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Mexico - Getting there & away, getting around

Mexico - Getting there & away

Most visitors to Mexico arrive by air. Around 30 Mexican cities receive direct flights from North America and Canada, and there are relatively cheap connections to the Caribbean and the rest of Latin America. From Europe you can fly to Mexico City and Cancún. Aeroméxico and Mexicana are the largest Mexican airlines. There's a departure tax of approximately US$17.

Travelers can cross into Mexico by road from the USA at one of the 40 official crossing points. Most cross-border bus services travel from Texas. There are 10 border crossings between Mexico and Guatemala, and fairly frequent bus services between border points and Guatemalan towns. Frequent buses also run between Belize City and Chetumal. Trains run from San Diego to Tijuana, El Paso to Ciudad Juárez and Del Rio to Ciudad Acuña.

The more adventurous might like to travel between the great Mayan ruins at Palenque and Tikal (Guatemala) by the jungle routes, via riverboat and back-country bus. The busiest and easiest route is via a short boat ride on the Río Usumacinta between Frontera Corozal (Chiapas) and Bethel (Guatemala); this route also squeezes in a visit to Yaxachilán and Bonampak. The other routes link Benemérito de las Américas (Chiapas) and Sayaxché (Guatemala), and La Palma (Tabasco) and El Naranjo (Guatemala). Travelers should check the security situation in Chiapas with their embassy before attempting these crossings.

Getting around Mexico

Flying still represents good value for money in Mexico, especially considering the long, hot bus trip that may be the only alternative. In recent years, the large airlines have left many of the domestic routes to smaller carriers. However, these start-up airlines and their timetables are particularly volatile; new ones are founded and older ones flounder at an alarming rate. The majority of domestic air connections go through Mexico City.

Buses are the most common mode of public transport and bus routes are extensive. Long-distance buses are fairly comfortable, air-conditioned (bring a jumper!) and acceptably fast. Local rural buses tend to be ancient, decaying, suspensionless models grinding out their dying years on dirt tracks. Combis, colectivos and peseros are minibuses used for local transport. Note that highway robbery is a real risk in Mexico, especially at night on isolated stretches of highway.

Driving in Mexico is certainly not for everyone: you should know some Spanish, have basic mechanical aptitude, large reserves of patience and access to cash for emergencies. However, it can be just about the only way to get to some of the most beautiful and isolated towns and villages, although you need to be forgiving of road conditions.

Car and passenger ferries connect Baja California with the Mexican mainland; ferries also run between the mainland and the Caribbean islands of Isla Mujeres and Cozumel. Thanks to the government's privatization of Mexico's railways, most of the country now lacks a passenger train service. The exceptions are special tourist-oriented lines such as the Copper Canyon line from Chihuahua to Los Mochis and the Tequila Express from Guadalajara to Tequila.

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