing why by asking someone, blame it on my good-as-zero Spanish. The church looked massive.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Honestly, I have reservations if the ornaments around Zocalo were indeed Christmas decors because the colors of the Mexican flag just happen to match those of the season. And it was just August! They could’ve been celebrating something else. Then again, bells are also symbols of the Yuletide. (Dami kong problema.) In any case, they greeted me wonderfully.

Buildings around Zocalo

For not having any discomfort during the flight, it was time to put them legs to more use. With Google Maps in my arsenal, I made my way beside the cathedral and to a street where Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas and Escuela Nacional de Ingenieros (pronouncing them in my most Spakol Español accent) faced off against each other.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Layover in Mexico City

Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas

Secretaria de Comunicaciones y Obras Publicas

It was rush hour and witnessing the traffic instantly told me to play it safe by not staying out too late because, as usual, you can never really can never can tell what’ll happen and missing my flight was the last thing I wanted to happen.

Escuela Nacional de Ingenieros

Escuela Nacional de Ingenieros

In the penultimate street before I was to turn left, I caught sight of Torre Latinoamericana por primera vez, its digital clock reminding me that despite the sky not yet engulfed in darkness, it was already two minutes to eight. And with my vision parallel to the street, I was reminded of nothing else but the streets in Athens.

Torre Latinoamericana from a distance

Postal Palace

After seeing photos online of what looked like a palace of gold, I also really wanted to check out Palacio Postal which happened to be just across where I was heading to—Palacio de Bellas Artes. Unfortunately, the doors were already shut so I was only able to peek at its gold from the outside. Mi oro!

Palacio Postal and Palacio de Bellas Artes

As curiosity killed the cat, here’s the interior that I missed, courtesy of Wikipedia. Hontou ni zannen desu ne!

Palacio Postal

Palace of Fine Arts

Palacio de Bellas Artes

With wings on top of the structure, I was reminded of Castel Sant’Angelo in the movie adaptation of Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons. Palacio de Bellas Artes was so beautiful with the ridden Pegasi in front of it. It looks stunning on a clear day for sure. It’s currently a cultural center where events and exhibitions are held.

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Diagonally from the façade is Torre Latinoamericana which, like other skyscrapers around the woild, has a public observation deck.

Palacio de Bellas Artes and Torre Latinoamericana

In retrospect, since there was an entrance nearby, I should’ve also taken a shot at the subway just like in Athens. Boo! Apparently as of writing it’s the second largest metro system in North America after NYC Subway.

Torre Latinoamericana and subway entrance

I always have the stomach for street food but because I intentionally didn’t have cash with me, nganga. I wonder how that corn tasted. Huhu. (Ginusto mo ‘yan!) There was also an organillero (organ grinder) but I didn’t catch him play. Tch.

Street food and organillero

Right next to “Bella” is Alameda Central, the city’s oldest park. With the Beethoven Monument and the place being brightly lit, it was very enticing to explore. Howbeit, at 20:20, despite being six hours away from my next flight, I decided to turn away and just leave the park be as tears slowly flowed down my dry cheeks.

But only after spectating a “piggyfront ride” (not displayed outright as MTRCB might be lurking, ya know). Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s something that never happens back home and I think it was cute. Also, I have nothing against it at all and wasn’t being a voyeur. Skillz, bruh!

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Alameda Central

Alameda Central

As I was leaving, Sk8er Bois have gathered that I thought Avril Lavigne was gonna sing any mo(nu)ment.

Skaters at Palacio de Bellas Artes

When I saw two female police officers, I didn’t hesitate to ask them to take a photo of me using the same Spanish line that I mustered at Biblioteca Vasconcelos. Success! Before I walked away they talked to me which I understood to be that I take a photo of them. Turns out that one of them wanted me to join her in the photo. Shet. Celebrity?! More like exotic.

That was a first and it felt really weird. *grinning squinting emoji*

Palacio de Bellas Artes

Madero Street

I skipped the buildings around Zocalo earlier because I intended to get an Uber ride at the same spot where I got off. On my way back I took a different route and ended up catching Calle Madero, a pedestrian street lined with shops.

Layover in Mexico City

With its tile facade, who would ever miss Casa de los Azulejos?

Casa de los Azulejos

Madero Street

Madero Street

Madero Street

Adding to Catedral Metropolitana was La Profesa.

La Profesa

La Profesa

For wandering the street late, I could only muse at façades, which included that of Museo del Estanquillo’s.

Museo del Estanquillo on Madero Street

There were a lot of shops on the street but I was only eyeing for one where I can buy a charger and fortunately I found one. As for Sfera, it’s among the very few brands that have sizes for my lanky physique so it deserved a snap.

Sfera and MOBO Shop

Zocalo

In around twenny minutes I was back in Zocalo and with green lights illuminating the bordering buildings, I was once again convinced that the decorations could be for the Christmas season. If they were, indeed, then they celebrate even way earlier than the Philippines which does it every September! There was no better way to explore the square than circumnavigating it.

Layover in Mexico City

With the direction that I took, I passed by Portal de Mercaderes, the old town hall, the city’s administrative buildings, and Palacio Nacional. If there’s one thing that I read about but completely missed, it was Gran Hotel Ciudad de Mexico which happens to be inside Portal de Mercaderes. Those cage-like elevators must’ve looked James Bond-ish before my eyes.

Portal de Mercaderes

Portal de Mercaderes

Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento

The outdoor corridors looked lavish that there was no way I wasn’t gonna walk under one especially when it was licked lavender.

Antiguo Palacio del Ayuntamiento

Again, I wasn’t totally sure, but like when I was in Athens, there seemed to be a protest given the presence of banners and the tents in Zocalo. I was really looking forward to seeing the enormous Mexican flag atop the pole in the center of the square but I guess they raise and lower it everyday.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral as seen through Zocalo

Unlike the rest of the buildings, Palacio Nacional, occupying the entire east side of Zocalo, didn’t have a green mind face.

Palacio Nacional

Palacio Nacional

Palacio Nacional

Before long, I was back at Catedral Metropolitana and decided to have a peep at the subway station underneath (malamang) it.

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral

Zocalo Station

If you’ve ever tried tequila (which I haven’t), then you’re a long-nosed Pinocchio if the sign below doesn’t remind you of the distilled beverage. Did you know? It originated around Tequila, Mexico. (Feeling trivia master amp.)

Zocalo Station

Departure

I returned to the airport before ten o’clock, had a slice of Sbarro pizza, and settled at Avianca Lounge since I had access to it. (Sosyal-sosyalan nenemen.)

Avianca Lounge

There were spirits but I opted for beers (even took some for the flight, gehee) for my salad. #healthy

Avianca Lounge

Before midnight struck I was the only living soul around and at around 01:00, after some indulgence, finally left for the gate for the 02:20 departure. When I was called by the ANA agent at the counter for what I thought was another one of those document checks, I told myself, “Make distance and don’t exhale heavily as if your life depended on it; they might not let you board if they sense that you reek of alcohol.”

To my utter surprise—oh yes, it was!—I was informed, “We’ve upgraded you to business class so we’ll be giving you a new boarding pass.” After hearing that it was as if all the cans cervezas that I downed have been flushed from my system and I was sober down to my last nerve (which was an excellent thing since I needed room for all the free booze that comes with the accommodation). The first time I experienced a free upgrade was when I was leaving Bhutan after a mission. So believe me, it happens!

Free upgrade to business class on ANA flight to Tokyo

In my more than nine hours of layover in Mexico City, I was only out for a little more than four hours. My decision was due to the fact that it was my family’s first time overseas and there was NCIH that I was gonna let them be on their own because I was stupid enough to miss my flight.

Tips

  • Given the duration of your layover, assess if it’s worth going out or not. A rush hour could kill all of your time on the road.
  • Uber (or any similar service) is a good bet for transportation. But by doing so, make sure you have data coverage so you can book your way back.
  • If you have a lot of luggage, check if there are lockers in the airport where you can leave some.
  • Gauge if you’ll be needing pesos. I didn’t bring any because the locations on the top of my list had no entrance fees; I was there for sightseeing. For those that I wasn’t sure I’d visit, I checked if they accept plastics.
  • Search for the closing time of the places you wanna visit and catch them if you can.
  • Get those legs ready. You’ll be needing them to maximize the historic center of the city.
  • Eat. I could’ve sworn I wanted to munch a Mexican cuisine before going back to the airport but I guess no restaurant caught my eye (and yet I ended up in Sbarro, ngar).
  • Get something to drink. A tequila, maybe? I usually invest in booze because you can never really be sober in this life but my access to the lounge got the best of me.
  • There’s a restaurant—a vantage point—on top of a building facing Palacio de Bellas Artes.

Expenses

ItemCost (MXN)
Telcel SIM card129
Uber from airport to Biblioteca Vasconcelos91.96
Uber from Biblioteca Vasconcelos to Catedral Metropolitana55.65
Uber from Catedral Metropolitana to airport73.02
Sbarro pizza109
Total458.63

Visited: August 2019

Nelson

View posts by Nelson
An outdated software engineer with the attention span of a fruit fly. Follow me on Instagram if you have one? Cheers!

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