I like visiting Mexico. Not the border towns like Juarez and Nuevo Laredo, or expat enclaves like San Miguel. I’ve even soured on one of my past favorites, Playa del Carmen after it exploded into a crowded tourist mecca.
My current favorite is Guanajuato, (above). Located in the central highlands, this city is the capital of the state, (also named Guanajuato), site of a large university, and due to it’s role in the revolution, a popular tourist town for Mexican citizens who enjoy learning about their country’s historical past.
Brenda and I have driven there many times, but for this trip I was going alone and only for a couple of days, so I decided to take the bus. It’s a long trip for one driver (about 800 miles) and the cost of fuel, insurance and tolls is much higher than the cost of a bus ticket.
If the phrase ‘Mexico by bus’ brings of images of a rickety school bus crowded with people and chickens you’ve never experienced a Mexican luxury class bus. The most popular way to travel, these buses are quiet, roomy, and have comfortable seats with power outlets, WiFi, clean bathrooms and video on demand. The larger bus stations in Mexico also have private lounges for passengers.
Unfortunately these buses don’t usually cross the border. There are buses that do, for instance Autobuses Americanos which is associated with Greyhound, but these are not the same level of comfort or quality. My preferred route is to take the Greyhound to Laredo, walk across the border and then take a taxi to the Nuevo Laredo station where I can pick up the ETN de Lujo (luxury class) to Leon. From there it’s a quick hop to Guanajuato on either the ETN or any of several local lines.
Make sure you book the Austin to Laredo on the express which makes a single stop in San Antonio. The ETN only stops in Monterrey, although at two different stations. Total cost is $25 for the Austin to Laredo part of the trip on Greyhound. $1200MN ($80 US) for Nuevo Laredo to Leon, and another $90MN ($4 US) for Leon to Guanajuato for a total of $108. Better yet, the ETN fares are half price if you are 62 or older. This reduces the price to $67, a bargain! Additional costs are a couple of dollars for the bridge and $4 for the taxi from the Mexican side of the bridge to the Nuevo Laredo station.
A couple of notes. You’ll have to get a tourist visa after you cross the bridge. Look for the immigration office (Instituto Nacional de Migracion) after you exit customs. You should see a sign with the logo on the right. Present your passport and you’ll get an invoice which you then take to the bank next door for the payment of $322MN or about $22US. After you get your visa ignore all the vendors trying to sell you this and that, walk to the cab stand across the street, and ask for the fare to the ETN station. It should be $50MN or $60MN.
For my recent trip the total travel time was almost 24 hours. This included a few hours to make the connections in Nuevo Lardeo and Leon. Actual travel time on the bus was 5 hours for the Austin to Laredo segment, 12 for Nuevo Laredo to Leon, and one more for Leon to Guanajuato for a total of 18.
How does this compare to driving? The biggest expense is insurance which would cost around $25 / day. Tolls one way are about $60 and gas is currently around $3.50 a gallon in Mexico. Want to fly? That will be about $700 round trip. Clearly the bus is a bargain.
I have not experienced this trip personally so I have to take Jim’s word on this, but he says that the bathrooms on the bus are clean. Also due to the time of his departure both on his outbound from Nuevo Larado and his return from Leon he was on an over night bus so he was able to sleep through most of his journey. I’m a bit envious that he did this trip without me but know that there will be a day in the future that I too will make this journey and hopefully many others throughout the beautiful lands of Mexico.