Do People Speak English In Mexico City? Survival Guide 2024

Last Updated on April 17, 2024 by Ashlea J. Russell

Do people speak English in Mexico City? I’ve got the answer plus how you can survive a language barrier in 2024.

Whether you’re considering a trip to Mexico City or you’ve already got one booked, it’s probably occurred to you that people in Mexico City might not speak English.

Navigating a new place is always a challenge, but navigating the largest city in North America with a language barrier can be downright intimidating. I should know – when I showed up in Mexico City the first time I didn’t know much beyond Hola and Gracias!

So, do people speak English in Mexico City? Well, not really.

But some people do! And tackling a language barrier isn’t always as bad as it sounds.

In this survival guide I’m going to cover who does speak English in Mexico City, who doesn’t, and how you can have an amazing trip without trying to learn a whole new language before your flight.

Let’s get into it!

Do People Speak English In Mexico City?

The short answer is no, most people don’t speak English in Mexico City. In fact most Mexicans in general don’t speak English.

According to a 2023 report only 5% of Mexicans speak English even though basic English is a mandatory subject in all schools across the country.

But don’t let this worry you!

Younger generations in Mexico City are far more likely to have some understanding of English. And with social media being what it is, younger people often speak English in a really natural way, with the same casual approach and slang the US and Canada use.

In the Centro Histórico of Mexico City, it’s not totally unusual to be approached with a “Hey, how’s it goin?” by a young person selling goods or promoting local businesses.

In Mexico City you can also count on most hotels having at least one English speaking member of staff. English language tour guides in Mexico City and even hot air balloon pilots often speak the best level of English and many of them have studied or lived in the US or Canada for at least some amount of time.

It’s much easier to find English speakers in the more gentrified areas of Mexico City that are more popular with expats and foreigners, such as Polanco and Roma.

These areas are wealthier and have adapted to the foreign influx. Many of the shops, restaurants, galleries, and so on easily accommodate English speaking customers, but this is still Mexico.

The best way to operate is to assume people don’t speak English and go from there.

And although it can be easy to cling to the English speaking safety blanket, I strongly encourage you to venture out of your comfort zone and explore beyond the bounds of the trendiest areas like Roma.

There are other safe neighbourhoods in Mexico City for you to explore.

Do Restaurants in Mexico City Speak English?

Whether or not restaurants in Mexico City speak English depends largely on the type of restaurant and the location.

Restaurants in the much more gentrified parts of Mexico City like Polanco, Roma, and parts of Condesa, especially mid to higher end restaurants, are much more likely to have English speaking staff and English language menus.

That’s because they know their audience!

A casual restaurant in Coyoacan Market with Spanish menus and signs.

However, if you leave these areas or head for the street food stalls, local restaurants and markets it’s likely that no one will speak English and the menus will be in Spanish only.

Mexican chefs and restaurants love to work with endemic and traditional ingredients. So you’re likely to also come across indigenous foods on menus in Mexico City, listed in Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs.

Don’t let the language barrier hold you back from venturing out of these areas or trying restaurants and cafes that don’t speak English.

Some of my favourite experiences in Mexico City have been in places where I’ve been the only foreigner.

If you don’t feel comfortable speaking Spanish, go ahead and point at what you want!

And for the adventurous types “Que me recomiendas?” (What do you recommend to me?) is the secret password to a whole new world of Mexican flavours.

Do Uber Drivers in Mexico City Speak English?

Uber drivers in Mexico City typically do not speak English. Uber drivers are just regular people using their own vehicles to make some extra cash. Many Uber drivers in Mexico City come in from surrounding areas just to pick up trips.

When taking an Uber in Mexico City the driver will always greet you first and you should do the same.

Then they will say your name to confirm who you are. If they’ve got the right person you can simply respond with “Si, gracias.

A view of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City with blue skies over head and fluffy white clouds.

If an Uber driver does speak English they may want to practice with you and if so they’ll just start speaking to you in English.

If they don’t, there’s a good chance they speak only Spanish. So sit back, and enjoy the ride to your destination.

I always recommend following along on your own map in case there is confusion at the drop off point. Remember, these aren’t professional taxi drivers! They’re just regular people, so they may not be totally familiar with where you’re going.

Between your phone map, pointing and sign language, I have no doubt you’ll get to where you’re going.

Can I Visit Mexico City Without Speaking Spanish?

Yes! You can absolutely visit Mexico City without speaking Spanish. The first couple of times I visited Mexico City I didn’t speak any Spanish and I did just fine!

But there are a few ways to make this a little easier for everyone involved.

Although Mexico City has rapidly growing tourism and most tourists come from the US and Canada, many of the museums and attractions cater only to Spanish speakers.

While I believe this will change, for now we can count on our trusty English tour guides to bridge the language gap.

Ashlea eating street food in Mexico City before speaking any Spanish.

Whether it’s a free walking tour, Mexican wrestling, world-class museums or a cantina crawl, there are fantastic local guides who speak excellent English waiting to share their city and culture with you.

  • Most tours in Mexico City are really reasonably priced so if there’s something in particular you want to experience or understand, I can’t recommend joining a tour or hiring a guide enough.

But what about the everyday encounters you’ll have on your own, like buying something or ordering food?

Most shop and market clerks will show you your total on a calculator or on the till, which means you can usually get away with no words at all in these interactions.

You can also use body language like pointing or other actions to communicate what you want.

Fortunately, Mexicans are lovely people who are helpful by nature. I’ve never been laughed at, dismissed or ignored by people in Mexico when trying to communicate.

Is It Bad to Speak English in Mexico?

Speaking English in Mexico is not a bad thing, it just likely won’t get you very far!

Most people in Mexico do not speak English, even at a really basic level. No one is going to get upset with you for speaking English, most people just aren’t going to be able to help you!

  • When travelling, it’s important to remember that we are the guest in whichever new place we’re visiting. That means the onus is on us to accommodate the people around us, not the other way around.

If you’re with friends, on the phone, taking an English language tour, etc. you don’t have to worry about being overheard speaking in English.

Mexicans are not going to be offended by you speaking your own language.

Just remember when you speak to locals, if they don’t speak English, talking louder or slower isn’t going to change that fact.

Can You Live In Mexico City Without Speaking Spanish?

It’s totally possible to live in Mexico City without speaking Spanish but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to learn.

Learning a new language isn’t easy, but it is a lot easier when you’re immersed in it, after all that’s how we learn our first languages as kids.

When I first arrived in Mexico City I didn’t speak any Spanish. But within a couple of weeks of listening, observing, reading and repeating I was able to put together sentences and have basic conversations.

  • There are plenty of expat and foreigner communities, groups, meetups and events to keep you fully occupied in English, but part of the adventure of living somewhere new is diving into the local way of life.

Mexico City is bursting with Spanish schools and teachers to help you learn Spanish. And while there are some great apps out there like Duolingo, Rosetta Stone and Babbel, a native Spanish teacher will supercharge your learning experience.

Inside a market in Mexico City with Spanish banners and people shopping stalls.

With opportunities all over the city to practice your Spanish, you’ll be surprised how quickly you pick the language up.

Tips For Visiting Mexico City As An English Speaker

Learning a whole new language before heading to Mexico City just isn’t reasonable but I have a few tips below based on my own experience of visiting Mexico City as an English speaker that will definitely help.

A Smile Goes a Long Way

When we’re in a challenging situation, confused or frustrated, it can be easy to forget what our faces look like. 😠😣☹️

My top piece of advice to anyone visiting Mexico City is that a smile goes a long way.

A smile is disarming, humanizing, and is a way that we can connect without words. Smiling makes you more approachable, makes you look friendly and makes people more likely to spend time helping you.

No matter where you go in the world, a smile is universal. 😃

Test the Waters

Here’s a handy trick you can use if you need help.

Try approaching someone with Hola, hi. This let’s the person you’re talking to know that you speak English, and if they happen to speak it too, they’ll default to that language for you.

If they respond in Spanish, it’s safe to assume they can’t or don’t feel comfortable communicating in English.

And if they walk away don’t be alarmed! They’ll likely be right back with someone who speaks English in tow.

Big Points for Trying

Trying is everything! No one likes to feel stupid and most people from countries like Canada, the US, the UK and Australia only speak one language and may have never had to try to speak a different one.

But when you’re in Mexico City, it’s time to take the Spanish plunge!

No one is going to expect you to be fluent in Spanish but they are going to appreciate any effort you put into trying to speak the local language.

Ashlea at the Frida Kahlo Museum in Mexico City.

In all my years of travelling Mexico, even on my first few trips when I didn’t know any words, I’ve never had someone laugh at me or make me feel dumb for trying to speak Spanish.

In fact, it’s usually the opposite!

Most people will react with a smile, or an encouraging “muy bien!” (very good!) and will do their best to understand and help you.

Don’t take yourself too seriously and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. This is how we learn.

Communication Isn’t Just Words

Words matter, but they aren’t everything. Experts say there is a lot more to communication than just the words we choose, or in some cases, know.

Although you may not speak Spanish or maybe you just have a few key phrases under your belt, you can still communicate with the people around you using body language and other clues.

For example, pointing is an easy way to order things from a menu or even pick things out at a store or market.

  • When people refer to things in Spanish, listen to what they say and repeat what you hear. If you point at a bag and the vendor says “bolsa“, you say it too. This a great way to expand your vocabulary in context and now you know the word for bag!

If you’re looking for something you can’t see, try showing them a picture of what you want. I’ve bought sunblock, tweezers, a sewing kit and disposable razors using a quick search on Google Images.

And if all else fails we can always try a good old fashioned charade. Imagine putting on a hat or miming holding an umbrella, some things are very easy to act out.

You might surprise yourself at how well you can communicate with people even when you don’t speak the same language.

Have a Safety Net

While I strongly encourage trying to communicate without the crutch of apps or the internet, sometimes we just need a little extra help.

Here are a few free things that can come in handy in Mexico City:

  • Download the Useful Mexican Words & Phrases Cheatsheet Below

I put together the Useful Mexican Words & Phrases Cheatsheet based on my experience in Mexico before speaking any Spanish.

This covers all the things you’ll need the most like numbers, greetings, common questions and answers, food and drink, health, safety, and more.

You can print the sheet or save it to your phone for easy access.

Google Translate is another helpful tool to have in your arsenal.

The voice translate function is really helpful for more complicated conversations and the image function is great for translating anything with words like signs and menus.

With free public WiFi in most of Mexico City you shouldn’t have a problem connecting to the internet to use this app.

But just in case, make sure you download your Spanish dictionary in the Google Translate app so you can use it when you’re offline.

  • Regular translation and the image function of Google Translate will work offline when the dictionary is downloaded. The voice and conversation functions will only work with an internet connection.


You’ve got questions about English in Mexico City and I’ve got answers!

Is English Widely Spoken in Mexico City?

No, English is not widely spoken in Mexico City. English is more common in more gentrified areas of Mexico City such as Polanco and Roma, hotels, and on English language tours.

As for the rest of Mexico City including museums and tourist attractions, Spanish is the official language and English is uncommon.

How Do You Say Hello in Mexico?

There are many ways to say hello in Mexico but the most common is to use one of the standard greetings:

  • Buenos días (Good morning)
  • Buenas tardes (Good afternoon)
  • Buenas noches (Good evening)

If you want to sound like a true Mexican, just shorten this to “Buenas!

What Is the Dialect of Mexico City?

Most native Mexico City residents speak Chilango, a Mexican Spanish slang specific to the city. This dialect of Mexico City is casual and fun with much of the slang being based on puns.

The accent in Mexico City is one of the easiest to understand because it has a lilting sing-song quality instead of being rapid and punchy like other regions.

Summary: Do People Speak English In Mexico City?

So there you have it! Although most people in Mexico City don’t speak English, that shouldn’t deter you from visiting this fantastic, safe city.

Mexico City is well worth visiting whether you speak the language or not and I think you’ll be surprised at how little the language barrier impacts your experience.

With the help of fantastic tour guides, handy apps, and a little courage, you’ll be picking up phrases and shopping the mercados in no time.