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 Trains, Pla... No, Buses, Buses, and Combis

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Peter
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PostSubject: Trains, Pla... No, Buses, Buses, and Combis   Mon 21 Feb 2011, 15:11

One look and you know this is a different world here in Mexico. The folks back in the US give you a look of shock and a gasp if you tell them you took a bus trip here in Mexico. "I'm not ridin' the bus with no chickens" is a typical response. Well, neither am I, so I go on to tell them about the bus experience here.

If you haven't taken a bus trip here of 3-4 hours duration or more you may not realize there just is no comparison to the bus service here and the Greyhounds up north. Last I recall, years ago, the Greyhound is configured with over 40 seats. They are cramped and uncomfortable and are usually considered a last resort for a mode of travel. Compare that with the Volvo and Mercedes-Benz buses running very regular routes here that have 24 seats, plenty of legroom, and you can tilt your seat back without having to ask the person behind you for a shave and trim - it gets pretty close doing that. One person in front reclining his seat starts a domino effect all the way back.

The bus stations themelves are often the first clue it is going to be a different experience. The people milling around are not all winos looking for a comfortable place to sit and smell bad, you will see a number of businessmen and other persons exhibiting some sign of affluence - as much affluence as any person cares to exhibit here without a team of bodyguards standing watch. But not all bus stations are the same, those in smaller towns have their local buses also coming into the same terminal and gates so the crowd is very mixed in those places. One thing that helps keep the winos out is the pay-toilets - they are free onboard the bus but in the terminal make sure you have an extra 3-5 pesos handy and in the form of change.

The next big difference you would notice on the rides over two or three hours duration is that you are given a snack bag which usually includes a sandwich, a piece of fruit maybe, a pack of cookies, and a bottle of water, juice, or soda. If your Spanish is slow like mine it seems to come out of context at the ticket counter when the counter-person asks you what kind of drink you prefer. You will also be treated to a movie on the bus with drop-down screens every few seat rows. Most often the movie will have an English sound-track and be sub-titled in Spanish, which suits me well.

For short hops over to the next town or so there will be a number of buses running regularly between towns. These are likely to be the large and comfortable buses but they will make frequent stops. These are the second-class buses and they won't include a movie or a snack, instead you will be treated to a very regular schedule - there are buses running every ten minutes out of Morelia to Pátzcuaro from 5am to 8pm, less frequently in the other non-peak hours. Same holds true for buses going out to Quiroga for that sort of regularity. During those hours it is unlikely you would need to wait over 20 or 30 minutes for a bus to any nearby destination. First-class buses are sometimes available, no stops, for those close destinations but the run much less frequently.

Recently I was asked about bus schedules by a visitor to Morelia looking to take a trip out to Cuitzeo and other towns within an hour or so travel. They were asking about online bus schedules or if it was necessary to go down to the station and copy down all the schedule times. I don't think there is much need to write down all the departures, 5:00, 5:10, 5:20, 5:30, etc. I told them about the type of schedules kept, with guesstimates about the destinations I was less sure about. I told them also to check the board when they arrived at their stop to see if a first-class bus was on a convenient for their return trip and try to catch that bus back. The person I responded to was OK with what I told them - essentially, just go to the bus station when they were ready to make a trip and catch the next one out. There would not be a long wait at all.

That advice was not going to go un-commented on. Another answered that I was not at all helpful and that I just gave some unspecific advice of a general nature. They presented links to some bus company websites and told how they could make reservations and purchase their tickets downtown ahead of time. That is dandy if there were a long trip involved, perhaps a recommendation I would make if the person wanted to go to Mexico City, Zihuatanejo, or some place a few hours away, especially during holiday travel season when reservations would be advised. Second-class buses, those running the most liberal schedules, won't have their information online, and if an online schedule came up it would probably be for an executive or first-class bus with a timetable that would cut out most of the time they probably had allotted for their day-trip. For a short trip, just go to the station when you want to leave. Buses are numerous and frequent in Mexico.

To get to all the little villages, and when visiting the highlands of Michoacán you will want to go to those, you may need to ride into a bigger town then switch over to a local bus or combi - vans that are configured for maximum seating, the name comes from Volkswagen's name for their passenger vans. The times for these can vary a bit but they still are plentiful and regular. Combis running the city streets of Morelia mostly run at 5 minute intervals. There are few times during daylight hours that one would ever need to wait more than a half-hour for a local bus or combi.

Anyways, happy travel. Don't over-complicate things here like you would up north. The systems are designed to be convenient and reliable.
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Don Cuevas
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PostSubject: Bus schedules and flexibilty   Mon 21 Feb 2011, 17:24

Peter wrote: "Recently I was asked about bus schedules by a visitor to Morelia looking to take a trip out to Cuitzeo and other towns within an hour or so travel. They were asking about online bus schedules or if it was necessary to go down to the station and copy down all the schedule times. I don't think there is much need to write down all the departures, 5:00, 5:10, 5:20, 5:30, etc. I told them about the type of schedules kept, with guesstimates about the destinations I was less sure about. I told them also to check the board when they arrived at their stop to see if a first-class bus was on a convenient for their return trip and try to catch that bus back. The person I responded to was OK with what I told them - essentially, just go to the bus station when they were ready to make a trip and catch the next one out. There would not be a long wait at all.

That advice was not going to go un-commented on. Another answered that I was not at all helpful and that I just gave some unspecific advice of a general nature. They presented links to some bus company websites and told how they could make reservations and purchase their tickets downtown ahead of time. That is dandy if there were a long trip involved, perhaps a recommendation I would make if the person wanted to go to Mexico City, Zihuatanejo, or some place a few hours away, especially during holiday travel season when reservations would be advised. Second-class buses, those running the most liberal schedules, won't have their information online, and if an online schedule came up it would probably be for an executive or first-class bus with a timetable that would cut out most of the time they probably had allotted for their day-trip. For a short trip, just go to the station when you want to leave. Buses are numerous and frequent in Mexico
."

I also saw that question about buses to Cuitzeo. I wonder how they made out on their trip. I didn't see Peter's reply nor the one that said he was unhelpful.

Flexibility is a very useful trait to cultivate while visiting or living full time in Mexico. "YMMV" is one of the mottoes of savvy expats. I encourage all coming here to get out and explore, preferably on foot. Learn your neighborhood, and rely less on info from other expats over the Internet. Sometimes, yes, it's useful and necessary to seek answers on expat fora. But it's better, IMO, if you can get out and find things on your own.

Saludos,
Don Cuevas
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Peter
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PostSubject: Re: Trains, Pla... No, Buses, Buses, and Combis   Tue 22 Feb 2011, 00:29

Don Cuevas wrote:
Flexibility is a very useful trait to cultivate while visiting or living full time in Mexico. "YMMV" is one of the mottoes of savvy expats. I encourage all coming here to get out and explore, preferably on foot. Learn your neighborhood, and rely less on info from other expats over the Internet. Sometimes, yes, it's useful and necessary to seek answers on expat fora. But it's better, IMO, if you can get out and find things on your own.

Saludos,
Don Cuevas

YMMV is the tetragrammaton here. It is the unspoken law on-high governing all aspects of life in Mexico. No other law may usurp this Law of Laws by which all others derive their power and hold sway over all forces in this land.
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flossiebebe
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PostSubject: Cuitzeo   Tue 22 Feb 2011, 12:40

We had no problem getting to Cuitzeo. 4 of us got a taxi from the centro for 200 pesos. Returning we met some friends who offered us a ride. If we had not met them we could have either taken a local bus which would have let us off circa Morelos norte, tec de Monterrey or Flecha Amarilla also goes through there and would have taken us to the Neuva Centrale.....or we could have taken another taxi. There actually were some around the town, but we did not bother checking for a return price.

We also discovered where to get the local combis that do a circuit around the western part of the lake to local villages, but that's for another trip.

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Don Cuevas
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PostSubject: Cuitzeo   Tue 22 Feb 2011, 13:51

Flossiebebe, I'm pleased that your trip to Cuitzeo went off without a hitch.
Was Cuitzeo interesting? What's there to see there? We've only stopped at Restaurante La Cabaña del Lago, on the lake, for shrimp dinners. Pretty good, too.

Saludos,
Don Cuevas
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flossiebebe
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PostSubject: Re: Trains, Pla... No, Buses, Buses, and Combis   Tue 22 Feb 2011, 14:06

Cuitzeo has a beautiful small main plaza. The Augustinian church and attached former convent are beautiful and worth seeing..especially the convemt which has many restored and unrestored wall paintings. (apparently it was inhabited as recently as 50 years ago). There is also a smaller, plainer former francisan church and another main basilica. When the jacaranda trees are blooming in late March or early April the plaza is even more lovely. There is also a very nice and green park that is very well maintained. The town itself is lovely and clean
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Peter
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PostSubject: Re: Trains, Pla... No, Buses, Buses, and Combis   Sat 26 Feb 2011, 09:39

flossiebebe wrote:

We also discovered where to get the local combis that do a circuit around the western part of the lake to local villages, but that's for another trip.

I hope that is for another post as well. We always appreciate when you make a new discovery that you will tell us about it.

It is possible for some to have lived here in this area all their lives but impossible to have "done it all." I have met a number of people who were vey knowledgeable about the local area but I don't know of anyone or that it is possible to know everything. We rely on each other to tell us about their experiences.

Someone who would share their experience with you is someone you could call Amigo.
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