Learning the ins and outs of local transportation in different countries can be a hassle, but this helpful ADO bus guide has everything you need to know to take an ADO bus in Mexico, including how to buy ADO bus tickets on an English website.
During our 6 months traveling around together in southern Mexico, we used ADO as our main means of transportation. We took ADO buses pretty much everywhere, including Comitan, Chiapas and Huatulco, Oaxaca.
Be warned, if you’re not up for dissecting timetables, speaking a few words in Spanish, dealing with the occasional delayed bus, and purchasing tickets for each leg of your trip, then the ADO bus might not be for you. You’re probably better off getting a rental car, searching Skyscanner for cheap flights on budget airlines (at times cheaper than a bus), or booking a small group tour of Mexico.
But if you want to travel like a local in Mexico, then continue reading to learn all about Mexico’s ADO bus system.
If you’re searching for a way to get ADO tickets in English, you can buy ADO bus tickets in English here.
Looking for places to travel to by bus? Check out these destination guides:
- The Ultimate Guide to San Cristobal de las Casas
- The Complete Guide to Oaxaca City
- The Ultimate Guide to Bacalar Lagoon
- The Complete Travel Guide to Palenque
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Mexico’s ADO Bus System
First off, you should know that ADO is short for the Autobuses de Oriente bus company. Unfortunately, they don’t cover all of Mexico. But, if you plan on traveling in Mexico City or anywhere south of that, then ADO is the bus company you’ll be using.
Another thing you need to know about ADO is that some years ago they purchased another company called OCC. They didn’t bother to change the branding on the buses, so if your bus shows up and it says “OCC” on the side instead of “ADO” don’t panic. It’s the same thing.
This also applies to the bus stations themselves. We learned this the hard way when we couldn’t find the ADO bus station in San Cristobal de las Casas on Google Maps because it’s still called OCC.
Read Next: 9 Best Things to Do in Comitan, Chiapas
ADO Bus Class Levels
Even though they have different class levels, all ADO buses are considered first-class. Second-class buses in Mexico depart from a separate station. They are cheaper, but they aren’t as comfortable, and I’ve never been on one with AC. In our opinion, it’s usually worth paying a few extra pesos for comfort on trips over an hour, especially overnight ones.
Speaking of extra pesos, you will pay more for the extra perks on ADO. The different class levels are listed below (starting with the most expensive) along with a description of what each offers.
ADO Platino (Platinum)
- Access to Platino (VIP) lobby
- 27 reclining seats in rows of 2 or 1
- Extra legroom
- Folding table
- Onboard WiFi
- Regular and USB charging outlets
- Personal monitor with entertainment system
- Bathrooms for men and women (with changing table)
- Onboard cafeteria
- Travel kit, including a pillow and blanket
ADO GL (Great Luxury)
- 40 reclining seats
- Regular and USB charging outlets
- 6 monitors
- Bathrooms for men and women (with changing table)
- Onboard cafeteria
- Complimentary beverage
ADO & OCC (Regular First Class)
- 44 reclining seats
- 3-4 monitors
- 1 bathroom
All Regular ADO Buses
- Air conditioning
- Blackout Curtains
- Reading lights
- Overhead luggage compartment
Other: ADO Conecta and ADO Aeropuerto
These are usually for bus service between cities and airports. You can get a bus or a cramped sprinter van if not enough tickets were sold. If you get the sprinter van, try to get the seats behind the driver for extra legroom (you’ll need it!).
ADO Bus Trip Essentials
Here are some items you’ll want to make sure you have for your ADO bus trip in Mexico.
- Earplugs and noise-canceling earbuds: to drown out the insanely loud TV
- Inflatable Neck Pillow: to sleep comfortably
- Siesta Eye Mask: for naps or overnight trips
- Travel Wrap: to use as a blanket and shield yourself from the AC
- Kindle: to download and read books without wifi
- The People’s Guide to Mexico: our all-time favorite book on Mexico
- Travel Camera: to take photos of the scenic landscapes and villages
- Water Bottle: this is the one I’ve had for over ten years and LOVE
- Snacks and Food!
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Choosing Your ADO Bus Seats
We’ve traveled on ADO buses countless times. Our advice is to sit in the middle of the bus. You want to be as far from the possibly stinky bathroom in the rear, but also not in the very front of the bus. Being in the front of the bus exposes you to very bright oncoming car headlights at night and the driver’s potentially loud radio at any time of day. Not to mention that it’s probably best for your sanity not to look out the front window. Just trust us on this one.
It’s also important to know that seat reservations do not apply to all buses or routes, especially on short trips.
“What do you mean you don’t have to sit in your seat?! This is MY seat. My ticket has this seat number. AND the last bus I took had assigned seats.”
An actual quote from a tourist yelling at a passenger, which led to a 15-minute delay and the bus driver getting involved because she (the tourist) refused to accept that A.) she was NOT a Mexican bus expert (but YOU will be after reading this post!) and B.) some buses don’t do assigned seating.
Even though the last bus you took had reserved seats and everyone sat in their spot, that doesn’t mean the bus you’re on now has assigned seating. We found that shorter (1-2 hour) bus trips usually disregard seat reservations.
The best way to find out where you are going to sit is to ask the driver if he cares where people sit on his bus before boarding: “Se respetan los asientos?”. Literally means, “Are seats respected?”. If the driver says no, then you’re entitled to the best available seat. If the driver says yes, you’re entitled to kick people out of your seat. And, the driver or the assistant will help you get your assigned seat, if needed.
This way, when you get on the bus and see someone sitting in your seat, you won’t freak out (don’t be THAT tourist). You’ll just smile knowingly and calmly take the next available seat.
Best Way to Buy ADO Bus Tickets
If you’re already in Mexico, the best way to buy ADO bus tickets is to simply show up at the bus station, get in line, and buy your ticket at the counter. We check the bus times online first and come prepared with the exact times and the type of bus we want.
This is what we did 90% of the time during our almost 6 months in southern Mexico. We try to buy our tickets at least an hour ahead of time. But, if you’re running late, they usually stop selling tickets 15 minutes before the departure time.
At one point, we were traveling during the last week of December (peak travel time for Mexicans and foreign tourists). This is when we had to buy tickets several days in advance because the buses were selling out quickly.
Whenever we had our departure date set, we bought the tickets at least 3 days in advance to take advantage of the compra anticipada (advance purchase) discount. The advance purchase discount price is automatically shown on ADO’s website along with a red tag icon with a dollar sign. The discount varies by location and by the popularity of the route and it’s not always offered.
If you’re traveling during the high season or you want the advance purchase discount, here’s how to buy ADO tickets in advance:
How to Buy ADO Bus Tickets In Person at the Station
Head over to the ADO station a few days ahead of your departure date. If you don’t speak much Spanish, it’s probably best to give the person at the ticket counter a piece of paper with all of the info for the ticket you want (include destination, date, time, and bus type).
You can get this info from the ADO bus website. You can also just watch the ticket person’s screen and point to which bus you want and choose your seats.
ADO bus stations usually accept cards, including foreign cards, and always accept cash (Mexican pesos only). Once you make your purchase, they will give you a long receipt which is also your ticket. Don’t lose it and make sure to double-check it’s correct before leaving the counter.
Read Next: How to Use Money in Mexico
How to Buy ADO Bus Tickets Online
It used to be that you could only buy tickets online with a Mexican debit or credit card, but thankfully, times have changed!
Here’s a brief description of the sites you can use to check ADO bus schedules and purchase ADO tickets online.
ADO Website & ADO Movil App
The official ADO website is only available in Spanish. If you’re comfortable buying your tickets on a Spanish website or using Google Translate, then it’s the best site for checking bus schedules, deciding exactly which seat you want for that 11-hour overnight trip without any pressure, and buying your tickets in advance.
The ADO app is also only available in Spanish, but it comes in handy to quickly check schedules on your phone and show the person at the ticket counter which bus tickets you want by pointing to them. You can also buy your bus tickets on it, even with a foreign credit card.
How to Buy ADO Bus Tickets in English
If you’d rather use a website in English to purchase your ADO bus tickets online, then BusBud is the site to use. It’s a third-party website for buying bus tickets in multiple countries, including Mexico.
It’s super easy to use and you get an e-ticket – which means you can usually just show the tickets on your phone when boarding.
They are very clear about the details for each trip including amenities, baggage limits, and they have small maps of the departure and arrival locations. The only catch is that they charge a small fee for their service, but it’s worth it if you want to avoid messing something up by using the Spanish-only website.
ADO Bus Stations
Bus stations in cities are large buildings with AC, bathrooms, snack stores, and a seating area. Some even have an overnight locker storage area, which sells travel accessories.
Smaller towns may have a tiny ADO ticket office (with or without a waiting area) or sell tickets through the local convenience store.
Read Next: Exploring the Yellow Town of Izamal
The buses typically board about 5 before departure time. It could be sooner or later, but they usually leave on time.
They’ll announce the destination boarding over the loudspeakers. If you miss the announcement, just keep an eye out for a line forming around the time your bus leaves. People will line up at the entrance to the bus boarding area to have their tickets checked by security. You can stand in line and that person will tell you which one your bus is.
Make sure you’re boarding the right bus! When in doubt, ask multiple times. Ask the people in line with you, the first ticket checker at security, and ask the driver (who checks tickets again) before boarding. Check the sign scrolling across the front of the bus. Although these can sometimes show only the final destination and not wherever you’re stopping.
Once you’re in the bus area, head over to the side of your bus where there’ll be someone loading luggage underneath. That person will give you a ticket which you must keep to retrieve your bag. Some stations have a check-in counter in the waiting area, but most just do it while loading.
After your bag is loaded, give the person at the bus door (usually the driver) your ticket or your phone with the ADO ticket or an e-ticket from Busbud. They will scan it and wave you onboard.
Small handbags (think personal items on planes) go on the bus with you and are stored in the overhead compartment or at your feet, but anything larger must be stored underneath the bus. If you try to board the bus with a bag that is too big, the driver will tell you that it needs to go under the bus (even my carry-on size 40L Osprey backpack was denied). But checking bags is free so at least you won’t get charged extra. I ended up using this foldable backpack as my bus carry-on and I think it’s an absolute essential.
Read Next: The Best Things to Do in Progreso Beach (Merida’s Beach Escape)
What to Expect on the Trip
Depending on the route, the bus might make multiple stops at bus stations along the way to the final destination to drop off and pick up new passengers. Sometimes the driver will announce that it’s a 10-minute stop (or longer) and you can hop off to buy snacks or use the bathroom at the bus station. Remember to bring along some coins for the bathroom fee, travel tissues (bathrooms don’t always have toilet paper), and biodegradable hand sanitizer (bathrooms don’t always have soap).
Don’t be surprised if vendors board the bus to sell snacks, like popcorn or chips.
If you have a very long bus ride, the driver will stop every 4 hours or so for meal and bathroom breaks. Even though the bus does have a bathroom, you probably want to do your best to avoid using it due to the potential of bouncing around like a pinball with all of the topes (speed bumps) and baches (potholes) on the roads.
If you’re riding on the regular ADO or OCC class level be prepared for movies or shows playing nonstop on the monitors and speakers. We once watched an entire Britney Spears concert at the highest volume, yet another time they played a Zac Efron movie marathon. Make sure to bring earplugs or noise-canceling headphones if you prefer silence or just want to choose what you listen to.
The temperature on these buses is usually on the colder side with AC on full blast. Make sure to wear layers and bring a scarf or travel blanket.
ADO Bus Safety
Of course, you don’t want to think about everything that can go wrong on your trip, but emergencies do happen and there have been stories of theft on the buses in Mexico.
Be prepared and get your travel insurance today.
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Final Thoughts on Mexico’s ADO Buses
If you’re planning to visit Mexico, ADO buses are the comfortable and affordable way to travel between destinations. The buses are a great value for the money and come with a surprising amount of amenities.
Traveling around Mexico? Check out these places you can ride the bus to:
- The Ultimate Guide to Oaxaca City
- Ultimate Guide to San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas
- Ultimate Guide to Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca
- The Ultimate Guide to Bacalar Lagoon
- See Thousands of Flamingos in Celestun
We hope this ADO bus guide will help you prepare for your travels. Let us know in the comments below if we missed anything or if you have any questions.
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