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It says a lot when a tourism office’s website recommends that travelers postpone their visit.
Although Mexico City’s Ministry of Tourism may still be using the #stayhome hashtag, the destination continues to reopen more attractions, businesses and hotels, providing new opportunities for travelers who are longing for a vacation infused with urban sophistication.
During my recent visit to Mexico’s capital, I sampled a variety of experiences to see how they’ve changed during the pandemic.
Mexico City is currently at the “orange” stage of the nation’s “traffic light” pandemic monitoring system. That’s one step down from the most intense — red — and it means that hotels, museums, stores, restaurants and movie theaters are open at 30% capacity. In addition, extensive hygiene and safety measures are in place throughout the area, to a greater extent than you’d see in most U.S. cities. Knowing what to expect can help travelers — and travel advisors who sell Mexico — better prepare for the “new normal.”
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My husband and I noticed changes as soon as we landed at Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport. A thermal-imaging scanner took our temperatures as we walked through the customs and immigration areas and there was a health questionnaire that we had to fill out. Everyone in the airport was required to wear masks, as well.
Overall, I felt comfortable during my visit and appreciated the steps that have been taken. We enjoyed the uncrowded museums and restaurants — but recognize that isn’t the Mexico City that we’d ordinarily enjoy.
New hygiene protocols were also in place at the Fiesta Americana Viaducto Aeropuerto, the newest and most technologically advanced hotel in the Fiesta Americana chain. Upon arrival, we stepped on a disinfecting door mat and proceeded to a decidedly high-tech temperature-taking kiosk — a first for the company — which eliminates the need for staff members to approach guests with the usual temperature scanning device. Social distancing is also easy during the check-in process, thanks to new automated check-in kiosks that allow guests to code their own key cards.
Enrique Calderon, COO of Grupo Posadas, the parent company of Fiesta Americana, explained that there are actually some advantages to visiting Mexico City right now.
“Tourism in Mexico City is recovering, although there are few people traveling,” he said. “This allows people to have access to tourist attractions without waiting in lines. Five-star hotels are offering rates as low as $80 [per night]. World Travel and Tourism Council protocols are being followed in various services around the city, including museums, restaurants, hotels and even in markets including the San Juan market in the historic downtown.”
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Heading out in the city over the course of several days, I found that yes, it is possible to enjoy many — but not all — aspects of Mexico City’s tourism scene, while following appropriate hygiene precautions. Given the current situation, the city is best for travelers looking for a decent (but reduced) dose of culture, museums, shopping and cuisine. But now is not the time to visit for live entertainment, shows, in-person experiences, classes, group tours or nightlife, since none of those are currently available or operating (even the massive Day of the Dead festivities will be virtual this year).
I found that yes, it is possible to enjoy many — but not all — aspects of Mexico City’s tourism scene, while following appropriate hygiene precautions.
Travelers need to take into consideration that they also won’t have access to as many activities as they’re used to. Upon arriving in the Centro Historico (the city’s historic downtown), we found that nearly the entire famed Zocalo (the gigantic city square) was blocked off. The Metropolitan Cathedral, one of the city’s biggest tourist sites, was open, but we had our temperatures taken twice before entry, and we weren’t allowed to sit together in a pew due to strict social-distancing guidelines. Video screens provided everything from health tips to pandemic-era prayers.
Nearby, the normally bustling Calle Madero pedestrian street is now a less-crowded, one-way thoroughfare; a parallel street has been blocked to vehicular traffic to allow for foot traffic in the opposite direction. Locals pay close attention to safety protocols; nearly everyone wears masks in public, and they stand on socially distanced markers while waiting dutifully to cross the street on Calle Madero. Capacity limits and temperature checks are the norm for larger stores and shops, too.
We visited a total of five museums (six if you count the dubiously accredited Museum of Canamo and Marijuana) during our five-night stay. All are operating at reduced capacity and some recommend reserving an admission time, but we showed up without reservations at every museum and had no problem getting in without a wait. Every venue requires visitors to get a temperature check and to step on a disinfecting doormat before admission. The experience was nearly identical at restaurants, as well. Only bars that serve food are allowed to open during this stage of the pandemic.
Visitors are subject to additional screening upon departure. All passengers at the airport have their temperatures checked and are required to fill out a health form, accessible via QR code at the terminal and also on the airport’s website. Those who’ve been in the U.S. within the previous 14 days may be pulled aside for further questioning, as we were.
Overall, I felt comfortable during my visit and appreciated the steps that have been taken. We enjoyed the uncrowded museums and restaurants — but recognize that isn’t the Mexico City that we’d ordinarily enjoy, and that hygiene measures are crucial for keeping travelers and locals safe.
The DetailsMexico City Ministry of Tourismwww.cdmxtravel.com