Mexico City is a bustling city of 20 million. It is the largest city in North America and attracts a huge number of tourists, expats, and temporary residents. Obviously, a huge city is going to need an approach to getting around easily. So we’ve created this Mexico City Transportation Guide to help you. Regardless of your travel preferences, we cover it all.
One of the more surprising aspects that I found about Mexico City, is just how walkable it is. With such a large population and urban sprawl, I was expecting much of the city to be difficult to get around. But mistaken we were.
Wide, expansive sidewalks line every street in the city. With a standardized grid layout, it is also easy enough to get from point A to point B with minimal difficulty. There are plenty of streets as well – particularly in Centro Historico – that are completely cut off to vehicular traffic on Sundays.
The massive plazas, and numerous avenues, parks, and gardens make Mexico City extremely easy to traverse on foot. The majority of our ventures were taken on foot, and we find this to be a major plus when visiting any city because there is no better way to actually experience a city than to walk within it.
It is worth noting however, that despite its obvious European design influence that makes pedestrian life easy – the city is still huge. While walking is usually a good idea, sometimes, the sheer distance between places makes this approach unwise. So while, we recommend walking when you can – sometimes you’ll have to get around through another way.
As we’ve mentioned before, we love using bikes when traveling. Getting out, and exploring a city on a bike is a wonderful way to get the same experiences you might get from walking, but at a tremendously expedited rate. The White Bikes in Cambodia provided us with an amazing experience.
Mexico City has several different options when it comes to bikes. You can rent bikes, or even use one of multiple bike sharing programs. Here, I’m just going to cover EcoBici.
Unfortunately for us, we ran into a few issues with the bike sharing program in Mexico City called EcoBici. It’s not fair to completely lay the blame on the system as we chose the wrong day and time to get bikes. To start with: The Mexico City Marathon was actively going on and we were trying to get the bikes on Paseo de la Reforma. None of the bike stations appeared to be working and we ran into issues.
While we got a card, it didn’t want to actually give us a bike. Going to a kiosk didn’t help, as they were overwhelmed and we were short on time. We only tried to get a single one-day pass, which we never got refunded despite trying to contract them multiple times. Note – EcoBici has a reputation for difficult customer service.
Despite our issues, the program itself seems pretty good on the whole. Had we had more than a few days in the city, we would have made a point to get it to work for us – it was just unnecessary for the rest of our trip.
Currently, EcoBici has 444 stations with over 6,000 bicycles. The bikes are very recognizable, with a distinctive red and white paint job. You can see numerous residents utilizing them pretty much everywhere you go. The great thing, is that anyone can use them too – they’re not limited to locals only.
To use EcoBici as a tourist, you must purchase a card and register from one of a few locations:
- Station Reader (Must be able to accept credit cards)
- EcoBici Center
You must use a credit card to make the purchase and you can only use one card per bike. You can purchase a 7, 3, or single day use card. A single day card costs $90 MX pesos (~$5). The first 45 minutes are free, and extra charges will incur after that. If you really need to make a longer trip, simply swap out at another bike station.
Image courtesy of S●S▲-L●P►Z
The Mexico City Metro system is the second largest in North America behind New York City. Shortened to STC Metro, it is serviced by 195 stations and 12 lines across the city. Stations are both above and below ground.
The STC Metro is efficient, cheap, and accessible – however it can get very crowded during rush hour, and is advisable against using during this time.The first two trains are reserved for women and children, and the rest for the general public.
You need to use a Metro ticket, which you can purchase for MX $5.00 for a single day pass. You can buy multi-day passes depending upon your needs. A single day pass is good for unlimited rides for the day of purchase.
We didn’t use the Metro during our stay, though we considered it. For our purposes, it was ultimately easier to just use Uber.
There numerous buses throughout the city, and several different types to choose from. Cheap and efficient – they can also get very crowded and uncomfortable at times.
Metrobuses operate via platforms. They run circuitous routes that are pretty easily defined. These are typically red and white in coloring, though pink buses operate too – women only buses. We attempted to utilize them once, but had an issue with getting a ticket and did not spend long trying to fix it due to how busy it was.
Image courtesy of So Cal Metro
Double-decker tourist buses also operate around the city. These are more expensive, but a ticket is purchased, you can hop on and off them all day as you please – moving from site to site. Their overall scope is more limited, but still hits a large portion of the city.
Longer haul buses can easily be taken out of Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte – North Central Autobus Station. The bus station is very large, with an expansive – though disappointing – food court. From here you can get a bus to farther out neighborhoods, cities, sites.
We took a bus back from Teotihuacan to Terminal Central de Autobuses del Norte, and the bus was very nice. It was crowded at first – I had to sit on the floor even – but it quickly dispersed and made for a more comfortable ride.
We had one check-point while police officers early-on which is a relatively normal occurrence. They count how many passengers – tourists – are aboard, in the event of robberies or other criminal activity. It is not common, but incidents do occur in Mexico – usually at night though.
There are several classes of taxi in Mexico City. The most recognizable are the pink-and-white taxis. These are the cheapest of the classes and also the most dangerous. Passengers should verify that the cab has a license plate, registration, and that the driver matches the photo. It is advised to not take these at night.
There is also the libre cabs. These are metered taxis and will generally not run you more than MX $30 – MX $40 for most rides. These are safer than the the others, but still warrant caution at off-times.
Radio Taxis are higher end than the other classes. They cost a bit more, but are secure. You call in a cab directly to your location via the phone. A dispatcher sends out a driver to pick you up and take you to your location. Safety is not a concern when using these.
You can order a taxi via:
Some Reliable Radio Taxis are:
- Radio Maxi Seguridad
- Sitio Parque Mexico
- Taxs Radio Union
We never used taxis personally as we utilized other methods to get around. If you opt for utilizing apps for taxis, then in my opinion you might as well use our preferred service – Uber.
As usual, Uber was our preferred and most used method of transportation after walking. The ease of use really can’t stated enough. Language barriers don’t really present an issue, and prices are cheap.
There was an issue when getting to Teotihuacan, but that was my own fault – careless mistake putting in the wrong address. We still got there, just slower and more expensive than it should have been.
We used Uber multiple times to get to a few neighborhoods when we wanted to save our legs from excessive walking. Most of our rides came out to under $5. Its immediacy, cost, and widespread use make it a must-use when visiting.
Mexico City is serviced by air via Benito Juárez International Airport [MEX]. 30 domestic and international airlines operate out of the airport, typically handling 100,000 individuals per day. It serves as the primary hub for Aeroméxico, Mexico’s largest airliner. Over 100 destinations, on 3 continents can be reached directly via Mexico City.
The airport is a medium size with multiple lounges, food courts, and shopping areas. The airport does feel dated however, and is cramped while at full capacity. We also found the boarding process to be disorganized and little chaotic – though ultimately fine in the end.
Due to MEX’s inability to operate at a higher capacity, a new airport is currently under construction roughly 10 miles north of the airport, east of Ecatepec.