Rapid transit, above and below surface

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery

Cheap and easy transit system in Mexico city

The underground: 3 pesos ($0.30)

Mexico City’s underground metro system is cheap, fast and efficient. It is quite comprehensive and can take you to different corners of this gigantic city in a ride that is way more pleasurable than driving on the clogged streets above. Called ‘Metro de la Ciudad de Mexico’ in Spanish, this is the second largest metro in North America and about 1.5 billion commuters take it everyday. Take a tour of the fascinating underground world on the other side of those turnstiles…

↑ Mexico’s metro system is cheap, fast and reliable.

When I first landed in the city after a 3 hour flight delay, I wanted to head straight for the metro station at the airport. It’s kinda tricky (you have to change the terminal and then walk), and certainly there are insufficient sign boards. I asked a fellow standing next to me if he knew how to get to the metro station.

“Yes, but be careful, people are not helpful in Mexico city,” he said as he walked me to the metro station and even offered to buy a ticket for me.

That was the first sentence I heard from a guy who was (ironically) helping me. Thankfully, I never found these thieves and unfriendly people he was talking about.

↑ I loved riding the subway, I took 17 rides overall, haha… The rush hour is a breeze (compared to Mumbai), the subway feels very roomy (compared to New York city) and the stations are not buried deep under (compared to St. Petersburg metro)

The subway is very systematic and intuitive to use. It was designed for use by illiterate people (and non Spanish speakers I guess), so each station has a symbol associated with it, and there are detailed maps everywhere. It’s hard to get lost, but with the crowds during rush hour, be prepared to get confused.

My first ride in Mexico city’s metro was quite different from Moscow metro. There were neither any babushkas or policemen at the entrance gates nor did I feel that I was walking into a beautiful underground museum, which Moscow’s subway stations are famous for.

↑ Auditorio subway station was quite lavishly decorated with pictures of metro systems around the world; and well some bikes too.

Mexico city’s subway stations are quite simple, but clean. Inside the trains there is non-stop entertainment and fascinating activity; almost like a market on wheels. You could buy chewing gum (called ‘chicklet’), books, magazines, musical instrument, pirated DVDs, candies, or even get your shoes shined from sellers who enter and leave the coach at every station in what seems to be a well coordinated system. There is never a conflict and I never saw more than one merchant in the compartment!

Buskers and entertainers perform in the middle of a crowded compartment – some people watch them, while others appear completely oblivious. Men (especially teenagers) can be spotted reading magazines with pictures of naked ladies on its cover, I wonder what’s in them. 😀

Then there are large number of food stalls inside the stations. They have everything – juice bars serving fresh fruit, kitchens serving tacos, tuck shops carrying junk food and even some fast food chains. Finding a packet of fried potatoes is never an issue.

↑ Typical entrance of a subway station.

The surface: 5 pesos ($0.50)

Mexico city has a bus rapid transit system (BRTS), called Metrobús. It is a bus that runs on a dedicated road lane, thus there are minimal traffic obstructions.

↑ Metrobus is a neat concept in places where there is space to implement a dedicated right-of-way for public buses.

When I was in Mexico city, only two routs were operational.
“There will be ten more!” my enthusiastic CS host said, “but that means it will be harder to drive.”

↑ Almost like a metro station but overground and having buses instead of trains. Very convenient and easy to use.

The metrobus ticket system thoroughly confused me. Firstly, its all in Spanish. Secondly, it “swallowed” my money, so I was very hesitant to try again. Finally, there was a line of people waiting behind me, so I was feeling pressured.

“Por favor, puede comprar para mí?” (Please, can you buy for me?)
And the lady standing behind me holding a basket of clothes took my money and used her metropass to let me in. 🙂

↑ Metro bus is a bus that runs on a dedicated lane. It has stations instead of bus stops.

For the 10 days that I was based in Mexico city (and traveled to places around Mexico city), I took the subway 17 times and the metrobus 5 times, for going to the various bus terminals, homes of my couchsurfing hosts or to simply visit tourist attractions.

Most attractions are near the Zocalo (city centre) and others such as Coyoacan district or Chapultepec park can be easily reached by public transit.

I definitely recommend that you travel in these public modes of transport, it’s the easiest way to participate and get a glimpse of the real life of Chilangos (residents of Mexico city).

This post is part of my Mexico travel series: Travel stories | Photo gallery