In the state of Quintana Roo, Mexico, the public transportation system is very good. The sources of transportation include the ADO bus system, collectivo’s (mini vans that fit up to around 20 people), and taxi’s. All of the sources of transportation are reasonably priced and can get you from door to door.
If you are traveling long distances, the ADO bus system is safe, clean, comfortable, air-conditioned, and speedy. You need to purchase your tickets directly at the bus stations, which are also clean and safe, and do have food stations to purchase drinks and snacks.
Try to be prepared with a little Spanish for communications. Some of the clerks speak English, but not all of them, so do not rely on their speaking English to communicate. The same is true with the bus drivers. You may get one that speaks English, but that is not a given. If you need to, write down your plotted course before you get to the bus station so that the clerks understand your destination.
The ticket prices are reasonable, and they just ask that you be at the bus station 1/2 hour before the bus is scheduled to leave. If you are going to be on the bus for an extended period of time, the buses do stop for restroom and snack breaks. It’s a good idea to bring a sweater with you on the bus as they are all very air-conditioned.
If you are on a time constraint with your travel, and going to be transferring buses, you want to give yourself a few extra days of travel. The ADO buses may only leave for certain destinations one time a day, so if you are planning on traveling a long distance, and hopping from one bus to the next, it’s possible that your connecting bus may not leave until the next day, requiring an overnight stay in a hotel.
The key to traveling long distances in Mexico is to build in a few extra days of travel time so that if all of your connecting buses do not leave when you arrive at the bus station, you have allowed yourself the extra time.
The next source of public transportation are “collectivo’s”. A collectivo is a small bus, similar to a mini-van. The collectivo’s are clean, fast and very reasonably priced. This is the least expensive way to get around from town to town.
To catch a collectivo, you need to get to the main highway. The collectivo’s travel along major highways and stop at designated stops along the way to pick up and drop off passengers. The collectivo’s do not venture off of the main highway, so if you are traveling from Tulum to Playa Del Carmen, and your actual destination is a store off of the main highway, you will need to be let off on the highway, and then either walk or take a taxi to your final destination.
The collectivo’s run every 10 minutes, and they are always available. They begin running early in the morning, around 6:00 am, and run until 10:00 at night. The cost is extremely low. For instance, to get from Tulum to the middle of Playa Del Carmen (staying only on the main highway), the cost is $35.00 pesos per person, or close to $3.00 US, one way. If you were to travel this distance by car, it would cost about $10.00 in gasoline, one way, so that is a significant savings.
The collectivo’s are safe, clean and quick. The drivers may speak English, but may not. Be prepared to know how to ask the driver to let you off in Spanish, or to tell him your destination in Spanish.
The next source of public transportation are the taxi’s. Taxi’s are absolutely everywhere in Quintana Roo, so you will not need to wait long for one to appear. The taxi’s are safe and fairly clean, and most of the drivers speak English well enough to understand where you want to go.
None of the taxi’s have meters on them, so the prices are subjective to the driver. However, taxi’s will take you door to door, where ever you need to go. I recommend asking what the fair will be before committing to the ride so that you both have an understanding of the cost upfront.
With all of these modes of transportation, always be careful to check your seats before you are let out to make sure that you have everything. If you leave something on the bus, or the collectivo, or taxi, the chances of you recovering it are slim and none. Reporting missing items to authorities is generally futile. It is something you may want to do (just in case a miracle happens), but you will want to move forward as if you are never getting that item back.
Eash method of transportation is safe in regards to your personal safety, however, theft of your back pack or purse is possible, so keep them close to you at all times. Theft is not so prevalent that you need to be afraid of it, but you need to be aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your personal belongings. For instance, I would not recommend getting off the bus without bringing your bag with you.
In the state of Quintana Roo, it is possible to live here without a car. The public transportation system is very easy to use, reliable, and reasonably priced.