Traveling to another country can be overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. When I travel to Mexico, I usually visit 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. Sure, you can go on another site or forum to see what bus someone took last week or last month but do you really want to count on that information being correct?
In the past, I’ve also had occasional issues with random apps affecting my phone’s performance. So I try to keep the apps I add to a minimum. There’s nothing worse than being away from your home country, with your whole life on your mobile phone and experiencing problems with it.
Below are the 5 basic essential apps that I’ve found that worked best for me when traveling in Mexico.
Rome to Rio
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 didn’t need the ferry info on this trip but there’s always next time. This app provided me with details about bus schedules that I felt was essential. Basically you input your info, from and to, and it tells you what options you have. For example here’s the options for Guadalajara to Tequila.
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. Another useful feature is that it gives you the exact bus station info, since many bigger cities in Mexico have several. Guadalajara has at least two that I know of.
TIP: make sure you have changed money and always have change (monedas) or at least some small bills.
Some bus stations charge you just to get inside to buy your ticket. The Guadalajara Antigua Central charged 5 pesos or about twenty five cents. I didn’t have any small change and 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. Now you know what you can use all those cute leather pouches you bought for.
Me and Uber have become very good friends, especially in Mexico. I used it seventeen times total on one trip and I may or may not be a little obsessed about my Uber rating. Joking aside, Uber is essential. Why? Mainly because it saves me a lot of money! Who doesn’t want that? I mean that’s one, er several, more Pacificos I can buy!
First, 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 shape. Much better that the their taxi counterparts. In most Mexican cities the vehicles have 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.
One thing to remember though is, Uber is fairly new in some 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. So the government has set some regulations. First they are not allowed any signage in certain cities. I know that might be a little off putting but keep in mind you know what they are driving and what they look like. Always double check the license plate number. Any doubt or discrepancy, don’t get in.
In Puerto Vallarta, for example, they are not allowed to come onto any federal property. That means no airport, no bus station. But here’s where is gets a little tricky. They can drop you off at the airport. They just can’t pick you up. This is not the rule in every city. I was 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 some 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. It’s super affordable! So if you don’t mind sharing you can save some serious money. In Guadalajara a thirteen mile ride that’s around $25 in a taxi or airport shuttle was about $5.50. That’s a lot of Pacifico money!
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. 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. 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. Always refresh if you move and you might want to just call your driver. Which by the way, I found, most spoke English. So no worries there.
Dollars to Pesos by Adiante Ventures
I’m sure there are plenty of perfectly good currency apps. 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. 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.
Because currency fluctuates constantly the app might be a little incorrect since it can’t update hourly or even daily.
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. Besides the things you know Maps can do, did you know Google Maps tells you 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!
Another great feature of Google Maps is that you can use them even if you are offline. Once in Maps on your mobile device, while you have service, simply press the three lines in the upper left corner. This opens your account. You will then see an option to add the map of your choice to your Offline Maps. Be aware that these maps do expire. Some in as fast as fifteen days. So it’s 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. I personally have never had any that expired that quickly.
Google has also upped their game on the train and local metro info and schedules.
Tip: make sure your location is turned on to enable all features of Google Maps.
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. You simply add the person you want to communicate with in your contacts and then WhatsApp does the rest.
Tip: Add 011 to your number for international calling from the States. Then add the country code, 1, 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 1 xxx-xxx-xxxx.
So there you have it. As an Android user these were my absolute most used apps while I was in Mexico. With exception of the exchange rate app, I’m sure they would be helpful in any city. You can find any of these apps in the Play Store or the Apple Store . If you have any other app suggestions let me know.
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