Ways to Get Around in Mexico:
Whether you are thinking about moving there, spending some time there, or you’re just taking a short vacation in Mexico, you will probably need to know how to get around. Good news is that you have lots of options at different price points. Let me tell you about the ones I have tried.
In this post you will find options on how to easily get around in Mexico:
- Car Rental
- Bus system
(Buying or bringing a car in to Mexico will be covered in a future post.)
If you’re in Mexico for a short period of time or if you only need a car once in a while, renting one is a good way to get around. In the major tourist destinations and large cities, this is easily accomplished via all the major car rental companies you’re familiar with in the US. This however, like in many other countries, can make you a target. There are lots of scams that go on, from gas stations attendants overcharging to police looking for bribes. You are also more of a target for theft. That being said, I have rented in Mexico from Thrifty, Avis, and Hertz and never had a problem.
I would recommend, however, that you look into renting from a reputable local car rental company. They tend to have cars that “blend in” better and if you don’t stand out, you’re not as much of a target. They also often include all insurance in the daily rental price.
Insurance: in Mexico liability insurance is required. Be careful when renting because the low prices probably do not include it. They may even tell you insurance is included in your quote but when you get there the counter staff will not allow the rental without extra insurance. I always recommend you get full insurance coverage in any foreign country.
Mexico has a nice and reliable bus network. Taking buses can be an adventure. Most cities have a main bus terminal where all intercity buses depart and arrive. You will usually purchase tickets for these types of routes at the bus terminals. Bus types include deluxe, first class, micro buses, and second class. Deluxe and first class are usually air conditioned and comfortable. They have a bathroom on-board and make few stops. Second class can be more of an adventure, their quality is much lower. Rather than buying in advance, you often pay your bus fare on-board the micro buses and second class buses.
Prices are reasonable but vary greatly between the different bus classes. They are, however, all much cheaper than car rentals or taxis.
Bus schedules change all the time. So, it’s advisable to check the day of your departure. Here is a good resource for bus schedules: http://thebusschedule.com/EN/mx/
Colectivos are a network of collective shuttles between towns. They can be anything from a minibus to passenger vans. They are usually a little cheaper than buses but their schedules may be undependable. Colectivos usually leave when they have a full load of passengers. They range from new, modern vans with air-conditioning (mostly in tourist areas) to very old, beat-up pickup trucks (in more local areas). It is possible to encounter livestock traveling with people. That’s always an escapade.
To catch a colectivo, some towns have a colectivo stand. You go up and the driver will tell you where it’s going, you load and then wait until it’s ready to leave (usually when it’s full). You can also catch a colectivo on many highway routes by standing on the edge of the highway. When a colectivo approaches, driver will flash the lights if he has a room in the vehicle. If you want a ride, wave your arm and he will stop and pick you up. Keep in mind that colectivos get crowded during certain times of the day, so try to plan around them as it may be difficult for you to flag one down at 5:00 pm.
Taxis in Mexico are quite inexpensive compared to U.S. In Mexico, they tend to be a bit more expensive in tourist towns like Cancun or Puerto Vallarta. In major cities and tourist areas, taxis will usually be charged by zone. Airport taxis are the most expensive and taxis not affiliated with the airport are not allowed to board passengers at the airport.
In more provincial areas, taxi fares will need to be negotiated. Whether metered, by zone, or negotiated, always check the fare with the driver before you board. You do not want an unpleasant surprise at the end of your cab ride. But note that most drivers do not speak English, so be sure to be armed with some basic Spanish.
That’s basically it. It is pretty easy to get around in Mexico using one of these four methods. It is likely that you will end up using a combination of all of them. I know expats that take colectivos on short intercity trips, taxis in town for quick trips, and rent a car once or twice a month to go major grocery shopping at Walmart or Mega department stores. The rest of the time, they simply walk.