People who visit Mexico City are the same type of people who visit New York City, Chicago, and Washington DC. Travelers who go to these great world cities, go for food, sites, culture, museums, and history. And just like the great cities in the USA, Mexico City has an exceptional transportation system.
There are a lot of transportation options in Mexico City. I would suggest not renting a car. After traveling to Mexico City for about 6 months, I finally rented a car to pick my my family in a near by town. The traffic is pretty harsh, and I would rate it New York + in. I asked the rental place if tourists often rent cars, and he said mostly locals do, and the tourists that do, often return the car about 30 minutes later. The good news is that there is an IMMENSE number of taxi’s, that are reasonably priced.
For those of you that are more adventurous, you can try the metro which is clean, expansive (140 miles, 1.6 Billion passengers per year, and 195 stations). Oh yeah, it is also about 5 Pesos (about $0.25). I’ve found the Mexico City government has done a lot of good things for it’s citizens, and having subway fare affordable to all Mexico City’s citizens is one of them. If you use the Metro, keep in mind that maps are not provided by the metro, so buy one at a Mexico City store or print one out. Also, given the low price, I’d buy them 10 or so at a time (enough for a day or so, with a few extras), so you don’t need to wait constantly in lines for tickets.
Be cautioned, it can be crowded during rush hour, and it isn’t unusual to miss your stop, as it can be hard to press yourself past the other passengers in a crowded car. I got it down to an art. Start pressing toward the door a stop or two before, making sure you are no more than 1-2 people from the door.
I’ve also found that the vast majority of passengers are just like any other subway passenger you’d find in the United States. You’ll often find passengers offering their seats to more elderly passengers.
When you come to your stop, realize new passengers will try to press into the car, while people are trying to get out. One trick is to stick your arm through the crowd toward the door and just press forward. Be gentle, and kind, but determined. You should be able to get out. If you don’t just try the next stop. I actually enjoyed riding the metro, as it is a good taste of every day Mexico City life. I used it pretty often, as did my family, but it probably approaches a Tokyo like crowd during rush hour.
It is interesting to note, that they reserve the front 2-3 cars for women and children only during rush our, which are less crowded. Just like any metro, watch your belonging.
The final, and easiest way, is to use taxi services. Mexico City is recognized as having the largest fleet of taxi’s in the world, with over 100,000 taxi’s for it’s 9 Million citizens (compared to about 15,000 taxi’s for New York City citizens). When I went, back in 2012, Uber wasn’t around. It is now available, and I would strongly suggest using Uber (make sure you pick up digital service for Mexico, by calling your carrier to add it for the month you are traveling).
When I traveled, my friends suggested not to take one of the 100,000 street taxi’s, which they considered unsafe. It is a was not an uncommon crime several years ago, to have an “express kidnapping”, where the taxi held the passenger for several hours, threatening them, and seeking to have the customer drain their ATM account to be freed. One of my friends, a Mexico City native, actually had this happen several years before. They recommended calling private taxi service (“sitio” taxi), which were higher cost, but had personal relationships with the hotels. A typical hotel taxi ride is $10 – $30, not unlike the United States. I know that Uber fares are much more fair than hotel fares, and closer to the $2 – $3 cab ride you could get from a street taxi. If you opt for a hotel taxi, get the hotel concierge number as well, as when you are traveling about, they should be able to arrange a pick up as well, and are bi-lingual if you don’t know Spanish. Beware though, they are much more highly priced.
For those of you more adventurous, you could opt to wave down one of the numerous red beetle taxi’s buzzing around the city, just like the locals, where the ride will cost you $2 – $3. It is recommended that solo female travelers or travelers that seem more vulnerable, to avoid the street taxi’s.
I was told, and I practiced this, to only waved down taxi’s that had the taxi driver picture on the rear right window with licensing information, driver number, and picture. Make sure the guy driving looks like the picture. This indicates they were properly licensed, and also, makes it easy for your to identify them if there is an issue. I also would ask “quanto?” (How Much?) before they drove too far. Occasionally, they’d indicate $10, for a ride I was normally taking for $2. It is easy to get out of the taxi, and wave down another taxi right behind. I rarely waited more than 5 minutes to get picked up.
If you are like me, I really didn’t know any Spanish, and the public taxi’s are almost always spanish speaking. My advice is to pick a well known site your are traveling to or near, as well as your hotel name. So, my ride would go like this:
- Wave down the taxi – There are thousands, so waving at a taxi is the universal sign for “I need a ride”.
- Sit down and give them your destination name, in the best spanish you can muster, as long as it is a famous site, they will know exactly what you mean. So, “Palacio Belles Artes” will get you there.
- Watch to see if they turn on the meter. If not, I would point and say “TaxiMetro” to remind them. If they turn it on, which they’ll do 90% of the time, you are good. You’ll get a low cost cab ride for only $2 – $3 for a 15 minute to 20 minute ride. If they do not turn it on, or indicate no, I would suggest asking How Much (Quantos?) They may indicate “Tariffo” which means a fixed price. If they indicated 4 or 5 x the amount, I would ask to get out “Salgo”. Assuming you did it in the firsf blocks, and they delayed telling you, you should owe nothing, and can pick up the next HONEST taxi driver just a car or two behind. Again, only do this if you feel comfortable.Let me further say, the safest way is using Uber or your Hotel taxi services.