Stranded in Mexico City

On a recent trip to Mexico City, my evening flight was cancelled due to storms in Dallas. I was forced to stay overnight at the airport until I could get the next flight in the morning. The morning flight was also cancelled due to the equipment not arriving in Mexico City as a result of the same weather. I didn’t get out until nearly 18 hours after my scheduled departure. All this had an upside. It gave me time to explore Mexico City’s international airport. I was pleasantly surprised.

The Benito Juarez International Airport in Mexico City is very modern. You could live at the airport without any problem, as it has a lot of retail including small grocery stores.

Unlike many other airports, there are several on-site hotels at the airport. I had the opportunity to explore three of them, each offering different positives. You can walk to either Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 from each of these hotels.

I stayed at the airport Hilton Hotel. It’s strictly business. The room was very nice and jet noise only slightly audible. Its front desk staff was not very knowledgeable about tourism in Mexico City and did not know where the airport subway station is. Curiously, the hotel does not provide bills. “You have to get that from your travel booking agent,” I was told. As I booked online, I didn’t have an agent. Fortunately, after my stay, I received a billing statement by email in pesos. The room cost about $189 with taxes, although there were cheaper rooms that had sold out.

I explored the Marriott Courtyard Hotel at the airport. This hotel had a rack near the front desk with a lot of tourist information. The front desk staff was very helpful. Pricing was lower than the Hilton, around $159 with taxes.

Another option is the Camino Real Hotel. This hotel appears more upscale. The best rates are available online, around $140 nightly, as opposed to around $350 at the desk. The lobby is lined with offices catering to visitors, including a travel agent, a car rental agency and an extensive tourist shop, all catering to a Spanish-speaking clientele. Even if you don’t stay at this hotel, it would be the best place to go for help from a travel agent in booking tours during a stay at the airport — tours that will pick you up at the airport hotel.

Staying at an airport hotel turns out to be a good idea if you want to avoid the urban congestion of central Mexico City and you are headed to a tourist site outside the city. Down the hall from the Marriott Courtyard, a bus terminal in the airport offers buses to many places including the popular tourist destination Puebla. That trip costs about $17 one way. Although I’d say it probably caters to locals who live in Puebla, it makes for an easy way to get there if you’re traveling solo. With others, hiring a tour guide with a car probably makes more sense.

Outside security the airport contains many high-end restaurants as well as an extensive food court. My ticket showed I was flying “TSA Precheck” but that meant nothing to the Mexican security checkers. They still insisted I go through standard security. Once through security, the airport, like many others, requires you to pass through a huge “duty-free” shop on the way to your gate. Stores line the passageways closer to the gate, as well. There’s no need to save local currency for the airport; your credit card will be accepted almost everywhere, even for small purchases.

For a low impact journey to Mexico or, perhaps, for the queasy traveler, staying at the airport offers a good alternative.