Getting Around in Mexico
Mexico offers visitors, vacationers and residents an extensive network of transport systems, both public and private, which make getting around Mexico efficient and affordable.
Transportation Options for All Budgets
Public transport in Mexico can be very inexpensive, but it can also be a bit daunting if you don't speak any Spanish and are not accustomed to traveling on buses and metro systems.
Nonetheless, even taxis and private hire is affordable in Mexico; the only service which is readily apparent as being more expensive is car rental; especially in comparison to car rental prices in the USA.
Bus travel is an excellent way to get around Mexico, and we have a complete guide to help you learn about Mexico's very professionally-run bus services and how to make use of them.
Mexico has a well-developed network of national airports and offers air passengers an ample choice of airlines, including low-cost carriers.
If you plan to travel across Mexico by any means other than flying, then you will need to be able to speak at least a few words of Spanish to get by, especially when using taxis, local public transport (local buses, metro) and national buses. Most car rental agencies at airports will have staff that can speak English, but agencies in smaller towns may require you to make your arrangements speaking Spanish.
Blog Articles about Transportation in Mexico
Mexico Insight, one of the Blogs on Mexperience, has a topic dedicated to matters relating to Travel Services in Mexico.
Domestic Flights in Mexico
With nearly two million square kilometers of land-space, Mexico covers a big territory and sometimes flying is the best and most effective way to get around.
The country has an extensive network of modern airports and a range of airlines to choose from, including low-cost carriers. Recent 'Open Skies' agreements have opened up new routes between US cities and Mexican provincial cities, giving passengers more choice and flexibility than ever before.
Traveling by Bus in Mexico
Since the early 1990's, Mexico has been investing heavily in road infrastructure. As a result, the country has an extensive network of high quality intercity roads connecting all principal towns and cities, and more roads are being built each year to connect otherwise remote areas of Mexico.
For example, getting from Mexico City to Oaxaca City used to be a major undertaking by road. Today, the journey may be done in less than six hours on a safe, modern intercity toll-road.
The development of Mexico's road network has given rise to a very professionally run and managed national bus network. Traveling by executive or first class bus in Mexico is a "first world" experience in comparison to Greyhound in the USA and National Express in the UK, for example.
Mexico offers travelers three classes of service on the most popular routes and at least two classes of service on most routes. The "Executive" class buses are modern, comfortable buses configured with just 24 seats on board; First Class buses also offer comfort and efficiency with direct routes to most principal destinations across Mexico.
Local Buses in Mexico
Local buses exist in every city and town. They are not regulated from a safety point of view, so don't expect to see any signs restricting passenger numbers on them. Buses carry as many people as can be packed in—especially at rush hour. Don't be shocked to see people hanging out of the doors during peak times—both front and back—this is a normal sight in Mexico!
They are very inexpensive to ride (take change with you)—pay when you board. If you want to get around during the day (off peak is after 10 am and before 4 pm in the bigger towns and cities) they are a way of experiencing a piece of the 'real' Mexico.
Not for the feint hearted, but independent travelers who are street-wise and know how to get themselves around a place will find the buses OK. Don't step aboard dripping with your jewelry and wedges of cash! If you're planning to use public transport of any kind to see a place, wear something casual, like jeans and a t-shirt, and try to blend in a bit. As with any busy populated environment, watch out for pick-pockets!
Micro Buses in Mexico
"Micros", as they are known in Spanish, started life as VW Combis seating 9 people a few years ago, at a time when they were called Peseros (deriving from the word "peso", in days when they used to cost just one peso to go from A to B on any given route). Today they have evolved into mini-buses, due to the volume of people relying on their services. You can still see the old style Peseros in a few smaller towns and cities.
These green and white mini-buses no longer cost just one peso; the price varies on how far you'll travel from MX$3.50 to MX$4.50 in the Federal District with extra charge after 10 pm. Like buses, you pay when you get on.
Taxis in Mexico
Getting about by taxi cab is relatively inexpensive in Mexico. Taxis are either metered, not metered or charged by zones. In the latter, your price will vary depending on which zone you're in and which zone you're traveling to.
Read the complete Mexperience guide to Traveling by Taxi in Mexico to learn about the different types of taxi, fares and traveling safely by cab in Mexico.
Metro Systems in Mexico
Two of Mexico's cities—Mexico City and Monterrey—have Metro systems in operation. The Metro can be one of the most effective ways to travel across the cities, especially Mexico City.
Metro Systems in Mexico City
Mexico City has three Metro Systems; two are rail-based, and one is a bus.
El Metro is the main rail-based system in Mexico City. The trains run principally underground, although there are several stretches where the train runs over ground too. Some four-and-a-half million people use Mexico City's metro system each weekday. The system has eleven lines; construction of a twelfth is under way and will take some years to complete. The Metro connects most major areas of city together and, where the Metro doesn't reach, Micros (see Local Buses, above), run frequent axis routes from the Metro stations.
The Tren Ligero (Light Train) is an extension of Mexico City's Metro system. In years past, the line was a 1950's style Tranvia (Tram), which was upgraded to Tren Ligero status and connects the southern-most Metro terminal, Metro Taxqueña, with Xochimilco, one of the southernmost suburbs in the capital.
For an excellent description of travel by Metro and Local Buses in Mexico City, read Foreign Native's Blog Articles: On the Buses and Seating Room
In 2006, Mexico City's government began introducing a new Metrobus service. The service is a dedicated bus lane which runs along Avenida Insurgentes in Mexico City—a boulevard which is over 35 miles long and said to be the longest commercial boulevard in the world.
The boulevard has four lanes each side, with a dividing area in the middle. The fourth (outside) lane on each side has been cordoned-off and made into an exclusive Metrobus lane; stations have been built upon the middle section at various points along the boulevard.
Like the Metro, the Metrobus can be a very efficient way to traverse the busy and congested capital city but, like the rail Metro, the buses can get very full at peak times.
Paying for Your Metro Rides
On the rail-based Metro, you can use cash to buy small cardboard tickets which will allow you through the turnstiles. You may also purchase a plastic card, which may be topped-up with credit at machines or at the ticket counter (using cash payments). You simply press the card against the sensor on certain turnstiles and this avoids the need for cardboard tickets.
On the Metrobus, you must purchase a (different) plastic card, top it up with credit from a machine (cash payments to the machine) and use it to ride the Metrobus.
Advice about Traveling on Mexico City's Metro Systems
- The capital's Metro systems (rail and bus) get extremely busy at peak times which are 6:30 am to 10:00 am and 4:30 pm to 8:00 pm.
- Outside of peak times, the Metro systems provide a relatively comfortable, fast, efficient and very cheap means of traversing the city.
- At peak times, women and children are segregated into separated rail-cars on the Metro. We advise you to avoid the Metro at peak hours if you can.
- Pick-pockets operate on the Metro every day. Keep wallets and valuables secured.
- Baggage can be transported on the Metro, but note that at peak times, there may simply be no space to put it anywhere.
- The Metro is by far the best way of getting into the center of Mexico City. Road traffic congestion in the central areas of the city is virtually constant during daylight hours (and even into the night) and the Metro will transport you straight into the heart of the city faster than a taxi can.
- The Metro is not, as a rule, frequented by the middle and upper classes in Mexico; it's a cultural thing. Visitors, including smart tourists, do use the Metro to get about, although it's best to avoid it during peak hours.
- The Tren Ligero, which connects Taxqueña to Xochimilco, is a very congested line. It's almost impossible to travel on during peak hours.
- If you plan to attend a soccer match or other event at the Aztec Stadium, the Tren Ligero is a great way to get to and from the event - there is a Tren Ligero Station (Estadio Azteca) with a foot-bridge leading into the stadium: however, get there early and leave a few minutes before the event ends to avoid the crush.
- During the rainy season (May-September) the rail Metro system can get bogged down on lines which have outdoor stretches. When the metal tracks get wet, the trains must slow down to avoid skidding. Most rains come in the late afternoons, causing delays (sometimes severe) on evening train services.
Mexico City's government runs a website about the Metro Systems in the capital, which includes information about the services, maps, etc.Metro Systems in Monterrey
Monterrey, Mexico's third largest city, also has rail and bus Metro systems. The rail system is small in comparison to Mexico City's, with just two lines (crossing each other), and connecting the city's major areas. It's called the Metrorrey.
There are also three complimentary systems to the Metro which help people get about the city: The Metrobus, Metro Enlace and Transmetro.Driving in Mexico
Getting around Mexico by road can be efficient or frustrating, depending on where you are and what the date is. Some highways, especially those connecting Mexico City to Cuernavaca, Puebla and Queretaro, get hugely congested on public holidays. However, once you are out on the open road, driving in Mexico can be a real treat, and sometimes it's the only way to see places and locations "off the beaten" track either not well, or infrequently, served by public transport.
Read the complete guide to Driving in Mexico which includes information about Mexico's road network, driving tips, night driving, dealing with the police, accidents and breakdowns as well using as toll roads in Mexico.Car Rental in Mexico
Car rental in Mexico is more expensive than the USA, and about on-par with European car rental costs. Connect to the complete guide on Mexperience about Car Rental in Mexico for details and advice about renting a car here.Hiring a Chauffeur
If you want to travel independently by road in Mexico, but you don't fancy driving here, some car rental companies also provide a driver with the car, for daily rate. See the guide to Car Rental in Mexico for details.Maps of Mexico
The Maps of Mexico are published by the Mexican government and provided free of charge to the public. They show a considerable amount of detail, including major and minor roads, tolled highways, names of cities, towns and villages as well a graphical representation of some geographical features such as lakes, rivers and national parks, etc.Walking and Cycling in Mexico
Away from planes, buses and automobiles, getting around in Mexico by foot and/or cycle can be rewarding, challenging, or both. Here is our advice for walkers and cyclists in Mexico.Being a Pedestrian in Mexico
Major towns and cities have sidewalks and foot-bridges, although the condition of the sidewalks, in particular, can vary. Most sidewalks in Mexico are not suitable for wheelchairs, and even walking along them can sometimes be a bit of an obstacle course. That's because tree-roots, loose foundations, and other 'works' cause the sidewalk to be raised or lowered.
The principal precaution when walking in Mexico's town and cities is the traffic. Drivers in Mexico don't always respect urbanized speed limits and won't necessarily slow down. Add to this the fact that some streets are in disrepair or narrow (or both) and, losing concentration of your surroundings could cause a nasty accident.
Be especially aware at crossings. Yellow and white stripes indicate 'pedestrian crossing', but they are hardly respected. When the lights turn red, it's a good idea to wait until the front row of cars has come to a stop before you cross as some drivers interpret the amber light as 'go faster to avoid the red'. Power-cuts are quite frequent in Mexico and they affect traffic lights and crossings, too.
Colonial cities are best explored on foot. The historic centers of many colonial cities are cobbled, and this creates a natural way of keeping traffic speed down. However, there are many narrow streets and sharp (often blind) corners. Not all sidewalks are wide enough for everyone who wants to use them, so people end up walking along the roadways: be cautious at intersections and corner streets.Cycling in Mexico
It's not common to see many people long-distance cycling on Mexico's roads and highways. The free highways are poorly lit at night and the road surfaces vary from good to very poor; the tolled highways don't really lend themselves to cyclists. In any event, to traverse the mountain terrain which is ubiquitous across much of inland Mexico, you will need a great bike and have to be extremely fit.
Cycling in towns and cities is becoming more common. Mexico City has a network of cycle paths in various states of repair.
Some cities lend themselves well to cycling, others don't. Usually, older colonial cities built up in the mountains, with their cobbled streets and narrow sidewalks and steep inclines don't lend themselves well to cyclists. Cities by the coasts, on flatter ground and with flatter road surfaces, like Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Campeche, Veracruz and Acapulco are better.
If you plan to do a lot of biking in Mexico as a way of getting around, a mountain bike, with hard-wearing tires and strengthened suspension is advised. Bring a bike repair kit and a very good bike lock(s).A note about the use of bike helmets
: Local cyclists in Mexico rarely use protective helmets. Mexico City had a rarely-enforced bike helmet law that was repealed in February 2010. Notwithstanding the cultural norms, and the lack of enforcement, we recommend that riders who cycle in Mexico wear a helmet and other protective gear (e.g. hand, elbow and knee protection, good shoes) when riding a cycle in Mexico, especially on roads: car drivers have a tendency to pay scant, if any, attention to the needs of cyclists using ‘their’ road space. Adventure Travel Biking in Mexico
Cycling in the hills, valleys and mountains of Mexico's Great Outdoors is a different proposition altogether. You are provided with properly equipped mountain bikes, helmets and are taken on known paths, tracks and cycle routes amidst Mexico's fantastic natural landscapes.
Air TicketCheap Travel InsuranceIndia