Updated for 2021 – Traveling to Mexico can be a bit overwhelming if you aren’t prepared. Transportation, a 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 useful apps for traveling in Mexico to make your visit easier and more efficient.
When I travel to Mexico, there are five essential apps I always use. Why only five? It’s simple and keeping apps to a minimum and from a trusted source, lessens the chance of the app affecting your phone. No one wants to have phone issues when they are traveling in another country. Been there, done that.
So, here’s my recommendations for the best apps for traveling in Mexico and why.
Rome 2 Rio App for Transportation
If I’m in Mexico, I’m usually traveling around and visiting more than one city. Since I might be road tripping or traveling by plane, bus, and even boats, apps that show the different ways to get from one place to another are particularly helpful.
Rome 2 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. Yet. This useful app provides essential details about transportation. Just input your info, from and to, and it tells you what exactly what type of transportation is available. For example here’s the options for Guadalajara to Tequila.
Once you decide what mode of transit you are interested in, simply click on that one 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 are available. It also tells you the exact bus station info, since many cities have more than one.
Southerner Says: some bus stations in Mexico charge 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 small change or monedas with me.
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 an essential 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 Uber cars in Mexico are in excellent condition. In many cases, much better than 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.
Are you planning a trip to Mexico and need ideas of where to go? Here’s a few other articles to help you get you started:
Uber Differences in Mexico
To better use Uber in Mexico, you need to be aware there are a few differences in the U.S. 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 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 the color, make and model of the car 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. But again, 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
To maximize your Uber experience, keep your Uber app be up to date and have a clear, current photo. In Mexico, I did find that at times I had to refresh the app to keep track of the driver’s vehicle.
Another suggestion is to 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. 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 drivers spoke English. So no worries there.
Dollars to Pesos App for Currency
There are so many currency apps. When I was investigating the best apps for traveling in Mexico, I picked Adiante Ventures US Dollar to Mexican Peso app because it has a very simple design and is easy to use. It very simply converts dollars to pesos and vice versa.
This app 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 4.7 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 in Mexico fluctuates constantly, the app might be a little incorrect since it can’t update hourly or even daily.
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. I’m a Google Local Guide and use Google Maps almost daily so it’s a given it’s one of my essential apps for traveling in Mexico. Besides the things you probably already know Maps can do, did you know Google Maps can show you your 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 your profile photo in the upper right hand side of the screen to access your account and select “Your Timeline”. You can keep up with what you did and where you went. You can even edit the info if Google somehow got it wrong.
More Google Map Features
Another useful feature of Google Maps, is that you can download Maps to use when you are offline. That really comes in handy when you think you might not have service or WiFi. Perhaps traveling to a desolate area or unpopulated area.
In Maps, on your mobile device, and while you have service or WiFi, open the map you want to download. Then click our photo on the upper right side. This opens your account and options available. Select Offline Maps to open the next screen where you can download your map or open maps you already downloaded previously. Note: offline maps expire after a while. Some, in as little as fifteen days. I personally have never had any expire that soon but it might be better to wait as close as you can to your departure date to download the map you need. Google does state that expiring maps will try to update automatically the next time you have WiFi access again.
Google has also upped their game on train, local metro and transportation schedules. I have found myself using Google more and more in large cities, like New York City, for the subway and bus schedules. It also worked perfectly out of the United States in countries like Spain and Portugal. Google Maps is great for making itineraries, walking maps and saving places you’d like to visit.
Southerner Says: make sure your location is turned on to enable all features of Google Maps.
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.
WhataApp’s Location Feature
Another useful safety feature on WhatsApp is location sharing. If you have someone back home that you want to send your whereabouts to periodically, then you can do that on WhatsApp.
Simply select the person from your contacts that you want to send your location to. In the text box where you write your message, there is a paperclip icon. It’s just like the icon you might see for adding an attachment on an email. Click the paperclip and every available option that you can attach or send in a WhatApp chat pops up in the box. Click on location. Doing that pulls up your exact location and nearby locations. You can then choose to share your location for 15 minutes, 1 hour or 8 hours. And you can even include a comment. Nifty.
5 Apps for Mexico Travel
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So there you have it; my five best apps for traveling in Mexico. As an Android user these are my absolute most used apps when I’m in Mexico. With the exception of the exchange rate app, which is available for other currencies as well, these essential apps for Mexico would be useful in any country. You can find all of these apps in the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.
Southerner Says: I have received a few comments asking about Spanish translation apps and asking if I have one that I suggest. Unfortunately, the answer is no and I find that Google is wrong a lot. So if thought it odd I didn’t mention one, that’s why. If you have any suggestions for apps that you like, I’d love to hear them. Leave me a comment below.
More Resources for Traveling in Mexico
So are you ready to book a trip to Mexico? Some of my favorite trip planning websites are Expedia.com for plane tickets and hotel rooms. I usually compare their accommodations prices to Booking.com prices. Rentalcars.com is a necessity for renting a vehicle. Tripadvisor.com is excellent for reviews and planning tours. Last but also one of the most important things – besides a good set of ear buds – is travel insurance. Check out TravelInsurance.com to see a variety of plans for your next Mexico trip. Happy traveling!