You know how you’re immigrating to Mexico, but not sure how you’ll get around once you’re there? Depending on your destination, you have numerous options when it comes to transportation, and we’ll help you consider cost, infrastructure, and safety for each mode of travel, including driving, flying, taking a bus or a train, and ridesharing.
Getting Around Mexico: Driving
Driving in Mexico requires a few extra considerations compared to driving in other countries. You can use your valid American driver’s license unless you register a car locally (usually as a permanent resident), in which care you’ll have a year to get your Mexican driver’s license, which you can obtain from the local traffic office.
You absolutely must obtain Mexican liability insurance (even for a rental car – don’t rely on your American policy). If you get in an accident, your insurance adjuster will come to the scene of the accident and file paperwork immediately.
The roads can vary greatly in Mexico, with some very good country roads found between towns and cities and well-maintained interstates, parkways, and perimeter roads in big cities, but expect to find some roads that are very bumpy or even unpaved, especially in rural areas. It’s advisable to check conditions of any roads on your route before setting off, so you have an idea what you will be dealing with. That said it’s best to be prepared and stay alert while navigating unfamiliar Mexican roads, and it’s unrecommended to drive long distances at night. Never drink and drive in Mexico, which is a serious criminal offense. We’ve encountered breathalyzer checkpoints on the way home from the beach.
Getting Around Mexico: Taking Trains
Mexico’s train system is not dissimilar from the U.S., which is to say, it’s fine but can’t can’t hold a candle to Western Europe or East Asia. National railroads are used for cargo, but there are several short lines and tourist trains as well as commuter trains into Mexico City. We’d love to take El Chepe Train which takes riders on a breathtaking journey along Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Light rail is becoming increasingly popular in Mexican cities, providing rapid and efficient transport through metropolitan areas in Guadalajara, Mexico City, Monterrey, and Puebla de Zaragoza.
The experience you have on these railways will depend largely on the type of train; some of them may offer comfortable classes with delicious local cuisine while more traditional ones can be less luxurious but still provide an enjoyable journey nonetheless. To purchase tickets, you can either buy them online before your trip or at the train station. Prices vary depending on the route and type of fare you choose.
Getting Around Mexico: Flying
Flying in and out of Mexico has never been easier, with dozens of international airports located in major cities like Mexico City and Cancun. Domestic flights are also readily available from 23 Mexican airlines. Currently, U.S. airlines can’t fly routes solely between Mexican destinations, but there’s a proposal to change that to increase competition and lower prices. Still, flying around Mexico can be quite affordable if you book in advance and use discount carriers such as Volaris or VivaAerobus.
Top 20 Airports in Mexico
Getting Around Mexico: Taking Buses
Taking a bus in and around Mexico is one of the best ways to get around – it’s affordable, convenient, and usually comfortable. Buses leave from all major cities like Mexico City, Cancun, and Tijuana, so chances are you won’t have to go too far out of your way to get one. Most parts of the country are served by several large bus companies including ADO, Estrella Roja, and Primera Plus, with plenty of routes available for intercity travel. Getting around your favorite city by bus is also easy and affordable, although ridesharing is also quite affordable, and more flexible.
Getting Around Mexico: Ridesharing Apps
Uber, Didi, Cabify, and InDriver, which lets you name your fare, are all popular apps in Mexico, but Lyft doesn’t yet operate here. Rides tend to be priced much lower than they are in the U.S., and it can even be affordable to rideshare for long distances. However, you can’t take a rideshare from the airport in certain cities, and you need to be aware of scams:
- In Cancun, drivers may hack legitimate drivers’ accounts and impersonate them to rob or overcharge you. If you decide to rideshare in Cancun, be sure to confirm the license plate, make, and name of your driver.
- Some riders have been mugged while waiting for their Ubers, and there’s speculation that the drivers may have alerted accomplices to vulnerable travelers. To avoid this, take your rideshare from a well-known, public location and also track your ride to make sure you’re being taken straight to your destination.
- Some drivers may not end the trip when you’re done or claim that there were additional passengers so that Uber will adjust your charges upward. You can contest these with customer support, but only if you notice.
- Some drivers may demand additional payment or cash payment.
- Finally, some drivers accept a trip but don’t show. When the client cancels, they still get paid.
Getting Around Mexico: Taxis & Private Drivers
Taxi travel in Mexico is nuanced, and I think this Mexperience article about taxis is the best way to understand all of your choices. If you’re able to plan ahead, I think that one of your best options is having one or two private drivers you can call when you need a ride. Use your favorite expat forum or Facebook group to gather recommendations, and then build a relationship. Even if you’re only visiting a city for a short while, your driver will be an invaluable resource for learning your way around, finding restaurants and events, and having a great trip.
Overall, getting around Mexico is quite easy and affordable – maybe not as mindless as hopping in your SUV and driving across the U.S., but options abound. With a little bit of research and planning ahead, your travel experience in Mexico should be both comfortable and enjoyable. Buen viaje!
Jen Barnett is an expat influencer and co-founder of Expatsi, a company that's helped thousands of Americans on their moving abroad journeys. She created the Expatsi Test, an assessment that recommends countries for aspiring emigrants based on lifestyle data. Jen has an MBA from Emory University with concentrations in marketing and innovation. She's written for BusinessWeek, Health, Cooking Light, and Southern Living. Prior to Expatsi, she created Freshfully and Bottle & Bone—two businesses in the local food space—and spoke at TEDx on being brave. She's moving to Mexico in 2024, along with her husband and co-founder Brett, pitbull mix Squiggy, and three rotten cats. How can she help you move abroad?