5 Essential Apps for Traveling in Mexico

March 18, 2018

street art along the highway Mexico

Traveling to Mexico can be a bit overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. Transportation, different currency and a foreign language are just a few of the many things that could potentially leave you feeling lost. The good news is there are plenty of apps for traveling in Mexico to help make your travels easier and more efficient.

I always use the same five apps for traveling in Mexico. Why only five? Keeping apps to a minimum lessens the chance of your phone’s performance being affected.  No one wants to have phone issues when they are traveling.

Here’s my recommendations for the top five apps for traveling in Mexico.

Rome to Rio App for Mexico Transportation

When I travel to Mexico, I’m usually visiting more than one city. Since I might be road tripping and traveling by plane, bus, or boat, apps that show transportation schedules and routes are particularly helpful.

Rome to Rio’s tag line is “discover how to get anywhere by plane, train, bus, ferry and automobile”. Indeed that’s what it does. Unfortunately, I haven’t needed the ferry info but there’s always next time. This app provided me with details about bus schedules that I felt was essential. You just input your info, from and to, and it tells you what options you have. For example here’s the options for Guadalajara to Tequila.

screenshot of the rome to rio results in my post about the best apps for traveling in Mexico
Prices shown for routes on Rome to Rio

Once you decide what mode of transit you are interested in, you simply click on that mode and it will give you further options. Frequency, duration, estimated price, telephone numbers of the transit company and a website for booking if you want. It also tells you the exact bus station info, since many cities have more than one.

Southerner Says: some bus stations charge you a small fee to enter. The Guadalajara Antigua Central charged 5 pesos or about twenty five cents just to go inside and buy a ticket. I didn’t have any small change with me. Thankfully some nice person paid for me. After that I made a point to always have change with me since it would be a huge hassle to take your bags out of the station, find a bank or change house and potentially miss your bus all for twenty-five cents. Just ask for change or monedas when you exchange your money. Now you know what you can use all those cute leather pouches you bought for.

Screenshot of the route results from the Rome to Rio app
Rome to Rio tells you what bus station and frequency

Uber App in for Traveling in Mexico

Me and Uber have become very good friends, especially in Mexico. I may or may not be a little obsessed about my Uber rating. Seriously though, Uber is essential as an app for traveling in Mexico. Why? Mainly because it saves a lot of money and who doesn’t want that? I mean that’s one or several, more Pacificos you can buy.

Uber is just so convenient. You know exactly who’s coming, where they are and what they are driving. Speaking of which, the cars in Mexico are in excellent condition. In many cases, much better that the their taxi counterparts. In most Mexican cities the vehicles are required to be a 2015 or newer and have four doors  I say most cities because I was told there were different rules for border towns. However, I didn’t ride in anything older than a couple of years old anywhere I went.

A few Uber Differences in Mexico

To better use Uber in Mexico, you need to be aware there are a few differences than service in the States. One of the reasons for this is because Uber is still fairly new in some Mexican cities. Since Mexico is a country that uses a lot of taxis for transportation, it’s only logical that the taxi drivers might be a little upset about the competition. To try and neutralize this, the government has set some regulations in some cities.

First thing you might notice is the signage or lack thereof, on the cars. I know that might be a little off putting but keep in mind the app tells you exactly what they are driving AND the license plate number. Uber highly encourages you to check the license plate. Any doubt or discrepancy, don’t get in. In all my time using Uber, I’ve only had this happen once. I just declined the ride and got another one.

Can Uber Pick Me Up Anywhere?

Another Uber difference in some cities like In Puerto Vallarta, for example, is they are not allowed to come onto any federal property. That means no airport or bus station. Here’s where is gets a little tricky. They can drop you off at the airport. This is not the rule in every city. I have been able to get a ride at the Guadalajara, Mexico City, La Paz, and Tijuana airports. Rule of thumb is, if in doubt, just ask. Uber is very popular and someone will know the rules. Or just put your trip in and when connected with a driver, give him or her a call.

In larger cities like Guadalajara and Mexico City, Uber has been around long enough for there to be Uber pool. You are matched with other riders heading in the same direction. This might not be the best option if you are short on time. You could be asked to walk to a more convenient street to catch your ride or the person you are sharing with might be dropped off first. Still, if you don’t mind sharing you can save some serious money. In Guadalajara a thirteen mile ride that costs around $25 in a taxi or airport shuttle was about $5.50. Again, that’s a lot of beer money!

More Uber Tips

Make sure your app is up to date and you have a current photo. I did find that at times I had to refresh the app to keep track of the driver’s vehicle. Try to be as close as you can to the pick up spot. Not being there is what gets you a bad rating. Ask me how I know. A couple of times I had to move to a better location because of one way streets or traffic. This is more common with Uber Pool but you are never asked to walk far. Always refresh if you do move and you might want to just want to give your driver a call. Which by the way, I found, most spoke English. So no worries there.

screenshot of my Uber profile, one of my favorite apps for traveling in Mexico
My Uber homescreen and rating

Dollars to Pesos by Adiante Ventures App for Mexico Currency

There are plenty of perfectly good currency apps. When I was investigating the best apps for traveling in Mexico, I picked this one because it is super easy to use and very simple in design. It easily converts dollars to pesos and vice versa. It comes in handy when you don’t want the whole world to know that after six days in Mexico you still don’t have a handle on the whole currency thing. There are a few ads but they aren’t too distracting. It also has a 4.6 rating in the Play Store. Always look at the rating and what others are saying before you hit the install button.

Southerner Says: Because currency fluctuates constantly the app might be a little incorrect since it can’t update hourly or even daily.

screenshot of my preferred currency app called Adiante Ventures , one of my preferred apps for traveling in Mexico
Makes counting pesos easier

Google Maps App for Traveling in Mexico

So I know this probably sounds like a no brainer but there are a lot of people (Apple users) who still don’t use Google applications. I’m a Google Local Guide and use Maps almost every day so it’s a given it’s one of my apps for traveling in Mexico. Besides the things you probably know Maps can do, did you know Google Maps tells you your user history; exactly where you went that day, how much you walked, how much you drove or the distance you went in any other mode of transportation? Yes even boats.

Just click the three little lines in the upper left hand side of the screen to open your account and select “Your Timeline”. You can keep up with what you did and where you went. You can even edit if Google got it wrong somehow.

More Google Map Features

Another great feature of Google Maps is that you can use the maps even if you are offline. Once again, in Maps on your mobile device, and while you have service or WiFi, simply click the three lines in the upper left side. You will then see an option to add the map of your choice to your Offline Maps. Be aware that these maps do expire after a while. Some in as fast as fifteen days. I personally have never seen any like that but it might be better to wait as close to your trip as you can. Google does say that the maps that expire in fifteen days will try to update when you have available WiFi.

In true Google form, they have also upped their game on the train and local metro schedules. I have found myself using this option in large cities for the local metro and bus schedules.

You can also use Google maps for itineraries and and to make a route for a walking map.

Southerner Says: make sure your location is turned on to enable all features of Google Maps.

screenshot of my timeline on Google maps showing what route we took on a boat
Use Google Maps to tell you where and how far you traveled

WhatsApp for Staying in Touch in Mexico

A billion people can’t be wrong, right? According to sources, that’s how many people are now using WhatsApp. If you aren’t, you might want to start even when you are in your home country. WhatsApp is a freeware and cross-platform messaging and voice using your internet service when it can. This app allows the sending of text messages and voice calls, as well as video calls, images and other media, documents, and user location. I was able to communicate with family and friends back home, even when I couldn’t use standard text messaging. This alone makes it an essential app for traveling in Mexico. You simply add the person you want to communicate with in your contacts and then WhatsApp does the rest.

Southerner Says: The dialing instructions for Mexico have recently changed. Add 011 to your number for international calling from the States. Then add the country code, the region’s area code and then the number. In my case, the country code for Mexico was 52 so numbers looked like this: 001 52  xxx-xxx-xxxx.

screenshot of my WhatsApp home screen
WhatsApp homescreen

So there you have it; my five best apps for traveling in Mexico. As an Android user these were my absolute most used apps while I was in Mexico. With exception of the exchange rate app, which is available for other currencies as well, I’m sure these essential apps for Mexico would be helpful in any city. You can find these apps in the Play Store or the Apple Store . If you have any other app suggestions that you love let me know.

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  1. Jason

    One app I always use while traveling anywheres is called AutoSender pro.

    It lets you schedule texts to automatically send so you don’t have to worry about forgetting to send important messages while enjoying your day!

  2. Southerner Says

    Thank you Jason! I appreciate that suggestions and I’ll take a look at it. 🙂

  3. Yasenia

    I travel a lot to Mexico, specially the border towns south of California’s border. I have asked a lot of taxis drivers and specially Uber driver about the app of choice when it comes to navigation. Every single time I’ve been told that Waze is it, NOT Google Maps.

    I tried using Google Maps once and it sucked. The directions were confusing at times. I went back to my starting point, parked my car, and called an Uber. I want to try Waze but I am a huge chicken when it come to driving in Tijuana. Not so much of getting lost but of the way people drive. It’s almost like there was no rules. Crazy!

  4. Southerner Says

    Thanks Yasenia for sharing that. Actually Google owns Waze now so essentially they are the same. I have never used Waze much for the simple reason that it uses more data. I tried Waze for a while and then went back to Google. I have noticed a lot of Uber drivers use Waze. I drove all over Baja Sur this last time and had no issues with Google but I’ve yet to drive in TJ. I’d like to though bc I want to drive myself back the El Valle de Guadalupe 🙂

  5. Pat Todd

    I recently visited Mexico for the very first time and had a Spanish-English app on my phone. But it seemed when I used it, it wasn’t well understood. One Mexican person had their own Spanish-English app that they used. Now that I’m home, I’m looking for a good Mexican-English app or, even better, a Learn Mexican app. Any suggestions?

  6. Southerner Says

    Actually that’s why I didn’t include a language app. I have not found one I like for travel. I used to always carry a small dictionary but now I speak Spanish so I don’t need it as much. I just use an online lookup if I don’t understand a word. As far as learning Duolingo is a really good app and learning tool. Happy travels!

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