Getting there & around
For a town of such gargantuan proportions, Mexico City is remarkably easy to get around. Wherever you need to go, there is likely some conveyance heading there momentarily. A swift, extensive and incredibly cheap subway system covers most of the metropolis with frequent service almost round the clock. Above ground, peseros (small buses, also called microbuses or micros), regular buses and electric-powered trolley buses move the city’s masses from points A to Z. The metrobus, a recent addition, plies its own lane along the city’s principal north–south artery, Av Insurgentes. Taxis are plentiful and reasonably priced, whether you’re hailing one off the street or (more securely) phoning one of the radio-taxi services. Of course you can also drive, though pollution, congestion and erratic driver behavior make this the least appealing option. Getting in and out of town is also fairly straightforward, with frequent, inexpensive bus services linking the capital with practically every point in the republic.
Metro – the Zócalo station (Línea 2) exits right onto the central plaza. Metro Allende, one stop west on Línea 2, is best for points west of the Zócalo along Madero, Av 5 de Mayo and Tacuba (note: there’s no transfer between eastbound and westbound sides of the platform at this station). Metro Isabel La Católica (Línea 1) and Pino Suárez (Línea 1 & 2) are on the south side of the Centro Histórico, at the bottom of the streets of the same name. Metro San Juan de Letrán (Línea 8) and Salto del Agua (Líneas 1 & 8) access the Centro from the west, along the north–south thoroughfare Eje Central Lázaro Cárdenas.
Bus – though it’s often faster to walk, pesero routes ply most of the streets crisscrossing the Centro grid, including Bolívar (southbound) and Isabel La Católica (northbound).
Bicycle – free bike loans are offered 9am to 6pm daily, from a module on the west side of the Catedral Metropolitana. Leave a passport or driver’s license for two hours of riding time.
Metro – Bellas Artes (Líneas 2 & 8) and Hidalgo (Líneas 2 & 3) stations are at the northeast and northwest corners of the Alameda respectively.
Bus – peseros along Paseo de La Reforma stop at Metro Hidalgo, on the northwest side of the Alameda, on their way to and from the Zona Rosa and Bosque de Chapultepec.
Metro –Línea 2 stops north of Plaza de la República (Revolución) and San Rafael (San Cosme).
Metrobus –the Tabacalera station on Av Insurgentes is 100m west of Plaza de la República.
Bus –any pesero running along Paseo de la Reforma en route to the Alameda Central or Bosque de Chapultepec stops at the Monumento a Cristóbal Colón.
Metro – Insurgentes station (Línea 1) marks the southern edge of the Zona Rosa at Av Chapultepec, 500m south of Reforma. Metro Sevilla and Cuauhtémoc, on the same line, are on the west and east ends of the zone, respectively.
Bus – any pesero along Paseo de la Reforma stops at the Ángel monument, between the Zona Rosa and Cuauhtémoc neighborhoods, en route to the Alameda Central or Bosque de Chapultepec.
Metrobus – north- and southbound metrobus lines (which are labeled ‘Indios Verdes’ and ‘Dr Gálvez’, respectively) have stations above the big Insurgentes roundabout, which provides access to the Zona Rosa via the Calle Génova exit. Another convenient metrobus station, Hamburgo, is situated on the east end of the Zona Rosa.
Metro – Chapultepec metro station (Línea 1) is at the east end of the Bosque de Chapultepec, near the Monumento a los Niños Héroes and Castillo de Chapultepec. Auditorio metro station (Línea 7) is on the north side of the park, in front of the Auditorio Nacional and 500m west of the Museo Nacional de Antropología. The park can also be accessed from the south side at Constituyentes station (Liñea 7).
Bus – from anywhere on Paseo de la Reforma west of the Alameda Central, buses saying ‘Metro Chapultepec’ reach Chapultepec metro station, while ‘Metro Auditorio’ buses pass right outside the Museo Nacional de Antropología. Returning downtown, any ‘Metro Hidalgo/La Villa’, ‘Alameda’ or ‘Garibaldi’ bus, from either metro Chapultepec or heading east on Reforma, follows Reforma at least as far as metro Hidalgo. To get to the 2a Sección and La Feria, take the ‘Paradero’ exit from metro Chapultepec and catch a ‘Feria’ bus at the top of the stairs. These depart continuously and travel nonstop to the 2a Sección (Second Section), dropping off riders at the Papalote Museo del Niño and La Feria.
Bicycle – rent bikes from a module on Paseo de la Reforma, just outside the Museo de la Antropología (8am-6pm; per hr M$50, per day M$150). A ciclovía (bicycle path) runs through the park’s 2a Sección, with access from the west side of Polanco.
Metro – Metro Polanco (Línea 7), on Horacio, is smack in the center of the neighborhood. To reach the Zona Hotelera, the hotel zone on Polanco’s south side, use the Auditorio station on the same line.
Bus – ‘Metro Auditorio’ peseros traveling west from the Alameda access Polanco from the south (Bosque de Chapultepec) side of the neighborhood – get off at Verne, just past the Auditorio, and walk north. Another convenient pesero, labeled ‘Metro Sevilla-P Masaryk’, travels between Colonia Roma (Av Álvaro Obregón) and Polanco, stopping at metro Sevilla on the west end of the Zona Rosa.
Metro – Metro Patriotismo (Línea 9) provides the easiest access: take the ‘Baja California’ Nte exit, turn around at the top of the stairs and cross six-lane Av Patriotismo, then proceed up Av Tamaulipas. Alternatively, metro Chapultepec (Línea 1) is the northern approach.
Taxi – there are convenient taxi seguro (safe taxi) stands on Calle Michoacán at the west side of Parque México and on Vicente Suárez, next to Cafebrería El Péndulo.
Metro – Metro Insurgentes (Línea 1) is a five-block walk north of Álvaro Obregón via Calle Jalapa. Exiting at the Insurgentes roundabout, take the ‘Calle Jalapa’ passageway on the south side (it runs alongside the doughnut shop).
Bus – peseros labeled ‘Metro Tacubaya-Balderas-Escandón’ travel eastbound on Durango and westbound on Puebla while on their way to the Centro Histórico and Condesa respectively. ‘Metro Sevilla – P Masaryk’ buses go west on Álvaro Obregón to the Zona Rosa and Polanco.
Taxi – there’s a taxi sitio on Calle Durango, a block west of Plaza Río de Janeiro.
Metro – the nearest metro stations are Viveros and Coyoácan (Línea 3) and General Anaya (Línea 2), all 1.5km to 2km from Plaza Hidalgo. If you don’t fancy a hike, catch one of the suggested peseros.
Bus – from metro Viveros, walk south (left, if you’re facing Av Universidad) to Peréz Valenzuela, cross and catch an eastbound ‘M (etro) Gral Anaya’ pesero to Allende. From the Coyoacán station take a ‘Coyoacán’ pesero going southeast on Av México. From metro General Anaya, take the exit off the southbound platform and catch an RTP bus labeled ‘Centro Coyoacán.’ (The last option is best for the Ex-Convento de Churubusco.) Returning, ‘Metro Viveros’ peseros go west on Malitzin; ‘Metro Coyoacán’ and ‘Metro Gral Anaya’ peseros depart from the west side of Plaza Hidalgo. San Ángel-bound peseros and buses head west on Av de Quevedo, five blocks south of Plaza Hidalgo.
Metro – from Metro Miguel Ángel de Quevedo (Línea 3), walk or catch a ‘San Ángel’ pesero (minibus) 1km west to Plaza San Jacinto. From Metro Barranca del Muerto, catch any pesero 1.5km south along Av Revolución.
Metrobus – the easiest option: from the La Bombilla station of the Av Insurgentes metrobus, it’s a 500m walk west along Av de la Paz to Plaza San Jacinto.
Bus – to Coyoacán, get a ‘M (etro) Tasqueña’ pesero or bus going east on Miguel Ángel de Quevedo; it will take you to the corner of Carrillo Puerto (2.5km), a five-block walk north to the Jardín del Centenario.
Taxi – there’s a sitio (taxi stand) on the east side of Plaza San Jacinto.
Metro – from Metro Universidad (the last stop on Línea 3), the university runs three bus routes (free) between 6:30am and 10:30pm Monday to Friday. Ruta 1 goes west to the main part of the campus; Ruta 2 traverses the Circuito Exterior, flanking the main campus’ southern edge; Ruta 3 heads southwest to the Centro Cultural Universitario. Copilco metro station is near the northeast edge of the campus, 1km east of the Biblioteca Central. Take the ‘Cerro de los Tres Zapotes’ exit and follow the students down Filosofía y Letras to the university entrance.
Metrobus – take the metrobus to its southern terminus, Dr Gálvez, then catch a pesero (minibus) to the west side of the university. Plans are afoot to extend the metrobus line further down Insurgentes as far as Tlalpan, so it won’t be necessary to make the transfer.
Bus – from the metrobus terminus, cross Av Altamirano and catch a southbound ‘Villa Coapa’ pesero. For the northern part of the campus, get off at the first yellow footbridge crossing on Av Insurgentes, just before the Estadio Olímpico. For the southern section, get off at the second yellow footbridge after the Estadio Olímpico. Returning, catch any pesero marked ‘San Ángel-Revolución’; to catch the metrobus, get off just after it turns left.
Metrobus – take the Insurgentes metrobus to the end of the line, and catch a pesero to Tlalpan. By the time your read this, the metrobus line may be extended all the way to Tlalpan, making the transfer unnecessary.
Bus – from the metrobus terminus, cross Altamirano and catch a southbound ‘Villa Coapa’ pesero. Get off at Calle Juárez, and walk three blocks south to Tlalpan’s main square.
Metro – take metro Línea 2 to the end of the line, Tasqueña, then continue on the Tren Ligero (light rail, M$2) to its last stop. Upon exiting the station, turn left (north) and follow Av Morelos to the market, the plaza and the church.
Bicycle taxi – if you don’t feel like walking to the embarcaderos, bicycle taxis will shuttle you there for M$30 to M$50.
Mexico City has several classes of taxi. Cheapest are the cruising street cabs, though they’re not recommended due to the risk of assaults. If you must hail a cab off the street, check that it has official taxi license plates. In 2007, the city government began issuing new plates that each have a chip in them for tracking the taxi. The number on the plate begins with a large letter ‘A’ followed by 5 numbers. All legitimate taxis, whether taken from the street, a taxi stand or a radio dispatcher, should have these plates. Also look for the carta de identificación (also called the tarjetón), a postcard-sized ID which should be displayed visibly inside the cab, and ensure that the driver matches the photo. If the cab you’ve hailed does not pass these tests, get another.
In cabs hailed off the street, fares are computed by taxímetro (meter), which should start at M$6 to M$7. The total cost of a 2km or 3km ride in moderate traffic – say, from the Zócalo to the Zona Rosa – should be M$40 to M$45. Between 11pm and 6am, add 20%.
A radio taxi costs two or three times as much, but the extra cost adds an immeasurable degree of security. When you phone, the dispatcher will tell you the cab number and the type of car. Hotels and restaurants can call a reliable cab for you.
Some reliable radio-taxi firms, available 24 hours, are listed below.
Taxi-Mex (9171-8888, 5634-9912)
Taxis Radio Unión (5514-8124)
RET (8590-6720, 8590-6721)
Radio Maxi Seguridad (5768-8557, 5552-1376)
Sitio Parque México (5286-7129, 5286-7164)
Mexico City has four long-distance bus terminals serving the four compass points.
Terminal de Autobuses del Norte (5587-1552; www.centraldelnorte.com.mx; Av Cien Metros 4907, Colonia Magdalena de las Salinas; Autobuses del Norte) serves points north, including cities on the US border.
Terminal de Autobuses de Pasajeros de Oriente (TAPO; 5762-5894; Calz Ignacio Zaragoza 200, Colonia Diez de Mayo; San Lázaro), usually called TAPO, serves points east and southeast, including Puebla, Veracruz, Yucatán, Oaxaca and Chiapas.
All terminals have baggage-check services or lockers (M$5 to M$12 per item), as well as tourist information modules, newsstands, card phones, internet terminals, ATMs and snack bars.
For certain destinations you have a choice of terminals, thus avoiding the need to travel across town for connections. Oaxaca, for example, is served by TAPO, Sur and Norte terminals. Guadalajara can be reached from Terminal Norte or Poniente.
There are also buses to nearby cities from the airport. Direct buses to Cuernavaca, Querétaro, Toluca, Puebla and Córdoba depart from platforms adjacent to Sala E. Ticket counters are on the upper level, off the food court.
Check schedules by phoning the bus lines or by visiting their (sometimes functional) websites.
You can pick up tickets beforehand at Ticketbus (5133-2424, 800-702-80-00; www.ticketbus.com.mx), a booking agency for over a dozen bus lines out of all four stations. (A 10% surcharge is added to the cost of the ticket, up to a maximum of M$50.) In addition to the Ticketbus locations below, a couple more are located inside the international-arrivals terminal at the airport. Outlets are generally open 9am or 10am to 7pm or 8pm Monday to Friday with an hour lunch break, and mornings only on Saturday. Ticketbus also offers purchase by phone with Visa or Mastercard.
Buenavista (Buenavista 9; Revolución)
Centro Histórico (Isabel la Católica 83E; Isabel la Católica)
Condesa (Iztaccíhuatl 6, cnr Insurgentes; Chilpancingo)
Polanco (Av Presidente Masaryk, cnr Hegel; Polanco)
Reforma (Paseo de la Reforma 412; Sevilla) Across from La Diana Cazadora.
Roma Norte (Mérida 156; Hospital General)
Zócalo (Turismo Zócalo, La Palma 34; Zócalo)
Nearly all sizable cities in Mexico have regular (usually daily) flights to/from Mexico City. Aeroméxico and Mexicana, the country’s two largest airlines, cover most of these domestic destinations. The larger domestic airlines serving Mexico City include Aero California, Aeromar and Aviacsa.
Recently started domestic carriers Interjet and Volaris offer very reasonable fares to and from a number of destinations, including Puerto Vallarta (under M$400 each way) and Mérida (M$550). There is a catch, however: they both fly in and out of Toluca, 64km west of the metropolis, a journey of up to two hours by shuttle and taxi to downtown Mexico City.
The peak travel periods of Semana Santa (Easter Week) and Christmas–New Year are hectic and heavily booked throughout Mexico: try to book transportation in advance for these periods.
Aero California (5785-1162; Paseo de la Reforma 332; Reforma)
Aeromar (5133-1111, toll free 800-237-66-27; Torre Mayor, Paseo de la Reforma 505; Reforma)
Aeroméxico (5133-4010) Juárez (Paseo de la Reforma 80; Reforma); Zona Rosa (Paseo de la Reforma 445; Reforma)
Air Canada ( 9138-0280, ext 2228, toll free 800-719-28-27; Blvd Ávila Camacho 1, 13th fl; Reforma pesero ‘Km 13’)
Air France (5571-6150, toll free 800-123-46-60; Jaime Balmes 8, 8th fl; Polanco)
Alitalia (5533-1240, toll free 800-012-59-00; Río Tíber 103, 6th fl; Reforma)
American Airlines (5209-1400; Paseo de la Reforma 300; Reforma)
Aviacsa (5716-9006, 800-011-43-57; Airport)
Avianca (5571-4080, toll free 800-705-79-00; Paseo de la Reforma 195; Reforma)
British Airways (5387-0300; Jaime Balmes 8, 14th fl; Polanco)
Continental Airlines (5283-5500, toll free 800-900-50-00; Andrés Bello 45; Auditorio)
Cubana (5250-6355; Sol y Son Viajes, Homero 613; Polanco)
Delta Airlines 5279-0909, toll free 800-123-47-10; Paseo de la Reforma 381; Reforma)
Iberia (1101-1515; Av Ejército Nacional 436, 9th fl; Polanco)
Interjet (1102-5555, toll free 800-011-23-45; Centro Comercial Antara, Av Ejército Nacional 843B; Ejército Nacional)
Japan Air Lines (5242-0150; Torre Mayor, Paseo de la Reforma 505, 36th fl; Reforma)
KLM/Northwest (5279-5390; Andrés Bello 45, 11th fl; Auditorio)
Lufthansa (5230-0000; Paseo de las Palmas 239; Reforma pesero ‘Km 13’)
Magnicharters (5679-1212; Guerra 9, cnr Bucareli; Juárez)
Mexicana (5448-0990, toll free 800-502-20-00) Juárez (Av Juárez 82, cnr Balderas; Juárez); Zona Rosa (Paseo de la Reforma 312; Insurgentes) Los Morales (Pabellón Polanco Shopping Mall, Ejército Nacional 980;pesero ‘Ejército Nacional’)
United Airlines (5627-0222; Hamburgo 213, 10th fl; Sevilla)
Aeropuerto Internacional Benito Juárez (2482-2424; www.aicm.com.mx, in Spanish), 6km east of the Zócalo, is Mexico City’s only passenger airport. With a capacity for about 24 million passengers annually, it’s the largest airport in Latin America.
A new terminal, inaugurated in 2007, is expected to expand the airport’s capacity by 10 million passengers. Delta, Aeroméxico, Continental, Lan Chile, Aeromar and Copa Airlines use the new facility, called Terminal 2, which also features a hotel, a parking garage and shops. Located 3km away from the main terminal, Terminal 2 is connected by monorail, supposedly a five-minute ride. Board the monorail from Puerta 6, labeled ‘Crew Parking, ’ on the upper level of the main terminal. From Terminal 2, you can catch the monorail at Puerta 7. Passengers need to show their plane tickets to get on.
Terminal 1 is divided into eight salas (halls) :
Sala A Domestic arrivals.
Sala B Check-in for Mexicana and Aero California; Hotel Camino Real access.
Sala C Check-in for Aviacsa.
Sala D Check-in for Magnicharters.
Sala E International arrivals.
Sala F & J Check-in for international flights.
Sala G International departures.
The terminal’s shops and facilities include dozens of casas de cambio; Tamibe (5726-0578) in Sala E2 stays open 24 hours. Peso-dispensing ATMs on the Cirrus and Plus networks are easy to find.
Telmex card phones and internet terminals abound; cards are available from shops and machines. Car-rental agencies and luggage lockers (up to 24hr M$80; 24hr) are in Salas A and E2.
Mexico City Mayor Marcelo Ebrard has made great efforts to encourage bicycle use, and though it still isn’t a common mode of transportation in the capital (except by delivery boys), cycling does seem to be catching on slowly. Bicycles can be a viable means to get around town and are often quicker and more pleasant than riding on overcrowded, recklessly driven buses. Although careless drivers and potholes can make DF cycling an ‘extreme sport, ’ if you stay alert and keep off the major thoroughfares, it’s manageable.
Bikes are loaned free from a module beside the Catedral Metropolitana. Otherwise, you can rent a bicycle from a module in front of the Museo de la Antropología.
A ciclovía (bicycle path) follows Av Chapultepec along a protected median from Bosque de Chapultepec to the Centro Histórico (though a detour through the streets of Colonia Roma is ignored by motorists). Another route runs along Paseo de la Reforma from the Auditorio Nacional to the Museo Rufino Tamayo. Follow the red stripe.
A more extensive trail runs from Av Ejército Nacional in Polanco through the Bosque de Chapultepec, skirting the Periférico freeway from La Feria to Av San Antonio, with several steep bridges passing over the freeways. The trail then continues south to the Parque Ecológico de la Ciudad de México, for a total distance of 90km.