If you need to take a bus in Mexico, you'll most likely want to make a reservation.
While, in some cases, the buses aren't full, and you'll probably be able to get on board by just showing up, you shouldn't take that risk. Instead, get your tickets in advance so that you know you're guaranteed to be able to travel when you want to.
Making Mexico bus reservations are easy, though they can seem tricky if you don't speak or read Spanish, or because Mexico buses may not have websites or accept reservations from outside Mexico. Know this: Mexico first class buses are usually not full, and you'll probably get on a bus by showing up at the station right up until the moment the bus leaves; if you're hoping to get on a second class bus, show up at the station an hour or so early and you'll likely get lucky.
As in most cases when it comes to travel: if you want to be certain, book in advance. If you'd prefer to have the freedom to decide when to move on at a moment's notice, prepare yourself for potential disappointment.
Can't make a reservation online on a Mexico bus, and can't call Mexico on your cell phone? In that case, you may feel antsy because (for instance) you're hoping to get straight onto a bus after getting off an international plane and want the security of a reservation. One solution we tried:
Find a local (to the city in which you're getting on the bus) Mexico travel agent with an email address (or call a local Mexico travel agent using Skype) and make arrangements to buy bus tickets through the travel agent.
You can grab a cab to the travel agent's office and pick up your bus tickets once you arrive in your target city, or arrange to pick up your tickets at the bus company's window at the bus station, or ask the travel agent to meet you at the bus station.
We did this last with a wonderful Puerto Vallarta travel agency, Travel and Tour Puerto Vallarta and they were fabulously helpful, meeting us at the international gate and handing over tickets to a bus that was leaving for Guadalajara in 20 minutes.
You'll pay a little more to use a travel agent, but it'll be worth it to know that you're guaranteed a seat on the bus, and that you haven't had to waste an entire afternoon trying to figure out how to buy a ticket in Spanish.
Mexico Bus Websites
Several veteran Mexico bussers have some terrifically detailed websites listing all the Mexico bus companies. Check out the links below for more information on what to expect from the buses, how to book tickets, and more.
How to Find and Ride the Bus in Mexico
Buses are a great way to see more of Mexico. If you're planning on taking any in Mexico, read up on what to expect from your trip:
- All About Buses in Mexico
Mexico Bus Safety Tips
To my great surprise, I discovered that Mexico buses are very safe, and actually very comfortable. My ADO bus from Puerto Vallarta to Guarajuato was one of the nicest I've experienced in my five years of travel! I had air conditioning, a comfortable seat, some free snacks and a bottle of water, and my seat fully reclined horizontally, which was wonderful as it was an overnight bus journey.
Still, it's worth taking a few precautions on the buses, just in case. I recommend putting your main backpack in the hold, and then keeping your daypack with all of your technology in front of your seat with you. You want to keep everything valuable in this smaller backpack and then have it by your side at all times. That way, if something did happen to your backpack in the hold, you'll have everything essential on you anyway.
This article has been edited and updated by Lauren Juliff.