What You’ll Find in This Post:
Walking through a neighborhood in Mexico City
It’s no surprise that a city as big as Mexico City had a lot of options when it came to traversing it. So how about I just jump right into it: I’ll tell you what transportation I had access to and what my experience with it was like. Consider this post a break from the heavier content I often discuss. Although, it does get a bit heavy at the end, so be wary of that.
Cars, Taxis, & Ubers
The blur of traffic on a rainy night in Mexico City
Mexico City was definitely car-friendly . . . although, perhaps “friendly” isn’t exactly the right word. What I mean is cars were a primary source of transportation, but traffic was tight 70% of the time no matter where in the city I went.
When it comes to taxis, Mexico City has one of the largest taxi fleets in the world, ten times as many as New York City. I was told that there was a small risk of scams, but let’s face it, that’s a norm in almost every country. Some people like to pull fast ones on tourists, it’s the unfortunate way of the world. The one taxi I took didn’t try any sort of scamming, but the driver did drive like a bat out of hell . . . another thing I’ve noticed in many countries outside the U.S. Come to find out, the U.S. is a bit of an outlier when it comes to our strict social behavior regarding traffic.
Hey, but here's a fun fact! Around 2000, Mexico City's taxis were green Volkswagen Beetles! You won't see any of them today, but it makes for a pretty cool visual to think about.
Mexico City also had plenty of Ubers, all of which were cheaper than ones in the U.S. There was also some kind of tiny taxi mobile that I saw parked on the street one afternoon. I haven’t got much information to share on this one, but I thought I would toss it in here as an option just in case.
The tiny cart mobiles
If it’s one thing I know it’s that I hate the metro—all metros—but sometimes they are the most efficient way to get around a city. When it came to the metro in Mexico City, it was . . . bad. It’s actually vying for the #1 spot on my list of bad metro experiences, tied neck and neck with Athens.
I expected it to be crowded, but not that crowded. It was the kind of crowded that makes it too hot to breathe, the kind of crowded where at least two people are confining you on every side, the kind of crowded that forces you to strategically keep balance because there’s no more room to steady yourself with a grip pole. Keeping balance was especially difficult because the train rode its brakes, building up speed only to stop suddenly throughout the entirety of its run. I don’t mean it would stop abruptly as it approached a station, I mean the entire ride was a series of aggressive pushes & pulls, forward and backward motions that would make anyone nauseous. Those sudden stops forced me, and many others, to completely fall onto whatever sorry stranger had the misfortune of being behind us. It was impossible to stay upright and the overall experience drove my anxiety way, way up.
But the thing is, I’m willing to believe that the Mexico City metro isn’t all bad and that I just happened upon a really bad moment. Maybe it was a popular station, maybe it was an old train, maybe it was rush hour—that sort of thing. I also read that the metro has separate carriages for women, so maybe not the entire metro is bad, maybe it was just the coed carriage I was on. But, if nothing else, Mexico City had really nice metro cards.
Would you be surprised to learn I had a bad experience with a trolleybus too? Although, to be fair, this one is a bit funny too if you look at it the right way. You see, our entire tour group was boarding onto a crowded trolleybus, but before the last of us could board, the doors closed, and it pulled off. Yep, me and another student were left temporarily stranded, separated from the group. I don’t recall any warning indicating that the doors were closing and I’m not exaggerating when I say that the doors only stayed open for five seconds.
The trolleybuses were also separated between men, women, and couples, so keep that in mind. Oh yeah, and if you do manage to not miss the train, still be wary of the doors; apparently, it’s very easy for someone to get caught in them, like on the metro.
If you’re wondering how my story ended, it’s not all that exciting. The student and I waited for the next trolleybus, boarded, got off at the wrong stop, boarded again, then got off at the right stop. It’s because the problem was solved so easily that I feel able to laugh at the situation.
The bus provided me a few cool photos of the city
Some buses were double decker, others were articulated, and some were just your average run of the mill city bus. The articulated buses I rode were all rather old without screens, legible charts, or working speakers to indicate what stop you were coming to or what the bus route even was. The double decker bus was great, though. Overall, I’d say the buses were my best experience with public transport in the city.
A parked bicycle and scooters
I got the feeling that biking in Mexico City was a thing, but not a terribly popular thing. It seemed like the kind of transportation option that had perhaps begun to catch on only within the last decade or so. There were definitely some bike trails around the city and a bike share program (that also includes scooters). There was also a bike store near my Airbnb that seemed to get regular business. With all this in mind, I suppose it’s fair to say that Mexico City is growing to become more bike friendly.
Sidewalks in Mexico City were low key terrifying
Maybe I’ll just list this section.
Even when pedestrians had the right of way, they didn’t have the right of way, as in to say, cars did not slow down for pedestrians.
The one time I almost got hit by a car—a taxi—was when I was walking across a pedestrian crosswalk.
This is something I’ve noticed in all the other countries I’ve been too. The U.S. just keeps proving itself to be more and more of an outlier when it comes to car and foot traffic customs.
It is frighteningly easy to trip on the sidewalk. Loose bricks, uneven panels, holes in cement, tree roots . . . just watch your step.
I know that list only consisted to two main points, but they were two points that really colored my experience as a pedestrian in the city. Typically, I love walking around a city—be it at home or abroad—but I felt 50/50 about walking around Mexico City because it often felt dangerous and even like a chore sometimes.
Photos of airplanes aren’t that exciting, so here’s a picture of some men performing the Danza de los Voladores (Dance of the Flyers)
The ease with which I got to Mexico from the U.S. surprised me, probably because I was so accustomed to flying over multiple countries or needing to fly across the Atlantic to get somewhere. Flying to Mexico was literally just flying five hours south, hanging lower in the clouds than I’d ever experienced.
To get there I rode two planes: A 50-seater United Express flight (to New Jersey) and a 126-seater United international flight (to Mexico). That first plane was the most cramped airplane I had ever been on so, as you might expect, it was uncomfortable. The returning flights back to Virginia were the same setup, though I was made to check my carry-on luggage at the last minute and that did not go over well. To add, my domestic flight from New Jersey to Virginia sat on the apron for an extra hour due to traffic, but I wondered later if the traffic was caused by the other issues that had gone down that day.
My flight from New Jersey to Virginia coincided with two other plane incidents: The fatal Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 crash in Ethiopia and the United Airlines Boeing 737 emergency landing in Houston (after the engine caught on fire). The latter flight took off from Newark only a few hours before mine and I swear it was a 737 (when I looked it up in March I read it was a 737, but now internet says something different, so I’m wary of my initially findings). I also noticed bursts of orange light flashing in the clouds during the flight that made me feel uneasy, regardless of whether they were aircraft lights, lightning, or something else.
Apparently, that was an especially tragic weekend for air travel . . . maybe that explains why I had flight 180 stuck in my head the entire trip.
I hate to end on such an eerie, sad, and somewhat ominous note, so instead I will leave you with this picture of the angel wing statue on Reforma Avenue.
Alas de la Ciudad (Wings of the City) by Jorge Marin