The older terminal at the Mexico City Airport has now been spiffed up thanks to a major modernization project completed in early ‘98. Improvements in the upstairs gate area include carpeted floors, remodeled restrooms, comfortable seats, and improved concessions. There is also a Hilton Hotel, located above the gate area in the new passenger terminal (see Lodging section in this chapter for details).
Mexico City Airport offers dozens of shops selling an amazing variety of domestic and imported items. An excellent art gallery occupies a portion of the main terminal lobby. The Mexico City Airport has several bars and snack stands, several restaurants, a fast-food court, bank outlets, an excellent visitor info center (including Hotel Association Offices in the baggage claim areas offering local information and hotel bookings), and impeccably clean, shiny marble floors throughout.
From the Mexico City Airport, look for booths inside of baggage claim with a large TAXI sign. AVOID ALL OTHER AIRPORT TAXI SOLICITATIONS. Set rates apply to all areas of the city, with most fares running around $10 U.S. per trip. Tip 10% of the fare if driver handles your luggage.
All cabs are not equal, particularly in Mexico City where several options are available. Outside most hotels and visitor attractions are larger (more expensive!) unmarked sedans with English speaking drivers and guides. These larger sedans can be hired by the hour ($20-30 US) and are perfect for the business traveler with appointments at different locations. Drivers carry cellular phones. For chauffeurdriven private limos, call Turismo Leibnitz, 52-5-531-1640; fax. 531-4763.
Cruising the streets are taxis of three distinctions - the ORANGE & WHITE fourdoor cabs offering comfort and metered rates; GREEN & WHITE, newer VW bugs with cheaper, metered rates; and YELLOW & WHITE, older VW bugs (soon to be phased out in favor of the green bugs which use unleaded fuel) which offer the cheapest metered rates of all. However, a recent surge in petty crime has caused city authorities to recommend visitors use only “sitio” cabs, avoiding the roaming VW vehicles (see “Safety & Combating Crime” next column).
In any case, cabs are CHEAP by international standards and easy to find. Rates may be higher on Sundays and in the evening after 10pm. Tipping is generally not expected. Always check that the meter is working or running ("ON”) before you drive off. The meter should read “2" (2 pesos) when starting a journey at normal hours.
Strict anti-pollution laws restrict vehicle usage in Mexico City on certain days of the week. The schedule, determined by the last digit on your license plate for out-of-state cars, is as follows:
Monday ........................5 or 6
Tuesday .......................7 or 8
Wednesday .................3 or 4
Thursday ......................1 or 2
Friday ...........................9 or 0
Sat/Sun ...................no restrictions apply.
The schedule is determined by the color band on the license plate for Mexico City residents. This law is strictly enforced and uniformly applied - even to foreign visitors arriving in their own private autos or rental cars. Heavy fines apply (up to $300 U.S. or vehicle impoundment). Note: Vehicles made since ‘93 and that pass inspection can be driven daily.