Until recently, Mexico had two large private national carriers, but Mexicana closed operations and filed for bankruptcy in 2010. Now, only Aeroméxico remains (tel. 800/237-6399 in the U.S., or 01-800/021-4000 in Mexico; www.aeromexico.com), in addition to several low-cost carriers. Aeroméxico offer extensive connections to the United States as well as within Mexico.
Low-cost carriers include InterJet (www.interjet.com.mx) and Volaris (www.volaris.com.mx).
Because major airlines may book some regional carriers, check your ticket to see if your connecting flight is on a smaller carrier -- they may use a different airport or a different counter.
Mexico charges an airport tax on all departures. Passengers leaving the country on international flights pay about $24 or the peso equivalent. It has become a common practice to include this departure tax in your ticket price. Taxes on each domestic departure within Mexico are around $17, unless you're on a connecting flight and have already paid at the start of the flight.
Many Mexican roads are not up to U.S., Canadian, and European standards of smoothness, hardness, width of curve, grade of hill, or safety markings. Driving at night is dangerous -- the roads are rarely lit; trucks, carts, pedestrians, and bicycles usually have no lights; and you can hit potholes, animals, rocks, dead ends, or uncrossable bridges without warning.
The spirited style of Mexican driving sometimes requires keen vision and reflexes. Be prepared for new customs, as when a truck driver flips on his left turn signal when there's not a crossroad for many kilometers. He's probably telling you the road's clear ahead for you to pass.
Gasoline -- There's one government-owned brand of gas and one gasoline station name throughout the country -- Pemex (Petroleras Mexicanas). There are two types of gas in Mexico: magna, 87-octane unleaded gas, and premio 93 octane. In Mexico, fuel and oil are sold by the liter, which is slightly more than a quart (1 gal. equals about 3.8L). Many franchise Pemex stations have bathroom facilities and convenience stores -- a great improvement over the old ones. Gas stations accept both credit and debit cards for gas purchases, and a small tip -- 5 to 10 pesos -- is expected for the standard full service.
Toll Roads -- Mexico charges relatively high tolls for its network of new toll roads, so they are less used. Generally, though, using toll roads cuts travel time. Older toll-free roads are generally in good condition, but travel times tend to be longer as these roads pass directly through small towns and villages.
Breakdowns -- If your car breaks down on the road, help might already be on the way. Radio-equipped green repair trucks, run by uniformed English-speaking officers, patrol major highways during daylight hours (usually 8am-6pm). These Angeles Verdes/Green Angels perform minor repairs and adjustments for free, but you pay for parts and materials. To contact them in Mexico, dial tel. 078. For more information, see www.sectur.gob.mx.
Your best guide to repair shops is the Yellow Pages. For repairs, look under Automóviles y Camiones: Talleres de Reparación y Servicio; auto-parts stores are under Refacciones y Accesorios para Automóviles. To find a mechanic on the road, look for the sign TALLER MECÁNICO. Places called vulcanizadora or llantera repair flat tires, and it is common to find them open 24 hours a day on the most traveled highways.
Minor Accidents -- When possible, many Mexicans drive away from minor accidents, or try to make an immediate settlement, to avoid involving the police. If the police arrive while the involved persons are still at the scene, the cars will probably be confiscated and both parties will likely have to appear in court. Both parties may also be taken into custody until liability is determined. Foreigners who don't speak fluent Spanish are at a distinct disadvantage when trying to explain their version of the event. Three steps may help the foreigner who doesn't wish to do as the Mexicans do: If you were in your own car, notify your Mexican insurance company, whose job it is to intervene on your behalf. If you were in a rental car, notify the rental company immediately and ask how to contact the nearest adjuster. (You did buy insurance with the rental, right?) Finally, if all else fails, ask to contact the nearest Green Angel, who may be able to explain to officials that you are covered by insurance.
Car Rentals -- You'll get the best price if you reserve a car on the Internet. Cars are easy to rent if you are 25 or older and have a major credit card, valid driver's license, and passport with you. Without a credit card, you must leave a cash deposit, usually a big one. One-way rentals are usually simple to arrange, but they are more costly.
Car-rental costs are high in Mexico because cars are more expensive. The condition of rental cars has improved greatly over the years, and newer cars are increasingly common. You will pay the least for a manual car without air-conditioning. Prices may be considerably higher if you rent around a major holiday. Also double-check charges for insurance -- some companies will increase the insurance rate after several days. Always ask for detailed information about all charges you will be responsible for. Also make sure the vehicle is in good shape and has been properly serviced before driving away.
Car-rental companies often charge on a credit card in U.S. dollars.
Deductibles -- Be careful -- these vary greatly; some are as high as $2,500, which comes out of your pocket immediately in case of damage.
Insurance -- Insurance is offered in two parts: Collision and damage insurance covers your car and others if the accident is your fault, and personal accident insurance covers you and anyone in your car. Note that insurance may be invalid if you have an accident while driving on an unpaved road. Although some international credit cards include as a benefit collision and damage coverage, they almost never include liability.
Damage -- Inspect your car carefully and note every damaged or missing item, no matter how minute, on your rental agreement, or you may be charged.
Point-to-Point Driving Directions Online -- You can get point-to-point driving directions in English for anywhere in Mexico from the website of the Secretary of Communication and Transport. The site will also calculate tolls, distance, and travel time. Go to http://aplicaciones4.sct.gob.mx/sibuac_internet and click on "Rutas punto a punto" in the left-hand column. Then select the English version.
Taxis are the preferred way to get around almost all of Mexico's resort areas. Fares for short trips within towns are generally preset by zone, and are quite reasonable compared with U.S. and European rates. For longer trips or excursions to nearby cities, taxis can generally be hired for around $15 to $20 per hour, or for a negotiated daily rate. A negotiated one-way price is usually much less than the cost of a rental car for a day, and a taxi travels much faster than a bus. For anyone who is uncomfortable driving in Mexico, this is a convenient, comfortable alternative. A bonus is that you have a Spanish-speaking person with you in case you run into trouble. Many taxi drivers speak at least some English. For safety reasons, sitio (radio) taxis should be used rather then libre taxis off the street. Your hotel can assist you with the arrangements.
Mexican buses run frequently, are readily accessible, and can transport you almost anywhere you want to go. Taking the bus is common in Mexico, and the executive and first-class coaches can be as comfortable as business class on an airplane. Buses are often the only way to get from large cities to other nearby cities and small villages. Don't hesitate to ask questions if you're confused about anything, but note that little English is spoken in bus stations.
Dozens of Mexican companies operate large, air-conditioned, Greyhound-type (or better) buses between most cities. Classes are segunda (second), primera (first), and ejecutiva (deluxe), which goes by a variety of names. Deluxe buses often have fewer seats than regular buses, show movies, are air-conditioned, and make few stops. Many run express from point to point. They are well worth the few dollars more. In rural areas, buses are often of the school-bus variety, with lots of local color.
Whenever possible, it's best to buy your reserved-seat ticket, often using a computerized system, a day in advance on long-distance routes and especially before holidays.
For each relevant destination, we list bus arrival and contact information. The following website provides reservations and bookings for numerous providers throughout Mexico: www.ticketbus.com.mx/wtbkd/autobus.jsp.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.