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Getting Around

Getting Around by Air

There is an excellent network of daily scheduled services between principal commercial centres operated by Aero California (website: www.aerocalifornia.com), Aeromexico (website: www.aeromexico.com) and Mexicana (website: www.mexicana.com). Many of the smaller airports also have capacity for large planes and some international flights. A plethora of budget airlines have sprung up recently, although they do not fly to all destinations.

Departure Tax
US$30-60, usually included in the air fare, otherwise payable at the airport.

Getting Around by Water

Steamer ferries operate regularly between Mazatlan and La Paz (Baja California) daily; between Guaymas and Santa Rosalia, across the Gulf of California; between La Paz and Topolobampo three or four times weekly; and from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas twice-weekly. Some west coast cruises include Pacific ports such as Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco. There are also regular ferries from the mainland to the Caribbean Islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Ferry operators, their names, websites and schedules are in a constant state of flux. Advance bookings are very rarely needed or available.

Getting Around by Rail

Apart from a couple of minor services in certain areas, almost all long-distance passenger train services were discontinued in 2000. A spectacular route still in service is the Chihuahua-Pacific Railway, commonly known as El Chepe (tel: 01 (614) 439 7272 or 01 800 122 4373; website: www.chepe.com.mx). This runs between Chihuahua and Los Mochis and includes a stop in the Copper Canyon region. The Tequila Express (tel: 01 800 503 9720; website: www.tequilaexpress.com.mx) is a themed train journey between Guadalajara and Amatitan, run at weekends only.

Apart from these, the surviving scheduled passenger trains are state-subsidised social services for residents of remote areas. Reliable schedules for these are very difficult to obtain beyond the local area and should be checked when there for the most up-to-date information. Unsurprisingly, most people travel by bus since it is considerably faster and provides a far more extensive service. For further details and additional luxury services consult Mexlist (website: www.mexlist.com).

Getting Around by Road

Traffic drives on the right here, but is unpredictable, and only half the road network is paved. Confusingly, toll (CUOTA) and free (LIBRE) roads to the same destination often have the same highway ID number. Drivers in a hurry should follow the CUOTA signs. A third sign, LIBRAMIENTO, indicates a toll-paying bypass road. Cash is preferred at toll-booths. It is advisable to keep car doors and windows closed and locked, especially at traffic lights.

Coach: Coaches and buses link almost all towns and cities. Central bus terminals in major cities provide service and information on fares and schedules. Major operators include Estrella Blanca (tel: 01 800 507 5500; website: www.estrellablanca.com.mx) and Autotransportes Tufesa (tel: 01 800 737 8883; website: www.tufesa.com.mx).

Car hire: Self-drive cars are available at airports, city centres and resorts. All the established international agencies operate in Mexico. Reputable Internet-only agencies are worth a look for cheap deals. Beware of hidden extras with local firms.

Regulations: Speed limits are 30-70kph (19-43mph) in towns, 80-90kmph (50-56mph) on expressways and outside built-up areas and 110kph (68mph) on motorways, except in Chihuahua where the limit is 100kph (62mph). Car use in Mexico City is restricted so as to reduce pollution. The last digit of the car number plate determines when that car cannot be driven.

Emergency breakdown service: Rest areas at toll-booths provide ambulance and breakdown services. The Green Angels (tel: 01 800 903 9200) provide breakdown assistance to tourists, with free labour and parts at cost.

Documentation: An International Driving Permit or a full national driving licence is required. The minimum driving age is 18. Check insurance is included in hire-car agreements. Mexican vehicle insurance is compulsory (see Getting There).

Getting Around Towns and Cities

Mexico City: The Metro system is cheap and efficient, with frequent trains, flat fares and smart-card prepaid tickets. However, it is often crowded and some familiarity with the city is necessary to use it successfully. The Metro opens Mon-Sat at 0600 (Sun 0700) and closes at about midnight. There is also a small tramway network, and extensive bus and trolley bus services. The latter system has recently been modernised, and also has a flat fare.

Four different types of taxi operate in Mexico City. Yellow and white taxis (usually Volkswagens) are metered, as are orange taxis (sitio), which are available at taxi-stands. These charge slightly more, and it is advisable to agree on the fare before starting the journey. Turismo taxis with English-speaking drivers are available outside main hotels. They are not metered and fares should be agreed before starting journey as rates can be excessive. Peseros (green and white) are share-taxis travelling on fixed routes, for which fares are charged according to the distance travelled. Radio taxis charge double fee but are very secure. Tipping is not compulsory for any of the taxi services.

Guadalajara: There is a state-run bus and trolley bus service in Guadalajara, together with extensive private bus services.

Journey Times

The following chart gives approximate journey times (in hours and minutes) from Mexico City to other major cities/towns in Mexico.

Air Road Acapulco 0.35 3.30 Cancun 2.20 30.00 Chihuahua 2.20 34.00 Puerto Vallarta 1.55 14.00