Bus travel in Mexico is generally efficient, economical and comfortable. The main consideration when contemplating getting around by bus is the great distances involved. If you're planning to cover a lot of ground, you may be better off traveling by air. Mexico is a big country and you wouldn't want to spend a large portion of your trip sitting on a bus - although the landscapes are beautiful! Driving yourself will give you more flexibility, but may also entail some hazards; fiind out more about driving in Mexico.
Here is what you should keep in mind if you're planning to travel by bus in Mexico:
Classes of Service
There are several different classes of bus service that run from luxury coaches with reclining seats, air conditioning and video screens to the "chicken buses" that are often retired Bluebird school buses painted in cheerful colors.
Luxury "De Lujo" or "Ejecutivo"
This is the highest level of service, offering all the comforts of first class, plus some added amenities. In some cases the seats recline fully and there are only three seats across instead of the usual four. Refreshments may be served. Often you will have the choice of listening to the video through headphones instead of being forced to listen to it as on most first class buses.
First-class "Primera Clase"
These buses have air-conditioning and reclining seats. Many show videos and have a toilet at the back of the bus. These generally provide non-stop service on federal toll highways where available.
They offer transportation to popular destinations and cities but generally do not offer service to small towns.
Second-class "Segunda Clase"
In some cases second-class buses depart from a different bus station than first class buses. Some offer direct or express service, but the generally stop to puck up and drop off passengers along the route.
There are generally no reserved seats and when the bus is crowded some passengers may ride standing up.
Second class bus service offers transportation to villages and destinations that first class buses don't alwas cover and may be a good choice for short trips. Second-class buses are more colorful, drivers often decorate the front of their buses, and vendors may get on and off. Riding on second class buses can offer you a glimpse into the life of poorer Mexicans and yes, it's possible that your seat buddy may be carrying a chicken.
Mexican Bus Lines
Different bus lines serve different geographical areas and offer varying levels of service.
Serving central and southern Mexico, the ADOO group offers a few different classes of service, from Primera Clase, GL (Gran Lujo) to UNO, the most luxurious option. Check schedule and fares through the Ticketbus Web Site.
Tips for Bus Travel in Mexico
On weekends and holidays it may be necessary to buy your ticket a few days in advance (48 hours is usually sufficient).
When purchasing your ticket you will often be asked your name - if your name is non-Hispanic it may be helpful to have it written down so you can just show it to the ticket salesperson. You may be shown a graph of the bus and get to choose your seat.
Air-conditioning is sometimes excessively cold so take a sweater. Occasionally the air-conditioning breaks down, so wear layers that you can remove.
For long trips take food and water with you. Stops are short and few and far between.
Videos shown on long-distance buses in the past were incredibly bad and violent B-movies from the U.S. This seems to be changing a bit and there is now a greater range of movies being shown.
Most towns have one main bus terminal, but some may have different terminals for second and first-class buses. Mexico City, however, has four different bus terminals which serve different destinations throughout the country. Check our guide to Mexico City bus stations.
Learn about more modes of transportation in Mexico.