22 Oct The Food Markets Of Mexico City: Tips To Shopping Healthy and Like a Local
7 Tips for shopping the local markets of Mexico City to fit in like a local. In addition, there are 7 Spanish phrases to help you along while exploring the fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and fresh foods.
Mexico may be better known for its tacos, tequilas and tamales. However, just as fresh and local are the foods from the outdoor mercaditos.
What is a mercadito? At these markets, you can expect to find anything and everything from clothing, sweets, cables for your phone, to fruits, herbs and handmade guacamole.
Mexico City, the country’s capital, host an array of markets throughout the week. Sunday mornings are particularly special, with many families working together, others coming from church, and gringos like myself, pouring to the streets with pesos in hand to do their compras, or, shopping.
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” — G.K. Chesterton
Want to find the freshest of fresh fruits you can find in this concrete jungle? Then, skip the grocery stores, and head to the markets. Here are 7 tips to help you shop like a local while exploring the mercaditos in Mexico City:
1. BRING PESOS
There are no credit cards accepted here, and any U.S. dollar or foreign currency typically isn’t accepted, nor will warrant you the correct change. There are ATMs on the streets you can use; however, expect to pay a pretty penny in bank fees. Plan ahead before arriving, getting some pesos back on your home turf.
You can view the current exchange rates here, to get a fair idea of how far your dollar can go — pun intended.
2. BYOB (BRING YOUR OWN BAGS)
Plastic waste is a global issue, and there’s no shortage of plastic bags being used in these markets. Why? They’re cheap, easy and disposable. Bring a reusable bag that folds up to keep always in your carry-on and bring with you anywhere you travel. The locals and the planet thank you.
Read more on additional sustainability tips while traveling.
3. PASS ON SAMPLES
Unless it has a peel like a banana, pass. The outside skins of the fruits and veggies aren’t washed (promise you) and if you have a sensitive stomach like myself (gringos!), one trial bite can cause you three days of travelers’ diarrhea. Wash what you buy thoroughly once you’re back at the apartment or hotel, then enjoy (safely)!
4. DON’T HAGGLE OR BARGAIN
While it is a market, it’s not the price is right. Not all prices are marked; however, it’s good manners not to argue with the pricing. Nod kindly and accept. If it’s really more than you wanted to pay, simply say with honesty and kindness, “Disculpe, pero, no gracias,” and move on.
5. LEAVE YOUR “BEST” AT HOME
The big rings, your fancy watch, the designer handbag, and all of your traveler cash — just leave it back at the hotel or apartment and go basic. While the markets are safe, being “local” isn’t about showing off your high-end goods. Plus, you can be up-charged for your produce if it appears you have it. And, in that case, definitely don’t bargain (see #4).
6. SHOP THE CENTER
Go deeper than just the perimeters. While it can be easy to shop what’s just on the outside stands, the further in you’re willing to explore, the better prices, and even better discoveries you may find. Plus, travel is all about discovery, so why play safe with just skirting what’s on the outside?
7. TALK WITH THE MERCHANTS
A mercadito goes way beyond your typical grocery store. Here, you can talk to, converse and ask their expertise for what you’re looking for. Want a papaya today? They won’t sell you something that isn’t ripe for now. Craving an aguacate to have with your breakfast mañana? Get ready for the best avocado toast you’ve ever had on both sides of the border. They know their product, and what they’re doing. Ask, and trust!
Now that you’ve got the basic buying tips down, it’s time to get you prepared with the language that will help you along the way. Just in case, Spanish isn’t your first, second, or any one of your languages.
7 SPANISH PHRASES TO GET YOU BY IN THE MARKETS
- ¿Cuánto cuesta este? How much is this?
- Para hoy/mañana. For today/tomorrow.
- ¿Cómo se llama esta fruta/verdura? What do you call this fruit/vegetable?
- Tengo una bolsa, ¡gracias! I have a bag, thanks!
- Me gustaría un poco mas/menos. I would like a bit more/less.
- Disculpe, pero, no gracia. Sorry, but no thanks.
- Muchas gracias, ¡buen fin! Thank you so much, have a great weekend!
A basic rule of thumb when it comes to shopping in any foreign country: being kind and a smile go a long way. Traveling has that magical ability to bring us all closer together in a single human race called kindness.
Do you venture to the local markets when you travel? Which have been your favorite? Comment in below or send me an email, I’d love to explore and give credit for the find.