Compared to my usual seven hour flights to Europe and the nearly-10-hour flights down to Brazil, these short hops back and forth to Mexico City were a breeze. Well, almost. When you fly regularly, you pay strict attention to the types of aircraft and you get very particular about which ones you like and don't like, especially for the longhaul deals. It would be nice if we had at least a 757 to Mexico City, but the Airbus 320 is a newer craft and pretty nice and accomodating for a 3-5 hour flight. Most notably, of course, in first class. We didn't pay attention to Russell Crowe in silence up above our heads on the little screen, battling the French and the elements and his very own crew, but our lunch and the service were superb. Airline food. Superb. Seriously. That's United for you.
I arrived in Mexico City on US Airways and after getting through customs, it was easy to find an ATM machine ("cajero automatico") in order to get my hands on some pesos. After getting some cash, I arranged for a taxi at an Authorized Taxi stand. Be careful to avoid getting a taxi from an unauthorized taxi. Look for the yellow sign and buy your ticket before you go outside and find a cab. You just go to the counter and tell them your destination and they'll issue you a voucher, which you then take outside (follow the signs for "Taxis Autorizados") and give to the driver.
Alternatively, you can take the Metro to just about anywhere in town. I took a cab to the Zocalo ($127 pesos not including tip), but a subway ride is only 2 pesos! After realizing how easy the Metro system is, needless to say, I took the Metro to the airport on my departure.
Maybe one of the funniest things ... or better call it ... most sarcastic?? ... that ever happened to me on international airports was me getting back fro Mexico to Germany. Well, before my departure at home we were choking that the plane wouldn't set off, because me wanting not to get back to Germany. Arriving at the airport then was really funny, as there turned out to be a huge energy failure. The whole airport was dark, the staff couldn't get into their computers, no x-ray, nada. So, they waited and waited ... for better times maybe??? ... and finally did the complete checking-in and security stuff with candles and torches burning, and by hand. This was how I could smuggle a whole backpack of fresh made tortillas (both maiz and normals), along with many other goods, like way too many CDs as I was allowed to export. The plane took of with a 5-hour-delay then.
I said "shoot me now!" when the captain announced, before we'd even left IAD that due to weather this flight would take over 5 hours and that the first three would be noticeably bumpy. But as things turned out, he did a fantastic job of steering us around any systems up there and although it did take an extra 25 minutes or so, he gave us another tidbit upon arrival: well folks, I don't know if you noticed but we took a shortcut across the Gulf of Mexico and were able to avoid most of the expected turbulence! God bless that man! ;-))) United rocks, I say. They have nonstop service to Mexico City from Washington, DC IAD, Chicago ORD and both LAX and SFO. You can then connect on Mexicana or Aeromexico etc very easily if you're continuing onwards. Our return on UNITED back to IAD was bliss. Just look at the view! And only 3.5 hours, eureka!
How to get here depends on where you're coming from. Most of the times the plane will be the best / ONLY choice. We don't have a good train network in Mexico so this isn't an option. So if you arrive by plane, you'll arrive into the Benito Juarez International Airport, which isn't big enough for our needs anymore but it's the only one we have, LOL. There are authorized safe taxis there that will take you wherever you need to go within the city (you will have to buy your ticket inside the airport and indicate where you are going), or you can also use the metro (there's a station right outside the airport's domestic flights terminal).
If you're willing to go to another nearby town after flying into Mexico City - Puebla, Cuernavaca, Queretaro, Pachuca and Toluca - there are also buses departing right from the airport to these main destinations, so you don't have to go from the airport to one of our bus terminals and then catch a bus. They are very convenient if you're visiting one of these main cities close to Mexico City.
Not arriving by plane? Please see the next tip........
Air - International flights arrive at Benito Juarez International Airport, which is about 25 minutes from downtown. The major carriers are: Mexicana, Aeromexico, American Airlines, United, Delta, Northwest, Continental, Lufthansa, British Airways, Air France, Lan Chile, Lloyd Aereo Boliviano, Taca, Copa, Avensa, Aviateca, Varig, Aerolineas Argentinas, AeroCaribe, Taesa, and Iberia. Taxis from the airport to down- town are relatively inexpensive. It is recommended to use the authorized airport taxis, purchasing your ticket in the main terminals and baggage claim areas. Prices will vary depending on the area of the city where you are going.
Mexico is a very big country, and if you plan to do a lot of travelling you should consider taking a plane at least once. The price on routes that are highly trafficated can be quite cheap. But if you want to take a route which is not as popular, you might have to pay a lot more.
Anyway you should check out the price if you are going to travel long distances. If it's a little bit more expencive it might be a good choice when you think about the time you save. Plus sleeping on overnightbuses can sometimes be a bit difficult.
The Benito Juarez Airport is how we got to Mexico. We flew on Alaska Airlines. Alaska Airlines flies to many different parts of Mexico and I have flown with them many times. They arent bad and pretty affordable because they have many flights coming here.
The airport is located to the East part of the city. You usually only need to check in 2 hours agead of schedule for international flights as opposed to the three hour ahead rule in the States.
From Europe, you can take any airline, but if you choose Continental, beware of the fact that you will have to connect in Houston with very little time to clear immigration and customs, a pretty stressful experience!
British Airways generally offer the best prices from London to Mexico City in all seasons. Their quality of service is very solid and the crew based in Mexico City very friendly.
KLM also flies from Amsterdam to Mexico City. Their 'lower business class' seats do not seem available anymore. Most flights from Europe arrive between 07:00PM and 09:00PM, creating huge queues at immigration. Be ready to wait at least one hour when you get there!
Other international airlines flying from Europe include Air France and Lufthansa. Crews from both airlines stay at the Nikko hotel.
If you come from Brazil, you are probably limited to only two viable options: American Airline (connect in Miami) or Continental (connect in Houston).
From Colombia, Avianca seems to be the cheapest option. In addition, you will probably have the privilege to fly right above the Popocatepetl volcano, an awesome spectacle (see image).
Sitio taxis are my preferred way of getting around in Mexico city. Safe, much cheaper than taxis 'turistico' they have only one problem: if you don't speak Spanish you can't order one (except if you ask nicely your hotel concierge). A good sitio taxi number that will pick you up from nearly anywhere in Mexico City at any time is Express Reforma on 5650-4990 or 5650-5004.
Otherwise, the metro is quite safe and clean - but packed. For the more adventurous, try the buses but they sometimes get ransomed...
If you happen to make an extended stay in Mexico City, then don't miss the opportunity to take a weekend break in one of Mexico's beach resorts. The cheapest way to travel in comfort is to book a package offered by Mexicana (VTP) or Aeromexico (agencies located in the hotel Presidente in Polanco and all over Mexico City).
Most of the times an airplane will be the best or the only choice to get there.
Any case you will arrive to Mexico City International Airport 'Benito Juárez'.
From USA there are a lot of flights every day mainly from New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas, San Antonio, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Miami, Orlando, New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C. From CANADA there are flights from Toronto.
From EUROPE there are direct flights from London, Madrid, Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam to the Aztec capital city...
From AUSTRALIA, PACIFIC ISLANDS and ASIA, no problem, just get a flight from Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka, Beijing, Hong Kong or Sydney, first you will flight to any Europe, Canada, Argentina or USA main city, then to Mexico City...
From AFRICA and MIDDLE EAST. No way, first flight to any main city in Europe or Japan or Australia.
From CIS and EAST EUROPE. First flight Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Paris, London or Madrid, then flight to Mexico City.
There are flights from Moscow to Mexico City. From Kiev, first flight to Moscow,Amsterdam, Frankfurt, London or Madrid, then to the Aztec land...
From SOUTH AMERICA. There are regular flights from La Habana, Bogotá, Panamá, San José, Guatemala, Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile... ( and connectons from Santo Domingo, San Juan, Caracas, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and other cities).
Within MEXICO. Domestic flights every day from Monterrey, Guadalajara, Acapulco, Cancún, Mazatlán, Huatulco, Puerto Vallarta, San José del Cabo, Manzanillo, Zihuatanejo, Mérida, Cozumel, Oaxaca, Tijuana... (some days from Veracruz, Durango, Mexicali, Colima, Chihuahua, Morelia, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Zacatecas...)
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