Transport and Driving in Mexico
Travelling within Mexico can be an exciting experience, with some transport options not for the faint of heart. Mexico has a relatively well-maintained road network, consisting mainly of toll roads, and a highly efficient public transport system within and between its major cities.
Driving in Mexico
Expats driving in Mexico should do so cautiously and make sure to drive slightly under the speed limit. It is important to always follow the rules of the road, even if the other cars don’t seem to be. The maximum speed limits in Mexico are: 25 miles per hour (40km/h) in cities, 50 miles per hour (80km/h) outside cities and 70 miles per hour (110km/h) on highways.
It's best to stick to toll (cuota) roads if one has never driven in Mexico before or if unable to speak Spanish. Expats should make sure to have pesos in their car, as USD are not accepted at tolls.
Expats should keep an eye out for topes, which are particularly elevated speed bumps that could damage their car if they do not slow down to almost a standstill. These are found on major toll roads as well as minor roads. Livestock on the road is also a problem in Mexico; expats should be aware of this and drive cautiously. This is the primary reason why driving at night in Mexico is not advised and can be extremely hazardous.
Drivers in Mexico should always beware of police road blocks, which function to stem the flow of drugs from Mexico into the US. Police don’t usually bother foreigners too much, but being wary of these checkpoints is nevertheless advised. Expats can expect checkpoints along most major and some minor roads; police will most likely search the car and ask drivers to produce their driving licence and insurance information.
Car insurance in Mexico
Car insurance in Mexico is required by law, but is very affordable. Expats can buy Mexican car insurance online or in border towns in the US. Those staying longer than 16 days may find it cheaper to buy a six-month insurance plan. Insurance is crucial when driving in Mexico. Should a foreigner be in an accident, they could be sent to jail and would not be able to leave Mexico until the damage is paid for.
Roadside assistance in Mexico
Mexico has a roadside assistance service called the Angeles Verdes (Green Angels), who drive green trucks and can fix anything from a flat tyre to a leaking radiator. Their services are free, but drivers have to pay for parts and petrol, if necessary.
The Angeles Verdes can be reached by dialling 078.
Driving licences in Mexico
Expats can use their home country’s driving licence in Mexico; however, they are advised to get an International Driver’s Permit so that it can be translated into Spanish. Expats need to apply for this within six months of arriving in Mexico. Expats must carry both their International Driver’s Permit and their home country’s driving licence with them when driving in Mexico.
Public transport in Mexico
Mexico’s public transport system is extensive, affordable and efficient. However, a good knowledge of Spanish is often vital when navigating the system, especially during peak hours.
The regional passenger train system in Mexico is rather limited, so travelling by train is probably not the best option for expats wanting to travel between cities. However, for those who want to explore regions of Mexico like the Copper Canyon, travelling by rail is a great choice. The Chihuahua Pacific Railway travels through the Copper Canyon area, which is difficult terrain not easily passable by car.
In Jalisco a train service exists between Guadalajara and Tequila, which is known as the Tequila Express. Additionally, in the Yucatan area, there is a train line between Villahermosa and Cancun. This is called Expreso Maya or the Mayan Express, as the route travels through some Mayan ruins.
Mexico City has its own suburban train service which can take expats from the suburbs outside Mexico City into the city centre. Expats can buy a rechargeable train card.
Mexico City, Monterrey and Guadalajara all have metro systems, which are the best way for expats to get around these cities. Expats should be aware that the metro is a prime operating spot for pickpockets and should look after their valuables.
An extensive bus network offers an efficient and affordable way of getting around Mexico. There are three classes available on long-distance bus routes: tourist, executive and first. First class buses have reclining seats, toilets and movies on board. Many long-distance routes are non-stop, getting travellers to their destination quickly.
There are local buses in every city and town; however, there is no regulation on passenger limits so buses are often overflowing during peak hours. Expats can pay for their bus ticket on board the bus for very little money. There are also micro-buses (mini-buses), which operate similarly in most cities.
Expats can travel around Mexico’s cities by taxi relatively cheaply. Taxis either use meters or charge by zones, with prices varying between different zones.
Air travel in Mexico
There are numerous domestic airports in Mexico and, since it is such a large country, travelling by plane is often the best way to cover long distances. Mexico has a range of low-cost airlines to choose from, affording travel options to suit every budget.