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Inter-city bus transportation
Posted by: HoboSylvain | 2014-03-08 19:46:17 | Cancun, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Keywords: bus, transportation
Generally, we can say that Mexicans do things much differently than we do in Canada and USA and comparing them would often be comparing apples with oranges.  But there's one aspect of Mexican life that beats hands down whatever is done up North and it's inter-city bus transportation.

Mexicans are the experts in bus transportation and offer a large variety of classes, most of which make look their Northern twins poorly.  In the US and Canada I took many Greyhound buses that wouldn't be allowed to run in Mexico!

We could begin by stating there are two major services.  The first one is mostly used by tourists while the other is mostly used by locals.  Each of those services is divided in three classes.

Tourist classes

Generally, all tourist-class buses use the same bus terminal in a city (see terminal above in Cancún). First, there's the standard first-class, then the luxury class and the grand luxury class.  Each level of course adds services or comfort but they all include toilet and conditioned air.

These all use very modern buses which are very comfortable and safe.  They mostly do direct connection,  going from point A to point B in a few hours.  There are sometimes very long routes (16 hours or more) with many stops, including sometimes a meal one (maximum 30 mins).  When possible, they use the toll highways, which are faster and more secure.  For trips longer than 3 or 4 hours, there's generally a second driver on board, who can go underneath the bus for a nap in a special compartment in front of the luggage areas. All tourist classes have registered luggage service... so someone tags your luggage and place them under the bus, giving you a redemption coupon.

Bed compartment in tourist classes buses for the second driver.

The different classes are not offered by all the classes but if you can go from A to B in luxury classes, there's also a first-class service doing the same route. Although mostly intended for tourists, you will find normally about half of the passengers of first class buses to be Mexicans because those buses do long trips, which normally second class won't cover.  You will virtually find none in the luxury classes however.

For each class I list a few brands, but there are many all over the country, I can't list them all.  A good online resource to find about the prices and schedules is

First class

Brands: OdeM, ADO, OCC, Estrella Roja
Cost: about 50-100 pesos per hour
Seats: Normally about 46, with plenty of leg room even for me!
Services: Conditioned air, store and curtains in tinted windows, one toilet, TV screens presenting movies during the ride, with audio being broadcasted in the speakers.

Luxury class

Brands: OdeM Plus, ADO gl
Cost: about 75-120 pesos per hour 20% more than 1st class
Seats: about 44, more leg room because one row less
Services: Same as first class plus snack and beverage bag as you get onboard.  There are two toilets: one for men, one for women.  The audio for the movie is available through headsets connectors, as long with music channels.   There's WiFi onboard. The passenger section is closed from the driver area by a door.

Grand luxury

Brands: ADO Platinum, ETN, Turistar
Cost: about 120-150 pesos per hour, 50% more than 1st class.
Seats: 21 (7 rows of two and one seats), reclinable in horizontal position
Services: same as luxury, plus beverage station and service employee (bus attendant) and each seat has its Android tablet for entertainment.

So, in comparison, the old white Greyhound buses wouldn't make first class and the newer blue ones would barely with their WiFi, but with cramped space.

The second-class bus I took from Villahermosa to Palenque.

Locals classes

The expression "second class" refers to both the relatively new intermedio class and the real second class.  They often leave from the same second-class terminals.  These are usually different ones than first class ones, and the could be more than one second-class terminal in a city, deserving different companies.  You will find almost no information online about second class services, you have to ask locally.

Both services run trips no longer than 5 hours normally.  Considering they take mostly main roads and they stop everywhere, that gives them a service distance around 300 km.

Contrary to the tourists classes who do go at the same destinations, second-class routes are normally offered by only one company, thus only one class.  Your destination will decide if it will be intermedio or second class, not you. There is no luggage registration, and no one will handle them for you... so you place them yourself under the bus and you take them out once at destination.

Both classes (and the colectivo below) are really milk runs and can be stopped at any point along the way, in addition to the bus stop in every town and village it crosses.  I've seen for example a bus stopping at three consecutive street corners, to board passengers, while we had just left the terminal 10 blocks before.

If you take one of those buses, you'll probably be the only gringo onboard.

Intermedio class

Brands: ATS, Sur, TRT, TRV, Mayan, Oriente
Cost: about 30 pesos per hour
Seats: vary a lot depending on bus model, but around 48, still pretty comfy for long legs, better than Greyhound.
Services: conditioned air and window curtains (no toilet, no entertainment)

Second class

Brands: usually none visible
Cost: about 20-25 pesos per hour
Seats: vary a lot depending on bus model, usually tight space and old less comfy seats
Services: open windows and front door for ventilation and driver's radio for entertainment.


Brands: none, white vans with destination printed on front
Cost: about 40 pesos per hour
Seats: benches or individual seats for about 10 to 15, all facing forward, as opposed to the city colectivos which have benches along their walls.
Services: none

The colectivos usually cover a range of 50 to 75 km, deserving busy sites or small communities off the path of the second class buses.  You usually board them on a street corner where their stand is... And pay as you get out. The locals also refer to the inter-city colectivos as taxis.

A colectivo doing a run to a nearby town from Merida.

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