Getting Around Mexico
There is an excellent network of daily scheduled flights in Mexico between principal commercial centres operated by longstanding airline Aeroméxico (www.aeromexico.com). Many of the smaller airports also have capacity for large planes and some international flights.
Usually included in the air fare.
It is advisable to keep car doors and windows closed and locked, especially at traffic lights.
Confusingly, toll (CUOTA) and free (LIBRE) roads to the same destination often have the same highway ID number. Drivers in a hurry should follow the CUOTA signs. A third sign, LIBRAMIENTO, indicates a toll-paying bypass road. Cash is preferred at toll-booths.
Self-drive cars are available at airports, city centres and resorts. All the established international agencies operate in Mexico. Reputable internet-only agencies are worth a look for cheap deals. Beware of hidden extras, and poor breakdown services, particularly with local firms.
Coaches and buses link almost all towns and cities. Central bus terminals in major cities provide service and information on fares and schedules.
Major operators include ETN (tel: 01 800 800 0386, in Mexico only; www.etn.com.mx), covering the Pacific coast, western and northern Mexico; ADO (tel: 01 800 369 4652, in Mexico only; www.ado.com.mx), serving the Gulf coast and Mexican southeast; Primera Plus (tel: 01 800 375 7587, in Mexico only; www.primeraplus.com.mx), serving central and northern Mexico; and Estrella Blanca (tel: 01 800 507 5500, in Mexico only; www.estrellablanca.com.mx), with service throughout the country.
Speed limits are 30-50kph (19-31mph) in towns and 100-110kph (62-68mph) on motorways. All passengers are required to wear seatbelts. Car use in Mexico City is restricted so as to reduce pollution. The last digit of the car number plate determines when that car cannot be driven.
Rest areas at toll-booths provide ambulance and breakdown services. The Angeles Verdes (Green Angels) (tel: 078, in Mexico only), run by the tourist ministry, provide breakdown assistance to tourists between the hours of 0800 and 1800 daily, with free labour and parts at cost. If you do need to call them out, it should go without saying that you should tip generously.
An International Driving Permit or a valid driving licence from your country of residence is required. The minimum driving age is for car hire is usually 21. Mexican vehicle insurance is compulsory; check insurance is included in hire agreements.
Mexican cities and towns generally have good public transportation networks, with frequent bus and taxi service around town and to/from inter-city bus stations. Buses are cheap, with signs affixed to their windshields announcing their destinations. Taxis are easy to find; usually they charge by distance (it's best to agree on the fare beforehand) but in larger cities are metered.
The country's three largest cities, Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara, all feature metro systems. Mexico City's is the most extensive, with frequent, efficient service and a flat fare payable by single tickets or preloadable smartcard. Another component of the capital's transit network is its expanding Metrobus system, with double-length buses stopping at enclosed stations that are accessible by smartcard.
Various kinds of taxis ply the streets of Mexico City: cruising street taxis are metered and cheap, while radio taxis operating from sitios (taxi stands) charge more but are considered a more secure option. In the city centre, bicycle taxis offer a non-polluting alternative.
The only long-distance passenger route is the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway, commonly known as El Chepe (tel: 01 800 122 4373, in Mexico only or +52 1 614 439 7211; www.chepe.com.mx). The tourist-oriented line from the city of Chihuahua to Los Mochis traverses the Sierra Tarahumara range and includes a stop in the Copper Canyon region.
Baja Ferries (tel: 01 800 377 7437, in Mexico only; www.bajaferries.com) operates regular sailings between Mazatlán and La Paz (Baja California) and between Topolobampo and La Paz.
Ferry Santa Rosalia (tel: 01 800 505 5018, in Mexico only; www.ferrysantarosalia.com) runs a ferry across the Gulf of California from Guaymas to Santa Rosalía.
Some west coast cruises include Pacific ports such as Mazatlán, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. There are also regular ferries from the mainland to the Caribbean Islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Ferry operators, their names, websites and schedules are in a constant state of flux. Advance bookings are rarely needed or available.