First-class bus? Oh sure, friends said when we told them we’d be traveling between Mexico’s colonial towns in first-class buses.
We had our doubts too about what “first-class” Mexico bus service meant. Turns out we needn’t have worried. The first-class buses really are, well, first class.
Bus terminals like airports
For one thing, the bus terminals resemble airports.
We expected somewhat grotty places like the bus terminals we’ve seen here in Canada. (No insult intended, but busing it on Greyhound isn’t really an elegant experience – at least in our view :-).
Palenque bus stop – photo Vasenka Photography
The bus terminals we saw were clean like this – photo Vasenka Photography
But no, the main bus terminal in Guadalajara (Mexico’s second largest city) has sliding glass doors, clean cafeterias, clean bathrooms with toilet paper and soap dispensers, long check-in counters and big TV-like arrival/departure screens.
It was a little amusing because, after passing through the main lobby, we sat on blue leather chairs in the waiting room for our ETN bus, not realizing that we were supposed to check in our baggage – like at an airport. Again, not something we expected at a bus station.
At another bus terminal in another colonial town, security guards even screened passengers with metal detectors before we could board the bus.
We discovered our first pleasant bus terminal in Guadalajara
First class Mexico bus service – think luxury buses!
We rode on several first-class buses – ETN and Primera Plus are two lines that come to mind.
The ETN buses, in particular, exceeded our expectations.
The seat rows are configured as 2-1, with the aisle running between the two seats on one side and the single seat on the other. Plushly covered in royal-blue, velvet-like fabric (fresh and clean), these big fat seats recline a good huge distance back. A cushioned leg rest can be extended for your feet and legs. Think the old business class seats on airplanes (before some were converted into lie-flat beds) and you’ll have a good idea of the level of comfort.
The ETN buses even have faux hardwood floors!
See the hardwood floors? (faux)
All the buses we rode also had a personal TV screen in front of each seat, earphones and remote control handsets to choose your movies (most dubbed in Spanish).
The air-conditioning was just right too. (We’d brought along thick sweaters as we’d heard stories about how the buses are cooled to freezing temps. Another misconception.)
And no worries about icky toilets. The buses have separate men’s and women’s toilets at the back, with running water for washing hands (and paper towels too).
Photo Primera Plus
Talk about service
Tickets include food and drinks. Before boarding our ETN buses from Guadalajara to Guanajuato (where the Teatro Juarez blew us away) and then from Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende, a uniformed attendant offered us sandwiches and our choice of drinks from a food cart.
On the Primera Plus bus from Morelia to Zihuatanejo, a smartly-dressed attendant roamed the aisle like a flight attendant, offering complimentary coffee and snacks.
The drivers, dressed in uniforms too, sat in enclosed cabins, and drove safely and within speed limits.
Our final destination by bus – Zihautanejo
Bus travel in Mexico
Were we impressed? Yes. Would we travel by first-class bus in Mexico again? Absolutely.
Our tickets were something like $40 U.S. each for 4- to 5-hour rides ($10 for a 1-hour ride). And from the bus terminals, taxis were very inexpensive to get to our hotels. Once in the colonial towns, we could walk everywhere (or take a taxi if needed).
To see Mexico, there’s no need to fly within the country or deal with the hassle of renting a car – the bus will get you most places in style and comfort.