Taking Public Buses in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; Travel Tips Episode #4

What do you need to know about taking a public bus in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico?


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Hello fellow travelers, welcome to this episode of the Puerto Vallarta Travel show, all about buses in Puerto Vallarta.  I am your host Barry Kessler and I am just so happy to be  to introducing you to my favorite vacation destination, and maybe even yours, Puerto Vallarta Mexico.

That music you were just listing to is performed by Alberto Perez, the owner of the La Palapa group of restaurants,  La Palapa Restaurant is on the southside of town, right down on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. La Palapa, and El Dorado Restaurants. And if you play your cards right, you can hear Alberto play his beautiful music and enjoy songs like Samba de Puerto Vallarta when you enjoy dinner at La Palapa. Just saying an added bonus to a great romantic meal on the beach.

Now before we get to buses in Puerto Vallarta I want to thank a listener, Brett from Seattle Washington who reminded me about a tip regarding filling out those immigration forms that we talks about in show 2 and 3. You know, the one you get from the flight attendant before you touch down in Puerto Vallarta, they are called FMM’s which stands for Forma Migratoria Multiple. Anyway, he says in his note…Barry, Listening to your second podcast and noticed you didn’t mention that you can complete the FMM online.  It’s so much easier, and you don’t have to worry about a pen and writing small enough to get everything in the tiny boxes.  When printed, fold it several times so they can separate the ‘top’ part from the ‘bottom’ like the pre-printed ones.  I occasionally have to tell them it’s ‘nuevo – en linea’.  Big time saver!  Here’s the site: https://www.inm.gob.mx/fmme/publico/en/solicitud … there’s an ‘ES’ and an ‘EN’ button you can click for Spanish or English.

Links to Download the FFM

And thank you again Brett, by the way Brett has a really good story about timeshares and he is a little shy, but I’m gonna try to coax him to come on the show and tell you how he makes timeshares work for him. It’s really interesting. And you..yes you can reach out to me and tell me your Puerto Vallarta story, give me a suggestion by going to the contact us tab at the top of our webpage and sending me a email. It’s easy and fun. 

This episode I will be talking buses in Puerto Vallarta with my friend JR in PV. Now you guys have to cut me a little slack here please because I’m just getting used to the long distance interviewing and the proper recording levels and all that other wonky tech stuff. What I’m saying is that it will get better in future interviews so please bear with me as I improve my technique I have been told by the best in the business, don’t let perfect be the enemy of the good.

So with that that in mind, let’s ask JR, is it okay to take buses in Puerto Vallarta? What about ….

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….taking buses in Puerto Vallarta? JR, what about buses? Are the safe? Are you gonna find chickens and livestock on them? What do you expect when you get onto a bus?

JR:         We don’t have chicken bus, going back we did. First what we have to understand the bus system here was not built for tourists. It was built to get people to and from work. For children to get o and from school, etcetera etcetera. The roads tend to go through the residential areas. The local residential areas where tourists will be completely lost.

Barry:    Interesting, because I found most bus drivers don’t speak English very well. I imagine that’s why they don’t interact with tourists that much.

JR:         Some do, if you can say the destination in Spanish, they’ll either say Yes or No. Another thing to consider of course is downtown, we basically have two North-South streets. In other words, in order to get to the South side of town to the North side of town you got to go through one of those streets. Basically, if you’re going North it’s one street. Going South, it’s another. Consequently, there’s a lot of business that go through downtown then go off into all these weird many areas that I’ve never seen.

Barry:    You mentioned on your website a very funny thing. You  say take a mystery tour, hop on the bus and see where it takes you. Sounds like a lot of fun. Would there be a place that you would take a bus to nowhere that you wouldn’t want to go.

JR:         No. It’s a cheap trip it’s just seven and a half pesos. There and back it’s 15 pesos. You go to the end of the line. Sometimes the bus will turn around back. Sometimes there’s another bus waiting to go back. If you change course of course you have to pay twice.

Barry:    Sure. So do you need exact change when you get on a bus?

JR:         It helps. Seven and a half pesos. 50 centavo coin is a tiny thing.

Barry:    You’ll lose it.

JR:         Very small and difficult to find in your pocket sometimes.

Barry:    That’s for sure. What is this little white piece of paper the driver gives you when you get on a bus? First time I got on a bus I thought it was for transfer or something.

JR:         No, that shows that you paid. And occasionally an inspector would come in and look at the numbers at the bus drivers stack of tickets and go through the bus and check the numbers if everybody’s been issued one. And that the driver is not cheating by not giving a ticket.

Barry:    That’s what that’s for. They don’t have these cameras that they have here in the States to keep an eye on your drivers and keep them all good and honest. Actually they’re handing you their ticket which is a receipt.

JR:         Yes, it’s a receipt. And also I believe it covers you in case of accident. Although, I can’t even remember ever there being a bus accidents where anybody got hurt inside the bus.

Barry:    That’s good to know. Let’s say that you arrive at the airport and all you have is a carry on baggage. Maybe a backpack, a roll-away, you’re traveling light. Can you catch a bus from the airport to where you’re going either North or South of the airport?

JR:         Only South, no, North or South really.. The ones going North will be not city buses but long distance buses most of them because the

Taking a Public Bus in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

border of the next state is just north of the airport. Everything going there is basically an intercity bus. The buses coming South basically are coming from Ixtapa, Las Palmas not that many. One of them that I’ve taken before is a magical mystery tour. Although it said central, it eventually got there but it took a long long time. We ended up in the hinterland. I don’t know where we were. I just sat there and crossed my fingers. Eventually it got to the South side where they all end up. In the case of coming through the airport, avoid any bus going South that says Pitillal because that’s the first place the magical mystery tour bus goes.

Barry:    It kinds of winds it way to Pitillal I imagine.

JR:         It goes to Pitillal and it goes to other colonias that I’ve never seen before.

Barry:    So you’re gonna be looking for a bus going South that doesn’t say Pitillal on it. But do you have a specific like Central on it. What does it say?

JR:         Central. I don’t think there are tunnel buses that go by the airport. I might be wrong. I should explain that if it says tunnel which is spelled T-U-N-E-L pronounced “too-nle” this goes on the bypass road around downtown avoiding that constriction there. If you’re going to the south side or going from the South side North and you want to avoid downtown and the delay going through that traffic. You take the bypass road which is called Libra Miento which basically means it’s free.

Barry:    Okay, it will also say tunel on it right?

JR:         Yes. “too-nle”. T-U-N-E-L. That will avoid downtown if you’re going from the hotel zone, the Marina or any hotel towards the airport you want to go to the South side of town you can avoid downtown by taking the Tunel Bus.

Barry:    Okay, got it. If you’re taking a  bus from from the hotel zone that’s pretty much just going through downtown, isn’t it?

JR:         Right. They all go to the South side but from the hotel zone  some would take the bypass road.  You can see it quite easily on my map. And you can click on that. It starts from the Marina airport area all the way down to Mismaloya.

Barry:    Okay, and it actually shows the right buses to take.

JR:         Yes. I also have maps of North of the airport.

Barry:    Fantastic, so this is one of the reasons why you all need to go to vallartainfo.com and click on that map tab. Bring them down and you can see how nice and detailed these are. They give restaurants.They give locations of where to catch those buses.

JR:         It shows the bus stops.  Well, most of them.

Barry:    That is so invaluable. These destinations are put on the windshields of the buses right?

JR:         At the top of the bus, there’s a window that’s their main destination window. That will tell you where they will end up. Then right on the windscreen the various places that you might want to go to. For instance Wal-Mart it might say IMSS which is the local state hospital. It may mention markets like Mega or Soriana. It may also mention places in between the main destination and the origin.

Barry:    So those are the tips when you’re looking at the bus. To understand where they’re going at the end which is along the top. The stops they make along the way which is written on the windscreen.

JR:         For instance, Marine Terminal if you want to take an excursion that’s leaving from the Marine Terminal you would want to look for the bus that says Wal-Mart and Marine Terminal. If you go to the Marina which is not the same as the Marine Terminal and is quite the distance away. You need to take the Marina Bus. There’s only one bus that drives into the residential area of the Marina. That will say Marina on top. This particular bus is not very regular about every 20 mins.

Barry:    If you want to go to the Marina you really need to plan for not having a bus come pick you up right away.

Taking a Public Bus in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

JR:         Right, it’s not as frequent as the other buses. The other buses are every five minutes there’s another bus.

Barry:    It seems like it’s a congo line of buses in Puerto Vallarta.

JR:         If you’re going South, let’s say to Mismaloya Boca de Tomatlan There’s the bus that goes from the South side all the way to Boca de Tomatlan and then turns around and comes back. That is eight pesos.

Barry:    So seven and half for city bus all the way up to the airport-ish. If you are going to catch that Mismaloya bus, it goes down to Boca that will cost you eight pesos. What’s eight pesos today? About 40 cents?

JR:         Yes, I think. If  you’re going further South to say to the Botanical Garden or to El Tuito. There’s another bus that leaves on the corner of Aguacate and Carranza and that will cost you 28 pesos all the way to El Tuito and takes about 50 minutes.

Barry:    It’s a regular city bus too?

JR:         It’s intercity bus because El Tuito is considered to be another city.

Barry:    And that one you catch and will take you even further South.

JR:         Right, if you’re going to see the Botanical Garden. They say to Botanical Garden it’s only 20 pesos but quite often just take 28 which is all he way to El Tuito.

Barry:    Tell me what’s El Tuito like?

JR:         El Tuito is quite a bit older than Puerto Vallarta. It was a stop on the Camino Real, the King’s road from Barra de Navidad to the mines. The Manila boat coming from the Philippines would stop occasionally at Barra de Navidad and unload some goodies for the mines. Maybe take on a little silver but mainly unload some goodies for the mines. They would go by oxcart and mule all the way up this road. It was quite primitive in those days and El Tuito was about halfway and it’s a valley and it had grazing and it had  water. They would stop there and eventually they built some accommodation and that was the start of the town.

Barry:    I just saw not too long ago a post of you going down to El Tuito.

JR:         We went to El Tuito which is on the way to a couple of beaches called Playa Mayto and a fishing village called Teramecle.

Barry:    I think pretty much covers most of what I want to talk about, well not really.

JR:         This bus is going North.

Barry:    Yes, that’s what I was gonna say what about the bus going North?

JR:         Right, do you want to get to Nueva Vallarta Bucerías, Punta de Mita, Sayulita, Lo de Marcos La Cruz de Huanacaxtle and all those place in Rincón de Guayabitos, a lot of them are covered in the bus line called ATM. Not to be confused with the cash machine. Compostela Pacifico line the ATM only goes to Punta de Mita at around the bay for Sayulita your location you need the Compostela Pacifico line. These are all available at Wal-Mart. There’s a special bus stop for these buses going North, not city buses.

Barry:    You catch the buses at Wal-Mart that sounds just like a commercial. I like that. You catch a bus if you’re going to North and get the Compostela bus. You need to get to Wal-Mart first.

JR:         There’s one stop before Wal-Mart, the first stop is right at the end of libramiento departamento of the hotel zone. It’s marked on my map. It’s a good one to get to if you want to get a seat if it’s very busy.

Barry:    It’s really going to be busy going up North especially in the  mornings when people are going to work, right?

JR:         Exactly. This applies going to South as well. If you want to go at Boca de Tomatlan went down to catch the first bus on the South side you might want to go to next bus in line to get a seat. Because quite often you’d be standing.

Barry:    Those are fun trips when you’re standing in the trips especially the South one. How about the North one is it just as fun?

JR:         It’s good. It gets busy. I even had a lady offer me a seat once.

Barry:    No.

JR:         I guess she thought I was really old.

Barry:    These buses are interstate buses. They go from Jalisco to Nayarit?

JR:         Right, they’re considered inter-city.

Barry:    What kind of pesos do we need to bring along when we go to Punta de Mita and we hop on that bus over at-

JR:         Let’s see, Bucerias is 14 pesos. Nuevo Vallarta is either 15 or 18 pesos depending on whether you go to North end or South end of it. La Cruz de Huanacaxtle  is 18 pesos. Punta de Mita is 26. Sayulita is 35 I believe. And that takes you right into Sayulita and that’s the best bus to get for Sayulita.

Barry:    Sayulita they go farther North?

JR:         If you want to go further  North let’s say San Pancho which is actually called San Francisco but everybody calls it San Pancho. Lo de Marcos,  La Cruz de Huanacaxtle are all on the way on that road that eventually goes to Tepic the capital of Nayatrit. Those buses won’t go into these various peach towns. They will drop you in the highway and you have to huff it in to the actual town. Usually it’s less than a mile.

Barry:    All those buses you catch at Wal-Mart.

JR:         Wal-Mart is the most recognizable location. Everybody knows what it looks like. You can actually get earlier as I said at the beginning of the hotel zone and it’s marked on my map. If you want to get seat. It also stops at airport if you wave it down. Buses will stop for you whether it’s not natural regular stop. On the South road or Northern road as long as it’s a place they can pull off because there are only two lanes. Then they will stop. In order to wave them down, not wave at them. They’ll more likely wave back.

Barry:    What’s the right sign?

JR:         The way to stop the bus is to point in the middle of the road right in front of you. The bus will stop.

Barry:    They take directions. Instead of waving and saying hey there what you’re saying is stop right here. Right where I’m pointing.

JR:         This is the tradition down here. They never wave and the bus drivers know if that means somebody wants you to stop. If you wave they might think you’re waving at somebody else.

Barry:    If you are a visitor coming to Puerto Vallarta would you suggest ever renting a car?

JR:         No I wouldn’t at all. Unless you’re planning on driving to somewhere whether it’s not a regular bus service like San Sebastian. You can’t really have a day drive on San Sebastian because the time you get there it’s almost time to go back. Because they have about four buses a day.

Barry:    San Sebastian, that is the silver mining town up in the hills.

JR:         Up in the mountains. 4,600 feet is pretty high.

Barry:    Is there anything else that you can think of that we need to know about the public bus system down here?

JR:         Just be ready to hold on because quite often the driver will take off while he’s making change.

Barry:    Keep an eye on that. Make sure you always turn around. Don’t leave anything on the bus,very important, before you leave because you may not get it back. Or maybe you will?

JR:         People get their stuff back right where they left behind sometimes but there’s not central garage or anything. A lot of these buses are owned by the drivers and they drive them home.

Barry:    I didn’t know that. That’s very interesting.

JR:         The bus companies but they’re like cooperatives in a way. Some of the bus companies own a bunch of buses and in effect rent them out to the driver. Other drivers actually own the bus. And work with the cooperative and pay cooperative a certain amount.

Barry:    That’s pretty precise description of what’s going on down on the ground in Puerto Vallarta regarding buses and bus system there. Just remember everybody; if you have the urge to rent the car don’t. Unless you’re gonna go where the buses and the cab won’t take you. Speaking of cabs, in another episode you and I will be talking about taxis. Is that okay JR?

JR:         Sure that’s fine. I would interject also if you’re going to rent a car, the only rental company I can always really 100% recommend are Gecko Car Rental. They’re not in town they’re in Bucerias. But they will come and bring your car anywhere including the airport. They’re the only ones that don’t have bad press.

Barry:    Thanks that a great tip then. Gecko for those of you who are thinking about renting a car. If you really really got to do it. Do it in through this company in Bucerias called Gecko. JR once again, you are a huge fount of information for us , for my listeners, for our listeners. I really really appreciate you coming out today again.

JR:         Welcome Barry.

Barry:    We’ll talk again soon maybe about taxis.

JR:         Okay, I’ll try and think of good things to say.

Barry:    Sure you will. Thanks again JR.

JR:         Okay, bye.

Barry:    Bye now.

So that was quite an in depth look at taking buses in Puerto Vallarta Mexico. A couple of items I want to touch base on before we leave this subject behind and that is the conversation I had with JR about taking a bus from the Airport. I would never suggest that you take a bus if you are a first time traveler to Vallarta. That is a bus from the airport to your hotel. It would be silly. I’m just talking about the seasoned traveler who is traveling light. No luggage just a backpack. That bus you can catch along side the arrivals terminal under the pedestrian bridge and look for a bus that says Centro on it. The other item I wanted to mention is that the Mismaloya bus that also goes to Boca de Tomatlan can be found at the corner of Basillo Badillo and Constitution. They are orange and white buses and will cost you 8 pesos. And I just want to remind you that the bus to  El Tuito and the Botanical Gardens is at Aguacate and Carranza.

Check in my shownotes for all of the routes and costs for buses in Puerto Vallarta and you will find them at www.puertovallartatravelshow.com and the notes will be right there with this podcast post. I should also mention, since we are talking pesos and dollars, as of this podcast, January 22, 2017  the Mexican peso to the US dollar is almost 22 pesos to 1.  I also have to add that we have experienced an increase of up to 20% in fuel prices in the last weeks here in mexico so taxi and bus prices are expected to rise in the near future but never fear, we will keep you up to date as things on the ground change. Thus far however, we haven’t seen any drastic changes in transportation costs to the end user.

Okay, Again you will find all of the show notes to this podcast and others to come including the links to JR’s site and to the website where you can purchase the fantastic music of Alberto Perez who we will listen to as we play out this episode at www.puertovallartatravelshow.com, just click on the show links tab at the top of the home page.

Remember that this show is an interactive one.

I need your participation by sending me emails with questions for JR that you would like to hear him answer on air with me. And please Email me your suggestions for show topics that you think  I should be talking about, please reach out to me by clicking on the contact us tab on my website at the top of the home page at  www.puertovallartatravelshow.com.

And remember, if you are considering booking any type of tour while you are in Puerto Vallarta, you must go to Vallartainfo.com, JR’s website and reserve your tour through him, right from his website. Remember the value for value proposition. His experience and on the ground knowledge of everything Puerto Vallarta in exchange for your making a purchase of a tour that you would do anyway, you’re just doing it through him as a way of saying thank you. It costs no more than if you were to use someone else so do it. Really. And when you do take one of these tours, email me about your experiences. Maybe you can come on-board and share with others what you liked or didn’t like about the tour. Again, email me with your experiences.

And one more favor please, if you like this podcast, please take the time and give me a good review on iTunes if you would. It would be so appreciated if you would just take the extra time to do that for me. That way we can get the word out to more and more people about the magic of this place.

So, thanks to you for listening all the way through Thank  you JR for sharing all you know about buses and answering all my goofy questions. Thanks again my friends, this is Barry Kessler signing off with a wish for you all to slow down, be kind and live the Vallarta lifestyle. Relax, Manana.

Nos Vemos amigos!

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