The author saw many authentic Mexican towns throughout her journey. (Photo: Thinkstock)
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 from person to person based on budget and personal preference. However, I will say that until you’ve traveled Mexico by bus, you have not had the full Mexican experience.
Most people think that all buses in Mexico are similar to the chicken buses, which are old school buses in Central America that are converted into public buses, where you usually have to stand for hours. And sometimes, there’s even livestock on board. But unless you’re taking a small bus that transports you between small towns, Mexican buses are nothing like those in Central America. Fact is, Mexican buses are a million times better—even better than buses in the United States and Canada.
Behold: a very luxurious bus…for a bus. (Photo: Pamela MacNaughtan/Savoir Faire Abroad)
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A couple reasons why:
1. Mexico does not have a first-come, first-serve policy, like many buses in North America. Nope. In Mexico, you reserve your seat when you buy your ticket.
2. Some buses have free WiFi, like the one from Mezcales to Guadalajara.
3. The seats are cushy, and they recline! Or have foot rests!
4. There’s no livestock on board.
5. There are different classes, and the first class buses are crazy nice. They come with free earbuds, water, a blanket, a pillow, and an eye mask. It’s like you’re flying, but you’re in a bus.
Traveling by bus means getting to stop in cute, authentic small towns along the way. (Photo: Pamela MacNaughtan/Savoir Faire Abroad)
My Route Through Mexico
My overall goal was to travel from Bucerias—just 20 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta—to Cancun by bus, and stop along the way to explore and experience interior Mexico. My stops:
Mezcales (the closet stop to Bucerias) to Guadalajara
Guadalajara to Morelia
Morelia to Mexico City
Mexico City to Taxco
Taxco to Mexico City
Mexico City to Oaxaca
Oaxaca to San Cristobal
San Cristonal to Cancun
Cancun to Playa del Carmen
What’s a trip through Mexico without a stop in Cancun? (Photo: Thinkstock)
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 even run into that problem.
Dealing with Motion Sickness
I’ve traveled by bus before. I know what it’s like to sit on the same bus for more than 24 hours, and to deal with the weirdos around me. I know about pretending to be asleep to save the seat beside me, and sleeping with my valuables. I know that many buses are cold, so it’s all about dressing 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 woozy, and that feeling stayed with me for about two days, limiting my movements in the city.
My true lifesaver. (Photo: Pamela MacNaughtan/Savoir Faire Abroad)
I thought it was a one-time thing. 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, I couldn’t even walk around without wanting to puke my guts out. It was gross. 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 those 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 underestimated, by a lot! Yes, Mexico is cheap, but it’s not Thailand cheap. There is no way I did the above route for fewer than $100. Here’s what it actually cost:
Mezcales to Guadalajara - 402 pesos ($33.22) with Primera Plus
Guadalajara to Morelia - 323 pesos ($26.69) with Primera Plus
Morelia to Mexico City - 348 pesos ($28.75) with Primera Plus
Mexico City to Taxco - 173 pesos ($14.30) with Costa Line
Taxco to Mexico City - 173 pesos ($14.30) with Costa Line
Mexico City to Oaxaca - 808 pesos ($66.78) with ADO Platino
Oaxaca to San Cristobal - 762 pesos ($62.98) with ADO Platino
San Cristobal to Cancun - 994 pesos ($82.16) with ADO GL
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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?
Taking the Primera Plus was more expensive, but it was worth it. (Photo: Pamela MacNaughtan/Savoir Faire Abroad)
I also recently came across a website called Bus Bud, which I didn’t use but I think may be a helpful resource for you—especially if you’re feeling intimidated. Bus Bud is like Kayak, except for bus tickets. Search 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. Tickets are a little more expensive on occasion, but you’re paying for the convenience—which is great if you are nowhere near a bus station.
Hello, Mexico City! (Photo: Thinkstock)
I will leave you with this. I could have traveled 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, it also makes me a tad nauseous at times. Now that I’ve traveled through Mexico by bus, I need a break, but I will still take buses in the future. That said, I may skip the night buses and spend the extra money on a hostel, and choose the day bus, instead.
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