Austin, TX from San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

March 10, 2015

traveling from Guatemala to Texas

Hey all, I’m back in Austin just in time for SXSW. Traveling from San Pedro la Laguna on Lake Atitlán in Guatemala took only two days and zero planning. I was just going to over-land the whole thing, but the single inter-Mexico flight really shaves down the travel time. There’s not much difference in price between scheduling far out or last minute, but flexibility in scheduling suffers a bit when you’re three days from starting the trip.

Traveling through Guatemala on the chicken buses is obviously the least expensive part, but can be some of the most daunting travel to those inexperienced with the lack of schedules and clear system maps. Schedules exist, but everyone you encounter has a different idea of when buses specifically occur–and no one will tell you that they don’t know the answer to your question.

At Ayutla and Ciudad Hidalgo, crossing the border was painless and a little romantic. Rather than shuttles or tuk-tuks, pedicabs for hire make the actual crossing. The government buildings here and the staff filling them appeared more professional than the Santa Domingo-Ciudad Cuauhtémoc crossing that leads to San Cristóbal from San Pedro. A jam-packed collectivo gets you to larger Tapachula where buses may be had.

Once in Mexico, the buses become very regimented, built for greater personal space, allow seats to recline–and much increase in price. Multiple buses run to a number of nearby cities daily. Mine ran overnight to Oaxaca City where my flight would be waiting for me with [a scheduled] four hours to spare. Any delays could easily be attributed to the numerous immigration checkpoints our bus was subjected to. The seats were comfy, space was ample, but the periodic evacuations of the bus prevented a perfect night’s sleep.

Queso Quesillo (or Oaxaca)

Oaxaca cheese from Oaxaca

 In Cuidad Oaxaca public transportation wasn’t as apparent as other Mexican locales. Taxis are amply available for transit from the bus station to the airport*–so much so that you may as well shop around to negotiate the best price.

Photo: Oaxaca’s ADO bus terminal

Photo: a nearby quesería

In Monterrey’s airport, the transportation situation became even more severe. Outside the airport were the most expensive cabs I’d seen for some time, but my uncertainty on my next means of transportation and the related schedules prompted me to just make the jump into a taxi.

Viva Aerobus offers a shuttle direct from the airport to Nuevo Loredo. If I hadn’t wanted to see Monterrey, this could have been the best option.

In Monterrey’s Centro the lack of conspicuous transportation is alleviated with an enormous bus station within walking distance to their metro (“Metrorrey”). Monterrey itself is enormous and very much reminds me of the Texas cities I’d soon be passing through. Ample flat land makes for excellent (and obligate) car country.

Photo: Estación Cuauhtémoc en Monterrey, México

Photo: a nearby statue from the same spot

Photo: hotcake vendor a half-block closer to the metro stop

A bus from Grupo Senda got me across the border and into Austin’s East Side, and Car2Go got me the rest of the way.

To get a little indication of the price involved:

  • The chicken bus from San Pedro to Xela was 30 quetzales ($4).
  • The chicken bus from Xela to Coatepeque was 18 quetzales ($2).
  • The van without a door from Coatepeque to the border was 5 quetzales ($1).
  • The two pedicabs from the transit station to the border at Ayutla-Ciudad Hidalgo were 30 quetzales ($4).
  • The collectivo to Tapachula was 19 pesos ($1)–cabs also exist as an alternative–and actually dropped off a block away from the bus station there.
  • The overnight bus from Tapachula to Oaxaca was 570 pesos ($37).
  • The taxi from the bus station to the airport in Oaxaca was 130 pesos ($8).*
  • The flight from Oaxaca to Monterrey was 2030 pesos ($131).
  • The taxi from the Monterrey airport to the Centro was 300 pesos ($20).
  • The bus from Monterrey to Austin was 978 pesos ($63).

Not counting eating on the way, the grand total of the trip was $271.

* A bloqueado pevented my first taxi from getting to the airport. He settled for 100 pesos, and I walked 1.5 km. A second cab brought me the rest of the way for 15 pesos.

One Comment

  1. […] same things that prompted my departure from Guatemala have since pushed me to France. I found a pretty cheap flight out of Austin, and the dollar is […]

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