Gluten-Free Globetrotter Travel Tips for Mexico

 Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

Victor and I on the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City

At the end of August, I went to Mexico City and Querertaro, Mexico with my boyfriend Victor. We toured all around his nation’s capital and then visited his mother and his original hometown. We went to castles, parks, mercados, the national cathedral and so much more. I was in awe of the culture, the friendly people, and the beautiful country.

Unfortunately, around day 3 or 4 of our trip, I contracted a horrible gastrointestinal bacteria. This was one of the nastiest stomach bugs I ever had before. I fainted for the first time in my life while getting my hair cut at a Mexican hair salon and a wound up in the hospital. Needless to say, this wasn’t one of my finest travel moments.

I felt so lucky that Victor and his mom were by my side the entire time I was sick in Querertaro. They took excellent care of me and I honestly don’t think I would have survived without them. While I didn’t come home and plan on blogging about being sick, it got me thinking about some ways to stay healthy, safe, and still enjoy Mexico.

Zocalo Mexico City

Zocalo Mexico City

Top tips for travel to Mexico City

  1. Stay hydrated with bottled water! Mexico City is at 7,382 feet above sea level and at high altitudes it is very easy to become dehydrated. Add in walking and pollution and you will become thirsty very quickly. Do not drink the tap water and stick to bottled water. It is very inexpensive so buy a large bottle any time you see an OXXO (a Mexican convenience store) or a pharmacy.
  2. Wear good walking shoes. The streets and sidewalks in Mexico City aren’t the best. There are lots of cobblestones, broken sidewalks, and construction. Wearing sturdy shoes will help you navigate the streets and avoid falls.

    IMG_4115

    Me in front of the National Cathedral in Mexico City

  3. Dress modestly. I wasn’t quite sure what to wear when we were out touring the city. Even though it was August, the temperatures weren’t sweltering hot and most Mexicans wore pants. I ended up wearing my jeans every day in Mexico City because barely anyone was wearing shorts and I didn’t want to stand out. Also, many churches have signs that request pants and covered shoulders to enter the building.
  4. Eat cautiously. This isn’t just a tip for those of us on a gluten-free diet, but all travelers. There are people selling food everywhere in Mexico. Restaurants, take-out windows, sides of the road, out of cars, and so on. This food smells delicious but isn’t always the safest food to eat. These stands aren’t regulated and you don’t know how long the food has been sitting out. You hear about tourists getting sick from the food but locals do too. Do yourself and your stomach a favor and stick to restaurants.
    Note: I think it was either a smoothie or a margarita that gave me the bug. I may never know but it is always a good reminder to pay attention to what you are consuming!

    Murals of Mexico City

    Murals of Mexico City

  5. Stay alert. This tip goes for any city! I didn’t feel unsafe in Mexico City but I did keep alert especially in the busy zocalo and metro. Unfortunately, pickpocketing does happen and even children are sometimes the culprits. Pay attention to the little hands that could be wandering into your bags when you aren’t looking.
  6. There is so much more to Mexico than beaches! I think most Americans assume that Mexico consists of only beaches and resorts in Cozumel, the Mayan Riveria, Cabo, and Cozumel. I admit, all of my previous trips to Mexico involved sun, sand, surf, and frozen drinks. Not this time and I am glad. Mexico has so much more to offer than the beautiful beaches. The mountains, valley, volcanoes, ranches, and inner cities are full of life, culture, food, and amazing people. On your next trip to Mexico, venture away from the beach and explore Mexico.
  7. Appreciate the people. I found the Mexicans to be some of the friendliest people in the world. They were kind, helpful, and appreciative. I had my boyfriend to translate for me most of the trip but the limited Spanish I had seemed to go a long way. Learn phrases such as good morning (buenos dias), nice to meet you (mucho gusto), and thank you (gracias) and you will always be greeted with a smile.

I am most thankful that my boyfriend Victor and his mother took me to a wonderful private hospital in Querertaro where the doctor actually understood Celiac Disease. Though the doctor didn’t speak a word of English, he always spoke directly to me while Victor translated.

Despite being so sick in Mexico, I actually really loved being in the cities with the locals. No resorts, no beaches, yet so much more to see, do, and learn. I cannot wait to go back and explore more of the countryside and the beautiful cities in Mexico.

My visit to the Clinica

My visit to the hospital

Muchas gracias, Queretaro!

Muchas gracias, Queretaro!

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About Erin Smith

Living with celiac disease since 1981 and eating gluten-free long before it was "trendy", Erin Smith has a unique perspective of growing up in the gluten-free community; Founded Gluten-Free Fun in 2007; Founded Gluten-Free Globetrotter® in 2011; Founded GlutenFreelancer® in 2014. Erin was the lead organizer of the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup group, a social community of more than 2,000 members for over a decade and has recently started a support group in Northern California.
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4 Responses to Gluten-Free Globetrotter Travel Tips for Mexico

  1. Sorry to hear you got sick in Mexico City but hope you managed to enjoy yourself regardless. How did you find eating gluten free there? Pretty hard for a celiac I imagine despite much Mexican food being “naturally gluten-free”.

    John and I spent a few months travelling around Mexico a few years back and we loved Mexico City! However, it was just before I was diagnosed so I didn’t have to worry about any dietary restrictions back then. I know it will be harder next time we visit but I would love to go back when my daughter is a little older (She was named after (middle name) one of our favourite little towns in Mexico; Xilitla. Beautiful wee place if you ever go back. I’d also recommend San Cristobal. Fantastic place.

    • Erin Smith says:

      I really only had three days of eating in Mexico before I got the bacterial infection. We have friends that own a restaurant in Mexico City, so they made sure to take us only to the best places. I did pretty well eating gluten-free, but it helped having native Spanish speakers with me.

  2. Pingback: November 2015 Gluten-Free Globetrotter Travel News | Gluten-Free Globetrotter

  3. Pingback: Health Prep for an International Trip | Gluten-Free Globetrotter

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