As air travel rules in the United States, bus travel rules in Mexico. Hundreds of sleek, first-class bus lines such as Elite, Turistar, Futura, Transportes Pacífico, and White Star (Estrella Blanca) depart the border daily, headed for the Puerto Vallarta region.
Since North American bus lines ordinarily terminate just north of the Mexican border, you must usually disembark and continue on foot across the border to the Mexican immigration office (migración). There, after having filled out the necessary but very simple paperwork, you can walk outside and bargain with one of the local taxis to drive you the few miles to the camionera central (central bus station).
First-class bus service in Mexico is much cheaper and more frequent than in the United States. Tickets for comparable trips in Mexico cost a fraction (around $80 for a 1,000-mile trip, compared with about $120 the United States).
In Mexico, as on U.S. buses, you often have to take it as you find it. Asientos reservados (seat reservations), boletos (tickets), and information must generally be obtained in person at the bus station, and credit cards and travelers checks are not often accepted. Nor are reserved bus tickets typically refundable, so don’t miss the bus. On the other hand, plenty of buses roll south almost continually.
Bus Routes to Puerto Vallarta
From California and the western United States, cross the border to Tijuana, Mexicali, or Nogales, where you can ride one of at least three bus lines along the Pacific Coast route (National Highway 15) south to Puerto Vallarta by Estrella Blanca (via its subsidiaries, Elite, Transportes Norte de Sonora, or Turistar) or independents Transportes Pacífico or Transportes y Autobuses del Pacífico (TAP).
A few Estrella Blanca and Transportes Pacífico departures may go all the way from the border to Puerto Vallarta. Otherwise, you will have to change buses at Mazatlán or Tepic, depending on your connection. Allow a full day and a bit more (about 30 hours), depending upon connections, for the trip. Carry liquids and food (which might be only minimally available en route) with you.
From the midwestern United States, cross the border from El Paso to Juárez and head for Mazatlán by way of Chihuahua and Durango by either Estrella Blanca (via subsidiaries Transportes Chihuahuenses or super-first-class Turistar) or independent Ómnibus de Mexico. Both Transportes Chihuahuenses and Turistar usually offer a few daily departures direct to Mazatlán. Otherwise, transfer at Durango to a Mazatlán-bound bus and continue south to Puerto Vallarta as described earlier.
From the southeastern and eastern United States, cross the border at Laredo to Nuevo Laredo and ride Transportes Norte de Sonora or Turistar direct to Mazatlán, or to Durango. At Durango, transfer to a Mazatlán bus, where you can continue south to Puerto Vallarta, as described previously.
From the central or eastern United States, it may be more convenient to ride a bus from the border direct to Guadalajara, where you can easily transfer to one of many buses bound for Puerto Vallarta.
© Bruce Whipperman from Moon Puerto Vallarta, 7th edition