Buses and Tacos: An Indie Travel Experience in Mexico
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Throw out your assumptions. Forget about comparing the buses and tacos at home to those in Mexico because they are truly worlds apart. The buses are far more comfortable than Greyhound, and after a few tacos in Mexico you’ll wretch at the idea of eating them at you local “Mexican” restaurant.
Buses and tacos vary from region to region, but no matter where you are, a cultural (and budget savvy) experience is waiting for you, so buy a bus ticket and pop by a taco stand for some food to go!
The idea of bus travel in Mexico conjures up images of hard seats, overcrowding, and the need for one of those inflatable donut pillows to keep your ass from bruising. In other words, buses that are less comfortable than Greyhound, and let’s face it, that is setting the bar extremely low. Thankfully the majority of buses in Mexico are nothing like Greyhound. In fact they are way better! Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:
- Deluxe Class – normally double the price of a first class bus, deluxe (or platino) buses come with welcome bag (eye mask, earphones, a beverage), wider seats, in-seat entertainment, restrooms, a coffee/tea/water machine at the back, and air conditioning. In some bus stations there is a special waiting room for deluxe class passengers. It’s like flying first class.
- First Class – the price difference between second class and first class is not a big jump, usually about 10-25% more. A first class ticket comes with a free beverage, plush seats, padded foot rests, air conditioning, and restrooms at the back.
- Second Class – the most budget friendly option for long distance bus travel in Mexico, second class buses come with plush seats, foot rests, and air conditioning. Generally these buses take local routes, which means plenty of stops to buy snacks and visit restrooms. From time to time locals will board the bus and sell snacks, torta (hot sandwiches), or tacos.
- Local or Short Distance – if you’re traveling to a city or town that is 200 miles (or less) from your current location, a short distance bus is ideal, but not comfortable. These buses (or vans in some areas) will have destinations written on their windshield. The fare is usually between 15 and 50 pesos (~$1-4USD), it will be crowded with locals, and the driver will speed his way from point A to point B.
There are several bus companies operating in Mexico, which change from region to region.
- ADO – an extensive network stretching across central and southeast Mexico: Campeche, Chiapas, Distrito Federal, Estado México, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Michoacán, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Quintana Roo (Cancun), Tabasco, Tamaulipas, Tlaxcala, Veracruz, and Yucatán. ADO has second, first, and deluxe (platino) class buses. They also run a bus from Cancun to Belize.
- Costa Line services the central and southwest states of Distrito Federal, Guerrero, and Morelos. Costa Line is incorporated with Futura and has first and second class buses.
- Estrella de Oro serves central Mexico states: Distrito Federal, Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, and Veracruz. Estrella de Oro has four different bus classes – Diamante, Pluss, Primera, and Económico.
- Grupo Senda serves parts of the United States, as well as northern Mexico states: Augascalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Durango, Jalisco, Estado de México, Nuevo León, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas, and Zacatecas. Grupo Senda has executive, first class, and second class service. Each ticket includes a boxed lunch.
- Omnibus de Mexico serves northern and central Mexico states: Auguacalientes, Chihuahua, Coahuila, Colima, Durango, Estado de México, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Nuevo León, Querétaro, San Luis Potosí, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and Zacatecas. Omnibus de Mexico offers first class service.
- Primera Plus serves central Mexico states: Aguascalientes, Distrito Federal, Estado de México, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacán, Nayarit, Querétaro, and San Luis Potosí. Primera Plus is a first class bus, with free wifi on some routes.
- Grupo Senda, Estella Blanco, and ADO own several smaller bus lines, which you can book through their websites. You can also use the Ticket Bus website for bus tickets south of Mexico City.
Sample Itineraries and Fares
Figuring out where to go in Mexico can be a challenge as they are so many cities and towns to experience, but here are a few routes and the transportation cost of each.
Travel from coast to coast
Puerto Vallarta – Guadalajara – Morelia – Mexico City – Oaxaca – San Cristobal – Cancun
- Futura bus lines from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara (383 pesos)
- Elite bus from Guadalajara to Morelia (299 pesos)
- Elite from Morelia to Mexico City (321 pesos)
- ADO bus lines from Mexico City (use the TAPO bus station) to Oaxaca (474 pesos)
- OCC bus lines from Oaxaca to San Cristobal de las Cases (474 pesos)
- OCC from San Cristobal de las Cases to Cancun (808 pesos).
- Total cost 2,759 pesos ($226 USD)
The majority of the above buses are first class; however, OCC bus line is a second class bus. This route may be cheaper if purchased online as they usually have special sales.
Travel down the Pacific coast to Guatemala
Mexicali – Hermosillo – Los Mochis – Mazatlan – Tepic – Sayulita – Puerto Vallarta – Lazaro Cardenas – Acapulco – Oaxaca – Puerto Escondido – Salina Cruz – Tapachula
- Travel with Elite from Mexicali to Hermosilo (579 pesos)
- Elite from Hermosilo to Los Mochis (363 pesos)
- Elite from Los Mochis to Mazatlan (401 pesos)
- Elite from Mazatlan to Tepic (266 pesos)
- Pacifico from Tepic to Sayulita (126 pesos)
- Van share from Sayulita to Puerto Vallarta (50 pesos)
- Futura from Puerto Vallarta to Lazaro Cardenas (736 pesos)
- Futura from Lazaro Cardenas to Acapulco (260 pesos)
- Estrella de Oro from Acapulco to Oaxaca (992 pesos)
- OCC from Oaxaca to Puerto Escondido (318 pesos)
- AU from Puerto Escondido to Salina Cruz (188 pesos)
- OCC from Salina Cruz to Tapachula (342 pesos)
- Total cost 4,621 pesos ($379 USD)
The majority of the buses are first class; OCC and AU are second class, and Pacifico is economy. This itinerary is a budget itinerary. You can upgrade to a better bus at any point, but be prepared to pay 40-60% more.
Experience Mexico’s ruins
Mexico City – Oaxaca – Palenque – Merida – Chichen Itza – Tulum
- Visit Templo Mayor in Mexico City (57 pesos)
- Take a day tour to Teotihuacan (439 pesos)
- Travel with ADO from Mexico City to Oaxaca (474 pesos), visit Monte Albán (57 pesos plus 50 pesos for shuttle)
- Travel with ADO from Oaxaca to Palenque (672 pesos), visit Palenque ruins (57 pesos)
- Travel with ADO from Palenque to Merida (446 pesos), visit Uxmal ruins (57 pesos plus 100 pesos for transport)
- Shuttle from Merida to Chichen Itza (58 pesos), visit Chichen Itza (57 pesos)
- ADO from Chichen Itza to Tulum (148 pesos), visit Tulum (57 pesos).
- Total cost 2,729 ($224 USD). This itinerary has a combination of first class, and second classes buses, as well as van shares.
Bus travel in Mexico is comfortable, affordable, and a great way to see the country. It puts you in a position to interact with locals, experience the culture, and if you’re lucky, the bus driver may let a taco seller on board so you can purchase a few for the remainder of your journey.
Now that you have your bus ticket, it’s time to think about what kind of food you’re going to bring along (and what kind of food you’ll be eating almost every day in Mexico).
Tacos! Cheap and delicious, tacos are the epitome of Mexican cuisine and culture. Finding tacos in Mexico is like finding a 7-eleven in Bangkok. They’re everywhere.
Taco styles vary, as do their price points:
- Cheap tacos are 5 pesos or less ($0.37USD). If you’re on a tight budget, you may be tempted to indulge in 5 pesos tacos, just be cautious. Look for taquerias with a lot of local patrons. Nobody wants to be hit with a bad case of Montezuma’s Revenge.
- Standard tacos cost around 10 to 25 pesos ($0.75 – $1.85). The more expensive tacos are dorado (fried) and pescado (fish). The majority of taquerias and taco stands will charge this price.
- Gourmet tacos can cost anywhere from 50 pesos to 100 pesos ($3.75 – $7.50). These types of tacos are usually in tourist hot spots.
The general rule of thumb in Mexico is that if you can put a tortilla around something, it’s a taco, but there are several popular varieties that you should consider trying:
- Birria – beef or goat meat stew which is also served as a taco. Birria is found in the morning and is a great hangover cure.
- Carnitas – crispy fried pork deliciousness. Also popular in the morning and an absolute must try.
- Pescado – fish tacos which are popular along the coast, and usually made with Mahimahi or Marlin.
- Camarón – shrimp tacos which are also popular along the coast. Shrimp tacos can sometimes be deep fried.
- Chorizo – spicy sausage that is served either ground or in chunks. Definitely try Chorizo verde if you have a chance.
Tacos are a Mexican staple food; they are flavorful, cheap, and filling. It’s a food that everyone can afford to buy and enjoy, preferably with a squeeze of límon, fresh cilantro, and some homemade salsa!
Tip: When choosing your salsa, use caution. Always try a little on your finger first as burning your tonsils off can be an unpleasant experience. Also, most tacos come with two corn tortillas which can be very filling.
Traveling in Mexico may not be as cheap as Southeast Asia, but there are plenty of savvy choices that give you a glimpse into Mexican culture. During your indie trip through Mexico, take time to travel by bus, sit with locals at a taqueria, and explore as much of the interior as you possibly can.
Add one of these bus journeys to your RTW trip
If you’re looking to add Mexico to your longer, round the world itinerary, check out the following trip on Indie, BootsnAll’s multi-stop booking engine. This trip takes one of the above bus journeys and adds it in to a round the world itinerary. To customize this trip to make it your own, register for a free Indie account to get immediate, bookable prices with a few clicks.
To read more about travel in Mexico, check out the following articles and resources:
- Mexico Indie Travel Guide
- Top 10 Destinations for Indie Travelers in 2013
- Everything You Need to Know About Traditional Mexican Food and Drink
- Why You Should Ignore the Urban Legends and Take the Kids to Mexico