Getting around in Mexico – Transportation options
Mexico is a popular destination for backpackers as well as short-term travelers. Some of us like to book an all-inclusive stay at a resort, while others prefer to travel more spontaneously. Both options are good and there are a lot of cool places to see in this magnificent country. Mexico is an easy country to travel by land. There are a lot of options and they’re all easy to use. Follow this guide to find out more about the different transportation options in Mexico.
Besides international flights, it’s also pretty easy to take national flights within the country. Most cities have an airport nearby and you can fly almost anywhere inside Mexico. Most international flights arrive in Mexico City or Cancun. But other airports serve international flights as well. It’s also an option to book a connecting flight to the smaller airports. We’re mostly into travel by land and this post will offer more information about land travel since everyone is probably quite familiar with air travel and flying!
Buses and shuttles
Mexico has a lot of different bus companies, which all offer different services and prices. Depending on whether you like a little comfort or you really like to travel how locals travel, you can choose between different services. We will discuss the options here and give you as much information as we can! Mexico buses are clean and comfortable and some of them even offer wifi and charging sockets.
ADO is the best-known bus agency in Mexico and it’s pretty popular among travelers as well as locals. The ADO buses are very punctual, comfortable, clean, and they serve the entire country. I haven’t met anyone who didn’t like ADO. The only thing that might keep you away from this company is the fact that trips can get expensive. So a lot of budget travelers use other buses to keep things budget-friendly. If it’s your first time traveling to Mexico, I definitely recommend taking the ADO buses. ADO offers regular buses which already are kinda first-class, but they also have the Platinum buses and Grand Luxe buses. When you book a trip online or at the ticket counter, make sure to check what bus you’re booking because the Grand Luxe buses are more expensive. Prices can vary too. We saw prices for bus trips online and the trip appeared to be more expensive when we went to the ticket counter. For booking your trip online, you need to be the holder of a Mexican card. The best option to book your bus in advance is through a travel agency or by going to the bus terminal a few days before your actual travel date. Agencies usually charge you a few pesos extra. If you want to buy your ticket last-minute, the bus might already be full and you’ll have to wait for the next bus.
A few ADO tips
For long rides, seats are numbered. Sit in the seat that is assigned to you
For short rides, people don’t sit in the assigned seat. Confusing!
Your luggage will get tagged and you get your luggage tag
Some buses have wifi and power sockets
ADO buses have movies with a lot of noise
Regional buses – first-class buses
Mexico counts a lot of different bus companies which serve the different regions in Mexico. If you’re staying in a hostel or hotel, staff will usually be able to tell you which companies to take in that area. The best-known companies are ABC buses, Estrella Blanca, and Pullman. All of these companies offer first-class buses that are clean and punctual.
Shuttles are mostly organized by travel agencies. They’re not always the cheapest option, but they are convenient and comfortable. The shuttles have a fixed price per trip and they’re used by travelers and tourists. We found that we like them a lot for border-crossing trips or to travel to places where buses won’t go. The travel agency takes care of everything and shuttles are very easy to use. If you want a local travel experience, they might not be the best choice, since you’ll probably only meet other tourists on these buses. The shuttles are minibuses that can transport up to 15 people and their luggage at once. Sometimes the buses are bigger and can transport a lot more people. The best way to book shuttles is a hostel or a travel agency in the town you’re visiting. Prices vary and sometimes you can bargain on the price.
Collectivos are also small minibuses, but they usually cover shorter distances, like trips through a larger city. Depending on the city you’re in, prices vary between 5 and 15 pesos. This is the local way of traveling and we recommend trying a collectivo at least once. We enjoy them a lot because this is the way locals travel. If you need a ride from outside town to the city center, try one of these. The buses ride mainly on bigger streets and you can hail them down by standing at the side of the street. You just wave when you see one passing by. Most collectivos have a driver and an assistant. The assistant is there to help you answer questions and get into the van. Just ask the assistant if the bus is going to your destination and he will confirm or deny. Then ask for the price to make sure you won’t pay too much. We have never been ripped off when taking a collectivo, but I always ask for the price before we enter our first collectivo in a new city. Prices are the same for the entire city and every collectivo will charge you the same price. Sometimes there will be a lot of people inside the minibus and even when you think they can’t fit anymore people, … they can! Prepare to get close to locals and have a good laugh. We found that locals are usually happy to help you if you don’t really know where you should get off. If you want to exit the collectivo, you just yell stop, ‘pare’, ‘aqui’ or ‘baja’. Almost anything will do! They don’t have set bus stops and they will stop anywhere you want to get off.
We’re not really fans of using taxis, but sometimes there is no other way. Taxis tend to be expensive and we recommend discussing the price before you get into the taxi. If you’re already at your destination, there’s no way of discussing the price and chances are good that you’ll get ripped off. It’s a good idea to ask a local about the taxi price to a certain destination before you start hailing one down. This way, you know what locals pay for the trip. As a tourist, you’ll probably pay a little more, but you can tell if it’s just too expensive. Taxis in Mexico don’t have a meter and they set a fixed price to take you somewhere. In some places, there are posters with the taxi fare, so discussions aren’t possible. Sometimes taxis charge more for taking your luggage or backpack. This isn’t really legal, but there isn’t much you can do about it. When hailing down a taxi in the street, you can always choose to let the driver take off without you if you think he’s charging too much. When you’re taking a taxi from the airport to a hotel, this isn’t always possible and you just have to take the taxi that is first in line, no matter which price he charges you. But even then, you can always walk away. We found that taxi drivers at airports aren’t shy of lying to you. They will tell you that there is no bus terminal or that there are no buses leaving at the time. They might just be trying to get you into their car. We’ve been tricked a few times before we were able to get a bus from the airport to the city.
Night buses are a decent way to travel in Mexico. It’s convenient and cheap since you’re saving on a night in a hotel. We do recommend taking first-class buses for overnight journeys. The buses that ride at night are actually the same that travel by day, so they’re not really sleeper buses. But they’re still pretty comfortable. Seats can be reclined and the driver will turn off the lights. There won’t be any movies with a lot of noise as there are during day trips. Night buses are safe to take, even though you should always secure your carry-on gear. It’s safe to sleep in night buses. We usually put our bags between our legs or find another way to keep in touch with our valuables. We never lost anything in Mexican buses so far.
Some people sleep better in night buses than other people. It can be annoying if you can’t catch sleep, like me. If you’re not a good bus sleeper, you might need a few hours of sleep during the next day.
First class buses are very safe and secure, nothing to worry about. Shuttles, collectivos, and taxis are also safe, but as a traveler, you should always keep an eye on your stuff. Make sure your luggage is on board before you relax. We always check this, but we saw other people starting to worry about their backpack once we were well on our way. Make sure everything is with you before the bus leaves. Same thing counts for getting off. Always check your seat for things you might have forgotten.
We’ve read that night bus travel in remote or poor areas of Mexico is not advised. We haven’t taken these specific buses. If you doubt the safety of the area by night, always check with your hostel or host to see what the current situation is. If you fear night buses might not be safe, don’t do it. Feeling safe is just too important!
Mexican bus terminals are guarded by armed men and they are safe places to be. The area surrounding the bus terminal can sometimes be dodgy, but you’re safe inside the terminal. Bus terminals can also be a safe place to hide from the city if you need some time to relax. Bus terminals have wifi, little shops, luggage storage, power sockets and more facilities.
Mexico Transportation Tips
Take enough drinks and snacks
Bring your music player and headset or watch the movies
Air Conditioning can be very cold. Wear long trousers and take a warm sweater.