Today’s subject: Buses in México
If you’re from the USA, you’re used to Greyhound and Trailways. Let me tell you that they have totally destroyed bus credibility North of México. I vividly, and not fondly, remember a ride from Decatur, Il to New Orleans, LA one fall. Bad, uncomfortable seats that were far too narrow – and that was during my skinny time! Dirty, smelly bathrooms on board – and we won’t even discuss the ones in the stations!
Rest assured, interstate bus travel in México is NOT the same! It’s even better than air travel in most ways, with the exception of duration. I always pop the very little more for the premium/first class option as there are less stops and more amenities. A lot of times you even get a meal! Ok, it always seems to be a ham and cheese sandwich, cookies, and a can of pop – but hey! It’s better than the nothing you got flying! And there’s ample legroom – AMPLE. Seats recline almost all the way back, and there’s this ironing board contraption on the back of the seat ahead of you (at least on TAP Doble Piso buses) that folds down to support your legs and feet if you feel like napping.
Entertainment centers, some with the ability to change the language to English. Wi-Fi. USB and power outlets. Curtains for the windows that can be opened or shut. Comfy seats that don’t cause me to yearn for valium.
And discounts – Most will give you 10% off if you order online. And if you’re paying by credit card and the system doesn’t like it you can tell the agent at the ticket counter and ask for the discount. You may get it one way, you may get it both ways! If you’re a student you often get 50% off. Teachers usually get 25% off. Seniors, with an INAPAM (INSEN) card get 50% off, but they only offer a couple of seats per trip at this discount so first come, first served. Oh, and when you check in at the counter, the agent will almost always write the bus number (located on the lower left or right on the outside front of the bus) on your ticket so you can find the right bus.
My FAVORITE perk is that occasionally, if you’re lucky, the driver will stop for roadside food. A small tray of little bean burritos will typically set you back 30 or 35 pesos and are really tasty! I did have some chicken tamales once, and they hadn’t removed the bones – but it was good and the bus waited while we spit bones out into the oil-barrel trash can next to the road!
On the double decker buses you can ride in the first row and get a great view of where you’re going. Sometimes (as in the narrow, windy, mountain roads of Nayarit) this is not a good thing – especially if it’s raining!
The route from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta is very pretty. It takes around 8 hours, and there is a 15 minute stop in Tepic, then a couple of stops around Nuevo Vallarta. Compare that to the 4 1/2 hour flight. Add two hours for the “get to the airport early” factor. For me, add another 30 to 45 minutes to get from Centro to the airport (bus station is 10 minutes away from me by uber/taxi). All said, getting to see the countryside in comfort is worth the extra couple of hours. And that doesn’t mention the cost savings.
If you’re traveling in México do yourself a favor and do not rule out doing the trip by buses. You’ll see so much more, and see pueblos that you’d never even know were there from 30,000 feet!