With a population of close to 1 million people, Mérida offers many kinds of transportation. Like any big city, the public transportation system can be confusing if you don’t know the inside scoop. Let me guess, you’ve been frustrated when trying to learn routes, fares and times. Don’t worry! It is very easy to navigate in and around many neighborhoods or colonias to learn about public transportation Mérida Mexico. In this article, you’ll not only learn about buses and vans but also the layout of the city, routes, and important instructions.
Importantly, Mérida has an extensive system that will transport you all over the city, to the beaches, nearby archaeological sites, and other nearby cities such as Cancun, Valladolid, Izamal, Tulum and Playa del Carmen. Here’s the simple truth – Many people here don’t have cars. Most choose public transportation Mérida Mexico because the driving rules are different while the drivers can be a little crazy.
You may wonder why I am giving you tips on the city and addresses. You’ll need to know these little details to ensure you know where you’re going. Nothing is worse than arriving at the wrong destination because you didn’t understand the address.
This article was updated in August of 2023.
A Beginner’s Guide to Public Transportation Mérida Mexico
Many different kinds of buses are available throughout Mérida
In a nutshell, different kinds of buses and bus companies are in Mérida including:
- Alianza de Camioneros
- Rapidos de Mérida
Believe it or not, there are some very old buses that tend to backfire and belch black puffs of smoke and fumes. The drivers of these buses race through the city at breakneck speed and turn corners on two tires. You will see proof of this if you head south along Calle 60 and cross Calle 77. The further south you travel into some of the poorer neighborhoods, the older and more decrepit the buses are. Likewise, if you choose to board an older bus, be aware that some of the seats may be loose, and the windows may rattle along the cobblestone streets. Use caution and select your seat carefully, if you can.
Alternatively, mid-range and newer buses are available as well. Any bus you choose will almost always be the cheapest way to reach your destination. Namely, local buses called camiones are usually the cheapest way to get around the city. If you use the term autobus, people will think you are asking about the ADO, which is similar to Greyhound in the U.S.
With that in mind, it is important to use the correct phrases and terms in the city to avoid confusion. This helps others who are trying to help you. In this case, camiones run frequently, and the fare is $8 (exact amount is appreciated). The fare is called “Tarifa única ” and means flat rate. The price is the same whether you are traveling a short distance or a long distance. If you are traveling with a small child, the fare may be a few pesos less.
Pay careful attention to bus stops
It’s important to note that buses halt only at fixed parades (bus stops). However, in some places, you can hold your hand out to stop one at any street corner. Moreover, when you see “paradas continuas” on the bus, it means it will “stop and go.” And that’s the key – Make sure you know beforehand or ask where to find the bus stop, where to get off and what route the bus will follow. Although the routes and stops are defined, at times, they are not necessarily visible. Most routes start before 6:00 am and end, on average, 11:00 pm. There are many bus staging areas in Mérida, and by thinking of it in a “hub-and-spoke manner” will help it make more sense.
Namely, the hub is the city center, with the outlying areas being the spokes. Inner-city navigation can be easy or a little tricky, depending on your destination. Likewise, for buses headed north, go to Calle 59 between Calle 56 and 58. Other staging areas are within two to three blocks of the Plaza Grande. Consequently, most buses show multiple destinations on the windshield. However, this is not all the stops they have.
When you know stops along the route you want to take, see if they coincide with your destination. If they do, then this is probably the right bus. In this case, always ask your driver for confirmation. You can also flag down buses along Calle 60 to travel north and Calle 62 to travel south. The first time I hopped on a bus and got lost. Yes, absolutely, positively, I found that this was an inexpensive tour of the city. Seeing things I wouldn’t have seen otherwise was definitely a treat. Equally, you will discover it is a friendly bus system with many people willing to help you. It is fun as well as helping you gain knowledge of the city.
Here’s something that is really important to know
When you want to exit the bus, press the buzzer to alert the driver. If the buzzer doesn’t work, you can say, “Bajan” (pronounced ba-HAN). It means “down” as you want to go down from the bus, and the driver will stop for you.
Here is a helpful link for bus routes (subject to change, of course): http://mérida.transpublico.com/category/rutas/
Colectivos are called vans in Mérida
A colectivo is a form of transportation geared towards moving the population around the vast labyrinth of streets, roads, and highways. The term colectivo is mostly used in high tourism areas such as Cancún and the Riviera Maya. If you have traveled to one of these destinations, you will recognize the distinct passenger van. In Mérida, it is called a van or you may hear the term combi.
My point is this – I have learned the best way to get points with locals is to learn the proper terms. Being respectful as a visitor or ex-pat is equally important. Vans pick you up or drop you off on any corner along their route, moving at lightning speed around the city.
Importantly, you can find vans parked on the street at numerous designated spots in downtown Mérida near and around Plaza Grande. Just a few blocks away is San Juan Park, which is bounded by Calles 69, 71, 62, and 64, where you can catch them as well. Look for the fixed routes usually displayed on the windshield. Vans seem to run more frequently and faster than buses. If you want to know what time to catch a van, you will have to ask around as no schedules are typically posted anywhere.
Here’s the bottom line –
- To flag one down, go to the curb and wave your hand. The driver will give a quick honk on the horn to verify you want him to stop.
- Next, wave again, and he will pull over to pick you up. Tell the driver where you want to go to verify your desired destination is on his route. You will pay at the end of the trip.
- The fare is based on your destination. The driver will tell you how much it will be when you get on the bus. You’ll pay when you get off. Some locals choose to ride the vans over the bus because it is smaller with fewer passengers.
Public transportation Mérida Mexico requires familiarizing yourself with the streets where the buses and vans run. Be sure to have all the information you need upfront to save you time and frustration. Be patient! Schedules are meant to be loose guidelines. More often than not, the buses do not run on time but they do try to stay as close as possible.
Keep in mind, many obstacles and traffic along the route that cause buses and vans to run a little late. If you have to be somewhere at an exact time, save yourself the frustration and opt for Uber instead. It is highly likely you will also have to do a combination of things to take public transportation. The exception will be if you are staying close to a bus stop, which can be super noisy.
Like anything else, you will probably spend some time walking to catch the bus at the appropriate stop. Also, plan your time once arriving at the bus stop of your destination to get to the actual place you are going. Check out this example: if you are taking the bus from Centro to Altabrisa Mall, you may need to walk 5 to 15 minutes to catch the right bus. Plan your time according to the schedule, which runs every 30 minutes.
We all know the term “best-laid plans”. It may take you longer to get to the bus stop than anticipated, or you may get there really early and have to wait. But one thing’s for sure. Public transportation Mérida Mexico via bus or van is safe; connecting you to any point in the city. Whether you take a bus or a van, be aware that the routes and stops can be unpredictable.
Public transportation tips and tricks
- Always have the correct change.
- Be respectful of other passengers if you have grocery bags or other items you are carrying.
- Occasionally, you may see someone with a small dog or a pet in a carrier. If you have your dog with you, be sure to ask the driver if he will allow your pet on the bus or van. It will be up to the driver’s discretion whether to give you permission or not.
- A little knowledge of Spanish is VERY helpful and recommended. If you are going to take public transportation and have little knowledge of the language, you may want to write your destination on a piece of paper to give to the driver.
- If you feel like you might be lost, you can always exit the bus or van and use Uber.
- When you absolutely, positively must arrive on time, I suggest taking Uber. It will ensure you will arrive when you need to and not cause you undue stress or anxiety.
- Be patient. This is a laid back culture where not many people get stressed or disturbed by not being on time.
Did you know that Mérida is laid out on a grid system?
I felt relieved when I discovered how Mérida is laid out. Basically, it is laid out on a grid system with even-numbered streets that run north and south (low numbers start in the east and increase to the north). Consequently, odd-numbered streets run east to west (low numbers start in the north and increase to the south).
The city center is appropriately called Centro with a loop running around the city called the Periferico. Within the Periferico you’ll find Colonias (neighborhoods) with their own set of numbered streets. As a result, pay special attention to all details of the address and zip code, if available.
Unlike any other destination, the format of the addresses is unique and, actually quite confusing. Once you learn the basics, 90% of the confusion is resolved. Quite simply, addresses include the street name followed by the number of the building, house, or establishment. Then, you will see another set of numbers. This second set of numbers are the cross streets to help you get exactly where you are going. Without these numbers, you will end up across town and lost, trust me. It happens to everyone.
Addresses of some popular locations in Mérida
Once you have a point of reference, it’s easier than you think. Let’s look at a few examples to remember the format.
Peón Contreras Theater – a very famous landmark and home to the Yucatan Symphony Orchestra, located in Centro.
Calle 60 #463 x 57 y 59
In this example, notice the street followed by the exact address with cross streets for reference.
Wayan’e – a local taco stand, located in Colonia Itzimná.
Calle 15 x 18A y 20
Col. Itzimná, 97100
In this example, notice the street followed by only the cross streets for reference.
Estación 72 – a popular coffee shop, located in Colonia García Ginerés.
Av. Colon #363J
Col. García Ginerés, 97070
In this example, notice the difference in the street and address. Av. Colon is a large avenue. The address is apparent for this particular destination.
Pay attention to this tricky address rule
Now, I’m going to stop you right there. You’ll find some street numbers repeated in different neighborhoods. This is a concept used throughout the city. When you are outside Centro, make sure you know the Colonia indicated by name or zip or both.
Similar to other cities, lots have been subdivided over the years. Common sense would say that the progression of numbers would be in alphabetical or numeric order. However, this is NOT the case. Be patient if you can’t immediately find the address you are looking for. More than likely, it is only a few more steps away.
Familiarize yourself with transportation basics first
The good news is, with the exact number of the house or establishment, you’ll be able to put it all together.
- Locate your hotel or Airbnb in Mérida Mexico.
- What does the address tell you about the location?
- Do you know the name of the Colonia?
- Can you find the cross streets for easy identification?
Remember, additional instructions for the cross streets follows the address. Notably, indicated by using “y” and “x.” The x” indicates ”between” and the “y” indicates “and”. For this reason, I suggest familiarizing yourself with the location of your hotel first. Follow this with a little research, and start with a fairly easy route.
The Generosity of Locals
When in doubt, remember people in Mérida LOVE to help. It is part of their culture. Here’s a clue, I recommend using the Paseo de Montejo as a reference point. This large boulevard similar to the Champs Elysees in Paris is a great guide to get your bearings. It’s important to note, the Paseo runs north and south. Odds are that you’ll be able to orient yourself to just about anything in Mérida from there.
A word of caution –
Unfortunately, my first trip to Mérida was a little frustrating. I did not take the time to learn the nuances of the streets, addresses, and colonias. Then, the silver lining happened on my return. I equipped myself with information and knowledge first. Just like me, you’ll be able to move around quickly and efficiently. So what does all this mean? Now, you are ready to figure out where, when, and how you need to get to where you are going via public transportation Mérida Mexico.
Public transportation adventures and surprises
I look at every single outing as an adventure. I know where I intend to go. Sometimes I arrive at my desired destination, and other times I end up somewhere completely different. Of course, there are times when I do get lost. But, it’s amazing to see the sights along the wrong route. There have been other times when I went out for a quick errand and spotted something that caught my attention just beyond the bus stop. The silver lining has been following my curiosity has provided an incredible reward.
Final thoughts on Public Transportation Mérida Mexico
Get out, explore, take a bus, a van, and walk. Take your time, be patient, and learn the best public transportation choice and route for you. Last but not least, Mérida is a city full of surprises around every corner. At the end of the day, it will all be worth it.