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Bus-t A Move: Modern Travel by Bus

Living in México opened mis ojos to many new things in life; one of the most appealing was modern bus travel. In Sacramento, prior to leaving, I preferred to commute by walking, riding my bicycle or scooting on my vintage Vespa.

Vespa 2010

Scoot-happy in San Francisco, 2010

When I moved to Guadalajara, my host mother (Máma Méxicana), Titi, schooled me in catching the bus from our apartment to el centro, and I timed my daily commute almost perfectly.

Tapatío

Tapatío Tour bus in Guadalajara. (Not the bus I took to school)

The city rides were suitable, but it wasn’t until ITTO hosted a vacation for students in Puerto Vallarta that I really learned about the magic of bus travel in México. The 5 hour ride on a plush, ETN tour bus from Guadalajara to Bahia de Banderas featured reclining seats, free WIFI and picturesque windows, plus – the best part – not having to drive.  I was hooked.

Autobus GDL

Ah, yes Omnibus de México

In January I relocated to Tlaquepaque and frequented the routes around town, as well as ventured out on a winter vacation to the beautiful state of Zacatecas. Traveling alone,  a solo passenger on a giant, air-cushioned ETN only further enhanced my love of bus travel.

Pink Bus

Pink bus in Aguascaliente, between Jalisco and Zacatecas, México

After I moved to Puerto Vallarta, I continued to take the bus on several occasions, including to the REIK concert in Zapopan.  In town and locally, I commuted every day on the green bus marked “Pitillal.”

Green Bus

YAY Green San Esteban bus to Rancho el Charro

I rode the San Esteban bus to Rancho el Charro for horseback riding. I took the Mojonera bus to the Terminal de los Autobuses many times to greet friends. I became familiar with routes around el centro and up into los montañas. So much freedom and so little responsibility, at the inexpensive cost of 6.5 pesos, was literally a cheap thrill for me.

Blue Bus PV

My favorite, el Centro bus

Living in Atlanta, Georgia, I rode the MARTA bus regularly when I was in college.  I know firsthand that, aside from the Méxican buses being very inexpensive, city buses in México are similar to city buses in the US.

MARTA

I once saw a MARTA bus crash into a parking garage gate

In México, city buses are usually hot and stuffy, with no air conditioning, strange sounds and unidentifiable smells. Often, the seats are hard and uncomfortable and the buses are not always on schedule. In the US, you may have air conditioning or softer seats, but it’s still just “the bus” to many. That said, the buses in most cities I have lived in have their advantages over driving, such as being able to read while you ride. The large tour buses such as ETN or Primera Plus are a reliable, inexpensive way to travel to new places, attend events, or just get out and explore. 

Terminal en Zapopan

Terminal en Zapopan: I frequented this one and Tonála often

Last weekend,  my friend Joanne hosted an all-girls’ slumber party at her house in San Leandro. Knowing that I dislike driving, she also recently loaned me a Bajaj scooter upon my arrival in Sacramento. I was touched by her generosity, but still found the trek to the Bay Area a little long on a 4-stroke. 

Bajaj

With my borrowed dog (thanks, Valerie) and my borrowed Bajaj (thanks, Joanne)!

Not wanting to drive (nor currently owning a car), I considered taking the Amtrak Capitol Corridor, but balked when I saw the $29.00 one-way fare.  It’s  a short, 2-hour drive! Seriously, California, I love you, but when is that High Speed Rail going to be built? Europe has had one for years! 

Vintage Sacramento Greyhound

Vintage Sacramento Greyhound station, nice curves!

Remembering the buses in México, I looked up Greyhound routes from Sacramento to the Bay Area and was delighted to find a non-stop route for $10.00 (plus a $2.50 “service fee”) if I booked online. I printed my ticket, departed on time and barely noticed the ride, arriving right on schedule, less than 2 hours, into Oakland.

Oakland Greyhound

Oakland Greyhound station. The domed ceiling is a work of art!

While the Greyhound bus lacked WIFI (one of my favorite features of the ETN), and the bathroom was a dark, port-o-potty on wheels, appearing to be  without a sink (thank goodness for hand sanitizer) , the ride was surprisingly uneventful and easy.

Vallarta tequila

Puerto Vallarta tequila, made in Nayarit!

The weekend flew by with laughter, crafts, delicious food, tasty cocktails, bad karaoke and an adults-only, dark humor card game. As I made paper flowers and greeting cards, and mixed drinks reminiscent of my Méxican home, I felt a great sense of gratitude to have such wonderful friends, and even more grateful to find they are easily reached if I Go Greyhound. 

Crafty Table

She’s Crafty: handmade greeting cards in a vintage cigar box

It’s been said that Americans have a love affair with their cars, and despite owning some rather cool ones myself (like two 1963 Ford Falcon Futuras,  convertible and sedan), I can honestly say I’m not a huge fan of driving.

Trust in the bus and sense of curiosity for travel in other places leaves me to happily accept another sign of my adventurous life: the quest to discover what else lies ahead for me, in countries where more people take the bus. 

Bogota Buses

Bus-t a Move: Buses in Bogóta, Colombia, and nothing else on the road!

 

Author: Kate Dana

Teacher, traveler and writer living on the Caribbean coast of South America.

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