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Buses in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know

Buses in Mexico: Everything You Need to Know

One of the best ways to get around Mexico is to use the very well connected Mexican bus lines. 

Traveling by bus around Mexico is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to see the country. Buses here aren’t just for backpackers in Mexico, they’re for anyone who wants to sit back and enjoy a relaxing journey and has a bit more time than they do money.

And I bet it’s nothing like what you imagine.

Bus companies in Mexico are privately owned and most are luxury compared to taking the bus in the US.

Most inter-city buses in Mexico have bathrooms (sometimes one each for men and women!). They offer you snacks and drinks. Some even give you sandwiches if the trip is longer than four or five hours.

Depending on where you plan to travel in Mexico, there’s a pretty good chance you only have to take one or two buses to get yourself there.

Top Destinations to Visit in Mexico By Bus

If you land in Cancun and you want to explore more of the Riviera Maya, you can hop on a bus to Playa del Carmen, Tulum, Bacalar, and even to the tiny border town of Chetumal (be sure to go to El Taco Loco while you’re there).

Buses connect Mexico City with pretty much the entire country. You can take the bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca, Mexico City to Puebla, Mexico City to Veracruz.

You can even take the bus from Mexico City to Houston, Texas!

Mexico City is no doubt the hub you’ll want to get to if you want to travel extensively around the country, but you can also simply choose a region of the country to travel through.

Like I mentioned above, you can explore most of the Yucatan without having to backtrack on yourself. Start in Merida, head to Cancun, hop a ferry to Isla Mujeres. Then a bus from Cancun to Tulum and finish with a day or two in the beautiful Bacalar.

riding a bus on a dirt road

Figuring out the Bus Routes in Mexico

Whenever I’m traveling to a new part of Mexico, I always like to check which bus companies are traveling between the two destinations.

Some companies are definitely better than others (more on that later) and if there are a few options, I like to know all of them before booking anything.

The easiest way to find out what bus companies are traveling between two cities in Mexico is to simply Google the route.

I usually type something like this into Google:

“Mexico City to Aguascalientes by bus”

A few websites will pop up to try to help you find (and book) the best options available.

The one website that I use consistently and have found to be the most accurate for buses in Mexico is Rome2Rio.

It tells you EXACTLY what bus companies go between each destination. It has the most up-to-date information about when the buses leave each day, how much the tickets cost, and from which bus station they leave from and enter into (Mexico City has four, so you don’t want to go to the wrong one!).

I never book my bus tickets through them, although it appears to be an option on their website. 

using rome2rio to book buses in mexico

On the main page of the website, you simply put in the city you want to start in and the city you want to go to

 

rome2rio buses in mexico map

Then you will see this page which shows you all of the different possibilities for getting between these two cities. If there were trains in Mexico, you would also be able to see those options. It often gives you information on renting a car and driving directions too if you would prefer that.

 

the route between two places

When you click one of the options, such as bus, you’ll then get a breakdown of how to get to the bus station from your current location and then how long that bus will take to get you to your final destination. If you click any of these, you’ll get more information. For instance, if you click the arrow on the right-hand side of the orange line, you’ll be able to see how much the bus costs and what bus companies are available for this journey.

How to Buy Bus Tickets in Mexico

Now that you know where to find the information about each bus route in Mexico, you’ll want to figure out the best way to buy them.

If you are a laid-back traveler and the bus that you want to take leaves several times a day, you can simply show up to the bus station and buy your tickets from the ticket counter.

This is why it is SO important to know which bus companies go to the destination that you want. Because, when you get to any bus station in Mexico, all you’ll see are tons of different desks with the bus company’s names on them.

For example, you want to take the bus from Mexico City to Puebla. The best option, in my opinion, is to head to TAPO bus terminal on the east side of Mexico City. From here, you’ll head to the ADO desk and purchase a ticket on the next available bus to Puebla.

Buses from Mexico City’s TAPO to Puebla leave roughly every 20 minutes, so you really don’t need to book in advance at all.

HOWEVER, if you are going between two places and there is only one or two or even only five buses a day, you will definitely want to book a few days in advance.

If you are traveling during peak times like Semana Santa (Easter week) or the week before Christmas, you’ll want to book at least a week in advance.

You can pre-book tickets by going to the website of the bus company that you want to book.

So in the above example, you would go to the ADO website (or better yet, download their app), and then you can buy your tickets there.

Another reason to pre-book your tickets a few days in advance is that you usually get the ticket for cheaper than buying it on the day. The prices are usually minimal, but who doesn’t love saving a few dollars when you can? 

bus station in mexico

Mexican Bus Companies

There are a lot of bus companies in Mexico and as I mentioned above, some are better than others.

I mention below some of the largest. These are the bus companies that you’ll see around Mexico most, especially if you remain amongst the most popular areas of the country (Mexico City, Oaxaca, Riviera Maya, Cabo, and Puerto Vallarta).

If you cannot find the below bus companies, fear not. I have also enjoyed journeys on buses with Flecha Amarillo, Futura, and 

ADO Bus Mexico

This is one of the largest bus companies in Mexico. ADO owns several smaller bus companies that you will also see around Mexico including OCC which you’ll find in some parts of the Yucatan, Chiapas, and Oaxaca.

If you plan to travel around central Mexico, Oaxaca, the Riviera Maya, the Yucatan, Campeche, and south into Chiapas and Oaxaca, there’s a good chance you’ll be taking an ADO bus. 

ADO buses also service Hidalgo, Morelia, Xalapa, Tabasco, the State of Mexico Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, Acapulco and Cuernavaca.

You can search for all destinations and routes on their website as well as purchase tickets there, too.

I highly recommend downloading the ADO app if you can on either Android or Apple phones. It’s a great way to prebook your tickets and you can have them on your phone, no need to print them off. 

ADO buses have a few different “classes” depending on the destination. First classes buses (sometimes called Primera) are very spacious and comfortable. The seats recline and there is a bathroom on-board.

If you are traveling long distances, like from Mexico City to Oaxaca, you may want to consider the ADO GL buses. These are even nicer than the first-class buses. Although I’ve never been on one, these are the most luxurious option available for traveling with ADO.

figuring out if puerto vallarta's beach is the safest city in mexico

ETN Bus Mexico

ETN buses are some of the nicest and often tend to be double-decker buses, so there are two levels. 

You’ll find ETN buses around Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, and Queretaro as well as along the west coast in Jalisco, Colima and Nayarit.

If you want to take the bus from Guadalajara to Melaque or Puerto Vallarta to Manzanillo, you’ll find ETN buses to be one of the best options available.

All of the buses have air-conditioning, power outlets, and very, very bad wifi that you can connect to. Depending on the trip, you’ll also get a drink and a snack when you board the bus.

You can book ETN bus tickets in advance on their website

Primera Plus Mexico

Primera Plus is one of my favorite bus companies (the snacks are always so delicious). 

I usually take Primera Plus between Mexico City and Guanajuato. It also connects you to San Luis Potosi, Queretaro, Leon, Puerto Vallarta, and Guadalajara.

I find the experience with Primera Plus to be one of the best. The service is great, they are quick, but thorough in checking bags and ensuring safety on their buses.

That, and you almost always get cookies, a drink, and a sandwich when you get on the bus.

You can pre-book tickets or check destinations on their website

taking the cdmx bus in mexico city

Cost of Buses in Mexico

The cost of taking the bus in Mexico depends largely on how far you want to travel, what class of bus you want to travel on, and what bus company you want to go with.

For instance, if you want to travel from Mexico City to Guanajuato, you have a few options. You can go directly there with ETN or Primera Plus and pay roughly 600 Pesos ($30 USD) to get there. 

These are plush seats and you don’t have to change buses or get off anywhere along the way.

Alternatively, you could pay for a local bus that makes a few more stops and doesn’t have reclining seats or a bathroom. Two that head that way are Flecha Rojo and Pegasso. These seats cost around 250-300 Pesos ($12-15 USD).

I have taken second class buses like these a few times around Mexico. Usually, this is simply because there aren’t any other options (like to go from Queretaro to Peña de Bernal or Merida to Uxmal). 

For short journeys, I don’t see any real problem and often they are much cheaper.

However, for longer journeys, I do find first-class buses to be the safest and most comfortable options.

renting a car in Mexico so that you can get out on the open road and explore these mountain roads

Bus Stations in Mexico

Bus stations in Mexico vary greatly depending on whether or not it’s a big city, whether it’s the main bus terminal or not, whether it’s a first-class bus terminal or a second class bus terminal. 

For the most part, you will always be able to find a bathroom, but it will usually cost you between 3 and 6 Pesos which is less than 25¢. 

Most places have at least one or two food options. If there isn’t a food option inside the bus station, there will without a doubt be lines of stalls and vendors outside of the bus terminal where you can get some tacos or snacks to take on the bus with you.

In many smaller towns and cities, the bus terminal allows vendors to come onto the bus just a few minutes before you leave to try to sell you sodas, waters, sandwiches, and other snacks for the journey. 

I love this part and usually find the best tortas and cheapest bottles of water this way, especially on a second-class bus where you get no snacks. 

I highly recommend staying near the door (labeled in Spanish as the puerta) that your ticket tells you to go to for 10-15 minutes before the bus is due to leave.

Often they don’t let you outside and through security until just before your bus is about to board, especially in very busy terminals like those in Mexico City or Guadalajara.

If you are unsure and don’t speak Spanish, simply show your ticket to one of the security guards near the puerta for your bus and they will tell you whether it’s time to board yet or not.

the merida sign on paseo de montejo

Safety on Buses in Mexico

Like any type of safety in Mexico talk, it varies greatly depending on where you are and who you ask.

I have taken dozens, perhaps over 50 different buses in Mexico. 

I have been to every bus station in Mexico City several times.

I’ve ridden on first and second class buses.

I’ve taken buses that stop constantly and allow anyone on the bus along the highway without any real security checks and I’ve been on buses that require everyone to walk through a metal detector and have all of their bags searched before you can get on.

I have been on buses where halfway to the destination, police officers get on and film everyone in case someone tries to hold up the bust on the way to the next destination then they can identify you.

In all of these situations, in all of these bus journeys, I’ve never ever had a single problem.

All of my things arrive safely and in one piece, including myself.

However, that doesn’t mean every single bus journey is safe or that you will never have a problem. 

Stories of Taking the Bus in Mexico

A fellow travel blogger friend was taking an ADO bus from Tulum to Cancun and she fell asleep and someone went into her backpack which was right by her feet and they stole her wallet with all of her cash and credit cards inside it.

She was traveling by herself and so whoever stole from her felt that his or her chances were pretty good.

I’ve heard stories of people who take the second class bus from Mexico City to Puebla and the buses have stopped to pick up passengers and someone gets on and steals from every person on the bus at knifepoint.

These sort of things can happen if you don’t take precautions. I always keep my valuables on my body when I travel. My phone and wallet remain in my pockets. 

I only started doing that after I heard what happened to that other travel blogger. 

I try to learn from the things that I hear. I take first-class buses, especially in areas only a few hours outside of Mexico City because these seem to be some of the most affected places. I don’t want the bus I’m on to stop along the way at all.

Video of Taking the Bus in Mexico

I recently took the bus to Puebla and thought it would be helpful to those of you that want more of a visual. Here’s what it’s like to take the bus from Mexico City to Puebla.

 

Charles M

Monday 8th of March 2021

Hola Laura, my wife and I recently started watching your videos and reading your posts. Excellent! One question please on the bus post. I have heard it is not possible to book and pay online with any of the bus companies direct unless you have a Mexican credit card. Could you kindly clarify this point please? . Gracias and keep up your terrific information you share and service you give everyone.

Laura Bronner

Monday 8th of March 2021

Hi Charles, I have used my own credit and debit cards before which are from the US, however, I tend to use Paypal now since it's the easier option and there are no conversion fees this way from my bank (because then Paypal charges my card in USD rather than Pesos). Of course, it depends on the bus company (and sometimes on your bank). Big ones like ADO and Aguila shouldn't be a problem, but more local or regional companies may not accept foreign cards. Hope that helps!