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How To Get Around in Mexico Without a Car?

Some of you might not want to own a vehicle when you move to Mexico. Luckily, in most cities of Mexico, that’s not a problem! So what would you do with the extra money you would now have if you could eliminate having a car?

Owning a car in Mexico can be expensive. This is because the cost of gasoline keeps rising. It’s currently at USD 4.21 per gallon or $22 pesos/liter. And besides, there are some positives to not owning a car. Like:

  • Less stress
  • Integrating into society like a local
  • Walking more and sitting less

But how do you get around without a car in Mexico? Here are some options:

CITY BUSES

City buses are usually run by the local government and have set schedules. They are a great way of transportation when you need to travel a longer distance within the city or town. However, not every city has a local bus. Many smaller cities use colectivos which I cover below.

There is a rapid transit system in most big cities like Guadalajara, Monterrey, and Mexico City (CDMX). They have their own lanes and are mostly used as commuter buses within the city. The Metrobus should have a set schedule, and timetables are available online. Fares are usually around 5-6 pesos ($0.20- $0.30 USD) each way.
In cities like Puerto Vallarta, Cancun or San Miguel de Allende these are more commonly known as peseros, combis, or colectivos. I cover them next.

COLECTIVOS

A colectivo is typically a large van or small bus that takes a crowd of people in a local community from one part of town to the next. In some places, they are known as micro, combi, or peseros. It’s also important that you know most of these buses are not run by the city or government. Instead, they are independently owned and operated and may differ in fees, schedules, routes, and vehicle types.

They often make a few stops throughout their journey and will usually pack as many people in them as possible. If you aren’t in a hurry and don’t mind waiting for the colectivo to stop a few times along the way, this is a great alternative to a taxi ride. They cost anywhere from $2-$5 pesos per ride! (~10-25 cents USD) It’s very affordable and a great way to get around town if you don’t have a car.

colectivo

LONG DISTANCE BUSES

coach bus in mexico

Many Mexican families don’t have a vehicle, so traveling to other cities is usually done by long-distance buses. They range in all sizes, amenities, and direct vs. frequent stops. Traveling by coach bus in Mexico is inexpensive, safe, and very comfortable. Some of the popular companies are ADO, ETN, and Turistar. These buses are incredibly comfortable and have modern amenities like:

  • Full Bathrooms Onboard
  • Personal TVs with Movies on Demand
  • Air conditioning
  • Fully Reclining Seats
  • WiFi
  • And Plenty Of Overhead Storage

Coach buses in Mexico have their timetables online, and fares are based on the type of bus, distance, and number of stops. Plus, if you have a retiree card in Mexico, you qualify for 50% off your ticket! And prices for long-distance buses are usually lower online than buying them at the bus station last minute. I travel a lot on these buses, and I can’t recommend them enough! All you have to do is relax and let someone else drive. 

TAXIS

Registered taxis in Mexico are a very reliable way of getting from one point to another. To avoid any surprises, you should ask the driver for confirmation on your fare based on where you are headed. To get a reliable and safe taxi in Mexico, you should only get one from a “Sitio,” a dedicated stand of taxi dispatchers. And if this doesn’t exist near you, you can call a radio taxi. You can usually find the phone number to a radio taxi through hotels, restaurants, or in some cases, online.

Be prepared to pay in cash as most taxis in Mexico only accept cash as payment. And be prepared to have exact change as most taxi drivers don’t carry change with them or pretend not to keep a larger bill.

Once you have established a relationship with a taxi driver, they can receive their direct number to arrange future pickups, even as a long-distance private driver.

UBER AND DIDI

The growing popularity of ride-sharing services like Uber and Didi has made it easier for people who don’t carry cash to call for a ride. Not only is this method safe and reliable, but more recently has been more popular in terms of service and sanitation. The only watch out for ride-sharing services is they aren’t usually allowed to pick you up at airports in Mexico. Therefore you will have to call a cab from a sitio or figure out some form of public transportation when you arrive at an airport.

Otherwise, they are a reliable and safe alternative to taxis. However, Uber and Didis tend to be 2x more expensive than calling a cab. But they tend to be still incredibly inexpensive alternatives to having your own car.

HAVING YOUR OWN VEHICLE

But, I also understand that you may want to drive your car from the U.S. into Mexico. And hey, this option does give you total control over getting around whenever you want to. It could also be crucial if you have pets, have mobility problems, or simply like being behind the wheel.

But I need to share a few details to make sure you are driving legally.

  • You MUST carry Mexican auto insurance- VERY IMPORTANT.
  • You can drive a foreign plated vehicle as a tourist for 180 days.
  • You Can Drive A Foreign Plated Vehicle as A Temporary Resident for the length of your residency visa.
  • You Must Have A Temporary Import Permit (TIP) On A Foreign Plated Car.
  • You CANNOT Drive A Foreign Plated Vehicle as A Permanent Resident.
  • Have A Valid U.S. or Canadian, or European Driver’s License.

Get access to our recommended car brokers and car registration facilitators in ourCOMPLETE Mexico Relocation Guide.

There are usually two types of highways in Mexico; The free one “la libre” and the paid one “la de cuota.” I highly recommend always taking the paid highway when possible. The roads will be better maintained. There will be fewer “topes” (speedbumps), and they usually have better lighting at night.

RENTING A CAR

I usually like to be car-free when I am traveling around Mexico for a few reasons:

  • I am liable for any scratches or dents (and narrow streets in small towns make those magically appear)
  • Parking is always a hassle in smaller cities or towns
  • I have to pay for daily parking if my hotel doesn’t include it
  • And if I am driving, I don’t get to look around as much.

But I get it. Having your own car does give you a level of flexibility to leave when you want to and go to places that public transportation can’t take you.
In that case, I recommend renting a car in Mexico. The process for doing so is ALMOST the same as in The U.S., Canada, or Europe. And I say ALMOST because there are some differences. I wrote a full article about renting a car on this article

So tell me something. Do these tips give you some confidence knowing you can get around in Mexico on your own if you decided to?
Imagine not having to drive ever again? All the stress that would go away…
In Mexico, it’s definitely a possibility!

Learn more tips like this one. Visit our FREE Living in Mexico Guide.

Mariana Lange

Mariana Lima-Lange was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. when she was a child. She spent every summer visiting family throughout Mexico and is very knowledgeable about Mexican culture, lifestyle, and traditions. She is fluent in both Spanish and English.

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