Update May 2016: Please be aware that in the comments below Radu D & Jimmy say that you nowhave to get the bus back to the city through door 3 due to a new traffic pattern. Please take this into consideration when you take the bus there. If someone else can confirm this please let us know.
You know the pyramid of the sun is going to be awesome when you get to the top. But, do you know how to best reach the top? First you have to get there!
One of the greatest archaeological sites in Mexico is the ancient city of Teotihuacan. Located just an hour from the city it is a must see. You can get there by taking an arranged tour but there are good reasons not to. The guys at the Hedgehogs Without Borders blog summarises why you should not take a tour in this post: Taking a Tour to Teotihuacan.
By doing it on your own you will certainly save a ton of money, a little bit of time and regain complete control of your trip. Additionally, if your already traveling independently to Mexico City you certainly don't need to be led around like sheep in a tour group.
Here is your step-by-step guide to getting there:
Step one is to get yourself to the Mexico City "Norte" bus terminal. You can take the metro or splurge on a taxi (since you saving so much on the tour). Be sure you end up at Del Norte because there are are four bus terminals in the city and you wouldn't want to end up at the wrong one.
You are looking for Autobuses Teotihuacan which is one of the last desks at the end of the terminal. Just look for the blue pyramid on the sign.
Inside there is a small desk with the departures listed. Buses to the pyramids leave every 15 minutes. Just say "Piramides" and you should get the correct ticket.
We went on a weekend at 8:30 am and you should probably try to be there even earlier. Your goal is to get there before the tour buses arrive which is around 10:00am. Your ticket will have the departure time and an assigned seat. Cost as of 2012 was 40 pesos (about $3) and a child ticket was half price.
The buses to the pyramids leave from gate 8. At the gate there is a small snack shop but other parts of the terminals have better food options if you desire. We didn't have much time or desire to explore but there is a good bakery in the center of the terminal and some other restaurants. Probably better options then your hometown airport. ("Andenes" is the Spanish word for platforms)
Our bus left from platform #7. From our experiences taking buses in Mexico the time on your ticket is more likely to be the time that your bus pulls into the terminal, rather than a precise departure time. At space #7 there were two lines, one for a bus that was departing and one for our bus which didn't arrive yet. If your uncertain just ask someone who looks like they know what they're doing.
The bus goes to more destinations than just the pyramids but if you look at the plaques on the front window you should see "Piramides" listed. Our bus was pretty run down and in rough condition with torn upholstery and cracked side windows. The trip only took 55 minutes so it was not a big deal but a nicer/cleaner bus would have been better. The route is mostly highway up to Teotihuacan but it takes about 20 minutes before you get out of the city. Your bus will pick up other passengers along the way in the city and at a few bus stops along the highway. It was new years weekend when we went and our bus was packed to standing room only.
After the 55 minute trip our driver announced "Piramides" several times and we got out, along with half the bus at the main entrance to the pyramids. The bus will drop you off at "Puerta# 1" but you don't have to walk back here to get back to Mexico City.
If you didn't already have breakfast splurge for a tamal con pan for 12 pesos ($1) which is a tamal sandwich. Personally we prefer the verde (green chili) but there are aways several different varieties to choose from. These were the best we had on our entire trip and we tried a lot!
Follow the group but be sure to buy a ticket at the entrance to the parking lot. The cost was 57 pesos each (about $4.50) and kids were free. The ticket will be collected as you enter the site. There is no place to go get a drink inside the archaeological site so be sure to buy some refreshments at the entrance.
The sun is very strong so don't forget the sunscreen either. If you feel that you would like a guide that is no problem, just hire one. They will be right in front of the entrance and they will probably walk up to you asking if you need a guide. We don't know anything about the cost but if you really want to learn as much as you can give it a try.
Walk along the Avenue of the Dead towards the pyramids. Since you are on your own tour you can stroll at your leisure.
There were no lines when we got there but by the time we were leaving they started to form. Remember the altitude is high so take it easy when you climb up the stairs to the top.
We made it!!!
View from the top.
The sun is so strong. You will understand why it is called the Pyramid of the Sun.
After you make your way through the site you can make your way out from the exit in front of the Pyramid of the Sun. If you didn't buy some water on the way in you are probably very thirsty by now. Unfortunately you can just buy little guitars and sombreros, the vendor selling the water is a little further towards the exit.
As you exit the complex through puerta# 2 you will have to wait on the corner diagonally across from this sign. There are no markings, no sign and everyone will be confused except you, because you read this blog.
To ensure you are on the correct bus look for the plaque that says "Central del NTE." Seats are first come, first serve and you can pay the driver for the ticket on the bus.
The trip back took a little longer because we had to make several stops in the town of Teotihuacan. Total travel time back to the terminal was about 70 minutes.
This is a great way to see the pyramids and we hope you give it a try. As always, your feedback, questions and comments are welcome.