You can rent a car at the airport, (Hertz, Alamo and Avis all have branches here), but only the most gifted and patient drivers should consider it, as the roads in Mexico City can be chaotic at best. Stick to taxis.
Benito Juárez International Airport is Mexico's main hub for international and travel, offering direct flights to and from New York, LA, London and other destinations in the US and Caribbean. BA, AA and United both fly to and from the airport. You can arrange a direct transfer to La Purificadora on the hotel's own Cessna.
Mexico's metro does link the airport with the city cheaply and quickly, but it's usually crowded and some passengers can be prone to 'ungentlemanly' behaviour - best avoided.
Country code: +52; Mexico City: 55 - you'll still need to use this when dialling within Mexico City. If you need to call a mobile number, dial a 1 after the country code. Mexican dialling codes are notoriously complex and even the locals don't always know what to ring - if in doubt, ask your hotel for help.
The Years with Laura Diaz by Carlos Fuentes is a meaty novel offering insight into the complex politics of 20th-century Mexico. The Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Diaz de Castillo is fascinating account by one of Cortes' conquistadors of his impressions of the Aztec culture and the bloody war that followed their arrival. A Visit to Don Otavio by Sybille Bedford - witty travel writing from one of the greats, and a portrait of Mexico in the late Forties.
Do go / Don't Go
June is the rainy season, although in between showers it can still get very hot as the humidity increases, so it's not the ideal time to go. Mexico City enjoys a warm climate throughout the rest of the year but winter can be the most pleasant time to visit.
Mexican cuisine is founded on corn, used to make tortillas, the small cornflour pancakes that are the Mexican equivalent of bread. Other food staples like chilli, tomato and chocolate also hail from Mexico and you can expect to find them throughout the country. The typical Mexico-City meal will feature tacos, crunchy corn tortillas usually served with meat, chicken or nopales (prickly pear stems), and bottle-loads of delicious chilli sauces. Also worth trying are chiles rellenos (stuffed mild peppers), and frijoles (black beans often cooked with pork). Another classic is tamales (cornmeal usually stuffed with meat or fish and steamed inside corn husks).
It's best not to flag cabs in the street - some are unlicensed and you do hear the occasional horror story. Have your hotel arrange a taxi for you where possible, or call Taximex (+52 55 5634 9912). If you do flag one down, look for a green or red mark along the bottom of the number-plate that denotes a licensed car. You'll find taxi ranks outside many of the major museums and tourist spots but, be warned, overcharging is something of a habit.
Tips or propinas are a big part of Mexican culture and the norm is between 10 and 15 per cent for restaurant and bar staff. Hotel porters will also expect something. People earn a living off tips at airports, bus stations and taxi ranks by acting as unofficial porters and it's usual to give them a few pesos in return for their assistance.
Mexican pesos (MXN). One peso is around 5p/10¢.
An umbrella will serve you well in any season: rain is a daily event in June, and at other times you can use your brolly to stave off the sun's unrelenting rays.
Both the archaeology-based Templo Mayor Museum (www.conaculta.gob.mx/templomayor), and the National Museum of Anthropology in Chapultepec (www.mna.inah.gob.mx) are must-sees. With incredible collections of pre-hispanic sculpture, weapons, sacrificial objects and gold in each, you get just a small sense of the grandeur of the Aztec capital. For a more contemporary, experimental view of Mexico, visit the many independent galleries and exhibitions dotted around La Condesa. Trolébus, (mobile: +521 55 5402 4909), an installation project on a bus beside the Condesa DF hotel, is a good start.
Polanco is the home to Mexico City's big-name brand boutiques, with the Louis Vuitton/Armani ilk available all along Avenida Presidente Masaryk. In La Condesa, you'll find a selection of quirky outlets from home-grown designers plus great homewares and jewellery. Guadalajara-based designers Julia y Renata have an outpost at the junction of Primavera and Verano in La Condesa, and six other local trailblazers share the Elegantes boutique on Tamaulipas. Xokawa, on Alfonso Reyes (+52 55 5025 9137), is a marvellous chocolatier, selling a range of native Mayan and Aztec variants. For reclaimed furniture and distinctly Mexican homewares, stop off at Méxclalo on Pasaje el Parián.
The Torre Mayor on Paseo de la Reforma (www.torremayor.com.mx) is Mexico's tallest building and boast blinding views of the cityscape. Talk your way into Piso 51, a new members' club with jaw-dropping panoramas of the city (www.piso51.com).
The nightly battle of the mariachi bands in Plaza Garibaldi is as pleasing to the eye as the ear as dozens of sombrero-toting strummers compete for the crowd's approval.
17 January Everyone from farmers to children bring their garishly dressed pets and livestock to the cathedral in the zócalo to be blessed on the feast day of St Anthony. February/March The period before Lent brings the jubilant atmosphere of Carnaval to the city, as Mexicans celebrate by dressing up, drinking, dancing, drinking, feasting, playing games and drinking. 13 August Ceremonies and celebrations take place in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, on La Reforma and in the zócalo to commemorate the defence of the Aztec city from the Spaniards. 1-2 November The infamous Day of the Dead - shops fill with chocolate skulls and relatives flock to cemeteries to spend time with their dear departed.