Opening hours are generally Mon-Fri 0930-1700, Sat 0900-1300. Banamex’s offices at Av Isabel la Católica 44, are in a converted baroque palace, ask the porter for a quick look into the magnificent patio. Another worthwhile building is the bank’s branch in the Casa Iturbide, Madero 17 and Gante, where Agustín de Iturbide lived as emperor. Bancomer, head office at Av Universidad 1200, also Venustiano Carranza y Bolívar, good quick cambio, same rate for cash and TCs. Banca Serfín, corner of 16 de Septiembre y Bolívar, or Madero 32, near Bolívar. Citibank, Paseo de la Reforma 390, for Citicorp TCs, also gives cash advances against credit cards with no commission. HSBC recommended, deals with MasterCard (Carnet) and Visa (usually quicker than Bancomer or Banamex for cash advances against credit card). American Express emergency number, T55-5326 2626; office at Reforma 350 esq Lancaster, T55- 5207 7049, will change cheques on Sat 0930- 1330, also Mon-Fri until 1800 (there are 10 other Amex offices in Mexico City, including at the Hotel Nikko at Campos Elíseos 204, Local 5, T55-5283 1900, and Centro Comercial Perisur, Periferico Surrey 4690, T55-5606 9621).
Casas de cambio
There are many casas de cambio, especially on Reforma, Madero and throughout the city centre. Their hours may be more convenient, but their rates can be poor. Central de Cambios (Suiza), Madero 58, west of Zócalo, and Casa de Cambio Plus, Av Juárez, have been recommended for rates. The Perisur shopping centre, Insurgentes and Periférico Sur, has a casa de cambio, T55-5606 3698, which is usually open until 1900, with a better exchange rate in the morning. Exchange services also available at the airport.
Always see if there is a special counter for currency transactions to avoid standing in long queues. Branches of all major Mexican banks proliferate in most parts of the city. Cash advances on credit cards are easy with good rates. TCs in most major currencies can be cashed at any branch of Bancomer or Banca Serfín without undue delay. Banks do not charge commission for changing TCs. The exchange of foreign currency notes, other than dollars, can be difficult apart from at the airport and main bank branches in the city centre. Before buying or selling currency, check the day’s exchange rate from a newspaper and then shop around. There is often a great disparity between different banks and casas de cambio, particularly in times of volatile currency markets. Hotels usually offer very poor rates.
Cultural centres and libraries
Amistad Británico-Mexicana, Montes Escandinavos 405, Lomas de Chapultepec, T55-2623 0603, http://www.amistadbm.org.mx.
Anglo-Mexican Cultural Institute, Maestro Antonio Caso 127, T55-5566 6144. Biblioteca Benjamín Franklin, Liverpool 31, T55-5080 2733, Mon-Fri 1000-1900, has books and English-language papers. ID required. British Council, Lope de Vega 316, Polanco, T55- 5263 1900, http://www.britishcouncil.org.mx. Goethe-Institut, Liverpool 89, T55-5207 0487, http://www.goethe.de/mexiko, for German books and papers. Instituto Francés de América Latina, Campos Elíseos 339, free films Thu at 2030, T55-9171 9703, www.paginas culturales.org.mx. Instituto Italiano, Francisco Sosa 77, Coyoacán, T55-5554 0044, http://www.iicmessico.esteri.it, has 3-week intensive yet painless courses in Spanish, 3 hrs a day.
Embassies and consulates
For up-to-date information check http://www.sre.gob.mx/acreditadas. Australia, Rubén Darío 55, Polanco, T55-1101 2200, http://www.mexico.embassy.gov.au. Belize, Bernardo de Gálvez 215, Lomas Chapultepec, T55-5520 1346, Mon-Fri 0900-1330. Canada, Schiller 529, near Anthropology Museum, T55-5724 7900, http://www.canada.org.mx. France, Campos Elíseos 339, T55-9171 9700, http://www.ambafrance-mx.org. Germany, Horacio 1506, T55-5283 2200, http://www.mexiko.diplo.de, Mon-Thu, 0730-1530, Fri 0730-1500. Guatemala, Explanada 1025, Lomas de Chapultepec, T55-5540 7520, Mon-Fri 0900-1300. Ireland, Ciudada Blv Manuel Avila Camacho 76, 3rd floor, T55-5520 5803, Mon-Fri 0900-1700. Italy, Paseo de las Palmas 1994, T55-5596 3655. Japan, Paseo de la Reforma 395, T55-5211 0028. Netherlands, Vasco de Quiroga No 3000, piso 7, Edificio Calakmul, T55-5258 9921, www.paises bajos.com.mx. New Zealand, Jaime Balmer 8, 4th floor, Edificio Corporativo, T55-5283 9460. Sweden, Paseo de las Palmas 1375, T55- 9178 5010, http://www.suecia.com.mx. UK, Río Lerma 71, T55-5242 8500, www.embajadabritanica. com.mx, Mon-Thu 0800-1600, Fri 0800-1330. USA, Paseo de la Reforma 305, T55-5080 2000, www.usembassy- mexico.gov, Mon-Fri 0830-1730. If requiring a visa for the USA, it is best to get it in your home country.
The Instituto Nacional de Migración, of the Secretaría de Gobernación, is at Ejército Nacional 862, Polanco, T55-2581 0100 (with some pages in English). Nearest metro is Polanco, then taxi. Mon-Fri 0900-1330. Get there early, usually long queues, little English spoken. Here you can extend tourist cards for stays over 90 days or replace lost cards; new cards can take just a couple of hours, but charges are as high as US$40; you may be given 10 days to leave the country.
This is also where you have to come to exchange a tourist card for a student visa and for any other immigration matter concerning foreigners. It is essential to be armed with a lot of patience, and to attend with a Spanish speaker if you don’t speak the language. The normal procedure is to fill out a form indicating which service you need; you are then given a receipt with a number.
Rates US$1-3 per hr with many to choose from; ask your hotel for the nearest.
Laundrette, Río Danubio, between Lerma and Pánuco and at Chapultepec y Toledo, near Metro Sevilla, expensive. Lavandería at Chapultepec y Toledo. Lavandería Automática Edison, Edison 91 (Metro Revolución), between José María Iglesias y Ponciano Arriaga, Col Tabacalera (centre). Mon-Fri 0900-1900, Sat 0900-1800. Has automatic machines, US$1.50 per 3 kg, US$1.50 drying. Lavandería at Parque España 14 and Antonio Caso 82, near British Council, US$4 for 3 kg, quick service.
Dr César Calva Pellicer (who speaks English, French and German), Copenhague 24, 3rd floor, T55-5514 2529. Dr Goldberg, Av de Las Palmas 745, ground floor, pb, Col Lomas de Chapultepec, T55-5540 7300, emergencies T55-5727 7979. Dr Smythe, Campos Elíseos 81, T55-5545 7861, recommended by US and Canadian embassies.
Hospitals and clinics
Most embassies have a list of recommended doctors and dentists who speak languages other than Spanish. Try the US embassy website for a complete list of hospitals, www.usembassy- mexico.gov/medical_lists.html. American British Cowdray Hospital (also known as El Hospital Inglés, or ABC), on Observatorio past Calle Sur 136, T55-5230 8161, also at Santa Fe; very helpful. Hospital de Jesús Nazareno, 20 de Noviembre 82, Spanish- speaking, friendly, drugs prescribed cheaply. It is a historical monument .
Farmacia Homeopática, Mesones 111-B. Farmacia Nosarco, corner of 5 de Febrero and República de El Salvador, stocks a wide range of drugs for stomach bugs and tropical diseases, may give 21% discount. Sanborn’s chain and El Fénix discount pharmacies are the largest chains with the most complete selection. Many supermarkets have good pharmacies.
Vaccination centre, Benjamín Hill 14, near Metro Juanacatlán (Line 1), Mon-Fri 0830- 1430, 1530-2030, avoid last 30 mins, Sat 0830-1430. Typhoid (free throughout Mexico), cholera and yellow fever (US$2), Tue and Fri only; will give a prescription for gamma globulin. For hepatitis shots you have to buy gamma globulin in a pharmacy (make sure it’s been refrigerated) and then an injection there, at a doctor’s surgery or the ABC Hospital .
Correo Central Tacuba y Lázaro Cárdenas, opposite Palacio de Bellas Artes, open for letters Mon-Fri 0800-2400, Sat 0800-2000, Sun 0900-1600. For parcels Mon-Fri 0800-1800, Sat 0800-1600. Parcels up to 2 kg (5 kg for books) may be sent. It is an interesting historic building with a stunning interior, worth a visit.
EMS Mexpost, accelerated national and international postage, is available at the Central Post Office, the airport, Zona Rosa, Coyoacán and 13 other post offices in the city; payable by weight.
Other post offices (Mon-Fri 0800-1900, Sat 0800-1300) that travellers may find useful: Centre, Nezahualcóyotl 184 y Academia 4; P Arriaga y Ignacio Mariscal, 2 blocks north of Monumento a la Revolución; Zona Rosa, Londres 208; Tlatelolco, Flores Magón 90; San Rafael, Schultz 102; Lomas de Chapultepec, Prado Norte 525; Buenavista, Aldama 216; San Angel, Dr Gálvez 16; Coyoacán, Higuera 23; Iztapalapa, Calzada Ermita Iztapalapa 1033; Xochimilco, Prolongación Pino 10; also at the airport and bus terminals. In all there are 155 branches in the federal capital, so there is no need to go to the Correo Central.
Finding a public phone that works can be a problem. Most now take phone cards (Ladatel, provided by Telmex), costing 30, 50 and 100 pesos, from shops and news kiosks everywhere. Calls abroad can be made from phone booths with credit cards (via LADA system), but this is very expensive. International calls can be made easily from the phone offices in bus terminals. There are several places, including some shops, all officially listed, with long-distance phones. One of the best options for international calls is an Ekofon card or account. Also look out for internet cafés that are set up to handle internet calls (eg Skype).