The Moonlight team spent this past summer living in Mexico City. We are sharing our tips for working, finding wifi, and staying productive in the biggest city in North America.
The startup scene recently began to thrive in Mexico City. The area has become a hub for Spanish-speaking techies. Companies from the U.S., Colombia, Spain, Argentina, and more have relocated to join the Mexico City startup scene in pursuit of funding, growth, and a network of fellow innovators. There are co-working spaces on almost every corner, and we met engineers coding in coffee shops throughout the city.
A developing startup community means that people are excited about technology and the opportunities that come with it. There are startup events almost every night. Our favorite gathering was the Mexico City branch of Creative Mornings. Compared to most large cities around the world, the prices for food, drink, transportation, and space are inexpensive, and the city feels modern and safe. Taking an Uber anywhere in the city costs somewhere between $2-4 USD. Each section of the city has a unique vibe, so it is easy to fit in and find the scene you love.
There are 20 million people living in Mexico City and surrounding areas. Traffic can be horrible, and the pollution levels are high. It takes twice as long to get anywhere in the city during high-traffic times, and incessant honking serves as a constant reminder of the city's size. While most food sanitation is adequate, you still cannot drink water from the tap. Because of the non-potable water, you end up carrying home 10-gallon bottles of water from the local Oxo every couple of days.
Work spaces we liked
WeWork: This global company has 7 locations in the city, all with beautiful views and well-designed spaces. It is more expensive than other co-working spaces in the city but is also luxurious. The internet is relatively fast, but occasionally temperamental. Our favorite location we tried was Reforma Latino, which has a 42nd-floor view that you cannot miss.
Starbucks: There are locations everywhere (obviously), but most do not provide wifi. However, we found two multi-level Starbucks with stable internet, many people working, and reservable conference rooms. One location was on the south side of Parque Mexico. Our favorite one was the Starbucks Reserve in Polanco, which has three floors, valet parking, fast internet, tons of seating, and a rooftop patio.
Startup Mansion: One of the start-up epicenters is Nema, a “start-up mansion” which is home to start-up offices, the local 500 Start-ups branch, and a Facebook Developer Garage. It even provides free co-working for tech companies.
Cafe Curado: This café was where we found ourselves most mornings. It’s a small and cozy coffee shop in Roma Norte featuring beans from different roasters from around the world. They also have a conference room in the back of the shop which is available to rent for about $10 USD an hour.
Tomas: This teahouse has a few locations across the city, with a large tea selection, and macarons for when you need a treat. It does not feel like a place you can spend more than a few hours, but it has a great environment, comfy seating, and good wifi.
Rent is cheap compared to other big cities, especially in the US and Europe. We stayed in an Airbnb for three months that ended up being about 30% cheaper than living in San Francisco. It was great to have a calm place to come back to each night after a day out in a crowded city. Expect to pay somewhere between $500 to $2000 per month, depending on the size and location you desire. Most AirBNBs include weekly maid service.
Neighborhoods to explore
Roma: Feels the most European. Most streets surround plazas, and there are plenty of hipster bars and restaurants to explore. It’s central to the city, so you can easily walk or Uber to most neighborhoods.
Condesa: Lots of green parks and newer restaurants and bars. This area feels nice to walk through, and there are many coffee shops and cute boutiques to explore. It’s also centrally located with plenty of things to do. Our favorite area is walking around Parque Mexico on Calle Amsterdam.
Polanco: The most modern and upscale of the central neighborhoods in Mexico City. This neighborhood has newer architecture and restaurants. It can be pricier in this area, but a great place to walk around at night and hop from place to place.
Reforma: The startup center the city, and the area with the most co-working spaces and tech companies. If you stick around until night, there’s also a bustling bar scene, but don’t expect to make it home before sunrise!
Food and drink
One of the biggest changes for us was meal timing. Lunchtime is between 2 PM and 4 PM, and dinner time is between 8 PM and 10 PM (or later on weekends). If you try to go to lunch at noon, the restaurant will likely be closed. Most nightlife does not open until 11 PM or midnight, and people stay out until sunrise.
Street tacos are delicious and available everywhere. You can get a meal from a street stand for under $2. Just make sure you have a strong stomach - or lots of Pepto Bismol. The best one we tried was a taco stand on the south side of Plaza Cibeles serving sirloin and onion tacos. It opens most evenings around 10 PM and closes at sunrise.
Mexico City has restaurants at every plaza and almost every street corner. You can get great food, and spend a fraction of the cost that you would pay in any other major city. We liked going to any place with mole, which is an Oaxacan sauce typically made with chocolate and nuts. There were also many international restaurants with Japanese and French food that we tried. Our favorites were Tachinomi Desu (Japanese), Galia (French), and Parnita (tacos).
There are also plenty of high-end restaurants to choose from, with international recognition. The most famous ones are Pujol and Quintonil, and both require making reservations ahead of time. We preferred Quintonil because it seemed less commercialized in every way, ranging from its food to the service.
While living somewhere long-term, you will inevitably want a relaxing evening at home. Our favorite restaurants that deliver through Uber Eats were Los Panchos for Mexican food (like the chicken mole), and Ojo del Agua for fresh salads.
Mexico City is quickly becoming the hub of technology for the Spanish-speaking world. We saw innovation in everything from drones to payment technology. There is delicious food, affordable housing, and a nascent tech community. While the physical infrastructure within the city is still developing, it is inspiring to see a new wave of entrepreneurs solving problems for the Latin world. Plus, it is closer to San Francisco than New York City!
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