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Taxis in Mexico
You will find a plentiful supply of affordable taxis across Mexico's cities, towns and villages
Getting around Mexico using taxis is surprisingly affordable, especially when compared to taxi fares in places like the USA and Europe. This guide explains how taxis operate, how much different types of cabs charge and how to make use of taxis effectively and safely in Mexico.
Getting about by taxi cab is relatively inexpensive in Mexico. Taxis are either metered, not metered; charged on a 'per kilometer' basis; or charged by zones. In the latter, your price will vary depending on which zone you're in and which zone you're traveling to.
In comparison to taxi fares in the USA, Canada and Europe, getting around by taxi in Mexico is inexpensive, although it is considerably more expensive than using Mexico's very affordable public transport systems including local buses, peseros (micro buses) and, where available, the Metro.
In Mexico City, it is best not to hail cabs off the street after dark. If you are unfamiliar with the city and don't speak Spanish, it's best to always use taxis from Taxi Ranks (Sitios) and never hail a cab from the street; see the section on this guide about taxis in Mexico City for more details about this.
In all other cities and small towns in Mexico, taxi travel is generally regarded as safe and you can feel secure hailing cabs off the street at any time.
Meters in cabs are verified/calibrated annually as part of the taxi's license and you can be sure that, in most cases, the fare you see metered is the correct one for your journey.
Cabs in most provincial cities do not have meters and there is no official zone charging system either. In these cases, agree the price you are willing to pay for your journey with cab driver beforehand.
Historically, taxi driving has been a male-only domain in Mexico and the overwhelming number of taxi drivers in Mexico are still men. However of late, women taxi drivers have been doing the rounds, especially in Mexico City.
Taxi drivers in Mexico don't speak English (a small few might speak a little English) so you will need to be able to speak some Spanish to get about independently by taxi cab in Mexico. See the Taxi Travel Tips section at the end of this guide for advice about communicating with your cab driver.
Because of its size and complexity, and because of a spate of taxi-related crimes specific to Mexico City, traveling by taxi in Mexico's capital requires some additional precautions. These precautions are exercised by most residents of the capital, and are not just relevant to foreign visitors.
Taxi-Related Crime in Mexico City
In recent years, there has been a spate of taxi-related crimes in Mexico City. The crimes are almost uniquely carried out in the capital and most often involve an 'express kidnap', whereby the passenger of a street cab (it's rare that attacks take place with two or more passengers traveling) is held hostage for a time, and usually taken to an ATM, where the person is forced to withdraw cash. All personal belongings with any value are stolen, and the passenger is later 'dropped-off', usually in some nondescript neighborhood of the city. On a small number of occasions, the victim may be held for a day so that a second trip to the ATM may be made, but this is unusual.
As a result of these types of crimes, many people are eschewing street cabs in favor of Taxi Rank cabs (known as Sitio cabs) when traveling by taxi in Mexico City. Middle-class Mexicans—and women in particular— routinely phone cabs and don't just hail one of the street. Partly as a result of the taxi crimes, many taxi drivers themselves have taken the initiative and joined taxi-cooperatives or taxi ranks (Sitios) as the other face of taxi crime, far less reported, is that taxi drivers are sometimes attacked and robbed by uncouth 'passengers' they aboard from the street.
Tackling Taxi Crime
Mexico City's authorities are acutely aware of the poor image taxi crime creates and are taking measures to tackle taxi-related crime in the capital.
At the beginning of 2008, Mexico City's government re-licensed all of the capital's cabs, issuing new-style plates and new forms of official ID for licensed cab drivers. Read this blog article for details of the re-licensing program which took place in Mexico City: Taxis in Mexico
As a result of the programs, taxi crimes have diminished significantly but have not dissolved completely.
Taxi Rank Cabs in Mexico City
Many residents in Mexico City now eschew street cabs altogether and opt instead for a taxi from a Taxi Rank, either by walking to the nearest rank or telephoning their local cab rank.
There also exist a number of Radio Taxi firms, which cover the entire city (supposedly) and will send a cab to wherever you are—even on the street.
Taxi Rank cabs are more expensive but continue to be relatively inexpensive in comparison to cab fares in other capital cities such New York, Los Angeles, Paris and London.
Hotels either have a taxi rank outside the property with cabs that will charge on a meter, a fixed-fee depending on where you are going, or charge on a 'rate per kilometer' basis. Hotels without taxi ranks outside the property have the contact number of a taxi rank located nearby, and will telephone a cab for you if you need one.
Hailing Street Cabs in Mexico City
Notwithstanding the above, some residents and foreigners familiar with Mexico City and who speak Spanish, do hail cabs off the street in the capital, although it is as well to understand the risks and take a few sensible precautions:
You need to know Mexico City and speak Spanish: Don't take street cabs in Mexico City if you are unfamiliar with the capital and/or don't speak much Spanish: if you are visiting the city, get your hotel to phone a cab or use a taxi rank cab (see notes above).
If you decide to take a street cab in Mexico City, it is advisable to opt only for the new style cabs (all with 4 doors) that have either a bright red stripe around them or which are painted burgundy and gold—all new-style cabs have the distinctive white colored license plates which begin with a capital letter followed by five numbers. Also See Blog: Taxi Colors
Flag down only properly licensed cab cars: From 2008, Mexico City's government re-licensed all taxi cabs in the capital as part of a safety and quality campaign. All newly-licensed cabs have a distinctive white colored licence plate beginning with a capital letter and five numbers. Any street cab you flag down should show this new plate.
Ensure your taxi driver is properly licensed: Be sure, whatever taxi you get into, that the driver's license card is visible. The license card is a white, laminated document with official stamps, a hologram and a photograph of the taxi driver on it. The card should be presented in full color and not be a photocopy.
If you are carrying any valuable equipment (e.g. laptop or expensive cameras) it's best to get a cab from a taxi rank, or get your hotel to phone a local taxi for you.
Dress and act sensibly, following the general Safety Guidelines as set out on the Health and Safety pages.
If you are not familiar with Mexico City and the place you are going, and/or if you don't speak Spanish, it's best to call to arrange a taxi via the hotel where you're staying or phone a taxi rank (Sitio). They cost more than street cabs, but are still good value in comparison to a similar distance taxi fare in other major capital cities.
Traveling by taxi in Mexico's provincial cities (which includes Guadalajara and Monterrey) is generally regarded as safe, and the need to exercise precautions in relation to the taxi-crime that has pervaded Mexico City in recent years are not necessary.
The big difference between traveling by taxi in Mexico City and Mexico's provincial cities is that the cabs are not as standardized and not all districts operate metered cabs, so it's necessary to negotiate your price. Some cities operate a "zone" charging system, regulated by the local government, but in most places you visit across Mexico, what you pay in taxi fares will be what you negotiate. See 'Types of Taxi', below, for more details.
Taxis operating in Mexico's provinces will have different color schemes to Mexico City and even to other cities—there is no 'national standard' for cab colors or styles. You may end up traveling in a brand-new car or one which is very nearly worn out completely. Local Knowledge Tip: Check the state of the tires of a cab before you board: tires in good condition are more likely to indicate a vehicle in good condition.
Drivers are even less likely to speak English, except perhaps in major tourist areas, so be sure you are armed with a few words in Spanish to help you get to your destination (also see 'Tips for Taxi Travel in Mexico', below).
Taxis in Major Tourist Cities
In major tourist cities, taxis will usually be charged by zone. Taxis in places like Cancun, Los Cabos, Puerto Vallarta and Huatulco are relatively expensive in comparison to taxis in places like Mexico City, Acapulco, Manzanillo and Mazatlan and Mexico's colonial cities.
Independent Taxis in Mexico City
In Mexico City, these are white, painted with a bright red stripe around them OR (the latest style)—painted in burgundy and gold.
Independent Taxis Outside of Mexico City
Outside of Mexico City, the paint color of taxis varies widely. Street cabs are the least expensive and, outside of Mexico City, they are generally regarded as safe to flag down. If you don't speak some Spanish then you may find independent taxis a bit of a handful—some may try to overcharge you.
Sitio Taxis (Taxi Ranks / Taxi Co-operatives)
Taxi Ranks are most common in Mexico City (marked "Sitio"), although you'll find cab ranks in all towns and cities across Mexico. Many cab drivers, especially those working in the capital, are now affiliating themselves with local taxi co-operatives, or companies that service fares from a base or rank, and pick people up when they telephone to book a ride.
There are many good companies that will quote you a fare over the 'phone for the journey you request, and tell you the details of the car type/plate that will pick you up. Most hotels are affiliated to a local taxi firm, and some even have a taxi rank outside, waiting for you to travel.
Taxis from Mexico's airports are some of the most expensive you will pay for. There are always two taxi concessions given at each airport, but there is no competition: whichever one you choose, the price will be the same (very high in relation to other taxi fares in Mexico). Charges are applied by zone, depending on where you are going. Taxis not affiliated to the airport are not allowed to aboard passengers at the airport, so you cannot telephone a local taxi firm and have them pick you up instead. Buses, and Mexico City's Metro, are alternatives, but not really realistic when you have lots of baggage and just want to get to your hotel or back home.
Some hotels have a taxi rank based outside the hotel, to board hotel guests at anytime. These may be charged at a fixed fee depending on where you are going (destinations and fares will be on display), or on a zone-based fare system, on a rate per kilometer and some may be metered.
Larger or luxury hotels sometimes have a private fleet of cabs tied to the property. These taxis are relatively expensive in comparison to regular cabs but offer comfortable, air-conditioned, vehicles, usually with drivers who speak at least some English. Most operate fixed fares to specific destinations (e.g. to the airport) or charge on a price per kilometer basis.
Updated: June 2014
Note About Language
If you plan to travel by taxi cab in Mexico, you will need to be able to speak some Spanish as most cab drivers speak little or no English.
Taxi Fares in Mexico City
All taxis in Mexico City are either metered or, for private taxis and taxis from the airport, a price per kilometer or a zoning charge is made. One kilometer is 1093 yards, or about six-tenths of a mile.
All prices are quoted in Mexican pesos.
Airport Taxi Fares
If you take a cab from the Airport, pay for an authorized taxi from one of the booths in the terminal building - there are various companies vying for your business. Rates from airports are charged by zone and include the tip, although excessive luggage can be charged extra (two luggage bags per person is considered reasonable; if you are carrying more you may be asked to pay extra). From Mexico City's Benito Juarez airport, to the center of the city expect to pay about MX$250; for destinations to the far north, south or west of the city (the airport is in the east of the city) expect to pay up to MX$400.
By investing some time and care to Learn Spanish, you'll enhance your experiences in Mexico through better access to the culture and it will also help you to barter and negotiate more effectively -- including those taxi fares!
Private Taxi Fares
Private taxis are usually based at hotels (some radio cabs are also private taxi firms) and charge a rate per kilometer. Radio cabs are authorized to charge about MX$30 to start (known as the banderazo)and then about MX$2 for each 250 meters or 45 seconds of time when the taxi is stationary.
Taxis Rank Cab Fares
Taxi Rank cabs (on a street rank or outside a hotel) charge on a meter, but at a higher rate than street cabs. Taxi Rank cabs charge an initial fare of around MX$20 and then around MX$2 for each 250 meters or 45 seconds of time when the taxi is stationary. If you get stuck in a traffic jam, this time-lapse charge is applied automatically by the meter.
Lowest Taxi Fares in Mexico City
The lowest taxi fares (metered) are from the street cabs (see advice above about hailing cabs from the street in Mexico City) which charge about MX$10 and then around MX$1.30 for each 250 meters or 45 seconds of time when the taxi is stationary. If you get stuck in a traffic jam, this time-lapse charge is applied automatically by the meter.
Fixed Fee Fares in Mexico City
Some taxi rank cabs agree a fixed price from point A to B, which is often very reasonable and pitched between the Taxi Rank and street cab fares. For example, a fixed fare from Xochimilco (south edge of Mexico City) to the Airport (center east) costs around MXP$230 plus a tip (optional) when you book a taxi over the phone with a local firm/co-operative. These taxis offer some of the best deals in terms of security/price. You will need to be able to speak Spanish in order to book them and direct the cab driver.
Taxi Fares Outside of Mexico City
Taxis operating in the towns and cities outside of Mexico City are charged:
- by Zone OR
- are Metered OR
- are NOT Metered
Zone Charges will depend on charges set by the local state authorities, but will correlate to the meter charges, plus a small percentage. Add 25%-50% to the prices quoted below for Meters when you are visiting highly popular tourist centers such as Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Los Cabos, Ixtapa and Huatulco. Taxis from Airports, wherever you are in the country, are always more expensive.
Meter Charges are similar to street cabs in Mexico City who charge a fee of about MXP$15-20 when you get in plus MXP$10-15 per kilometer. It is generally regarded as safe to hail a cab off the street outside of Mexico City but you will need to speak Spanish to direct the driver.
No Meter? Agree Your Price! - Some taxis either refuse to switch on their meters or, especially in smaller towns and villages, will not even have a meter installed and there will be no zoning charge scheme in place. In these cases, be sure to agree your price ahead of time. If you feel the rate is unreasonable, don't be afraid to walk away and find a different cab. There are usually plenty around. Being able to speak some Spanish will give you a distinct advantage when negotiating cab fares in Mexico, as cabbies don't usually speak English.
Car Rental Alternative
If you plan to do a lot of traveling within a local area, especially in popular beach resort areas where taxi fares are considerably higher than those in colonial towns and cities, you might consider renting a small car. Rates for car rental in Mexico are coming down a lot; if you get a quote from Mexperience, your rate will include compulsory third party insurance, all fees, taxes and unlimited mileage. See Car Rental in Mexico for our guide about renting a car.
Here are a few tips to help you travel effectively by cab in Mexico, based on recent travel experiences:
- Learn a few words and phrases in Spanish to help you communicate at least at a basic level with the driver. Besides getting to your destination quicker, building some rapport with the driver may get you a better fare in instances where the taxi is not metered;
- If you know little or no Spanish, take a map with you and use this to show the driver where you want to go;
- In Mexico City, build-in plenty of extra time to your journey as traffic congestion can be severe, especially during the rush hour. If you are traveling to the airport or to a bus station to catch a scheduled journey, allow time for traffic;
- If you will be visiting Mexico for a while, or plan to live there, scout around for your nearest Taxi Ranks, ask for their phone number and call them when you need a cab. They will come right to your door or hotel, and most don't charge extra for this; they simply start the meter running from the cab rank (which, if local, won't make a big difference to your fare);
- Although some taxis are beginning to accept credit and debit cards, most don't and those that do will add 10% to the fare to cover bank charges they pay to offer the card payment facility. We recommend you pay with cash as drivers prefer it and it will save you money;
- In Mexico City, some street cab drivers won't know the place where you want to go, so you will need to be able to direct them or, if you don't speak Spanish, have a map on your person to show them where they need to go. This scenario is less likely with Taxi Rank cabs and never a problem with private or airport taxis as they carry street maps books in the vehicle.