With a population of over 20 million people, perhaps it is no surprise that Mexico City’s Benito Juárez international airport can get a little congested at times. The airport handled over 24 million travellers last year and operates flights to over 100 destinations worldwide, making it the busiest airport in all Latin America. Yet despite the opening of a second terminal (Terminal 2) in 2008, the airport is still criticised for not being large enough. Travellers also gripe about the often lengthy queues at check-in and security, and because of Terminal 1’s linear design, the long walks to far-flung gates.
On a brighter note, however, Mexico City International is a short taxi ride away from the city centre, and not short of shopping options for those with time to kill before boarding their flight. In fact, the airport boasts over 160 different stores, as well as numerous cafés, restaurants, banks, ATM’s, bureaux de change and tourist information desks. Not bad, eh? But perhaps a few too many stores to browse in one visit? Fear not, here is taxfreetravel’s guide to the best of what is on offer:
Terminal 1 Duty Free
The main international departures hall boasts arguably one of the largest duty-free malls anywhere in South America. As you might expect, the main walk-through duty-free store offers a top-notch selection of liquor (especially tequila), tobacco, fragrances and cosmetics. Yet there are also numerous branded boutiques from luxury brands such as Cartier, Hermes, Montblanc and H. Stern.
Lovers of duty-free should also be aware that on arrival at Mexico City that there are duty-free arrivals outlets located in both terminals. And the good news is that Mexican inbound duty-free allowances are generous: 20 packs of cigarettes or 200 grams of tobacco, 25 cigars, 3 litres of wine, beer and spirits. Duty-free prices on liquor and tobacco also offer significant savings on local prices.
Back in Terminal 1 departures, we recommend a visit to the Chocolate Mayordomo outlet, which sells traditional Mexican chocolate tablets from the region of Oaxaca. The tablets have a rough, gritty texture and shouldn’t be eaten like regular chocolate bars, but dissolved into hot milk to make hot chocolate. Extra ingredients put into the tablet such as almonds and cinnamon make for a fantastic and unusual gift. Chocolate Mayordomo also stocks a range of traditional Mole sauces, which may appeal to foodie friends, who want to discover that that there is more to Mexican food than enchiladas and fajitas.
Terminal 1 boasts many souvenir and gift shops. For instance, Fiesta Arts and Crafts stocks Talavera pottery from the Mexican city of Puebla, distinguishable by its milky-white glaze, as well as beautifully decorated lacquered wooden boxes from the village of Olinalá in the north-west of the country. Regalos y Souvenirs (Gate A-101) sells piñatas•those colourful papier-mâché animals filled with sweets, which children traditionally whack with sticks at parties and festivals•as well as glassware, jute bags, onyx jewellery and leather accessories.
If you are a Spanish speaker, Conaculta (Gate A-137) gets good reviews from travellers for its wide range of books on Mexican history, art and culture (the retailer also has a store in Terminal 2 at Gate 33). For English reading materials, including newspapers and magazines, head to Hudson News, a retailer with many stores at US airports.