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Traveling Around Mexico Is A Cinch With This Bus Info

Posted by Emily Henkel on 8/17/20 10:51 AM

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Get ready to do tons of traveling after reading this post.

If you're looking for a country where you can do the most traveling, I'm more than happy to introduce you to Mexico. This nation is sporting more than what you think — move past the cruise ships to find colorful magic towns, cascading hot springs to soak in, and more than a few cities you can visit on the weekends.
There are tons and tons of places you'll want to travel to, trust me.

Our ILP volunteers who call Mexico home for a semester can hop on a bus and visit a dozen or more of our favorite cities on any regular weekend, then get vacation days to take even longer trips out to really popular destinations like the coast around Cancun, or out to Puerto Escondido!

Not an ILP volunteer yet? 
See what a semester in Mexico is all about.

Oh, and all of this traveling couldn't be easier, thanks to the bus system in Mexico. It means that you can get around to the top-notch destinations (like the ones only locals know about) for just a few dollars ... something I like to hear.

Here's your total guide to traveling by bus in Mexico, so now you really don't have any excuses for hitting all these spots on our Mexico vacay planner

Our Go To Bus Companies + Routes 

There are several our volunteers are typically taking — Ovnibus, Futura, ADO, and Primera Plus are probably the most frequently used. Here's a bit more detail on a couple of the more popular options: 


We love ADO — they're a really popular option across the country and for our ILP volunteers. You can count on ADO buses taking you pretty much everywhere around Mexico City and southeast of that, so all around the Yucatan peninsula. Here's the ADO website so you can look up routes. We have a bit more info about what to expect on your drive below: like which kinds of buses have AC and which ones have USB cables for charging. 

Here are just a few of our favorite routes that you can take on ADO :

Oh and just so you know, ADO used to be called OCC, so don't worry if you see that your ADO bus is stamped with OCC instead (it's just an older bus that hasn't been redone yet). 

Since ADO is the bus most of our volunteers take around to vacations, the majority of this post is centered specifically around ADO ... but a lot of the same policies apply to other bus companies. 

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Primera Plus

Primera Plus is a popular bus route from the state of Guanajuato to cities like Queretaro, which is easily one of our favorite cities in all of Mexico. This company kind of goes all over, and has nicer buses, which we outline below. Here are a few more other destinations you can reach via Primera Plus :

Leon (For Shoes + Churches + Festivals)
Waterfalls in San Luis Potosi 
Morelia's Magical Cathedrals 

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All About Booking Tickets 

Booking Online 

With ADO, it's a bit complicated. You can only book online if you have a Mexican credit card (the website will let you go through all of the options but an error message saying your card can't be processed will pop up when you try to pay). You can, however, book tickets online via the ADO app. Find the app for IOS here and Android here

For Primera Plus, you'll want to book online here. You're fine to book online with this website or using their app. Find it for IOS here and Android here. We love that you get 10% off just by booking in advance online, but you can also head to the bus station and buy directly there, or from one of their kiosks (typically in malls). 

For all websites (whether you're booking or just looking at the site) they work better if you leave the page in Spanish, instead of translating it over. 

Booking At The Station 

You can also book at the station (which is a popular option for our ILP volunteers — sometimes they head to the bus station and see what buses are leaving soon and head somewhere new just for the day!). You're likely to be fine booking the day of or in advance 2-3 days unless it's a holiday weekend and you're headed to a very popular vacation destination ... then I'd recommend booking much earlier just to make sure you can get a spot. 

And if you're worried about the language barrier, don't be! I've had great luck just typing out what I want on Google translate and handing it over to the ticket counter ("hi, one ticket to {name of the city/bus station} for today/date of your departure). You can get by pretty well by miming out options, pulling out a calendar, and using Google translate. 

Cash Or Card? 

You'll want cash if you're buying at the station, but you'll want a card if you are booking online. You can book on the ADO app with an American credit/debit card, but the ADO website will only accept Mexican credit cards.  

Bring Your ID

For ADO, you'll need to have printed tickets or present them on a mobile device. Also, have your ID handy — one with your first and last name (that match your ticket) will work. 

As a backup, make sure you have your passport or passport copy, some volunteers mention needing it when you're booking in-person. 

About Booking Overnight Routes

As a quick FYI for all of our ILP volunteers, all vacations will need to be approved. If you're planning on taking an overnight bus to your next weekend getaway, plan on chatting about the route with your Local Coordinator and the ILP office staff and discussing some rules and safety precautions to make sure everything is squared away before your trip! 

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Your Questions, Answered 

What Are The Buses Like? 

If you're traveling on ADO, it's a pretty good set up if you know what buses to book. ADO plantino buses are the luxury brand, with reclining seats, personal televisions, USB charging ports, A/C, and bathrooms. OCC and ADO buses are pretty similar, with shared television screens, A/C and bathrooms, plus a few other extras. Futura is also a bus company that volunteers mention is pretty nice with tv screens and generous legroom. 

AU buses are pretty barebones, but they have A/C and the seats recline a tad — this is your cheapest option. 

Primera Plus is more of an upscale bus company, with most buses having options like reclining seats, a bathroom, and A/C. Some even have WiFi and individual screens. 

Teaching English in Mexico with ILP

How Early Do I Have To Get There? 

If you've booked your ticket in advance, you don't need much time. Most bus terminals will have multiple departures from the same gate (kind of like an airport, but with more frequent departures). You're allowed to board ADO buses 15 minutes before departure, so just make sure you're there before then! 

Also good to know? Most bigger terminals have some level of security where you'll put bags through a scanner and also go through a metal detector, plus it can take a minute to find the right bus gate, so plan a few extra minutes for that.  

However, if you're booking the day of and getting tickets at the terminal, you'll want to head there a smidge earlier to make sure that you can buy a ticket. You can check the route and departure times online, and get to the terminal early. 

What About Seating? 

Okay, so not all buses have assigned seats. Typically, shorter routes do not. However, when you book online, you tend to have the option of choosing your seat. If you go through the whole process and have to start over, don't worry if you see that the seat you initially chose isn't available anymore. ADO holds seats for 45 minutes, then opens them back up again. So just wait an hour or just choose another seat. 

If your bus has a bathroom, you may want to sit closer to the front of the bus. The bathrooms are located in the back and sometimes can get kinda stinky. 

If you aren't sure, just ask the driver "se respetan los asientos?". If he says yes, then there are assigned seats. 

What About Luggage?

With ADO, they say that checking your bags is optional ... but anything larger than a backpack is going to need to go underneath the bus. At the terminal before boarding, you'll see a long line of people waiting to get their bags checked. But really, it isn't optional: your tickets will be looked over before boarding and if you have something deemed too large to have up with you in the seats, they'll stash it under the bus (don't worry, they tag your bags to match your ticket). 

Checking your bags is totally free — if you see any costs associated, that's to shrink-wrap your suitcases. It's typically around $30 pesos. 

Teach English in Mexico with ILP

We'll let you in a little secret 

Volunteers come home absolutely raving about a semester in Mexico — maybe it's the beaches, maybe it's all the places you can travel (for cheap!), or maybe it's the food ... we haven't quite figured out what makes this country such a hit, but maybe you're ready to dive in and see what Mexico is all about. 

Discover Mexico


Topics: Central America

Hey friends!

We are ILP, a Utah-based non-profit org that has service abroad opportunities for college-age volunteers. We love travel so we're sharing all our tips for making the most of your time living abroad + seeing the world, and how to do it all on the tiniest budget.

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