Wednesday, July 14, 2010

By Bus to Mexico City

About two months ago, to visit some friends, mi prima from France (by the way, happy Bastille day) traveled from Patzcuaro to Mexico City and back by bus. She found the trip easy, convenient and comfortable.

zocalo dfMichael Warshauer, a local resident, recently gave detailed information on bus travel to the big D.F. in the useful, member-friendly michoacan_net Yahoo Group forum. He has kindly permitted me to republish it here:

Several times a year, we travel by bus from Pátzcuaro to Mexico City, and return. Since my last posts on this a few years ago, there have been changes in both schedules and the buses themselves. Here is what I've learned, with some of my personal opinions on service quality, principally on Grupo Herradura de Plata's AutoVias line. Some references will be made to ETN, but we use it less, as it no longer stops in Pátzcuaro. This will describe what I consider the easest way to do this, with one alternative option.

First of all, our travel always is from La Central de Camioneras in Pátzcuaro (with one exception) to Terminal Poniente (Observatorio) in Mexico City. We have never used the Terminal Norte in Mexico City on these trips, as it's not convenient for us. Someday, it may be useful, but for now, we always go to Poniente/Observatorio. If you are a savvy Mexico traveler, and travel with very little luggage, say, a small pack, you can save taxi fare by emerging from the Terminal Observatorio, crossing the busy avenue (there is a light), wend through a tianguis, and enter the Metro at Estacíon Observatorio. That is the western end of Linea 1, a major Metro line in the city. It's easy to find a seat at that station. Linea 1 can take you in 15 or so minutes to Metro Insurgentes, a major street hub, where you can walk to La Zona Rosa or Colonia Roma Norte; or continue to points beyond, including the Airport. But that's out of the discussion at hand, and it's not simple.

The bus trip has become easier in the past couple of years after the opening of the Toluca bypass via the outskirts of Lerma, Estado de México. The entire trip is just under 5 hours, with a 15 minute stop at the Central de Camioneras in Morelia to take on and discharge passengers. (Sometimes there are only us or 1 more passenger on the 45 minute Pátzcuaro-Morelia run.)

autovias bus

In the last year, HdP-Autovias has trimmed its Pátzcuaro schedule to have less frequent departures. I have posted recent schedules to the Files Section under Travel and Leisure. Or, you can look here, Enter the required info to see the most recent changes, if any. Although you can order online, we never do, as it's so easy to just get the tickets a day or so in advance going out, and on the same day with an hour or so in anticipation coming back. The only time it might be worth booking online is for travel during heavy holiday seasons, or if you qualify for an INAPAM (INSEN) discount (50% !) and want to be sure to get one of the allocated discounted seats.)

On our return, Mexico City-Pátzcuaro, we arrived early to avoid rush hour traffic and were able to easily get two INAPAM discounted seats on the 7:20 departure. The AutoVias buses are modern and comfortable. On the this route, we have so far taken mostly double decker buses. There are two classes, Servicio Plus and the slightly more expensive (at present the difference is $19 pesos Mexicanos), Servicio Ejecutivo. We took Ejecutivo recently, and for us, there is absolutely no advantage to it, unless you don't want to climb a short flight of stairs or want to be closer to the restroom. The limited seating Ejecutivo section is lower ceilinged, has leg rests (which for me were useless), fewer windows and is generally darker and more confining. Downstairs, in Ejecutivo, there's no overhead shelf space for carryons, but there is limited yet adequate space in the upper, Servicio Plus deck. Note: there is some lateral sway motion noted on the upper deck. Personally, I'll take that over the poorly ventilated confining lower deck.

In the past, we would be given an unappetizing lunchmeat and yellow cheese sandwich and a bottle of water or a can of Boing! If offered the Boing!, take it. It's a delicious, non-carbonated fruit drink. On our last trip, a 7:15 a.m. departure from Pátzcuaro, there was no sandwich nor water. We'd brought our own, much better, homemade tortas, Boing! and water. I think passengers boarding at Morelia got a snack and a drink.

The newer AutoVias buses have Internet aboard. It works slowly, but it usually works, if you are not in the station area. I was able to check email and browse a few websites on my iPod Touch. The upper deck Servicio Plus is airier, better ventilated (at least, in our experience) and the views are much better. If you want in your face, over the road thrills, book one of the front row seats which have a panoramic window looking forward. These seats also have the most leg room. The line has been thoughtful enough to provide roll down shades against sun glare.Most of the onboard movies are now in Spanish. This is useful for learning or improving your Spanish. A few movies are actually good. Most are either totally sappy or violent American B-movies.The free coffee dispenser was no longer present in the AutoVias Observatorio waiting room. It won't be missed.

There is actually pretty decent food to be had at the concession counters and in the cafeteria style restaurant in the Terminal Observatorio. I would avoid the carnitas places, though, on the dried out, unappetizing appearance of the product. There's an interesting and quirky bakery or two within Terminal Observatorio. One of the specialties are large turtle shaped breads. They are intriguing to see but the taste is nothing special.There's a bookstore, with, I believe espresso drinks! I haven't tried them.etn bus

Now, ETN. ETN, Enlaces Terrestres Nacionales lines serve Mexico City and Morelia, as well as major points west in central Mexico. It has a reputation of being the most comfortable bus service, akin to traveling first class air. Well, it *is* comfortable, but to me no better than the upper deck seats on AutoVias. [Per author and Cristina Potters of "Mexico Cooks!", an advantage is that seating is configured 1 and 2. Thus a solo traveler can choose to sit by themself if they want. That is only possible on AutoVias if the seat next to you is unsold.]

Since ETN no longer serves Pátzcuaro, you have to get to the Morelia Central Bus Terminal by secondary means. One way is an AutoVias bus! If you can coordinate the timing; or take the very frequent (every 15 minutes or so) second class Purhépechas bus departures, either from the Pátzcuaro Central or down at the "Estacíon", across from the ill fated Federal Police Station. You are not guaranteed a seat if you board there.It can be a drag if traveling with a lot of luggage, so sometimes it's best to make your travel simple, and just take the AutoVias all the way. Just less hassle.

Buen viaje,


  1. See Mike’s tips on bus travel from Mexico City Airport and his blog Surviving La Vida Buena.
  2. HdP-Autovias site.
  3. Join Michoacan_net Yahoo Groups for useful information and e-camaraderie.