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Taking Buses in Mexico

Is it too hard for Gringos to take the bus?

Taking buses in Mexico is amazingly easy. Buses are cheap and run constantly up and down the coast from Cancun to Tulum. For the nicer buses you go to the bus station and buy your ticket in advance, except for major holidays a day in advance is fine. For the cheaper local buses, you wait at the right place and buy your ticket on the bus although you can also get tickets at the bus station. There are different types of buses you can take.

Where are the bus stations?

Cancun's bus station is the largest. You can catch buses to almost anywhere in Mexico - Mexico City, Merida, Veracruz, Oaxaca, as far away as you can stand it. The station is downtown at the corner of Avenida Uxmal and Avenida Tulum. Cancun also has the best organized city bus transportation. Buses run through the hotel zone all the time, and are a safe, cheap and easy way to get around. Simply look for the bus stop signs and get on the next bus.

The taxi union has been fairly aggressive about keeping bus transportation out of the airport. You can only get a bus from the airport to the downtown station (wasting a drive North into Cancun if your destination is South (as in Playa del Carmen). Also, bus drivers randomly deny boarding saying you are not allowed to take luggage on their bus. If you aren't renting a car, you can take an airport transfer van like Caribbean Coast Travel or get a taxi. The taxi rates change constantly, so get a rate before getting into the car.

Playa del Carmen also has two very busy bus stations. Most of the buses that leave from Cancun also stop to pick up people in Playa del Carmen. You can get to all the regions major cities, so there is generally no need to go up to Cancun to get a bus from there. The older station is at 5th and Juarez and the other is at 25th and 12th.

Tulum's bus station is smaller. Most of the buses that stop here have already been to Cancun and Playa, so it is good to make a reservation in advance to get a seat on one of the long distance buses. It is on the highway towards the South end of town.

There are fairly major stops at Puerto Morelos and Akumal. To get on a bus anywhere else, simply stand on the side of the road where traffic is going in the direction you want to head, and wave at buses as they approach. If you want to get off someplace in between major stops, simply tell the bus driver or ticket taker when you get on the bus. Depending on your desired stop and the type of service of that bus, the driver may let you off there. Sometimes you can get a good deal by making car rental reservations online, although cars are generally $50 a day.

Is it safe?

You are safer than in a private car. The bus drivers know the roads and carry a back up driver for long hauls. They can drive too fast at times, at take risks, but even if you crash it is better to be in the bus than in the VW Bug the bus just smashed into. If you do get in an accident, don't expect any support from the driver or bus company. The driver will generally be the first one out and then disappear into the woods. It is considered your responsibility to get out and on to your destination. If it is night, get into the first truck or combi which stops. Get off the road and onto a bigger town. If it is daytime and you don't have too much stuff, you can generally get a ride in a private car. People are generally helpful and will stop to pick you up.

Adventure Guide to the Yucatan, Cancun and Cozumel
Out of the way towns and ruins, and eco traveler recommendations.

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