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Markets & Shopping in Mexico

Markets in Mexico

Since Aztec times, Mexico has been a thriving center of commerce. Markets and Trade are an intrinsic part of Mexican culture.

Shopping Hours in Mexico

Shopping hours in Mexico vary by the type of store and the size of the town or city you are in. Generally speaking, Mexican stores offer shoppers extended opening hours and many stores are open on Sundays, too.

Note about Parking at Shopping Centers in Mexico: Parking used to be free at supermarkets, but in bigger towns and cities parking is now charged for. Two hour's parking, with a stamped ticket, costs a nominal fee; without a stamp charges escalate to become significant amounts. The charges were introduced to prevent local commuters from parking in the shopper's spaces. Out of town shopping centers and those in smaller towns and cities continue to offer free parking for shoppers.

Supermarkets: Supermarkets and Hypermarkets are open extended hours seven days a week. Some stay open twenty-four hours a day, depending on the store and the location. Over Christmas, all supermarkets stay permanently open to deal with the additional demand at that time of year.

Shopping Malls: Mexico's shopping malls open from 11am and stay open until 8pm or 9pm. Shopping centers with cinema complexes stay open later to let cinema-goers out after the late shows, but the stores at them close down after about 8 or 9pm.

General Stores: General opening hours are from 9am to 6pm six or seven days a week, depending on the trade. General stores includes most of the smaller, independent stores; for example, furniture stores, flower shops, as well as local hardware stores and other specialist traders (see Local Stores).

Pharmacies: Most pharmacies are open extended hours in Mexico: early morning to around 10pm at night. You will always be able to find a pharmacy open 24/7 somewhere in your locality: whether it's a big city or a town.

Local Shops: The small, independently run local shops, selling a range of groceries, comestibles, confectionery and basic home goods, tend to be open early and close late. Exact times vary by store and locality, but they are usually open by 7am and close around 9pm. Most of these local stores don't open on Sundays although a few of them do, especially in bigger towns and in cities.

Convenience Stores: Franchised convenience stores like Seven-Eleven, Circle K, and OXXO, are open extended hours, from early morning to late night, and a few are open 24/7.

Markets: Local ambulant street market traders start trading at around 10am and will start to pack their stalls away from about 4pm. Some markets stay open late and even keep selling into the night, but they tend to be those selling durable goods and prepared foods—not fresh fruit, vegetables and meat. If you are shopping for fresh food at your local market, it's best to get there early for the best selection.

Fast Food Outlets: Burger bars and other fast-food joints open early in the morning for breakfast and stay open late into the night. Some are open 24 hours, but most of them close at around 10pm on weeknights and around midnight at weekends.

Food Diners: Food diners are popular in Mexico. The main ones are Vips, Toks, Sanborns and Wings (see Food Diners).

They are open early in the morning for breakfast and stay open to around midnight. Some branches are open 24 hours—they have a sign outside advertising this, if they do.

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Supermarkets and Hypermarkets

Mexico is well served by a number of supermarkets and hypermarkets. Most reasonable sized towns and all cities have at least one, and usually several, supermarkets to choose from. Out-of-town supermarkets are also becoming popular in Mexico, especially in Mexico's colonial cities where there is no space or restricted building regulations preventing construction in-town. Here is a run-down of the main supermarkets in Mexico:

Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart entered Mexico in the 1990's, buying up the Mexican supermarket giant "Aurera". Like the US, Wal-Mart offers a colossal range of food and non-food goods for sale under one roof. Wal-Mart also purchased the VIPS food diners from Aurera; the diners are situated in the same place as the stores. You can still see a store called "Bodega Aurera", which means "Aurera Warehouse", offering discounted comestibles and home wares in a no-frills shopping environment.

Comercial Mexicana: "La Comer", as it is known colloquially (and extensively advertised as such), is a play on words as, in Spanish, "comer" is the verb 'to eat'. Comercial Mexicana was falling behind the other big supermarket players in Mexico, but made a comeback at the turn of the century and is now one of the better supermarkets for fresh food in Mexico. Like the other supermarkets, they also sell a wide range of non-food goods.

Soriana: Soriana is a supermarket group based in Monterrey which has had a limited presence in the Mexican supermarket scene until now. With their acquisition of a large chain of stores known as Gigante, this name is now seen more frequently and more widely across all of Mexico.

Chedraui: Chedraui is one of the smaller supermarket groups in Mexico. Until recently, their stores were confined to the southeast and south of Mexico. However, when the French supermarket group, Carrefour, decided to exit Mexico they sold their thirty-or-so stores to this group; the stores have been switched over to the Chedraui name.

CostCo: CostCo is a members-only warehouse store, selling a massive range of food and non-food items, sometimes in bulk, at competitive prices. You buy a Membership Card and then you get entry to the store. CostCo offers everything from comestibles to TVs and Personal Computers; you can also buy stationery, office equipment, books, clothes, toys and games, home electrical appliances, photography equipment (they also have a photo lab), an opticians, and even sell goods like table lamps and fire-proof safes. It's a true modern-day emporium.

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Buying Food in Mexico

The majority of food sold to Mexico's middle classes today is distributed through the large supermarkets. However, Mexico still offers an enormous range of alternative places to buy fresh food.

Note for People with Food Allergies: If you or your child suffers some kind of food allergy, Mexico now offers a range of diary-free, gluten-free, wheat-free and egg-free foods to choose from, and some are quite widely available. For example, lactose-free milk, known in Mexico as leche deslactosada, is available in convenience stores, pharmacies, supermarkets—even coffee shops and diners now offer it as standard. You can also find soy milk and rice milk in the bigger supermarket chains. Other foods suitable for people with allergies are becoming more common at supermarkets; they are usually clustered together on an aisle or on a sales island in the store: ask an assistant for help and direction. The abundance and affordability of fresh fruit, vegetables and other fresh foods in Mexico make it quite simple to enjoy a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet when you buy the fresh raw ingredients to create your meals.

Fresh Food Markets in Mexico: Food markets may be seen everywhere in Mexico and, chances are, there is one near you at least one day a week. Ask locally to find out where your nearest market is. Fresh food markets in Mexico are presented in two formats: the ambulant market stalls, which move from place to place within a town, setting up their stalls in pre-defined areas on a weekly basis, and covered markets, with fixed market stalls inside an open-plan stone building, open at least six days a week.

Local Shops: Small, local corner shops sometimes offer a limited selection of fresh fruit, vegetables, and sometimes cheeses and cooked meats, including hams (see Local Stores).

Central de Abastos: The Central de Abastos, based in the Iztapalapa area of Mexico City, is one of the world's largest fresh food markets. All of the top chefs in Mexico's fine restaurants go there in the morning to select the fresh produce they will serve at their establishments. If you live within easy reach of this, it's a great place to buy your food (and a shopping experience in itself!); however, most of the food you buy at your local market probably comes via the Central de Abastos, anyway.

Local Grocers and Butchers: Local grocery stores, butcher's shops, and delicatessens are still common fixtures in the Mexican shopping landscape. You can still find shops stocking foods like:

  • Frutas y Legumbres (fresh fruit and vegetable stores)
  • Polleria (fresh chicken, they also sell eggs and condiments to compliment chicken dishes)
  • Rosticeria (roast chickens from a spit; they also sell sauces and other condiments to complement a roast chicken meal)
  • Carniceria (butcher, selling a variety of meat, often reared by the owners)
  • Tortilleria (selling freshly pressed, warm tortillas, straight off the machine that makes them)
  • Salchichoneria (delicatessen; selling a range of hams and other cured meats)
  • Panaderia (fresh bread store; these are less common now as supermarkets bake their bread)
  • Pescaderia (fish mongers; more often seen at coastal locations)

The local store types listed above stock and sell comestibles. There are many other types of local stores, you can see the complete list under Local Stores in Mexico, on this guide. Also see Local Markets in Mexico.

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Buying Alcohol and Tobacco in Mexico

As with food, most of Mexico's middle-class buy their alcohol and tobacco from supermarkets and, as with food, a number of alternative places are available in Mexico:

Liquor Stores: Although they are looking dated, "vinaterias"— liquor stores selling nothing other than beer, wines and spirits—continue to do a brisk trade in towns and cities across Mexico. They are open late (often into the early hours) and some are open 24/7.

Kioskos: Dotted on street corners throughout Mexico, you will find small kiosks selling a range of confectionery; behind the counter they also stock cigarettes. These are the equivalent of "estancos" in Spain (you might occasionally hear them referred to as such in Mexico); although unlike Spain's estancos, they don't sell magazines and newspapers.

Tobacco Stores: Cuban cigars are popular in Mexico and may be purchased freely, in contrast to the US where they are considered contraband due to the US trade embargo with Cuba. Most fine cigars are sold by specialist tobacco stores which may be sought in the downtown areas of big towns and cities. Mexico City's airport also has a tobacco store selling cigars. Sanborns stores nation-wide have a tobacconist's counter, offering a range of cigarettes and fine cigars, including Cuban cigars.

Local Stores: Some local stores sell a limited range of beers and liquors and most also sell cigarettes. Convenience stores (like Seven-Eleven, Circle K, OXXO) sell cigarettes and beer and some hold a limited stock of liquor.

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Buying Clothes in Mexico

When you're looking for clothes in Mexico, there are a number of outlets which offer clothing, from basic garments to up-scale boutiques offering the latest designer fashions:

Local Markets: You'll always find at least a few stalls at a Mexican market selling a range of clothes and clothes accessories (belts, 'bling', etc). Both ambulant and fixed markets may have clothes (and shoes) for sale at some of the stalls. These markets are popular with younger Mexicans looking for certain fashion items and the value-savvy middle-class shoppers seeking out interesting clothes at attractive prices. Some market traders offer hand-made clothes produced by artisans in Mexico; the quality varies but they offer a genuine alternative to mass-produced factory clothing, usually imported from far-eastern countries. Designer labels on clothes sold at market stalls may or may not be genuine.

Supermarkets: Supermarkets are one of the more popular places for people buying no-frills, good-quality clothes in Mexico. Wal-Mart introduced the "George" range of 'designer' clothing to its stores in Mexico and it has proved very popular; the 'George' brand was started by ASDA, a supermarket chain in the UK, which was bought-out by Wal-Mart.

Department Stores: Department stores like Liverpool, Palacio de Hierro and Sears (see Department Stores, below) have extensive clothing ranges in their stores, including designer brands imported from the USA and Europe. Most middle and upper class shoppers purchase their smart and smart-casual clothes from department stores.

Shopping Mall Boutiques: Clothes boutiques based in most shopping malls offer affordable 'boutique' quality clothing. There are specialist men's and women's stores, for example, Scappino for men and Zara for women. These, and the department stores, are the most often frequented places for middle and upper-class shoppers buying clothes in Mexico.

Specialist Boutiques: Up-scale boutiques, particularly in Mexico City, offer the latest fashions, usually imported from the US and Europe. Areas in Mexico City like Alta Vista, Polanco, Condesa and Santa Fe are the places to visit to find the latest and best in clothes fashion trends.

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Buying Furniture and Home Wares in Mexico

Mexico's supermarkets sell a limited range of furniture and home furnishings—usually limited to garden/outdoor furniture and items such as BBQ's. For quality furniture and furnishings, you'll need to go to a more specialized store:

Hand Made Furniture in Mexico: Specialist markets and some towns and villages in Mexico offer you the opportunity to have your home furniture made to measure with locally produced woods and other local materials. Some hand-made furniture is made by recycling old woods and other metal items: for example, Copper Instincts, based in Michoacan, is a company which manufactures exceptional quality furniture made principally from restored wood and copper. Tlaquepaque near Guadalajara has a number of boutiques offering restored and 'chic' artisan furniture and furnishings; but prices will be higher than if you visit somewhere like Tonala (also near Guadalajara) or the source of the items, like one of the villages near Patzcuaro in Michoacan. You need to make local inquiries about where you may be able to procure hand-made furniture in Mexico. When you are traveling in Mexico's provinces, be sure to keep an eye out for local shops and stalls offering hand-made furniture and other home furnishings; you are likely to get a unique piece of furniture at an excellent price. Ask about delivery: most outlets will deliver to your home, even abroad—and even if it doesn't appear like they are the type of place that will deliver.

Department Stores: Department stores in Mexico have their own furniture and furnishing departments; they are ideal when you want to buy something like an excellent mattress and other modern furnishing comforts for your home. They will deliver items you see in-store to an address in Mexico, usually within a week, although some lines may have longer delivery time scales.
(See Department Stores).

Specialist Furniture and Home Wares Stores : There are three chain-stores in Mexico which have branches in a number of towns and cities nation-wide: Viana, Hermanos Vazquez and Elektra . Each sell a wide range of quality furnishings and home wares, including furniture for all rooms in the house, home entertainment, and electrical appliances for the kitchen and laundry.

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Buying Medicine and Medications in Mexico

You will never be very far away from a pharmacy in Mexico. Notwithstanding this, a number of outlets, other than pharmacies, sell prescription drugs in Mexico, and pharmacies themselves sell a lot of other things besides medicines.

Mexico Health & Healthcare eBook

Download an eBook about Health & Healthcare in Mexico. Our eBooks offer comprehensive and wide-ranging advice about all matters concerning health and healthcare in Mexico. The information is ideal for anyone who is considering living in Mexico or traveling to Mexico for healthcare services.

Also See: Health and Healthcare in Mexico

Pharmacies: Every town has at least one (and usually several) pharmacies with at least one of those open 24/7. All cities have at least one pharmacy in the locale where you live. Before the days of supermarkets and convenience stores, pharmacies in Mexico were important stores which supplied a number of sought-after products other than medicines: the most common were soaps, shampoos, creams, make-up and and other items associated with personal hygiene. They also sold ice-cream and confectionery, sodas, and some even stocked a range of simple toys and board games. Today you will find some pharmacies still selling these items, although most have substituted the obscure goods for items such as vitamin supplements, diabetes testing kits, contact lenses, bottled water and other modern 'healthcare fashion' items. Look for the word "Farmacia"; some have more elaborate titles like "Farmacia Familiar" or "Farmacia de Descuento". "Farmacias Similares" is a franchise offering low-cost generic (no brand) drugs. Also read about pharmacies and medications on the Mexperience guide to Health and Healthcare in Mexico.

Supermarkets: All supermarkets have a pharmacy offering a range of traditional over-the-counter medicines like cold remedies and asprin, as well as prescription-only drugs (which are also sold over the counter!). The range of medicines,especially prescription medicines, on offer at a supermarket may not be as extensive as that offered in a traditional pharmacy outlet.

Sanborns: All of Sanborns retail stores have a pharmacy counter. The range of specialist medicines may not be as extensive as a traditional pharmacy, but they do stock a wide range of complimentary items, including goods for personal hygiene and popular healthcare equipment and accessories, e.g. heart-rate monitors, pedometers, diabetes testing kits, etc.

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Buying Sportswear and Sports Equipment in Mexico

When you are looking for sports clothes, sports shoes, and other sports equipment, then Mexico offers a number of options depending on what you are looking for:

Markets: Market stalls, both in ambulant markets and fixed (covered) markets, usually have a stall selling sports shoes and a range of sportswear.

Department Stores: Department Stores have extensive sportswear and sports equipment sections, usually divided into three main areas: sportswear (clothes and fashion wear); sports shoes (tennis shoes, soccer boots, etc.); and equipment (running and cycle machines, weights, home gyms, etc).

Specialist Sports Stores: The most well-known specialist sports store in Mexico is Marti. Marti has branches in towns and cities across Mexico and the larger outlets are sports-fan emporiums, even offering specialist sports equipment like skis and mountain climbing equipment. Besides Marti, other specialist sports stores in Mexico include Sportland, and Ruben's. Online sports catalogs can be found at SportsOnline (Mexico) and SportArea.

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Buying Newspapers and Magazines in Mexico

Most newspapers and magazines in Mexico are sold at street corner news-stands. Some Supermarkets sell a (limited) range of magazines, usually lifestyle, computing and sports magazines.

Sanborns stores stock a wide range of magazines in both Spanish and English, including the international versions of global magazines like Time, Newsweek, Business Week, Fortune and The Economist.

You can also buy newspapers and magazines at bus stations (principally Spanish language material) and Airports (Spanish and English material).

Also See: Guide to Media in Mexico and also;

Mexico Blog on Media Subjects related to Mexico

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Buying Books, Music, and DVDs in Mexico

There are a number of outlets where you may purchase books, music and DVDs in Mexico; the principal ones are detailed below:

Librerias Gandhi: Gandhi bookstores sell books, CDs and DVDs. They sell through stores and online. www.gandhi.com.mx

La Casa del Libro: Bookshops going back to 1923 and now they also offer online sales. www.casadellibro.com

Librerias El Sotano: Sells a range of books, CDs and DVDs in stores and online. www.elsotano.com

Librerias de Cristal: One of Mexico's largest book store chains, they sell books only. www.libreriasdecristal.com.mx

Fondo de Cultura Economica: If you are in Mexico City, this beautiful book store and cultural center is a must-see for book-lovers. They stock an enormously extensive range of books in Spanish as well as holding good stocks of books in English, French, German and Italian. Situated in the Condesa area of the capital, at the corner of Tamaulipas and Ben Hill. www.libreriasdelfondo.com

MixUp Music Store: MixUp has branches in various towns and cities across Mexico and offers customers an extensive range of music CDs and DVDs. Some stores also have a separate classical music section. www.mixup.com.mx

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Local Markets in Mexico

One of the biggest attractions for foreign shoppers in Mexico is the absolutely enormous range of local markets available here. Markets in Mexico go back to Aztec times.

See Blog: Bustling with Commerce

Mexico's market stall keepers are quite entrepreneurial and will sell almost anything they feel people will buy. In the rainy season, expect to see umbrellas and rain-coats being peddled; in the winter you will see hand-warmers, wool-sweaters and sheep-skin rugs; during festivals (e.g. Day of the Dead) expect to see items directly related to the festivities; if a political scandal breaks out, you'll be able to buy T-shirts with the jokes printed on them or figurines depicting the characters involved. You can buy electrical goods, a charger for your mobile phone, pens, confectionery, watches and other jewelry, CDs, DVDs, toys, games, puzzles, incense, henna tattoos, clothing accessories, perfume, make-up... the list is virtually endless.

Also See: Guide to Tipping and Bargaining in Mexico

Ambulant Vendors: Walking the streets, jockeying between cars at the stop lights, riding the Metro (in Mexico City), stopping at street tables next to coffee-houses, boarding buses... indeed, anywhere people may be, you will find ambulant vendors in Mexico. Ambulant vendors don't have a market stall; instead they usually carry a satchel holding the goods they sell—exactly what that is may be anything. Common items are pens, confectionery and other small, easily portable items. The goods they offer are usually sold the lowest-price you'll get for that item anywhere.

Local Ambulant Food Markets: Ambulant food markets usually set up once or twice a week in the same spot—ask locally for details in your neighborhood. Look for the distinctive pink-topped canvases. They offer a wide range of fresh fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish and spices. The food sold at these markets is fresh daily.

Local Food Markets: Situated in open-plan stone buildings, these are fixed market stalls similar to supermarket islands, but each trader is a separate business selling specific types of food. These markets sometimes feature purveyors of exotic meats as well as a wide range of local (sometimes national) spices and chiles. Ask locally for the nearest market buildings near your home.

Cooked Food Markets: Street food is available everywhere in Mexico. Sometimes it's sold on a single stall or two situated on a street corner; sometimes a whole market will be dedicated to selling cooked food: a sort of ambulant restaurant. Street food is inexpensive and can smell great, but beware if you are not used to eating it: see Healthcare in Mexico: General Precautions for more details.

Art and Craft Markets: Most non-food markets sell a wide range of Mexican art and craft work. Some markets are specifically set up to sell locally made arts and crafts; this is particularly common in Mexico's colonial towns and cities. Others markets bring in the arts and crafts from around the region or, even, from across the whole country; the latter is especially common at art markets in Mexico City, which attempt to offer capital dwellers a wide choice of art from all of Mexico.

Clothes and Shoes Markets: Some markets feature (predominantly) clothes and shoes, and clothing accessories. Clothes may be imported from the far east, and some of the designer label clothes being sold may or may not be genuine. Clothing accessories, especially those made from leather and iron (e.g. belts and buckles) may be made in Mexico—ask the trader.

Spices and Chiles: One of secrets behind the wonderful taste of Mexican food is the colossal range of spices and chiles that are grown, harvested and ground here. Some markets specialize in spices or, at least, have a spice stalls section.

Books and Magazines: Some markets specialize in selling second hand books, vintage magazines, and old posters and photographs depicting scenes of Mexico at the turn of the 20th Century.

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Local Stores in Mexico

Local stores are part of the suburban fabric in Mexico, because people still shop at their local stores instead of doing all of their shopping at big supermarkets.

In bigger towns and cities, small stores can be vital, because getting to the supermarket may mean an hour's journey across town and traffic. In smaller towns and villages, the local stores may be the only place you can buy comestibles and other home goods.

Traditional Local Corner Stores: The local 'corner' store in Mexico (known as "la tiendita", or 'little shop') is most usually family-run, and open extended hours (e.g. 7am to 9pm), and stocks a range of dry food goods, day-to-day homeware and personal hygiene items, confectionery, potato chips and peanuts, sweet cakes and rolls, sliced bread, some cured meats (e.g. hams), cheese, milk, creams and yogurt, sodas, bottled water, and a small range of basic fresh vegetables and fruits. Some of the larger local stores of this type also sell some ice-creams and basic pharmaceuticals.

Specialized Local Stores: Specialized local stores have not disappeared from the Mexican trade landscape, either. You can still shop for comestibles, and much more, locally at places like these:

  • Tienda de Abarrotes - a corner shop, selling a range of dry and canned foods, cold cuts, sodas and confectionery. A few sell beer and liquor and some also stock cleaning products and other day-to-day household items)
  • Frutas y Legumbres - fresh fruit and vegetable stores
  • Polleria - fresh chicken, they also sell eggs and condiments to compliment chicken dishes
  • Rosticeria - roast chickens from a spit; they also sell sauces and other condiments to complement a roast chicken meal
  • Carniceria - butcher, selling a variety of meat, often reared by the owners
  • Tortilleria - selling freshly pressed, warm tortillas, straight off the machine that makes them
  • Salchichoneria - delicatessen; selling a range of hams and other cured meats
  • Panaderia - fresh bread store; these are less common now as supermarkets bake their bread
  • Pescaderia - fish mongers; more often seen at coastal locations
  • Papeleria or recauderia - stationery and office supplies including photocopies, fax, etc.
  • Merceria - haberdashery (fabrics, threads, lace, sewing equipment)
  • Tlapaleria y Ferreteria - hardware store and [old english] iron-mongers
  • Lavanderia - laundry services
  • Tintoreria - dry cleaners - sometimes coupled with a lavanderia, but not always
  • Sastreria - tailor: clothes repair / clothes adjustments

Also See: Buying Food in Mexico and Local Markets in Mexico, on this guide.

Franchise Local Convenience Stores: US-style convenience stores (some 24 hour) have arrived in Mexico: OXXO is the most common, you will see this franchise nation-wide; you can also find Seven-Eleven and Circle K stores in Mexico. They sell a wide range of every-day goods and some also sell hot snacks and filter coffee to take away.

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Department Stores in Mexico

Department stores are extremely popular in Mexico: Mexico's middle-classes do a substantial amount of their durable goods shopping in them. Most of the department stores have branches in major towns and cities across Mexico.

Liverpool: This store, and its logo, is an icon in Mexico. www.liverpool.com.mx

El Palacio de Hierro: Presents itself as a 'touch above the rest'. www.elpalaciodehierro.com.mx

Sears: Owned by Carlos Slim, an extension of the US-retail giant. www.sears.com.mx

Suburbia: Less prestigious, perhaps, than the first three. One of Mexico's most traditional department stores. www.suburbia.com.mx

Sanborns: Sanborns is a unique concept in retail; it's a mid/up-market department store selling all manner of goods including books, magazines CDs and DVDs, confectionery, TVs, computers, clothing accessories, prescription glasses and contact lenses, children’s toys and games; it has a pharmacy and an in-house chocolatier; men and women’s gifts section; a perfumery; tobacconist selling fine cigars, as well branches and ATMs of Inbursa Bank (a bank owned by the owners of Sanborns stores); a bar …and a diner. www.sanborns.com.mx

Fabricas de Francia: More often see in Mexico's provincial towns and cities; this store is owned by Liverpool. www.fabricasdefrancia.com.mx

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Coffee Shops in Mexico

Coffee shops have been popular in Mexico for decades; the recent surge in popularity of 'chic' coffee shops has brought Starbucks and others to Mexico as well.

Also See: Mexico Blog - A Comment on Coffee Shops

Starbucks: Starbucks is not a franchise in Mexico; it's operated by one Mexican company which has exclusive rights to open stores in Mexico. Starbucks brought quality coffee, specialty sweet and colorful drinks, a relaxed ambience and a piece of the USA to Mexico. It's particularly well frequented by the young middle and upper class as well as young and older professionals. www.starbucks.com.mx

Cafe El Jarocho: Possibly the finest coffee and hot chocolate money will buy in Mexico City! This is a take-away coffee station; go to the one in the historic district of Coyoacan on a weekend night, and the line will be long—but you won't wait more than five minutes to be served. There are now eight Jarochos in Mexico, each one toasts and grinds the coffee beans (brought mainly from the state of Veracruz and sometimes the state of Chiapas) on the premises. They also sell a range of fine tortas (Mexican sandwiches) as well as pan dulce (sweet bread rolls). www.cafeeljarocho.com.mx

Los Bisquets de Obregon: This started as a small diner, coffee and fresh cakes shop in Mexico City; it's now a major Mexican franchise with stores nation-wide. Good coffee and particularly good range of sweet bread (pan dulce); good quality pan dulce here, if a bit pricey. www.lbbo.com.mx

Local, Independent Coffee Shops: Notwithstanding the break-neck pace of Starbuck's expansion in Mexico, local, independent coffee shops remain well frequented by locals. Look around your neighborhood or office and you'll find several independent coffee houses; each unique, each serving excellent coffee, probably made from beans which grew in the state of Veracruz (on Mexico's Gulf coast) or Chiapas (the southern highlands of Mexico): places from where Mexico's finest coffee beans emanate.

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Food Diners in Mexico

There are four 'big name' food diners in Mexico as well as a plethora of small, independent, food diners selling 'comida corrida' (food on the run); the latter is usually a set menu for a fixed price, popular with office workers.

Sanborns: Sanborns is a department store with a good diner adjacent. The diner offers an extensive menu featuring Mexican and international dishes. Each day, the diner offers breakfast, lunch and supper “specials” in addition to the extensive a-la-carte menu. Sanborns filter coffee is probably the best of the "diner coffees" in Mexico. www.sanborns.com.mx

Vips: Vips is owned by the Wal-Mart group and these diners are found in the same location as Wal-Mart stores. Their menu is less varied than that of Sanborns and the desserts look and taste a bit artificial. Vips offers a bar service, where you can sit down and have a quick meal or coffee without having to wait for formal table service; particularly useful if your time is limited. www.vips.com.mx

Toks: Toks restaurants are owned by the same group that manages the 'Gigante' supermarkets (soon to become 'Soriana') and, like Vips, the restaurants are situated next to the stores. This chain recently underwent a remodeling program and updated its restaurants and menus. Like Vips, Toks offers a bar service, although it's not as speedy as the one at Vips. Toks offers a good range of dishes from its a-la-carte menu as well as good-value daily specials. www.toks.com.mx

Wings: Wings restaurants are principally situated at Mexico’s airports, although you can also find them in some other areas, including road-side shopping precincts on major highways. Their a-la-carte menu has a good range of international and Mexican dishes and many Wings restaurants have an adjacent beverage bar, named “El Baron Rojo” (The Red Baron). www.wings.com.mx

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Mexican Residents Shopping Abroad

If you live and reside in Mexico, you will probably, sooner or later, go shopping in the USA. Many Mexicans who can afford to, go to the US on shopping trips during the course of the year.

Not too many years ago, the reason for going abroad to shop was that Mexico's stores lacked choice and variety due to strict import regulations; today, people go to the USA to shop because prices for identical goods are cheaper—sometimes a lot cheaper—than the same thing purchased in Mexico City.

Price differences of durable and technological goods have narrowed in recent years, but the gap can still be significant. The USA has such a competitive and efficient market that prices of goods there are lower than most other countries world-wide, not just Mexico.

Mexico's customs are pretty strict on the duty-free allowances, so when you get back to Mexico, be sure you know what you're allowed to bring back duty-free. The exact details are printed on customs form you sign at the port of entry; here is a summary of the allowances per person, taken from the latest customs form:

  • Personal Luggage: including new and used goods for personal use to include clothes, footwear, personal hygiene and beauty items which, according to the form: 'reasonably respond to the duration of the trip and that due to its quantities may not be used for commercial purposes';
  • Two photographic or video cameras and twelve rolls of film or videotapes;
  • Two mobile phones or pagers;
  • One typewriter (!)
  • One used or new laptop; one used or new printer; one projector;
  • Two used or new items of sports gear;
  • One CD player or portable music player; one DVD player;
  • One musical instrument; five toys; thirty CDs;
  • Three surfboards; four fishing rods; a pair of skis;
  • Twenty packs of cigarettes and twenty-five cigars OR 200 grams of tobacco (over 18's only);
  • Three liters of liquor AND three liters of wine (over 18's only);
  • Two dogs or cats provided the import certificate is presented to customs officials;
  • There is a US$300 tax exemption on items you import (in addition to those already listed above) when you enter the country by means or air or maritime transport; the exemption is reduced to US$50 if you travel in by land, except at Easter, Summer Holidays and Christmas time, when the land exemption limit is increased to US$300.

See Also: Guide to Taking Pets to Mexico

See Also: Mexican Customs Website www.aduanas.gob.mx

When you arrive at an international airport, you will be asked to declare any items beyond the exemptions or face a fine (in addition to the tax pay-able) if you are subsequently given spot-check and caught importing more than you are allowed to.

All baggage arriving via international airports is passed through an X-ray machines at customs, after you collect it from the airline and before you are allowed to exit the customs area.

If you are arriving by land and you go past the 35km 'free' zone, your vehicle will probably be searched at the check point, casually or thoroughly.

See Also: The Mexperience Mexico Essentials Guide to Mexico Entry Requirements for more information about rules and procedures at ports of entry.

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