Transportation

Long Distance Bus Travel in Mexico

Bus Travel in Mexico

Forget cramped seats, hot stuffy cabins, and feeling every stone and bump in the road.  Long distance bus travel in Mexico is a world apart from the stereotypical bus experiences you are probably familiar with.

Since the early 1990s, Mexico has invested heavily in its intercity road network.  As a result, the country is today well-served by a series of modern, safe (often tolled) highways which connect together towns and cities across this vast land. (Mexico has nearly two million square kilometers of land space.)

In tandem with the country’s investment in roads, a comprehensive network of bus companies has also flourished.  Modern, professionally-run, and keen to compete for your business, Mexico’s bus companies are a model for the bus travel business in the twenty-first century.

On the most frequented routes, you have a choice of three service levels: first class, second class, and a luxury “executive” bus class, which features the most modern buses (usually manufactured by Volvo or Mercedes) configured with just twenty-four wide seats on board: think of business class on an airplane.   The seats on these executive bus lines recline right back and offer leg rests, too.  The vehicles have modern suspension, speed-limiters, are fully air-conditioned, and have at least one rest-room on board.  The ticket price includes a soft drink and a snack offered when you board.

The executive-class options are usually offered on longer routes (three or more hours of travel).  On shorter routes where the executive-class buses do not run, first class buses offer plenty of comfort and safety and make road travel across Mexico efficient, enjoyable and affordable.

The bus companies use computerized systems to manage their seat inventory, so when you arrive at the ticket counter you’ll be able to pick your seats from a visual map of those still available on your chosen bus.

Most of the time, you can show up at the bus station and purchase a ticket to travel on the next bus out: on popular routes, you seldom have to wait more than 30 minutes for the next scheduled departure.  During busy periods—particularly Easter and Christmas holidays—it’s a good idea to purchase your tickets in advance: you can do this at the bus station, by telephone, or online (read our guide for details about this—link below).

There’s another reason to consider traveling by bus in Mexico: it’s really affordable.  While low-cost airlines occasionally offer promotions, even ‘low-cost’ airline fares are not always low, and in some cases bus travel is more convenient.

Most bus stations in Mexico are not as pretty as airports (although some of the newer ones, like the bus station serving the colonial city of Morelia are every bit as attractive as an airport), and you will have to speak some Spanish to navigate your way across Mexico using the country’s extensive bus network. In return for your intrepidity, you’ll witness varied and fascinating scenery, have more money in your pocket to spend at your destination, and enjoy a really comfortable road trip.

There is an art to traveling by bus in Mexico and, with some local knowledge under your belt, traveling across Mexico by bus is a rewarding and worthwhile transport option which we recommend you take advantage of.  Our guide to bus travel in Mexico offers local knowledge and practical insights.

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7 Comments

  1. Carlos Bach says

    Thanks for posting such wonderful blog. When i had in Mexico i came to know that Oscar Cancun Shuttle provides nice transportation service…

  2. Jlynne says

    Any information on bus travel with dogs (assuming all paperwork ok)?

    • Mexperience says

      Hi J,
      Bus companies will transport dogs/cats in the hold, when the dog/cat is carried in a proper dog/cat-carrier. By law, official guide dogs are allowed on board; all other pets must travel in the baggage hold.

  3. Mike says

    We recently traveled from Puerto Vallarta to Tlaquepaque with Vallarta Plus. It was great, free lunch, free movies, free ear buds, and all for only $34 each. Also, individual video screens and 2 restrooms. We couldn’t have been happier.

  4. Helene says

    I have travelled on long distance buses throughout the world and I can assure you that the Mexican buses are far superior to any of the countries… Well done Mexico !

  5. First Last says

    No comparison between Greyhound and ADO. ADO in Mexico makes Greyhound look and the way they operate as if it was a third tier bus. Drivers in a cage? Noisy Passengers, hustlers in the terminals, filthy toilets on the bus. None of this with ADO. Unlimited luggage, plus half fare if you have an INAPAM card.

    • SteveinGTO says

      In September I rode a full-size, supposedly modern shuttle bus from Chicago O’Hare airport to Champaign IL – a three hour trip. I had no idea what I was going to experience. It ended up being about the equivalent to 2nd class in Mexico. Small seats, narrow seats, not well-cushioned seats. No head rests. No movies. No music. No headphones.

      And no leg rests. I think the article here skims over what leg rests are. They don’t even EXIST in the USA, so new gringos are in for a real delightful surprise. They are not FOOT rests – the metal and rubber things on buses and airplanes. They are rests for the entire lower legs, fully cushioned, and retractable.

      And the article seems to also skim over how WIDE the Executive class seats are and how PLUSH. And I would not compare them to Business Class as much as to First Class seating on airlines.

      On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d rate ETN at 10. I’d rate PrimeraPlus at 8.5. My shuttle bus at 3.5.

      Greyhound? You couldn’t get me on a Greyhound bus. Partly because the American bus stations are so often in the really seedy parts of cities.

      As a counterpoint, the Mexican central bus stations are large. Until about 7-8 years ago the Guadalajara bus station was even larger than their airport terminal.

      It is a different world from buses in the USA.

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