Practical Life in Mexico City

Transport in Mexico City

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México City has several public transport options. The Metro is reliable and runs underground, transporting more than 416,995,974 passengers to 175 stations along eleven lines. City government operates the RTP bus system and Electric Trolley buses which help lower air pollution. There are also plenty of franchised private buses which are less reliable and safe because of their driving habits. And there are literally thousands of Taxis, many of them old Volkswagen bugs in bright green. Most public transportation systems operate from 5 to 12 am. Transport can be booked through Mexico City's transport page:


The cost of a Metro ticket is one of the lowest in the world at $2. Officially named Sistema de Transporte Colectivo, but known simply as Metro, it is one of the largest and most used subway systems in the world comprised of 11 different lines that measure more than 170 km and carry 4.4 million people every day. A ticket allows passengers to transfer from one line to another and get to numerous destinations without having to buy another. This is the quickest and safest way to get around town, though much less comfortable around rush hour, i.e., from 7 to 9 am, 3 to 4 pm, and 7 to 8 pm. Unfortunately, the metro is dangerous after dark.

Although the Metro lacks informational signs in English, finding your way around should not be a problem. Lines are defined by number but also by a color, and that color runs as a thematic band across the entire station and along the entire route, so you always know what line you are on. Stations are identified by name but also by a pictorial icon that represents that area in some way. However, entire maps of the Metro system are not very well posted. There is usually one by the ticket office, but no where else. Try to work out your route before going through the turnstiles. Here are some translated Spanish phrases to help you better understand the metro:
Here are a few of the commonly-used Metro signs translated into English: Taquilla - Ticket booth
Entrada - Entrance
Salida - Exit
No Pase - Do not enter
Andenes - Train platforms (both directions)
Correspondencia - Line transfer
Subway map.

Light Rail- The city's electric transport system (Sistema de Transporte Eléctrico) is another alternative provided by the municipal government to reduce carbon emissions. The system currently encompasses 15 trolleybus and light rail lines; the latter is considered the best way to get to Xochilmilco from the city center."Tren Ligero" operated by Electric Transport Services, consists of one single line that runs south of the City. Useful if you plan to visit Xochimilco or the Azteca stadium. Connects with the Metro system at the "Taxqueña" station (Line 2). The rate for a single ride is 2 pesos, and your Metro ticket is not valid to transfer into the Tren Ligero but tickets for the Tren Ligero are sold at most stations along the line.


There are two kinds of city buses that stop at the same stops:
The RTP are government operated and full-sized. Fares cost $2.00 anywhere you go. Make sure to pay with exact change, they don't give change back. RTP buses tend to be safer.
The second kind of buses are known as "Microbuses" or "Peseros". These buses are private-run and come in small and bigger sizes. Peseros cost 3.00 pesos for shorter trips, 3.50 for 6-12 km trips and 4 pesos for 12+ km trips. Full-sized private buses are 3.50 pesos for shorter trips, and 4.50 for longer trips. Drivers are known for their erratic driving.

There are free bus-route maps at the México City Tourism Office located at Amberes 54, on the corner of Londres, in Zona Rosa.

There are also several long-distance bus services:
Autotransportes de Oriente (ADO)
Estrella Blanca
Estrella de Oro
Pullman de Morelos


Passenger Train service ceased operating in Mexico some ten years ago and only freight trains ride to and around México City. Recently, Mexico's line went into liquidation and is no longer running. For more information:


Mexico City International Airport (Spanish: Aeropuerto Internacional de la Ciudad de México or AICM), also called Benito Juárez International Airport (IATA: MEX, ICAO: MMMX) is a commercial airport that serves Mexico City. The airport handles more than 25 million passengers annually. The airport is located 13km (8 miles) east of México City.(55) 2482 2400/24
Driving directions- From central México City, take Fray Servando Avenue northbound, left into Rio Churubusco and follow signs to the airport.
Taxi-Airport to town (Polanco- Zona Rosa) is approximately 40 minutes and should cost about $20 U.S. in an airport taxi. Prices range from 5 to 25 US dollars for the taxi service, depending on the size of the car and the zone of the city you are going to.

Licenciado Adolfo López Mateos International Airport This airport (IATA: TLC) (ICAO: MMTO) is located in the City of Toluca 50 kilometers southwest of México City and recently transformed itself from a general aviation airport into the hub of several domestic low-cost carriers such as Interjet and Volaris


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. Meters are checked/calibrated annually as part of the taxi's license and you can be sure that, in virtually all cases, the fare you see metered is the correct one for your journey. There is a fixed fee of about 6 pesos to get into the cab, and about 0.7 pesos per quarter kilometer or 45 seconds thereafter, for the normal taxis (taxi libre). The night rates, supposedly between 11 at night and 6 in the morning, but this may vary with the cab driver's mood, are about 20% higher. Some taxis "adjust" their meters to run more quickly, but in general, cab fare is cheap, and it's usually easy to find a taxi. At night, and in areas where there are few taxis, cab drivers will often not use the meter, but rather quote you a price before you get in. This price will often be high, however, you can haggle. They will tell you that their price is good because they are "safe". If you don't agree on the price, another cab will come along.

There are several kinds of taxis in México City, the most common of which are 2- or 4-door models painted green. The most representative of these is the VW bug, called a vocho in México City slang.

The safest way to travel by taxi is to call an authorized taxi stand (sitio autorizado) because the drivers that work for them know the city quite well and will get you where you're going more quickly. If you are taking a taxi to your destination in town, make sure to buy your ticket from the official "Transportation Terrestre" ticket terminals, at either end of the airport. The rates are fair and your taxi will be private, or a shared van if you desire a lower fare. Your taxi should be yellow and white with an airplane symbol on the side. These are the only taxis authorized to operate out of the airport. Be wary of anyone offering a cheap taxi ride. Always get the number of the cab they are sending and wait for that particular cab. Always check the number you were given against the number on the cab.

There are several dependable companies:, Taxi-Mex (5519-7690), Servi-Taxi's (5271-2560), Radio-Elite (5560-1122), and Radio-Taxi (5566-0077). For more information on taxis, go to


Canal Touring

The Xochimilco canals are a magnificent glimpse into the history of Mexico City and a great spot for to rent a colorful trajineras turísticas. Boatmen propel the craft down the canals with a long pole, a little like Venice. Four sizes of trajineras are available, from the toldo amarillo (yellow tarp), with a capacity of four people for $6 per hour, up to the toldo verde (green tarp), holding up to 18 people for $17 per hour. Although prices are posted and are the same for each boat, it is sometimes possible to negotiate cheaper rates. Each of the boats has a women's name painted on the side to add even more character.

The main landings for trajineras, Embarcadero Caltonga and Embarcadero Nativitas, can be found near the center of town and the Parroquia de San Bernardino. An hour’s rental is the minimum, but its better to spend two or three hours to get farther out into the canals, see more, and have a more relaxing time. Be sure to confirm the price before you board. Also, examine the boat, some are nicer than others.

A cheaper alternative is to share a lancha colectiva (collective boat), which holds up to 60 people for $1 per person. These much larger boats run only on Sunday and holidays and leave only from Embarcadero Salitre and Embarcadero Caltongo. Food service is available on all the boats for around $2–3 per dish. There is also live music and the rates are regulated and publicly posted. A mariachi number costs $4), a norteña song is $3, marimba $2, and salterio (Mexican zither) or acordeón $2.


The least advised way to visit Mexico City is driving. There is a complicated road structure and about 3.5 million vehicles moving around the city. Traffic jams are worst on weekdays, and driving from one end of the city to the other could take you between 2 to 4 hours at peak times. The condition of pavement in freeways such as Viaducto and Periferico is good, however in avenues, streets and roads varies from fair to poor. Since the city grew without planned control, the street structure resembles a labyrinth in many areas. There is only one company that has been able to map the entire city, Guia Roji, and buying a map from them is recommended.

Also beware of the dangers of driving in Mexico. Always insure your car, bought or rented. Never park in dark, lonely or faraway streets. Try to use a public parking lot whenever you can, versus parking on the street. Before going anywhere, like the doctor's office, find out in advance whether parking space is available for patients/customers. If it is not, get there earlier to have enough time and find the safest and nearest parking spot. Highly visual tools for preventing car theft, such as those driving-wheel bars are still one of the most effective ways to deter burglars.

The “Hoy No Circula” (“No Driving Today”) program is designed to control the city's vehicular circulation and thus reduce pollutant emissions. It works by restricting the circulation of diesel- and gasoline-powered vehicles according to the day of the week and the last digit on the vehicles license plate, and is in effect between 5 am and 10 pm Monday to Friday. Currently, México City offers a special pass good for 2 weeks, that allows someone with a foreign-plated vehicle to be exempt from these restrictions.

Street parking (Estacionamiento) can be scarce and garages are the only really safe way to park. Where available expect to pay between $12 to $18 pesos an hour while most of hotels charge between $25 to $50 pesos an hour. Some areas of the city such as Zona Rosa, Chapultepec, Colonia Roma and Colonia Condesa have parking meters on the sidewalks which are about $10 pesos an hour and are free on weekends. It is possible to park in other streets without meters but is likely there will be a "parking vendor" (Franelero in Spanish) which are not authorized by the city, but will "take care of your car". Expect to pay between $10 to $20 pesos to these fellows, some of them will "charge" at your arrival, the best advice is to pay if you want to see your car in good shape when you come back.

Mexico has subsidized gasoline so prices are the same everywhere in Mexico. Mexico buys much of its gasoline and diesel from the United States and resells it at US$98 per barrel. Average price is 3 American dollars a gallon. Filling stations in Mexico are all PEMEX franchises. PEMEX - or Petroleos Mexicanos - is the state-owned oil company which has a national monopoly on the supply of fuel in Mexico. To find a filling station, look out for the green and white PEMEX signs, located everywhere. All stations are full service. Ask the attendant to fill the tank, (lleno -"YAY-noh") or to a specified monetary amount. Some kids may come along and clean your windscreen for you, unsolicited. It's optional to pay, but you should give them 2 or 3 pesos each in return for their efforts if you let them clean your screen. Attendants should be tipped, commensurate with the amount of work they do for you. 3-5% of the cost of your fuel is normal for fuel-only, 5-10% of same for additional services. Most stations do not take credit cards.

Driving in Mexico City

The visitor should take into consideration the following tips when driving: defensive driving tactics will be required, as traffic laws are casually obeyed. Expect red lights to be run and turns to be made, in any direction, from any lane. Turn signals are seldom used or are always on. Avenues have preference over streets and streets over closed streets. Continuous right turn even when traffic light red is allowed. Seat belts are mandatory for both front seats. If you're stopped by a police car, have all of your paperwork prepared and beware that they will most likely they will try to get money out from you. It is up to you if you accept to do so, the latest trend is to refuse giving them anything.

México City is connected to the nation’s principal destinations via 5 toll highways, México City is connected by earth through 6 expressways (Querétaro, Pachuca, Cuernavaca, Puebla, Toluca, Texcoco) and also freeways.

México City’s traditional layout and orientation has always extended from north to south, the north being associated with the area surrounding the Villa de Guadalupe and the south with the Ajusco volcano, the Tlalpan neighborhood and the pass that leads to Cuernavaca.

Angeles Verdes - Meaning "Green Angels", these are trucks that are painted green and travel along Mexico's interstate highways helping people who have broken down. Their help is free, but they will charge you for parts and fuel if your car needs it. Be sure to tip the attendant; the amount is discretionary, and should relate to how much help they were in a particular circumstance (e.g. more at night) and on how much work they have done for you.

City Map:
Road Map:

Rental Car

To rent a car, you will need to be at least 25, own a credit card, and have a valid driver's license to rent a car in Mexico. Your own country's license is accepted provided that it is printed with Western Characters. If you have a non-Western license, you will need an international driver's licence. Rental cars are unusually expensive if booked in México. Rates vary depending on the location, time of rental and how many miles you'll clock up. Standard quotes usually exclude sales tax (IVA) - so check when you're buying as this can add a significant amount to your final bill. it is also vital to buy rental insurance.

Various rent-a-car companies, many of them international chains, can be found at bus terminals, the airport and major tourist zones (such as the Paseo de la Reforma, the Historic City Center, Polanco and the Zona Rosa). It is advisable to review the rental contracts terms and drive carefully. In México City, car rental is probably not a very good idea, unless you're familiar with the city and plan to do a lot of traveling about from place to place inside the city area.

Here are several companies rental companies:

Hertz, Thrifty Car Rental, Alamo Car Rental, and Auto Europe.

Update 14/02/2015


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