Traveling around Mexico is very easy and safe and you have many great options to chose from among the great Mexico transportation system. Depending on how much time you have and how comfortable you are, you can choose between, air, car, or bus. It’s basically up to you. In this post, I am going to speak about all these options.
First things first, if you are wondering if it’s safe to travel around Mexico off the beaten path, I can tell you, it is, sometimes even safer, with some exceptions of course.
Mexico’s transportation system is one of the most efficient I have ever seen. There is a network of busses that basically covers all Mexican territory and they are very safe. In fact, traveling around Mexico by bus is the most common way to move around, despite the huge distances, but you have our options.
Keep in mind that from Cancun to Mexico city by bus it will take you more than 24hs, the same goes for a trip from Cancun to the pretty San Cristobal de las Casas, around 21hrs. It’s a long journey but it can be fun.
The bus transportation system in Mexico is very well organized, from coach busses that travel around the Republica (such as ADO, probably the biggest) to small minivans (colectivos) that connect small towns you can always find a way to get where you want to get, although my favorite way to travel is by renting a car, because you are more independent and can travel on your own schedule and get wherever you want.
But I will talk about all this in more detail in this post. So if you are interested to know the best way to travel around Mexico, keep reading.
Where do I find cheap flights to Mexico?
First thing first, you need to get to Mexico before traveling around Mexico.
How do you find cheap flights to Mexico? I normally look into different websites and compare prices. Normally I start with aggregators such as the ones listed below but when I find the best rates I always compare them with the airline’s official site. Sometimes there is no difference and I always prefer to book directly with the airline. It’s easier to handle issues if you book directly.
However these company will give you a great idea on the prices and on what company is flying where.
What are the main Mexican Airports?
The most popular Mexican Airport for tourism is definitely Cancun. Cancun airport is kind of overwhelming but I am writing a very detailed post on all the steps you will have to go through once you arrive in Cancun.
Other major airports in Mexico are:
Obviously, all the other Capital cities in Mexico are fairly well connected to each other via Mexican airlines.
Main Mexican Airlines
Unfortunately with covid, one airline, Interjet, my favorite one, got busted and the others are following suit. For the moment, these below are still operating, but make sure you check with the airline before booking.
Mexico entry requirements for tourists
Those coming from the country listed on this official site are not required to apply for a formal visa to visit Mexico. They just need to fill out a visitor form (FMM) that will be handed over either on the plain or at the airport.
For countries that don’t need a visa, a Mexico Visitor’s Permit (FMM) will need to be filled out in place of a visa.
This is a simple form: airlines pass these out aboard flights and should be filled out on the airplane before you land, or you can acquire one at all airports, as well as land border crossings and sea ports of entry.
Just remember to fill it out before lining up for passport control.
A tourist visa normally lasts 180 days. The immigration agent with print on your passport your exit date. If it’s less than 180 days you can ask for an extension to an immigration office.
For more detailed information you can check out this thorough website
In case you are planning to move to Mexico for an undetermined period of time, you can check out this interview with an immigration lawyer for specific information.
How to get around in Mexico by bus
Traveling around by bus in Mexico is the easiest and safest thing .
There is an amazing network of busses that travels all around Mexico and connects all the major and less known cities and towns.
I traveled all around Mexico by bus and had a blast. Some companies are real luxury with great elegant seats, personal screen, a power outlet, and wifi, such as ETN.
Depending on the region you can find different BUS companies, and almost everyone has their own website where most of the time you can prebook.
I am giving you a list of the major companies with the region where they operate.
- ADO– They mainly operate in the South up to Mexico City – The busses seats are comfortable but not luxury. They are very strict on what you can bring with you on the bus. If you have a big back you need to check it in. Make sure you take all the valuables with you.
- ETN is one of my favorites, the busses are so comfortable and spacious and equipped with the best technology, including WIFI and TV. They cover the central-eastern part of the country. (see picture below)
- ESTRELLA BLANCA It’s a group of bus lines that covers the northern part of Mexico, very good and reliable but not all luxury
- PRIMERA PLUS Also serves the north-eastern part of the country
- OMNIBUS DE MEXICO For the north of Mexico
Of course the list doesn’t end here, there are also many local companies that operate very efficiently and safely. And you can use bus schedule aggregators to find out who is traveling where.
- BUS BUD
- MEXICO AUTOBUSES This is an aggregator and shows you all the busses available for your chosen itinerary. I have used it a lot.
- CLICKBUS– is another aggregator that has special offers every now and then.
How to travel safely on a bus in Mexico
In general, busses are very safe. However, its good practice to look after your personal belonging and never lose sight of them. You never know who’s on the bus.
This means, wear your money with a money belt for example and keep your computer and camera hidden on a small backpack on your lap, never leave them in the overhead compartment.
How to get around Mexico by car
Driving in Mexico is not difficult regardless of what many people think. You just need to know a little about local rules and, most of all, local habits.
You can also join the group On the road in Mexico and ask all the questions you want, especially about road conditions.
Car rental in Mexico
Renting a car in Mexico can be tricky especially if you are using a car rental from the Cancun Airport.
Why? because they don’t have the best reputation. I have heard dreadful stories of attempts to overcharge or unjustified charges.
In any case, renting from the airport is always, or most of the time more expensive than in any other point of sales, mostly because the airport taxes or the location rentals are more expensive and also because rentals from the airport are usually the most demanded. So it all makes sense.
However, for example, when I rented my car in Baja California it was more expensive to rent from La Paz in town than from La Paz airport. So you just never know.
The best thing is to browse around and compare the different options and prices.
Here I leave you with two car rental aggregators that I trust, but it’s always recommendable to compare prices, but most of all the terms and conditions.
One important thing that most of the time it is taken too lightly is the hidden price of the insurance.
You might see a very low-priced rental advertised, you book it, and when you get to pick up your car they will calculate your added taxes and insurance, which is mandatory, and most of the times it ends up being more than doubled the original price.
Also please mind that your credit card insurance might not be valid or accepted in Mexico.
Please make sure you double check on it both with your card customer service and the car rental.
Here the two rental aggregator companies I am using:
Also, I love to rent a car with Mex Car Rental, when possible. They are extremely professional (so far) and have reasonable prices, including full insurance with 0 deductible.
I would suggest you should avoid American Car rental. It looks cheap but I have been ripped off, in a very unpleasant way. So I just wanted to give you the heads up.
Travel around Mexico using Bla Bla Car
There is another less known way of traveling which is only available in a few countries, and that’s with Bla Bla Car. How does it work? It’s a car-sharing site. Basically, anyone with a car who wants to share their expenses post their trip on his profile on the site where they must have previously registered.
Me as a passenger looking for a ride to the same destination on the very same day, I would first check on his reference in the review section. I would choose among people with at least 10 reviews, to be on the safe side. If I like the person, and the price, I would request a ride, and if the driver confirmed, the application takes the payment and you can message the driver about where to meet and what time and other details.
If you have luggage, make sure you inform the driver, in case he has no space available in the trunk.
I find it safe because the reviews cannot be faked and you decide before head if you can trust the driver. I traveled from Veracruz to Queretaro on a Bla Bla Car driver, a very long journey but I had a great time.
Are there trains in Mexico?
The only passengers train in Mexico is El Chepe, which goes from Los Mochis in Sonora through Chihuahua capital city passing through the Copper Canyon. It’s actually an amazing trip that you should do at least one in your life and I am going to write about it soon in another post.
They have actually just inaugurated another train from Guadalajara to the pueblo Magico of Tequila, but it’s merely a touristic train with tequila testing. Not bad at all, though.
Common Mexican phrases that may come in handy
It’s always better when you travel to a country to speak the languages. It will make everything easier, either if you are in need of something or you just wish to make friends with local people who don’t speak English.
A language is part of a culture and knowing a little of local ways of saying help you familiarize with the local culture.
In case you don’t grasp Spanish I am here to help you with few words or expression that will make you sound like a local. Watch the accent I can never get rid of my Italian accent but I still look like a local expatriate and I get to be treated like one, which helps.
Let’s cover the basics first:
- Hola = Hello
- Como estàs = How are you?
- Por Favor = Please
- Gracias = Thank you
- Disculpa = I am sorry
- Perdon? = Excuse me?
- Donde està la parada del bus? = Where is the bust stop?
- Una chela por favor = A beer, please
- Un jugo, por favor = A juice, please
- Cuanto cuesta? = How much is it?
- Me puede ayudar? = Can you help me?
- Donde està…? = Where is…?
For Further Reading
- the Monarch butterfly sanctuary in Valle de Bravo Mexico
- Valle de bravo – Mexico: a travel guide to the Mexican Hamptons
- Airbnb Cozumel: the 11 pretty homes to rent for a perfect vacation
- Las grutas de tolantongo – the complete guide
- Renting a car in Mexico: everything you need to know not to get ripped off