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How to travel around Mexico by ADO bus

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View from the front of the coach in Mexico

View from the front of the coach in Mexico

One thing I hadn’t really done enough research on before arriving in Mexico was the buses between cities. We’d just thrown our lot in with ADO and booked 6 journeys with them as they had the nicest website.

Booking ahead was the best thing we did in advance of arriving.

By Mexican standards they’re not very cheap. By Gringo standards they’re very good value. By any standards they’re extremely comfortable.

Unlike the luxurious 10-seater business class buses of South America these are more like a normal coach, but with well-spaced, heavily padded seats.

The booking and boarding process are both very efficient, and luggage is kept reasonably secure.

The coaches have air conditioning which is cooling without being like the Siberian winds of a Venezuelan overnight coach.

Seats are allocated in order of purchase. Thanks to booking in advance we were never further back than the front three rows, so had a great view of the main window and the TV. The films on the monitor were consistently soppy romances, which is not ideal, but less distracting than some of the splatterfest horror movies shown on long rides in Chile.

The main benefit of being at the front was that the breeze from the driver’s window carried all the air backwards. This was a huge relief after queuing behind a man who clearly hadn’t used deodorant…or soap…for at least a fortnight. He stank beyond comprehension to the extent that we left the queue and stood off to one side. We watched a group of happy girls walk up and take our place behind him. The laughter stopped and their smiles turned to frowns. They looked at each other. They looked at him. They looked at his surprisingly attractive girlfriend. Then they burst out laughing and shouted “Dude, you stink!” Harsh but fair.

Now at the end of the queue we got on the bus last, to take our seats at the front. Looking back we saw the girls sitting in the row right behind the stinky dude. As the bus set off I expected to hear a faint whimper or some gagging, as the breeze wafted the air backwards. Eventually they got up and moved to an empty space near the chemical toilet, as it probably smelt fresher.

ADO Bus Timetable

ADO Bus Timetable

How to book tickets for ADO buses

Go to the ADO Buses website. (There are other companies, but the ADO website seems to work the best)

Enter the Origin(Origen) and Destination(Destino). Select whether it’s Return(Redondo) or One-way(Sencillo) and enter the date(s). Press Consultar and the site will display a list of times and prices. Between major cities buses leave every 30-120 minutes.

It may also display more than one class. The cheapest is Segunda Clase, which is pretty much a normal bus – no air conditioning and lots of stops. Primera Clase have reserved seats, lots of space, a toilet and movies. These only stop a few times along the route, if at all. De Lujo or Ejecutivo buses (Executive class) are available with lay-flat beds for long overnight journeys, but I didn’t see any either on the booking site or in the bus stations.

To book online you need to create a login and password, which is quite straightforward, especially if you use the Auto-translate feature of Google Chrome. Alternatively you can just go to the bus station and book the tickets in person. Note that there may be more than one bus station in town.

There’s also an FAQ on their site, answering questions about travelling with children and pets.

Be aware that ADO can and will change bus types, so your front row seat on a comfortable coach and suddenly become a back row seat on a cramped mini bus. We had this happen on the way to Chichen Itza, as there were not enough passengers to fill a bus. Unsurprisingly there’s no form of refund but thankfully it wasn’t a long journey, just a hot one.

Final note is to be aware of your luggage. There wasn’t always a ticket system for stowing your bags – it was just stacked by final destination. When you get off the coach you just point and get handed that piece of luggage so it would be easy for someone to walk off with a nicer piece.

ADO Bus Ticket

Reading the ADO Bus Ticket

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Author

Since leaving London in 2006 I’ve travelled, worked, volunteered and lived in over 90 countries. Highlights so far would be driving along the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, a complete circuit of South America and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. I’m currently back in Beijing, as a base to visit more of Asia and attempt to learn Mandarin.

19 comments

  • Looks like a useful guide for bus travel! Mexico is one of the countries I really want to explore more of and I’d definitely plan to use buses to get around. Don’t they also have the ubiquitous “chicken” buses that are popular elsewhere in Latin America?

    Reply
    • The large coaches are for intercity travel. The colourful chicken buses are used more for getting from the towns to the outlying villages. Sadly, the far less attractive little minivan collectivos are become more popular than the chicken buses for short journeys. You can still end up sitting next to a chicken though!

      Reply
  • hiya,

    cheers for a very useful blog post. My girlfriend and I are travelling to mexico in december and want to book some popular bus routes in advance but are struggling to book through ADO’s website as they seemingly do not accept foreign credit cards. How did you pay for your tickets?

    many thanks,

    charlie

    Reply
  • Would you advise just purchasing tickets at the bus? We are traveling in March and are only using the bus to get to and from the airport.

    Reply
    • Buying on the day should be fine for a short airport transfer. If you’re going a long distance then booking in advance would ensure you get the ticket you need.

      Reply
  • Hey Steve,
    Random question, but if you’re buying online how do you actually get your ticket to board the bus?
    Do you have to print them online before you reach the bus terminal, or is there a self-service type kiosk at the terminal?
    Thanks,
    Brian

    Reply
  • I have managed to get my Ado tickets in advance, I created an account and then passed the account log in details ect with requirements to Mextrotter.com- they charged me 25% commision plus the Paypal currency exchange fee. Only 1 trip was not heavily discounted, so I consider I have still “saved” some money, but etter still, I dont have to take as much cash with me. Tickets sent as attachments to my UK email, so available to reprint if I lose my copy.

    Reply
  • I’ve found sometimes ADO’s website won’t accept foreign cards so I usually buy my tickets after arrival in Mexico a few days in advance at the station. When you go to the terminal just tell them where you want to go and they’ll pull out a seat map and let you pick a seat. 2-3 days generally is more than enough time to get a good spot. If you’re going on a long journey look for a route that has ADO Platino (Lujo), it’s worth it. I’ve taken it from Merida to Tuxla Gutierrez a few times and ADO GL from Oaxaca to Tapachula. very comfortable and ADO Platino has single seats on the right side with personal TV’s behind each seat like airlines. I like the executive class buses better even than flying. ETN is also a good one that has the same things if you’re in Mexico city or Guadalajara

    Reply

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