Mexico City is a sprawling urban area that almost 9 million people call home. The sheer scale of it can feel like a chaotic jolt to the system but only in the best possible way.
Recently, there has been a push for revamped public spaces and an invigorated cultural and nightlife offering. This renaissance has also been focused on making it easier to navigate the city for both locals and tourists alike. The city's status as the largest in North America means it can often produce some legendary traffic problems and this is the reason many locals opt for the cheap and easy-to-use public transport systems. From the metro to buses and bikes, here's your guide to getting around Mexico City safely.
The metro system offers the quickest way to get around Mexico City. Used by around 4.4 million passengers on an average weekday, it has 195 stations spread across 14 lines. Trains arrive every two to three minutes during rush hours. At M$5 a ride, it’s one of the world’s cheapest subways.
All lines operate from 5am to midnight weekdays, 6am to midnight Saturday and 7am to midnight Sunday and holidays. Platforms and cars can become alarmingly packed during rush hours (roughly 7:30am to 10am and 3pm to 8pm). The metro is also chaotic during heavy rain. With such crowded conditions, it’s not surprising that pickpocketing occurs, so watch your belongings. Family-like groups have been known to 'accidentally' bump into victims.
The metro is easy to use. Lines are color-coded and each station is identified by a unique logo. Signs reading ‘Dirección Pantitlán,’ ‘Dirección Universidad’ and so on name the stations at the end of the lines. Check a map for the direction you want. Buy a rechargeable smart card for M$15 at any station and then add credit (the card also works for all metrobús lines). Additionally, the metro sells boletos (tickets) at the taquilla (ticket window). Feed the ticket into the turnstile and you’re on your way. When changing trains, look for ‘Correspondencia’ (Transfer) signs. Maps of the vicinity around each station are posted near the exits.
Tip for the metro during rush hour: At the busiest times the forward cars are reserved for women and children, and men may not proceed beyond the pink ‘Sólo Mujeres y Niños’ gate.
Mexico City’s thousands of buses and peseros operate from around 5am till 10pm daily, depending on the route. Electric trolleybuses (trolebús) generally run until 11:30pm. Only a few routes run all night, notably those along Paseo de la Reforma. This means you’ll get anywhere by bus and/or metro during the day, but will probably have to take a few taxis after hours.
Peseros (also called microbúses or combis) are gray-and-green minibuses operated by private firms. They follow fixed routes, often starting or ending at metro stations, and will stop at virtually any street corner. Route information is randomly displayed on cards attached to the windshield. Fares are M$5 for trips of up to 3 miles (5km), and M$5.50 for 3 to 7 miles (5-12km). Add 20% to all fares between 11pm and 6am. Privately run green-and-yellow buses charge M$6 and M$7 for the same distances. A useful resource for route planning with the confusing number of peseros is the ViaDF website.
The metrobús is a wheelchair-accessible long bus that stops at metro-style stations in the middle of the street, spaced at three- to four-block intervals. Access is by prepaid smart card, issued by machines for M$10 at the entrance to the platforms, and rides cost M$6. The rechargeable cards, which can also be used for the metro, are placed on a sensor device for entry. During crowded peak hours, the metrobús is a favorite for pickpockets. The front of the bus is for women and children only, marked out with pink seating. Most metrobús lines run from 5am to midnight.
Top tip for the metrobús: Línea 7 is a red double-decker that rides along Paseo de la Reforma from Plaza Garibaldi, passing key sights like Monumento a la Revolución, Zona Rosa and Reforma, El Ángel, Bosque de Chapultepec, Castillo de Chapultepec, Museo Tamayo and Museo de Antropología, terminating a stop after Auditorio Nacional. Closed on Sundays 6:30am to 2pm between Chapultepec and Auditorio (including Antropología), as the avenue becomes a bicycle-only zone for the Paseo Dominical.
Municipally operated trolebúses (trolleybuses) and full-sized cream-and-orange buses (labeled ‘RTP’) only pick up at bus stops. Fares are M$2 (M$4 for the express) regardless of distance traveled and they only accept preloaded travel cards (as used on the metro and metrobús), no cash. Trolleybuses follow a number of the key ejes (priority roads) throughout the rest of the city. They generally run until 11:30pm. Route maps are on the trolleybus website.
Bicycles can be a viable way to get around town and are often preferable to overcrowded, recklessly driven buses. Although careless drivers and potholes can make Mexico City cycling an extreme sport, if you stay alert and keep off the major thoroughfares, it’s manageable. The city government has encouraged bicycle use, with more bicycle-only lanes, and it’s definitely catching on.
Bikes are loaned free from a kiosk on the west side of the Catedral Metropolitana. You’ll also find booths at Plaza Villa de Madrid in Roma; at Fuente de Cibeles on Durango in Roma; at the intersection of Mazatlán and Michoacán in Condesa; and several along Paseo de la Reforma, near the Monumento a la Independencia and Auditorio Nacional. Leave a passport or driver’s license for three hours of riding time. The kiosks operate from 10:30am to 6pm Monday to Saturday, and 9:30am to 4:30pm on Sunday.
The Mexico City government rents commuter bikes through Ecobici to visitors on a daily and weekly basis. The bicycle share program works with smart cards and allows you to ride for up to 45 minutes between docking stations. To avoid paying a fine for exceeding 45 minutes, simply exchange the bike at a different station. Ecobici is a great option for exploring downtown, Roma and Condesa, neighborhoods with the greatest concentration of stations. You'll need a Visa or MasterCard for the deposit and a passport or driver's license for ID.
Touring Mexico City by car is strongly discouraged, unless you have a healthy reserve of patience. Even more than elsewhere in the country, traffic rules are seen as suggested behavior. Red lights may be run at will, no-turn signs are ignored and signals are seldom used. On occasion you may be hit with a questionable traffic fine. Nevertheless, you may want to rent a car here for travel outside the city.
Your hotel can call you a taxi - called radio taxis, taxis de sitio or taxis autorizados - or if you have a device with internet, you can use the popular apps Cabify, Didi or Uber. Ride shares in Mexico City are cheap and efficient and the best way to get around if you need a car. Use your common sense - don't accept a ride if has been cancelled in the app and don't accept food or drinks from any driver. We don't recommend hailing a taxi from the street.
Accessible transportation in Mexico City
Travelers with mobility issues will unfortunately find that Mexico City is full of unmarked holes in the street and generally unfriendly to universal access. A growing number of hotels, restaurants, public buildings and archaeological sites provide wheelchair access, but sidewalks with wheelchair ramps are still uncommon.
Metro stations don't have elevators and only a few have escalators. There are no ramps to help with boarding trains, although the carriages are usually at the same level as the platforms and any gaps are very small.
Metrobus facilities are better for disabled passengers – bus floors are level with the platform at Metrobus stations, ramps and elevators are provided at most stations, and there is a designated wheelchair space on board each bus.
Best day trips from Mexico City
Best things to do in Mexico City