Transportation in Mexico City can be kind of a pain. I don’t know what I expected in a metropolis of over 20 million people, but, uh, it’s kind of crowded.
Whether you’re trying to get somewhere by car, bus, train, or tram, there is going to be a point on your journey where your personal space is massively compromised.
Once you’ve accepted this fact, you’ll be able to breath deeply and just get on with it. Otherwise don’t bother leaving your hotel room, to be honest.
Metro in Mexico City – Cheap & Fast
The metro costs 5 pesos. That’s 25¢.
It also completely avoids any sort of traffic, since, you know, it’s underground.
These two factors also mean it is by far the most crowded method of transportation in the city. I’ve taken the metro on a Monday evening, a Sunday afternoon, a Friday at midday. I hardly EVER notice the difference.
If at all possible, avoid taking the metro when it’s rush hour. Anytime between 6am and 9:30am and in the evenings between 5pm and 7pm. It’s mental. It’s sort of overwhelming. And you’re definitely going to have someone’s armpit in your general facial area.
One thing I really like about the metro are the women and children carriages. There are always at least two cars that are for women and children on every subway. Look for the orange partitions that say mujeres y niños. Or look up for the pink sign that says the same. It’s usually to the right side of the platform. When the subway is really busy there are police officers ensuring that men do not get onto these carriages.
It’s good to note that most people stand by the doors on the metro. If you push your way through and head for the middle of the train-cars then you’ll have much more space. Just be sure you get close to the doors when it’s about to be your stop, because they aren’t open for very long!
This is the video I always show people when the ask what the subway is like, although I’ve never actually seen it this busy before.
Buses in Mexico City – Cheap & Slow
Buses range anywhere between 6 and 9 pesos. I’ve actually only ever taken the bus once, but it’s because I’m not a great lover of them.
While they do take you places around the city that the metro doesn’t, I generally prefer just to use my feet. The buses are just as crowded, if not more so, than the metros on most occasions (at least at the times I want to take them).
Metro-Buses – Cheap & Fast
There are regular buses and then there are metro-buses. The big red metro-buses have their own lanes and can get around much quicker than a bus (and boy do they go quick!). The main metro-bus goes up and down Insurgentes – a main street that runs North to South through the center of the city. You can use a metro card on these which is pretty nice. They’re newer and cleaner than most of the other buses in the city.
I’ve never taken it simply because I’ve never really needed to. It’s a great way to get around if you don’t feel like walking and want to get from North to South. As with most public transportation, they can get incredibly busy at rush hour.
Taxis Vs Ubers – Safe & Slow
Taxis are a cheap and easy way to go short distances throughout the city. The city taxis are pink and white. The best place to pick them up is at a sitio, a taxi rank. There are tons located all over the city. I rarely have any luck simply flagging down a taxi.
That being said, I almost always prefer to take an Uber instead of a taxi. Ubers are usually cheaper and they always use GPS, so getting from one place to another is simple. If your Spanish isn’t great, then this is definitely the best option.
I’ve written a full post about using Uber in Mexico City which you can read here.
You can expect to pay about 40 pesos for every 10-15 minutes you’re in the Uber. I live about 30 minutes from the city center and at off-peak times it costs me about 80-90 pesos to UberPool (share with other riders) between the city and my house.
It’s important to note two things about city taxis: 1) most do not have meters, so you need to determine the price of the journey before you get in; and 2) most do not have GPS and with a city as large as Mexico City, I have found the taxi driver is usually relying on ME to know where I’m going. Even if they do have a meter, they will likely give you the run around if you don’t know where you’re going – so make sure you DO know where you’re going.
If you’ve never used Uber before you can snag a discount on your first ride with this code: laurab18897ue. Under payments simply add a promo/gift code after signing up and you’ll get money off your first two rides (and I’ll get a discount off mine too!).
EcoBici – Cheap & Fast
Renting a bike in Mexico City is a fun and sometimes frightening way to explore the city. Like most major cities in the world these days, there are little bike rental stands all over the the city where you can simply pick up one of the bikes and drop it off at another kiosk when you’re finished.
Ecobici is the name of the system here and they are absurdly cheap. You can get one year of unlimited use for 400 pesos ($20). You can also sign up for one week (300 pesos), three days (188 pesos), or one day (95 pesos).
Simply head to the website (which you can switch into English) to find out the nearest place that you can register. Then you’ll get a unique code that you’ll use at the machines to take out the bikes from it’s stand. It’s so simple.
A few of the main roads have bike lanes, but many require you to hang with the buses and cars. If you aren’t a confident cyclist, then this probably isn’t the mode of transportation for you.
There are four major bus terminals in Mexico City. Where you are heading will determine which station you need to head to. All of the buses at these stations are private and prices vary greatly depending on level of comfort and distance traveled.
To get to many of these stations, Uber is what I usually use. Most of them are near metros if that’s easier for where you are. I don’t live near a metro station, so I find Ubers to be the most convenient way to get to the stations.
If you are arriving TO one of these stations in Mexico City from somewhere else, look for the public transportation outside or one of the official sitio stands. From my experience, Ubers will not come very close to the stations. If you have a lot of luggage, you might not be allowed to bring it on the metro (although I’ve only heard this is true, I’ve never experienced it first hand).
Terminal Central del Norte, the Northern Bus Terminal, heads to all destinations in the North of the country. This is where we went to get our bus to San Miguel de Allende. You can even get buses to cities in Texas from here.
There is a metro station here – Autobuses del Norte on line 5 (the yellow line). There’s also a tram line that’ll take you into the city from here.
Terminal Central Sur or Tasqueña, is the Southern Bus Terminal and the smallest in the city. From here you can go south to Cancun, Acapulco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca among others.
There’s a metro station here called Tasqueña on line 2 (the blue line).
Terminal de Autobuses de Pasajeros del Oriente, usually just called La Tapo, is the Eastern bus terminal. You can go to similar places as Tasqueña, with more options for Quintana Roo and the Yucatan.
Right outside this terminal is San Lazaro metro station – line 2 (the blue line).
Terminal Centro Poniente, the Western Bus Terminal offers buses to Guerrero, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit, Oaxaca, and Queretaro.
The metro station here is Observatorio on line 1 (the pink line).
Safety on Public Transportation in Mexico City
I’ve heard stories of women being spoken to in nasty ways or being pick-pocketed on public transportation in Mexico City (I’ve also heard this about London, New York, Paris, Brussels, and even Tokyo!). But this has never, ever happened to me. And like I’ve mentioned in my post, Is it Safe to Travel to Mexico City, this city is perfectly safe for exploring.
I’m not saying that it doesn’t happen or that it won’t happen to you, but simply be vigilant and pay attention to your things, just like you would in any major city.
I use the metro regularly. I have never taken it by myself, but I have taken it with Luke and with other female friends and we never get bothered. People are mostly polite and while lots of people stare when they hear us speaking English, no one has ever been rude. In fact, more times than not, guys will actually get up to give me their seat (that never happens to me in New York and definitely NEVER happened to me in Korea).
I have never felt threatened or uncomfortable (I mean, other than when it’s crazy crowded and I have zero personal space). The occasions where you may be pick-pocketed are always going to be at rush hour or when the train cars are packed, so just be aware of yourself and your stuff. If you feel uncomfortable, get off at the next stop and call yourself an Uber.
Which Would I Use?
After living in Mexico City for almost eight months and testing out most of the different options, I consistently use the metro and Uber to get around.
If you plan to just stay in the city while you’re visiting, the metro and your feet will save you lots of money and allow you to really see the city like a local. I recommend buying several tickets at a time that way whenever you get to a station you can just go straight through. Sometimes the lines for tickets are CRAZY long!
Uber is great to go further afield or to go to places where the metro doesn’t (like anywhere in Roma or Condesa). It’s also the cheapest way to get to and from the airport (unless you don’t have much luggage, then you can take the metro from Terminal Aérea).