If you read this blog, you know I am a big fan of the local bus and taxi system we have here in Mexico. My blog on the ADO bus to Mahahual, and the overnight Fun Bus Trip, are two of my most read blogs every day. I use buses and taxis here all the time, and have found that I spend far less money each month doing so, than I spend on owning, insuring, fueling, maintaining and so forth, a car. I’ve also found I like letting someone else do my driving here, a much more relaxing way to get around. In using the systems here so much, I have seen how well they work, but I have also seen how things sometimes don’t go the way they are supposed to. It happens a lot, so I thought a blog on what to look out for, and how to avoid the potential problems, might be needed.
I’ve written a detailed blog on how to drive from the Cancun Airport to Mahahual and the trip I describe is how most trips actually go. It is not an unsafe or dangerous drive in any way. But there are so many little things that can, and often do happen that can make the drive down not much fun. For example, driving norms here are not the same, or better said, people drive lousy here. Drivers cross double lines, tailgate, turn from improper lanes, you name it. And here I always thought driver’s ed was something we had to occupy summer break for 15 year olds. Come to find out, we did actually learn something … like how to drive.
Besides lousy drivers, there are the gas station attendants who are known nation-wide for their rip-offs and scams. From tampered with pumps, to starting the pump at $100 pesos, to quick change scams when you pay. They know them all, and you don’t. And don’t get me started on how to best deal with Mexican traffic cops. Come on, your on vacation, and really, who feels like having fun after a long drive of all the above. Again, just let someone else do the driving. Someone who knows all the gas station tricks, knows how to deal with traffic cops and check points, and one who drives in Mexico every day for a living.
If you take the bus, just be aware, as good as ADO is, it does not always go as smooth and easy as it sounds on my blog. Most of the time, trips go smoothly and almost all get here, and do so on time. The most common problem I hear about though is people missing their bus. There are a couple of avoidable reasons for that.
First, the terminal in Playa Del Carmen, the usual stop to change buses for anyone going south of Cancun, has no speaker system and is a cavernous structure that has a very bad echo. Between someone yelling in Spanish, which most don’t understand, and the bad acoustics, people end up hearing something that sounds like Charlie Brown’s teacher and have no idea if their bus is there or not. Before you know it, your bus is gone and you now need a plan B.
Another reason people miss the bus is that ADO uses the small sprinter buses for two of the 3 buses that come to Mahahual each day, and often, there is not a parking stall for the bus when it arrives, so it will park behind the larger buses, out of your view. When Charlie Brown’s teacher yells the bus is there, you look at all the buses and still don’t see it. Ten minutes later, when you ask about the bus, they tell you sorry, and again, plan B.
I’ve even missed buses here because the driver had not changed the sign in the window that shows that bus’ destination. Sometimes a driver will not change his sign before allowing people to board, and you climb on a bus with the wrong destination. By the time you figure it out, your bus has left you again. They don’t wait, and if the driver is in a hurry, they might leave early. This happens more than you might think, so always make sure the driver checks your ticket. People often climb on before a driver can check their ticket, and by the time he checks your ticket just before leaving, your real bus just left and yes, again, it is plan B!
And finally, don’t count on the friendly, smiling driver to be there to help. Most of the drivers are good drivers and professional in that role. Few are friendly or even helpful though, so don’t even bother asking for the most part. To be honest, most are real jerks. Customer service in general is not ADO’s strong point for that matter. They are good at moving people, but could care less if you have a problem from what I can tell. For example, I had bought a ticket from Mahahual to the Cancun airport a few months ago, and when I arrived in Playa Del Carmen, the driver told me he did not actually go into the airport, in spite of the fact that my ticket was printed for the airport, and I was told it would go to the airport by the ticket clerk, as well as the driver himself, when I boarded the bus. But once in Playa Del Carmen, the driver decided it didn’t actually go to the airport and I was SOL. Having a flight to catch, I began to let the driver have it and a manager came to see the problem. He said for me to follow. He got me a ticket for the next airport shuttle, which left in 5 minutes, turned and walked away. In this case, I got lucky, the next shuttle was there and about to leave, and the problem was solved. Had the next shuttle been an hour, I think the manager would have acted in the same robotic, could care less way. If I made it to the airport on time or not, he could have cared less.
I recently missed a bus because the bus’ destination signs not being changed like I described above, and again, I had no idea what Charlie Brown’s teacher was saying, so my bus left without me. Again, the clerk there just gave me a ticket for the next bus, acting as if she was doing me a favor since it was my fault, and as if the cost of the ticket was coming from her pay. When she finally printed the new ticket for the next bus, in two hours, she mindlessly went back to whatever she was doing on her phone before I had interrupted her fun. Luckily, I wasn’t going to the airport that day, because the ADO people didn’t care if I ever got on any bus, got to Playa Del Carmen or anywhere else for that matter. Don’t expect customer service, help or much more than a safe and comfortable ride to Mahahual with ADO. That, they will provide.
If you are a new reader of this blog, you might be asking, what is plan B? In Mexico, there are “1st class” systems, like ADO, that do tourist class service. A “2nd class” service is similar to 1st class, except that the buses are a bit older, and make unscheduled stops to pick up at any of the many roadside pick-up areas along the highway. These buses are still comfortable, with A/C and nice seats, they just add a half hour to one hour to the trip with the more frequent stops. The lowest level of service are the “3rd class” systems and I don’t recommend tourist take those. There are second class buses that go up and down the highway south toward Mahahual all day, and that line, Mayab, is owned By ADO. Their buses can drop you in Lemones, the last town on the highway before the turn to Mahahual, and you can taxi the last half hour from there. Check this link for a detailed blog on that plan B trip.
If you avoid these common mistakes, you should have a nice bus trip from the Riviera Maya area to Mahahual. ADO’s service, for the money, is really a great deal. The cost of an ADO ticket from the airport to Playa Del Carmen is $160 pesos, about $10 US, and from there to Mahahual, it is $322 pesos, another $20 US, so the trip is about $30 US per person. A great price for that distance. Just don’t expect a smile and a “Bienvenidos a Mexico” when you board, listen closely to Charlie Brown’s teacher, look for the smaller buses, and make sure the driver checks your ticket. Do all that, and you’ll do just fine.
See you in Mahahual.
For answers to all your transportation questions about Mahahual, check the menu of blogs on all things transportation here.