News, features, and commentary from the biggest city in the Americas, Mexico City.
(SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, Guanajuato) — A few thoughts about riding the bus in Mexico.
First of all, the Central del Norte (north bus station) in Mexico City is not my favorite place. It’s crowded, dirty, and not at all like the pleasant experience of Terminal 2 at Mexico City International Airport.
But at least you can get there by Metro. I departed from the Condesa (Metro Patriotismo to Centro Medico, then up to La Raza, and one final change to the yellow line to the Autobuses del Norte station) at 5:58 am, and walked into the bus terminal at 6:40, with 20 minutes to spare until my 7 am departure on ETN.
At this hour of the day, the Omnibus de México ticket area was a horrible mass of humanity. ETN was fine, however. Also, I bought my ticket online ahead of time (saving 10%), so I only had to give them my name and confirmation number at the counter, and I was ready to go. So no wasted time.
Also, for those of you who love the current “security theater” that goes on at US airports, then the Central del Norte is the place for you!
Before going out to the bus, first I had to empty my pockets of metallic objects, phones, etc, just like at the airport, and put my bag on the x-ray belt.
Then, I was patted down.
Collected my stuff, and walked over to my bus. Soon as I was about to board, security theater continued, with another pat down, followed by the “wand” procedure. And this guy also searched my bags.
Come on — this is overkill. The only reason for this is for theatrical purposes, much like what goes on with the all-powerful TSA at US airports. (And by the way, this security theater operation doesn’t exist at all when you depart from San Miguel, returning to the D.F. So what does it really prove anyway?)
At any rate, the people in the security theater process were all friendly enough. I have no issues with any of them personally. It’s just silly, and a waste of time and resources. (Mexican bureaucracy really can drive you insane.)
Now, I’ve traveled with Primera Plus before — not to mention Omnibus and a number of other intercity bus lines which have served me well — but there’s one very good reason to choose ETN this day.
Because you can sit by yourself. ETN’s buses are configured with three seats across, rather than the four found on most other bus lines. So, in each row, one seat is an individual seat. It’s the perfect solution when I want to avoid strangers, and want extra space to myself.
When you travel with ETN (or Primera Plus for that matter), they give you a sandwich and drink as you board the bus. My one recommendation, however, is that for morning departures, they offer something other than Coke, Sprite, and orange soda. Orange juice would be nice, thanks.
The other reason to choose ETN is you don’t have to listen to a blaring loud movie on your trip. All seats are equipped with headphones, so you can listen if you want, or enjoy the silence, and sleep instead. (And some of ETN’s newer buses are now equipped with seat-back video monitors, with a selection of content available, much like a number of airlines have.)
Also, ETN’s buses are equipped with WiFi these days. Unfortunately, however, I couldn’t get my smartphone to connect on this trip. (I have used it previously on other trips with ETN, so it just have just been some sort of glitch in the system this day.)
Primera Plus is also now offering WiFi, as is ADO. It’s becoming a common feature across the first-class bus lines in Mexico.
And anyone who’s traveled these first-class buses in Mexico will know that the very plush seats really recline – a lot.
Meanwhile, if you must ride a bus in the US and Canada, you’re still likely stuck with Greyhound. Last time I rode with them (four years ago), there was a fist fight amongst a couple of their low-class customers at the ticket counter, and once on board, I discovered that the uncomfortable seats were just the same as they’ve been for decades.
Which is to say, nothing special at all. I’d rather walk or hitch-hike than ride with Greyhound again.
Mexico really does have the U.S. beat when it comes to intercity bus travel. No comparison.