There are three main routes to Mexico: by plane or private vehicle.
We’ll be sharing all the information you need on bus travel throughout Mexico in this blog post. This post is intended for backpackers visiting Mexico for longer periods of time. It’s not for rent-a-car travelers.
To give you an idea, we only spent three months in Mexico. We used buses to travel from one place to the next. We traveled with numerous bus companies and waited at various bus stations. While this does not make us experts in any way, it allows us to give you insider advice, tips, and comparisons about the different bus operators.
Mexico bus travel
Before we dive into the details, let me say that using the bus to get around is not just a cost-saving move. It will exceed your expectations. We were pleasantly surprised by ours.
Mexico does not have a national company for bus transportation. Mexico is home to many regional companies, which can cover most of the destinations you might visit during your trip. I will detail them below.
Mexico, it seems, has spent a lot of money on high-speed toll roads. Bus operators have also made investments to build a large bus network throughout the country. These inter-city busses usually come in three types: executive, second and first class. Executive and first-class buses provide a comfortable and safe environment for long trips. While second-class buses are generally just as safe, they tend to be more common for shorter trips. Do you think this sounds too good to true?
After having used many well-respected bus companies in Europe and the USA, including Megabus, Greyhound, Megabus, National Express and National Express, it is safe to say that Mexico’s buses were our absolute favorite. The seats were so comfortable that we only saw them when we were on board planes in business class. Our legroom was fantastic with leg rests that felt like we were sleeping in bed. Many entertainment services were also available on board to keep you entertained.
Here are some things to think about before you travel by bus to Mexico
You don’t want to be a raving fan of bus travel, so ask these questions before you buy your bus tickets.
- Can I easily get motion sickness? If you are suffering from severe motion sickness, I would not recommend traveling by bus around the country. The journeys can be long and bumpy, with some areas being very windy. Flying is a better choice.
- How much time do you have? – Make sure you travel on the same day as your bus so that you can get there in a timely manner. While buses usually arrive on time with minimal delays, it’s impossible to predict what could happen on the roads. It is not worth risking missing an important flight, for instance.
- Do I speak Spanish? – While you can communicate in English at airports and bus stations, it is not possible to do so at bus stations. We were surprised to find very few English-speaking people at major stations like Mexico City. Before you travel, it is worth learning the basics such as how to request bus tickets, dates and times, as well as numbers. The life-saving Google Translate App will be your best friend on your journeys.
Is Mexico safe for bus travel?
You should also consider safety before you take a long-distance trip by bus.
I will be brief: Yes.
We felt safe on all the buses, night or day. We didn’t feel unsafe waiting at the bus stops either. Crimes are common in densely populated places. Although you might read horror stories about people who were in the wrong spot at the wrong time, I believe this is extremely rare.
Although you’re more likely to have a pleasant journey, below is a list of my general safety tips.
- I recommend calling an Uber, official taxi, if you’re traveling alone, or if you need to travel to the bus stop for an overnight bus,
- We have used public transport many times to get to the station. However, it is important to avoid traveling during rush hour. It is uncomfortable and awkward for all your belongings to be crammed into a metro station. It can be difficult to see every bag you have.
- When you get to the station, be sure to bring all of your belongings. It is much easier to grab food or use the bathroom if you are travelling with small groups.
- You can add extra security to your bag by locking it and your backpacks.
- Although it is obvious, don’t leave any valuables in the bag. They can be stolen, but they can also be thrown around.
- In the event that your bag is lost or stolen, it’s important to have travel insurance.
There will be a Central de Autobuses bus station in almost all cities and towns. Although they are called “central”, the stops will be found a little further away from the town than in the centre.
Although it is rare in Costa Rica to have a separate terminal for each bus company, it is not uncommon. A long-distance and local bus station will often be found in large cities. Mexico City has four long distance bus stations. You should check where your bus leaves from before you depart on your trip.
You’ll find a range of bus companies at the bus station selling tickets, as well as convenience stores selling snacks and drinks. Toilets will also be available at bus stations. These toilets are usually available at a cost of 5 to 6 pesos.
Top tips – Be sure to bring some coins so you can use the metal gates. Towel paper might cost more so bring extra change.
You can also wait at the bus station until your bus is ready to board.
Top Tip At the ticket counter they will tell which gate your bus departs from. If you’re not sure, you can always double-check with the staff at each gate.
Usually, the size of a bus station determines the type and quantity of facilities available. It is important to research the area and buy enough food and drink before you go to bus stops. Puerto Escondido was one example. It felt very empty and there weren’t any nearby supermarkets.
Bus Tickets Online vs. at the Bus Station
Many companies have their own websites, where you can buy your bus ticket. Some companies offer discounts if you book your ticket online.
These websites might not be as sophisticated as you expect. You might not be able to book your tickets online in some cases.
We found that certain websites do not accept credit card payments from Mexican bank accounts.
Another problem we encountered when buying tickets online was that they asked for your postcode, but only numbers. We have numbers in the UK as well as letters so the section couldn’t be completed correctly.
Certain bus companies may request your passport and an Immigration Form (FMM), if you want to purchase a ticket. This is especially true if you travel between states. It is likely that you will have to buy your ticket at the station, rather than online.
Even if it is not possible to book your tickets online, at least the websites will let you see their times and prices.