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A Complete Guide for Traveling by Coach in Mexico
With only a handful of long-distance rail services in Mexico, getting around the country invariably means turning to the roads. Thankfully, there is an excellent variety of bus services that will leave you thinking, “Train travel? I don’t know her.”
Mexico is home to the largest network of paved routes in Latin America and more than 6,500 miles of multi-lane expressways. Bus routes take advantage of these far-reaching roads to connect pretty much all of the places of interest in Mexico, from Mexicali in the northwest to Cancun in the east.
Long-distance buses (or camiones, in Mexican Spanish) are arguably the most efficient form of travel in the country, and it doesn’t hurt that tickets can be super cheap. Buses in Mexico often surprise many first-time bus travelers with the quality of their service. So when you’re ready to plan your journey in and around Mexico, read this guide for everything you need to know about riding buses from city to city.
Bus companies in Mexico
Mexico has so many bus companies, you might be overwhelmed with the number of choices. In general, Mexican bus companies can be split into three different groups: companies that serve a particular region, such as Guadalajara state or the Yucatan, companies that traverse the entire country, and companies that focus on serving the millions of passengers who travel across the Mexico-U.S. border each year.
Below you’ll find all the introductory information you’ll need on Mexico’s largest bus companies and those covering the whole country, plus the main players operating cross-border tips into California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and beyond.
An honoree in Wanderu’s 2022 Passengers’ Choice Awards, Tornado Bus has a great reputation and an equally impressive schedule of bus routes. Founded in the mid-1990s, its buses connect over 250 cities in Mexico and the southwest of the United States, making it one of the top options for those traveling between the two countries.
El Expreso Bus is owned by Tornado Bus, but operates as a separate brand that serves 71 cities in Mexico and the United States. El Expreso doesn’t just cross the border, some of its buses travel into the U.S. as far as Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and Illinois.
Transportes del Norte and its luxury brand, Transportes del Norte Diamante, are part of Grupo Senda and began operation in the 1930s. The TDN buses run service on the routes in northern Mexico like Monterrey to Montemorelos and Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo.
Tufesa is another major Mexican bus company, and operates Tufesa Internacional, Tufesa Plus, and Tufesa Ejecutivo. Tufesa Internacional operates many daily bus trips across the Mexico-U.S. border, as does Tufesa Plus. In Mexico, the Tufesa buses connect to top cities in the northwest like Guadalajara. Tufesa Ejecutivo is the business-class line of the brand, and offers larger, more comfortable reclining seats for a premium experience.
These are just a small few of the many bus companies that serve Mexico. Grupo Senda encompasses many more regional and international lines, such as Turimex Internacional and SENDOR. Other bus companies you can consider include ADO (Autobuses de Oriente), Omnibuses de México, and OCC (Omnibus Cristóbal Colón).
Popular bus destinations in Mexico
When you take a bus trip in Mexico, you have no shortage of incredible destinations to pick from. These are our picks for the top five places to visit in Mexico by bus:
The Mexican capital has no fewer than four major bus stations: Observatorio, TAPO, North, and South. For added convenience, some buses also depart directly from the city’s international airport. You can easily reach Mexico City from cities like Monterrey, Morelia, and many more. Once you’ve arrived in Mexico City, discover its Aztec history at the Templo Mayor or National Museum of Anthropology, before soaking up the ambience of the Zocalo main square.
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Two leading bus companies, Tornado and El Expreso, operate services out of Guadalajara’s Central de Autobuses bus station. A hub of Mexican art and culture, Guadalajara’s attractions include the grand Renaissance-style cathedral, one of the oldest hospitals in the Americas at the Hospicio Cabanas museum, and Latin America’s largest indoor food market.
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Also served by Tornado and El Expreso among others, Monterrey is connected with destinations as near as Saltillo and as far as Austin, Texas. Nestled below the Sierra Madre Oriental mountains, Monterrey is the second-largest city in Mexico and the perfect place for an unforgettable trip. Keep an eye out for houses in the barrio antiguo (old town) that can date back to the 1600s, and don’t miss The Museum of Modern Art or Fundidora Park.
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Located in Baja California on the border with the States, reaching Tijuana is easy thanks to companies including Autobuses del Evora and Greyhound. The city is connected with a variety of destinations in both the U.S. and Mexico. The city is known for its beach culture and nightlife, plus shopping malls with prices so cheap, they lure in Californians for shopping sprees.
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Accessible from over 40 destinations, Nuevo Laredo sits across the Rio Grande from Laredo, Texas. Proudly flying a huge Mexican tricolor from a giant flagpole, the city boasts a wide variety of attractions. These include the Natural History Museum, Jose Reyes Meza Museum, and Uxmal Walk, all of which are part of the city’s Cultural Center.
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More Popular Destinations
On the west coast, Cabo San Lucas lies at the tip of the Baja California peninsula and offers visitors soft sands, stunning natural rock formations, tasty restaurant menus, and a good range of water sports. Meanwhile, Tulum and Cancun on the Caribbean coast’s Riviera Maya have even more options for transportation, with ADO and OCC both serving these destinations from cities throughout Mexico.
The most scenic bus routes in Mexico
Mexico is home to breathtaking vistas, from mountains and roaring ocean waves to the agave fields of Tequila. So why not make the most of the country’s expansive bus network by exploring some of Mexico’s top scenic bus routes?
Gomez Palacio to Durango
Taking a little over three hours and operated by Transportes del Norte and Transportes del Norte Diamante several times daily, the journey from Gomez Palacio to Durango cuts through gaucho country, giving it a real wild-west feel. Skirting Parque Estatal Canon de Fernandez and a landscape of hills, there’s also the chance to take in views of the desert, forest, and Sierra Madre mountains. Springtime is the ideal season to take this trip to see blooms across the different landscapes.
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Guadalajara to Monterrey
Starting close to Lago de Chapala and passing through typical Mexican landscapes of sparsely verdant hills, the journey between Guadalajara and Monterrey takes around 12 hours. This may seem like a long trip, but the route through the center of Mexico will keep you entranced as it traverses the ravines of Jalisco, the Chicomoztoc archeological zone outside of Zacatecas, and high plateaus toward Monterrey.
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Angostura to Tijuana
Another longer bus journey, with a scheduled travel time of around 20 hours, this route is operated by Autobuses del Evora, with up to five departures on any given day. Spending much of its route close to the Gulf of California coastline, you get gorgeous ocean views and the slightest chance of spotting a breaching whale between December and March. But even if you don’t manage to spot them, the beaches of Tijuana await at the end of the journey.
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How to book bus travel in Mexico
Many passengers still make their reservations for buses in Mexico in person at the nearest bus station. However, the shift toward online reservations is gaining momentum, now that some of Mexico’s largest bus companies offer online booking. Some smaller bus companies and regional services have websites, but it can be hit-or-miss to access their online reservation system.
Wanderu partners with regional and international bus companies in Mexico to make it easy to search for your bus tickets online or on the Wanderu app without worrying about unreliable connections or schedules that are published only in Spanish.
For the most part, it is still possible to buy your ticket day-of at the station. It’s smart to book as early as possible to avoid disappointment, especially when traveling as a group or at peak travel times like holidays.
Ticket prices are generally set at a fixed rate, so it’s rare that you’ll end up paying more by booking at the last minute, unlike in the United States or Canada. Tickets aren’t always refundable or changeable, but the exact rules vary between companies.
When making reservations you often can choose between two different classes. Standard class (segunda, or second class) are by nature the cheapest available. First (primera) class tends to be around 10% more, and usually gets you a seat on a different vehicle outfitted with special amenities, since coaches generally have just one class of seats.
Tips for finding deals on bus tickets in Mexico
Bus companies in Mexico don’t offer a huge variety of deals because they focus instead on keeping prices as low as possible all year round. However, there are some discounts that particular passengers can take advantage of, alongside a couple of tricks for getting the best prices.
For instance, some bus companies in Mexico will offer a 10% discount for tickets bought in advance, since it helps them to know exactly when passengers aim to travel. Similarly, ETN gives a 10% reduction to passengers booking online.
Grupo Senda-owned companies, including Transportes del Norte, give discounts of between 20 and 50% to children (aged 4-11), students (during holiday times), seniors (those aged 60 or over and in possession of a government issued INSEN or INAPAM card), teachers, and military personnel. Younger children, generally from newborn to two or four years old, travel free on Mexican buses as long as they don’t take up an additional seat.
And of course, you can often secure the best deal by comparing all of the available bus companies that offer tickets for your trip. You can easily do this with just one search on Wanderu and book the ticket with the price, schedule, and route that works best for you.
Types of bus services available in Mexico
The differences between segunda and primera coaches have become increasingly blurred recently. Almost all serious bus companies now offer air conditioning and a guaranteed seat. You may get a reserved seat position with first class coaches, which can be useful when traveling as a family to ensure you get to sit together.
The main distinction between segunda and primera coaches is now the number of stops a particular bus will make. Segunda coaches generally make a lot more stops on route, which makes the journey longer.
Plus services will normally make use of the newest coaches. You can also expect enhanced levels of legroom and better luggage allowances, which can be especially useful when taking the bus to the airport. Primera Plus, Estrella Blanca, and Estrella Roja all operate services between Mexico City’s Benito Juarez International Airport and city bus stations, alongside destinations such as Puebla, Orizaba, and Toluca. Elsewhere, ADO connects Cancun Airport with downtown Cancun, Tulum, and Playa del Carmen.
There’s also often complimentary WiFi and onboard entertainment too. For example, Tufesa Ejecutivo, one of several sub-brands of Tufesa coaches, offers a range of additional amenities to standard coach trips. Amenities include electrical outlets beside seats, provided snacks, extendable padded leg rests, and even individual television screens like you’d find on an plane.
Similar levels of service can be found on ETN Turistar and Primera Plus top-tier ticketing options. Read more about traveling in style in our ultimate guide to luxury bus travel.
Getting to the bus station in Mexico
When you’re in Mexico, find bus stations by looking for the words Central de Autobuses or Central Camionera. In many big cities, the stations are not exactly centrally-located, so you’ll often need a taxi (or Uber) to get to them. As taxi meters are rarely used, be sure to agree on a price for the journey before heading anywhere. Many terminals have Taxi Autorizado booths for organizing transport with licensed vehicles.
It’s common for multiple companies to use the same terminus, although in some instances, individual companies have their own. There can be separate bus stations for segunda and primera passengers too. Read your ticket closely to find the exact spot for boarding, and arrive with plenty of time to find your way around.
The upside of arriving early is how comfortable and safe the stations are. Most will have some form of public seating, ATMs, places to purchase food and drink, and company kiosks for purchasing tickets. You are also likely to find public restrooms (which usually require a small fee to use) and even lockers to store your luggage for a day or a few hours.
Keep in mind that if you’re traveling by bus in or out of smaller towns in Mexico, the bus station may just be a roadside stop without additional facilities. If this is the case, make sure to pack water!
Getting on the bus in Mexico
Tickets for Mexico’s bus companies can be presented to the driver or assistant in either paper or electronic form. Expect to also be asked for an official ID, such as a passport or driving license, on any intercity or long-distance bus. If you don’t have an ID, you might not be allowed to travel.
For some buses, and particularly for passengers using premium services, you may need to check in your luggage like you do for flights. You’ll want to do this at least 30 minutes before departure. Beyond that, you just need to await the time your coach becomes available for boarding. Bus stations have screens that make this a simple process even if you don’t speak Spanish.
On-board experience on Mexican buses
Segunda and primera tickets are usually for different coaches, so you can expect all the seats on a particular bus to look like its neighbors. That said, many travelers prefer seats towards the front of the vehicle, where it’s easier to see where you are and what’s going on. The ride can also be slightly smoother.
Outside of Ejecutivo, Deluxe or Plus services, refreshments aren’t common. You are free to bring food and drink onboard with you. On longer journeys, the schedule will often include short breaks at service stations or even cafes to allow passengers to purchase food. If you plan to do this, make sure you know how long you’ve got to shop, and listen out for blasts of the coach’s horn, which will indicate the driver wants to depart.
The presence of other amenities, from complimentary WiFi to onboard restrooms, will depend on the bus company and the ticket type. Wanderu makes it really easy to find this information, and even allows you to filter journey results by amenities such as WiFi and legroom.
For those with segunda class tickets, restrooms are usually only available on trips of more than around three hours, so keep that in mind when you’re at the bus station before a trip. You may also want to have a sweater to hand, since air conditioning can be fierce.
Top coach routes in Mexico
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