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First class Mexico bus service like flying business class

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 a “first-class” Mexico bus would be like.

(No insult intended, but busing it on Greyhound here in Canada isn’t exactly an elegant experience.)

Turns out we needn’t have worried.

The first-class buses in Mexico really are, well, first class!

Riding the Mexico Bus
Riding the Mexico buses in Deluxe or First Class is very comfortabel
Riding the first-class Mexico bus is like flying business class. Really!

Classes of Mexico bus

There are three classes of bus service in Mexico:

1) Deluxe (De Lujo) or Executive (Ejecutivo) Class:

Mexico bus
The deluxe and first class buses in Mexico are very comfortable

These Mexico buses usually service longer (3+ hour trips), busier routes between cities (for example, from Mexico City to another destination). Expect few, if any, stops.

The luxury executive class buses (often Volvo or Mercedes) have just 24 seats.

They’re air-conditioned come with seat belts, reclining seats with loads of leg room, individual movie screens, onboard toilets, snacks and WiFi.

Seats can be reserved in advance.

2) First (Primera) Class:

These are very similar to executive class, with air-conditioning, comfortable seats, TV screens and toilets.

3) Second (Segunda) Class:

You might get a seat, you might not. There may be a toilet, or perhaps not. The bus may be air-conditioned, then again, it may not be. It might also make frequent stops.

If you’re lucky, the second-class bus will be as comfortable as a first-class bus. But no guarantees.

Booking the “best” class

If you want the best or top class, ask for the “best” or “highest” class.

This way, you should get the top class, which may be “luxury” (or “deluxe” or “executive”) or perhaps “first class” if there’s no higher class.

Our experience with first-class Mexico buses

We bought the best possible tickets on two of the major Mexico bus lines – ETN and Primera Plus.

We didn’t know about the difference between “deluxe” and “first-class” at the time of booking; we just knew we wanted the top class (which we thought was first-class).

We took ETN buses from Guadalajara to Guanajuato (you’ve got to check out the creepy but fascinating Mummy Museum there!), and then again from Guanajuato to San Miguel de Allende (where there’s a playful and fun toy museum).

We also traveled by bus from San Miguel de Allende to Morelia. From Morelia to Zihuatanejo, we rode with Primera Plus.

Is Morelia worth visiting? Check out these 7 authentic things to do in Morelia!

A Primera Plus bus and driver
A Primera Plus bus and driver (Credit: Primera Plus)

The ETN buses, in particular, exceeded our expectations. (We thought we had first-class ETN bus tickets, but it’s possible the buses were the higher category, i.e., deluxe or executive class buses.)

The seat rows were 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 reclined a good huge distance back.

A cushioned leg rest could be extended for your feet and legs.

Think of 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 had faux hardwood floors!

Riding the Mexico bus with ETN
See the (faux) hardwood floors in this ETN bus?

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 had separate men’s and women’s toilets at the back, with real running water for washing hands (and paper towels too).

Talk about service!

First-class Mexico bus tickets include food and drinks.

Before boarding our ETN buses, a uniformed attendant offered us sandwiches and our choice of drinks from a food cart.

On the Primera Plus bus from to Zihuatanejo, a smartly-dressed attendant roamed the aisle like a flight attendant, offering complimentary coffee and snacks.

The bus drivers, attired in uniforms, sat in enclosed cabins. They drove safely and within the speed limits.

Zihuatanejo: Our final destination in Mexico!

Why go to Zihuatanejo? The beaches in Zihuatanejo are pretty chill!

Another surprise: Mexico bus terminals

Graphic of the old ADO bus terminal in Palenque (Credit: Vasenka Photography, Flickr)

We were also pleasantly surprised with the bus terminals.

We expected somewhat grotty places like the bus terminals we’ve seen here in Canada.

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 immediately sat on blue leather chairs in the waiting room for our ETN bus.

We didn’t realize that we were supposed to check in our baggage – like at an airport. So it was a bit of a scramble at the last minute to check our bags and then line up to get on the bus.

At another bus terminal in another colonial town, security guards even screened passengers with metal detectors before we could board the bus.

The ADO bus station in Merida (Credit: Vasenka Photography, Flickr)

Bus lines in Mexico

Three of the major long-distance Mexican bus companies are ETN, Primera Plus and ADO.

1) ETN, Mexico:

ETN Turistar is known as one of the best luxury bus companies in Mexico (and as you know, we were impressed with them).

They service major cities along the Pacific Coast (for example, Puerto Vallarta);  cities such as Guadalajara, Guanajuato, and San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico; areas in northern and eastern Mexico; and cities like Oaxaca in the south.

ETN’s website is partly in English (helpful if you don’t speak Spanish) – see here.

Lots of leg room? TV? Air conditioning? We thought the first-class ETN buses were great!
Lots of leg room? TV? Air conditioning? We thought the first-class ETN buses were great! (Credit: ETN)

2) Primera Plus, Mexico:

Primera Plus services Mexico City, Guadalajara, San Miguel de Allende, San Luis Potosi, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and other places in the center of the country.

See their (Spanish) website here.

3) ADO, Mexico:

We didn’t travel on any ADO buses, but ADO is one of the biggest Mexico bus lines.

ADO has many connections from Mexico City to San Miguel de Allende, the Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca and other destinations.

For a humorous but informative look on booking and taking the ADO bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca, check out this story.

For ADO’s website, see here.

One of the largest Mexico bus lines, ADO offers many routes from Mexico City
One of the largest Mexico bus lines, ADO offers many routes from Mexico City (Credit: Volvo Buses)

Traveling by bus in Mexico: Bottom line?

Were we impressed? Yes. Would we travel by first-class bus in Mexico again? Absolutely.

One of our local Mexican guides jokingly explained: “The reason bus travel in Mexico is so good is because a former president from the 1980s owns many of the bus companies.

Our tickets were something like $40 USD 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.

Mexico is a fascinating country, and there’s so much to do! Check out these 55 amazing things to do in Mexico

3 Tips for booking your Mexico bus tickets

1) Ask your hotel for help:

We’d read that we didn’t have to worry about booking tickets weeks in advance.

The Mexico buses run frequently (and are on time). For example, the ETN bus from Guadalajara to Guanajuato goes up to eight times a day, starting at 5:30 am, with the last bus at 7:30 pm.

We therefore decided we’d book our bus tickets once we were on the ground in Mexico.

Regrettably, we speak very little Spanish – not much more than “Dos cerveza por favor.” So we asked the respective hotels in each of the cities we visited to help book our tickets for the next onward bus journey. And they were very helpful in getting our tickets arranged.

We booked each bus a couple of days before the trip and had no problems getting tickets. We gave our credit card number and picked up the tickets from the bus terminal.

2) Book by phone:

Book by phone, if possible, and not over the Internet. You may pay a teeny bit more, but the price difference is nominal.

We were told that Mexico bus tickets booked by phone are fully refundable but web-bookings are non-refundable.

3) Try an online booking agency:

If you want to book online before your trip, you can try Busbud. This online bus search and booking service is a Canadian company.

As we’re Canadian, we wanted to let you know about them. But we don’t have any personal experience with using their services. You can see this detailed review of Busbud, however. (And if you end up using them, let us know how it worked out!)

Adios! And enjoy your Mexico trip…

Recommended reading: Be sure to check out our Ultimate Mexico Travel Guide

Experience more of Mexico!

Read our posts on:

Cabo San Lucas | From whale watching to hiking up the Pedregal, check out these 25 epic things to do in Los Cabos.

Mexico City | Check out our 3-day Mexico City itinerary to make sure you hit the best attractions and eat at the best restaurants in this splendid capital.

Puerto Vallarta | Where to stay? You’ll love these beautiful boutique hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

Riviera Maya | Discover 22 totally awesome things to do in Riviera Maya (and the Grand Velas Riviera Maya is catnip for foodies).

Also check out the Mexico travel guides on Amazon. (As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)


Photo credits: 5 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews and information, insanely useful travel tips and more!

Scott

Thursday 7th of October 2021

I tagged along when an Anthropology student friend was doing some field work in Oaxaca. All the seats were sold out. But not the luggage compartment! The relief driver sold the 4 of us his blanketed bunk. 30 seconds of intense claustrophobia followed by 10 hours of stretched out bliss.

Janice and George

Thursday 7th of October 2021

LOL! Sounds like you got the best "seats" in the end :-).

Denise

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

Thank you for writing this! I keep telling people how great the bus is in Mexico but I don’t think anyone believes me. I think Americans and Canadians have been terrorized by Greyhound. I’ve only been on the ADO Platino and it’s by far the best bus I’ve ever been on, and I’ve been on lots of buses around the world! Thanks! Denise

Janice and George

Wednesday 6th of October 2021

Thank you for sharing your experience!

Terry Bennett

Thursday 21st of January 2021

2 years ago, my wife and I rented a car in PVR and took a drive to Rincon de Guayabitos. Getting almost to our destination, driving north on Hwy. 200, we were rear-ended by a Guadalajara bound bus, and people were hurt in the bus. It was a segundo bus. Right behind it was a first class bus with the lucky ones that couldn’t get a seat on the first bus and had to pay more for their tickets on the better bus with real brakes.

What I’m saying is: "It’s not as glamorous as you say, because not all the bus drivers drive that safely.”

Janice and George

Friday 22nd of January 2021

Hello Terry,

So sorry to hear about your accident; we can see how that would be terribly upsetting. We edited your comment to shorten it :-).

You're right, not all bus drivers drive safely, and not all vehicles are road-worthy. Sometimes motor vehicle accidents happen. But that's the case all over the world, unfortunately. We've have bad bus accidents here in Canada too.

We were impressed by the safe driving of the drivers on the buses we took in Mexico. And the buses seemed to be in excellent condition, as we've described.

Your point raises another point though: It's important to always have good travel medical insurance when traveling, just in case bad luck strikes.

Thanks for sharing your experience...

Abdiel Quezada

Thursday 21st of January 2021

I just read your article. I am from México. I am so glad to read your review about luxury buses in my home country. I enjoy traveling by bus in my home country. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in your blog.

Janice and George

Thursday 21st of January 2021

Hi Abdiel, Thanks for the kind words! As you know, we love the luxury buses in Mexico. We just wish we could have luxury buses like this in our country, Canada :-). Best!

Terry L Turrell

Friday 26th of June 2020

Nice article! We live in Mexico but haven't used the long-distance bus lines yet. Do you know if any allow small dogs in pet carriers to ride onboard with the owner? We want to travel from Puerto Vallarta or Bucerias to San Miguel de Allende. Thank you.

Janice and George

Friday 26th of June 2020

Good question! We don't know the answer. But from Googling, it appears dogs aren't allowed in the passenger cabins of the 1st and 2nd class buses. See, for example, this 2018 Yucatan Times article and this Mexperience article.