Did you know that train travel is almost non-existent in Mexico?
People travel within the country by bus, car or air. Bus travel is the most popular mode of travel with a number of excellent long-distance bus lines connecting major cities across the country.
Large cities have centralized bus stations resembling more like airport terminals. These modern bus terminals are huge complexes with an airport-like look and feel, having several terminals, each playing host to the arrival and departure of two or more different bus lines.
Mexico City is a central bus hub for many destinations in Mexico with its four main bus terminals – Norte (North), Sur (South), Oriente (East) and Poniente (West)-connecting travelers with all the regions of the country.
Inside the terminals, ticket desks of the different bus companies prominently display the list of destinations, class of bus service and the scheduled time. The lounge area offers many facilities including cafés and shops for travelers to pass their time till the boarding for their bus at the specified gate is announced.
On the most frequent routes, travelers have a choice of three service levels: De Lujo (Luxury), Primera clase (First class) and Segunda clase (Second class). Traveling by the ‘luxurious executive-class’ buses is akin to traveling first class by air!
The Luxury and the First class buses transport passengers in comfort and safety, on high-specification, quiet, modern, air-conditioned buses for as little as 10% of the equivalent flight cost. These buses run on time and only travel on the toll-roads, making the journey fast and efficient. The vehicles have double-glazed windows, modern suspension, speed-limiters and equipped with on-board toilet. The Luxury class buses (manufactured by Volvo or Mercedes) offer the latest in bus technology and comfort. They have 24 wide, comfortable seats on a 2+1 seat arrangement. Each seat is equipped with blankets, back cushion and earphones for those interested in watching movies or listening to music. There are flat screen TVs after every four rows, which play Hollywood movies dubbed or subtitled in Spanish during the entire course of the journey.While boarding the bus, the passengers are provided with complimentary snacks (usually a sandwich and savories) and a cold drink as well as tea or coffee sachets to enjoy a hot beverage on board.
Luxury class buses run non-stop to their destination; First class buses make an intermediary stop at a major town or city en route; while Second class buses stop almost everywhere. First class buses provide many of the services offered on the executive service including an on-board toilet, but the seat configuration is less comfortable as there is less room for stretching out.
Second class buses offer air-conditioning on some routes, but they are less comfortable than executive and first class buses. They take longer to reach the destination due to frequent stops.
Within cities too, different types of local buses, including the air-conditioned ones, operate on specific routes.
The green and white minibuses called micros (or peseras) are very convenient modes of public transport and are found everywhere. At a few pesos, one can travel to any place on its route.
Both, micros and local buses display the route and major stops on the front windshield. At the bus stop, one has to wave at the bus for it to halt. There is a stop button at the rear exit, and one can also get off from the front by telling the driver “La esquina, por favour” which means “The corner, please” or “Aqui, por favour” which is “Here, please.” Some of the local buses are really colorful!
In many cities and small towns, combi buses called colectivos or combis are very popular among locals and tourists. The colectivo is a popular shared van service that carries up to ten passengers and their luggage at a reasonable fixed cost. Starting from a terminal, colectivos pick up their passengers at set locations or on the road.
On inter-city and tourist routes, one can travel by air-conditioned colectivos which are clean, new and very comfortable VW vans. These are quite different from the rundown colectivos operating in small towns and villages.
In small towns, the rustic combis or colectivos can accommodate about 10-12 people at a fixed cost of few pesos each, providing a cheap (if not always direct) mode of getting around the area. They run throughout the town and to the surrounding villages.
When I was in Mexico, I had traveled in most of the buses mentioned above and let me tell you that it had been a fun experience with a different flavor each and every time.
And now, here’s a mariachi song which goes well with the bus travel theme El Carretero Enjoy 🙂
Until we meet again…take care 🙂