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Pamela MacNaughtan

I don’t want to open up a debate about the best way to travel through Mexico (or any country for that matter), as it changes by person based on their budget and personal preferences, however I will say that until you’ve travelled by bus in Mexico, you have not had the full Mexican experience.

Yeah, I went there.

And it’s totally true.

Now, most people think that all buses in Mexico are similar to the chicken buses (old school buses converted into public buses, where you usually have to stand for hours, and sometimes there is livestock on board) in Central America, THAT is not true. Mexico buses are NOTHING LIKE CHICKEN BUSES IN CENTRAL AMERICA! Unless you’re doing one of those city buses, or the small buses that only transport between small towns. Then they are kind of like chicken buses and I would suggest buying a hemorrhoid pillow as your arse will be incredibly sore after like 10 minutes. Trust me on this one.

The fact is Mexico buses are like a million times better than buses in the United States and Canada. Yes, A MILLION TIMES BETTER

  • Mexico does not have a first come, first serve policy like that of **ahem** Greyhound, in North America. Nope. In Mexico, you reserve your seat when you buy your ticket.
  • Some buses have FREE WIFI – like the one from Mezcales to Guadalajara.
  • The seats are cushy and they RECLINE or have FOOTRESTS!
  • There is no livestock
  • Nobody is going to lop off your head with a samurai sword (sorry Canada, I couldn’t resist).
  • Normal people take the bus, not society rejects (like that time I was on a Greyhound bus FULL of ex-cons who had just been released from jail. They wore all jean outfits and had manilla envelopes, it was rather obvious).
  • There are different classes, and the first class buses are crazy nice and come with free earbuds, water, a blanket, pillow, and an eye mask. It’s like you’re flying, but you’re in a bus.

My Route Through Mexico

My overall goal was to travel from Bucerias (just 20 mins north of Puerto Vallarta) to Cancun by bus, and stop along the way to explore and experience interior Mexico (as I had been soaking in coastal life until that point). My route was as follows:

  1. Mezcales (the closest stop to Bucerias) to Guadalajara
  2. Guadalajara to Morelia
  3. Morelia to Mexico City
  4. Mexico City to Taxco
  5. Taxco to Mexico City
  6. Mexico City to Oaxaca
  7. Oaxaca to San Cristobal
  8. San Cristobal to Cancun
  9. Cancun to Playa del Carmen

I did everything ‘on the fly’, meaning I didn’t book any of my bus tickets in advance. Instead, I did a Google search the morning I wanted to travel, looked for when the next bus was leaving for my desired destination, went to the station, and bought my ticket. I figured if the bus was full, I would simply wait for the next bus. No big deal. Thankfully I didn’t run into that problem.

Dealing with Motion Sickness

I’ve travelled by bus before. I’ve done Toronto to Ocala, Florida (and back), Calgary to Seattle, and Calgary to Toronto; both with Greyhound. I know what it’s like to sit on the same bus for more than 24 hours, and dealing with the weirdos around me.  I know about pretending to be asleep to save the seat beside me (don’t go all karma on me in the comments. If you were on a bus for 24+ hours, you would too!), and sleeping with my valuables. I know that many buses are cold, so dress in layers. And I know that a travel pillow can be a godsend.

Here’s the thing I didn’t know. I am totally susceptible to motion sickness. I have never had motion sickness before, so when it hit during my Mexico City to Oaxaca bus trip, I was surprised and completely unprepared. I arrived in Oaxaca feeling lightheaded and whooshy, and that feeling stayed with me for about two days, limiting my movements in the city. I thought it was a one-time thing. Maybe I should have eaten more food that day. But when I took a night bus from Oaxaca to San Cristobal, I was hit hard. The road was incredibly windy, and within an hour, I was laying ON THE FLOOR OF THE BUS IN THE FETAL POSITION. The space on the floor was small, and by laying down and curling up, I was able to control how much my body moved around. Needless to say, it was a LONG eleven hours, and when I arrived in San Cristobal (for my 7-hour layover before an 18hr bus ride to Cancun) I couldn’t even walk around without wanting to puke my guts out. It. Sucked. Big time.

My solution? A hit of Dramamine with two Melatonin pills. Wow. That was a travel cocktail I will definitely be using in the future!

Classes and Cost

As I mentioned before, Mexico has different classes when it comes to buses. For the most part, it’s second class, first class, and platinum class. Although when you compare the buses to that of North America, the second class buses are still like first class. I recently asked on Facebook what everyone thought I spent on bus tickets based on my itinerary above, and I was rather surprised by the answers. Many people low-balled, by a lot! Yes, Mexico is cheap, but it’s not Thailand cheap. There is NO WAY I did the above route for $100 or less. So, how much did it cost me?

  1. Mezcales to Guadalajara – 402 pesos ($33.22) with Primera Plus
  2. Guadalajara to Morelia – 323 pesos ($26.69) with Primera Plus
  3. Morelia to Mexico City – 348 pesos ($28.75) with Primera Plus
  4. Mexico City to Taxco – 173 pesos ($14.30) with Costa Line
  5. Taxco to Mexico City – 173 pesos ($14.30) with Costa Line
  6. Mexico City to Oaxaca – 808 pesos ($66.78) with ADO Platino
  7. Oaxaca to San Cristobal – 762 pesos ($62.98) with ADO Platino
  8. San Cristobal to Cancun – 994 pesos ($82.16) with ADO GL

My total cost came in at $329.18. Yes, I could have done it for cheaper by taking a regular ADO bus instead of the Platino (Platinum First Class) and GL buses; but I wanted a little extra comfort on those 7+ hour bus rides! Otherwise, I could have done the trip on about $200 to $250. Not bad, right?

UPDATE: I recently came across a website called Bus Bud, which I think may be a helpful resource – especially if you’re feeling a little intimidated. Bus Bud is kind of like Kayak.com, except for bus tickets. Simply search (there are several currencies to choose from as well) for your desired route, select the time and price that works for you, and Bus Bud will send you to the local website to purchase your ticket. Yes, sometimes the tickets are a little more expensive, but you’re paying for the convenience – which is fab if you are currently nowhere near a bus station!

I could have travelled through Mexico by plane, but I chose the bus because I wanted to see and experience as much of Mexico as I could. I wanted to watch the scenery roll by, and hop off in small Mexican towns during brief pitstops. I wanted to feel more connected, and for me, bus travel makes me feel more connected. And as it turns out if also makes me a tad nauseous at times. Now that I’ve travelled through Mexico by bus, I need a wee break, but I will take buses in the future. That being said I may skip the night buses and spend the extra money on a hostel, then take a day bus!!

 

Comments:

  • Susan

    May 3, 2013

    What a great article Pamela! My assumptions about buss travel were totally wrong, apparently. How were the roads? I know it’s my American snobbishness coming out but I have this idea that they are bad? Do buses get stopped by federalles less?

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  • May 4, 2013

    I sympathise with you Pamela, as I suffer with motion sickness too, or at least I did until I discovered Gravol.
    All I need is a quarter of a tablet and I can handle almost any bus journey now. I recently did a trip from Cancun to San Cristobal De Las Casas and back again – no sickness but a sore back and neck!

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  • May 10, 2013

    Loved this! I once traveled by bus from Los Angeles through Mexico to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, and I have to say even way back then (1995!), the majority of the buses in Mexico were way better than Greyhound and the “chicken buses” in terms of comfort. As someone who lives on a boat and battles with seasickness, I totally felt your motion sickness pain. Glad your “cocktail” worked!

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  • May 23, 2013

    “Normal people take the bus, not society rejects” Ha! I find myself explaining that point to Americans often. Excellent post.

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  • Pingback: Getting Around: Mexico by Bus | The People's Guide To Mexico

    October 15, 2013
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  • Katie S.

    May 22, 2014

    Hi Pamela,
    I’m having a lot of trouble finding an affordable bus route from Acapulco to Puerto Escondido. Do you have any recommendations? The only ones I can find are Estrella + AltaMar but they are both about $60 one way.

    Thank you!

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  • Sarah

    October 26, 2014

    Hi. I love the yellow bag in your post. It looks like a great travel bag. Do you happen to know what brand/style it is?

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  • Mary

    December 30, 2014

    And the pants? 😉 Do you know where they come from? They look like the perfect comfy travel pant! ps I must second your tip on dressing warmly. The busses I took in mexico were always FREEZING.

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