Using the buses in Quintana Roo Mexico is as common as having tortillas with your meal. We all do it! I’ve written several blogs on the first class buses here but because that service is so limited to Mahahual, I thought it might good to do one on the other buses available, the second and third class, or commuter buses. And then of course there the ones we call, “no class” buses, but no, stay off those! If you know how to use the others, and the ADO schedule doesn’t work for you, don’t be afraid to use them. Just be ready, they are safe and reliable, but they are not like the first class buses, which are closer to like riding a plane than a bus. These are like riding a bus and all that goes with that … especially in Mexico!
The primary second class carrier in the area is called Mayab. They are owned by the ADO people and their buses are just converted older ADO buses, but still nice. They have A/C and are comfortable with nice seats and leg room that big buses have. They travel up and down highway 307, the main north-south traffic artery in the state, all day and even into the night. Buses start in Cancun and goes through Playa Del Carmen, Tulum and on to Chetumal, the state capital down along the Belize border.
The big difference between first and second class buses is that the first class only do specific point to point stops and destinations. If you want to get on one, you can only do so at set stops in terminals. This allows them to run on time and be relatively fast because they make few stops. Second class buses, like Mayab, will stop and pick up people along the road between terminals as well. The driver has a ticket printer on board and prints your ticket anywhere they pick you up. You can get on in set terminal stops, but can actually just wave one down along the highway and they will stop.
As you can imagine, this makes the buses run slower and occasionally, late from their scheduled terminal arrival and departure times. It also makes them much cheaper to ride. A ticket for Playa Del Carmen to Limones, the closest town to Mahahual along the highway, is about $160 pesos, or about $14 US. An ADO for the same route, is about $280 pesos. The ADO travel time will be about 3 hours, while the Mayab will take a bit over 4.
The other downside to Mayab, is that it does not come to Mahahual. It only travels highway 307. So if you use it to come to Mahahual, you buy your ticket to Limones. From there you can taxi to Mahahual for $360 pesos, or about $32 US. If you do not want to spend the night along the way in order to catch the only ADO into Mahahual early each day, you’ll need to use the Mayab and it has a bus that will stop in Limones almost every hour or two.
If you use the Mayab to come to Mahahual, there is a commuter bus, called Caribe, and it stops each evening in Limones at about 6:00-6:15 on its trip from Chetumal to Mahahual. They seem to be the main commuter service for the south part of the state. Riding the Caribe is slow, cheap and always quite the cultural experience. Anyone, from vendors selling snacks and sodas, to performing mimes, might jump on at the next stop. It is usually locals carrying groceries, farm equipment or lunch boxes. The buses are open air, but because they are moving, they never really get too hot or uncomfortable. If you can catch that bus, it is only $40 pesos a person, about $3.50 US to Mahahual. The bus “terminal” in Limones is actually a little store. There is a small snack place next door you can buy a cold drink to wait, but be ready, Limones is just a small Mayan dusty little town. There is nothing there except a couple of blocks of main street/highway commercial but really nothing most would find interesting. Take a book!
Once in Mahahual, you can use taxis for short trips around town and they are cheap and easy to find everywhere. A couple dollars point to point and check my blog on Mahahual taxis for more info and even official rates. However, many use the Caribe bus to visit from Mahahual, places like Xcalak, a small diving village an hour or so south, and the last stop before Belizian waters. It can also get you to Bacalar, a fresh water lagoon area inland and more of a eco/natural destination, or Chetumal, where you can water taxi to San Pedro Belize or take the “chicken bus” for a dollar and drive into mainland Belize.
The are only a few buses in and out of Mahahual each day, so if you plan on using the Caribe, check with your concierge to make sure the times work for you. If you are planning a trip to Bacalar or Chetumal, and want to use the Caribe, it works well to do so on your way out. Once you get to either destination and ready to return to the airport, you are back on highway 307 and again have easy access to both the first class ADO and second class Mayab.
Now that I know how to use the buses here, I use them more than I drive. It is safe to drive everywhere in this area, and the roads are good as well, but at the end of the day, why drive if you don’t have to. It is usually cheaper, especially for one or two people, than driving, and besides, when you’re driving, you’re missing all the fun stuff!