As the world's 13th-biggest country, getting around Mexico isn’t always straightforward. Travelling in Mexico can involve long journey times, multiple route options, and various regional peculiarities.
Public transport is generally cheap and reliable, while the more expensive option of car hire offers the chance to explore a little further. However, you were to ask anyone about the best transport system in Mexico, the answer would surely be that travel is mainly by bus. They are the most affordable, efficient and widespread transport option in Mexico.
Domestic flights are another choice as distances can be vast and flights are usually much quicker and more affordable than travelling overland. For short distances, most travellers will use colectivos, taxis or minibuses, but renting a car is always an option if budget is less of a concern.
Arguably the safest way to get around in Mexico is to hire a car, but it’s not a particular budget-friendly option - prices are generally on par with European car rental costs. The main bonus is access to areas that are off-the-beaten-path to many travellers. Note that major cities can be heavily congested and stressful to drive around.
All major cities and towns in Mexico have a Terminal de Autobuses, or Central de Autobuses, linking it to a network of bus services throughout the country. As trains are not widespread, the bus network is the most convenient way of travelling between major cities and tourist destinations.
Long-distance buses are called camiones, operated by several different companies depending on the region. In the Yucatan Peninsula, ADO offers a clean, fast and reliable network, while ETN Turistar, Grupo Estrella Blanca, and Primera Plus focus more on the central, northern and western coast of Mexico.
Tickets can be bought at the station, or online in the form of an e-ticket. Services are frequent and can usually be purchased on the day, but travellers can reserve a seat and sometimes save money by purchasing a ticket a few days in advance.
Camiones generally use toll roads, stop infrequently, have on board toilets, and offer night-time sleeper routes. Air con and blasting Mexican movies can make a travel blanket and noise-cancelling headphones an essential travelling companion!
Local buses, or ‘2nd class services’, offer a slower service for shorter distances. There is more chance of luggage theft and robbery on these slower services in some areas, so precautions should be taken - like locking your bags and hiding your valuables on your person.
Taxis are an affordable way of getting around in Mexico, but general rules like checking for a metre or agreeing a price before starting a journey can help to avoid rip off fares.
Expect to pay around $20 to $25 MXN per kilometre, but this can depend on the area you are visiting. Airports often have fixed-price tickets to the city, purchase them from a taquilla (ticket window) and avoid having to negotiate with the driver.
App-based services like Uber and Cabify are available in most major tourist areas. They can be a great way to be confident of getting a good rate and avoiding scams.
Colectivos are how many locals get around in the city or busy areas. They run along fixed routes and can be hailed at any point. Fares are more expensive than public buses but much cheaper than taxis.
Info about these services can be found from your hostel or hotel, bear in mind they are a local option and don’t expect too much personal space or room for large bags or luggage.
Domestic flights operate out of 60 Mexican cities, connecting major tourist destinations like Mexico City, Cancún, Guadalajara, Tijuana, Oaxaca, Los Cabos and Puerto Vallarta. The major airline is Aeroméxico, but other operators like TAR Aerolíneas, Volaris and VivaAerobus can have lower fares.
It often makes sense both for time, cost, and environmental impact to take a flight instead of a bus when travelling large distances in Mexico. The route from Cancún to Mexico City, for example, takes 27 hours by bus (1,800 MXN) but a flight takes just 2 hours (500 MXN).
Like much of Latin America, the train network in Mexico is virtually non-existent. After being privatised in 1995, all of the passenger services have slowly disappeared.
Mexico City and Monterrey have good Metro systems for getting around in the city, but can be very busy at peak times.
Like many countries, renters must be 21 years of age and have had their licence for at least two years (in some cases you must be over 25 and have an International Driving Permit).
Though available in some resorts, mopeds, motorbikes and golf carts have high accident rates and are often not available with any sort of insurance so are best avoided.
The road network is good in Mexico with four-lane toll roads (autopistas) costing around $2.50 MXN per kilometre. Mexican law only recognizes Mexican motor insurance (seguro) as valid, so make sure you have a policy that covers any accidents.
There can be some issues with safety, especially when driving at night and in the north of the country - check locally before deciding to rent a car.
Mexicans drive on the right, and the normal speed limit is 40 km/h in built-up areas, 70 km/h in open country and 110 km/h on the highway. Trucks and larger vehicles always have priority and should be given way to.
A convention that might seem odd to foreign drivers is that a flash of headlights indicates that the driver is going first - they are not inviting you to go like in many Western countries.
Taxi - $25 MXN per kilometre
Hiring a taxi driver for the day - around $700 MXN
Domestic flight one-way between Mexico City and Cancún - 500 MXN
Car hire per day - $800 - $1000 MXN
Toll roads - $2.50 MXN per kilometre
Express tourist ticket on the Chihuahua Chepe Express (Creel to The Mochis) $2,900 MXN
Mexican cities aren’t especially wheelchair friendly with old and uneven pavements and a lack of dropped curbs. Public transport isn't generally wheelchair friendly either so it’s best to stick to private taxi firms and specialist tour companies that are booked in advance.
Airports are generally better equipped than other transport options in Mexico, so domestic flights can be a good option of getting around. Many newer resorts and tour operators have good provisions in place for disabled travellers in Mexico.
Wheelchair Traveling has some great information around wheelchair friendly taxi companies, tour operators, and activities like adapted scuba diving.
Planning a trip to Mexico? Read our travel guides