Saturday, November 12, 2011

Taking the bus in Mérida

Last week we joined a friend for lunch at a favorite local restaurant in Campestre, a Fraccionamiento on the north side of Mérida. We called Juan, our trusted taxi driver and Spanish teacher, to drive us to the restaurant. I say Spanish teacher because he will ask us a question in his fairly good English and when one of us answers, he repeats the answer in Spanish and then waits for us to speak. He'll be driving along and will read a sign out loud and then wait for an answer. I've teased him that we should come down for a month and pay him to drive us around all day teaching Spanish while he practices his English.

After lunch we decided to take a bus back home and asked our friend how to go about selecting the correct bus. Her response was that most of the buses heading south pass through the Centro. She then demonstrated  how to stand at the edge of the street, extend an arm outward as if hailing a taxi, and have an earnest look on your face in order to convey that you intend to get on that particular bus. Hey, it works. For six pesos ($0.45) the bus took us within about three blocks of our house. The cost is a small fraction of a taxi ride and because most locals take the bus, one is certain to pass by every few minutes.  In addition, the ride is more comfortable than sitting in the back seat of one of those mini-size  taxis.

Thursday, mid-afternoon, I remembered that I needed to get to a fabric store to get either pillow inserts or the Poly-Fil to "do-it-myself." I was told that there was a large fabric store just past the new underpass on Paseo de Montejo. I walked over to calle 60, extended my arm and with an earnest look on my face, hailed the next bus headed north. I took a seat and rode for a while when I suddenly realized that this bus was not going where I needed to go. As the bus approached a stop light, I saw a sign for Prolongación  Montejo to the right. I stepped off the bus, headed east and after about three blocks, as luck (or fate)  would have it, ended up on the north side of the underpass and just a few blocks more to the fabric store.

"Do-it-myself" Poly-Fil in hand, I saw a bus headed for the Centro and jumped on. This time it was standing room only and I was carrying three meters of Poly-Fil that I had stuffed into a rather small plastic bag. Holding on to that bag with the other arm extended overhead grasping the hand rail for support was a little tricky. When the bus finally stopped downtown, everyone got off but me. The driver looked back as if to ask why I was still waiting and simply said "Centro" which meant I should get off.  I had no idea where we were and did not recognize the street, but I got off and started walking - even numbers north and south, odd numbered streets east and west.

Several blocks later ( I lost count), walking in a very gusty late afternoon breeze, I made it home where I had a glass of tea and stuffed my pillows, knowing that I must  re-read Yucatan Living's article Taking the Bus in Merida -2.


  1. Isn't it a great feeling to successfully find your way to a new destination by bus? I think the bus to those fabric stores is #52 - I learned that route while taking Spanish classes at Habla near that intersection (Montejo x Calle 21). It seems that several of the bus companies run the same route so you can catch it in yellow, blue or silver.

  2. You make taking the bus sound like a fun adventure...very inspiring. Think I'll try it!

  3. Debbie, Thanks for the tip. I didn't realize the buses are by color! I just always look for the location written on the front window of the bus. See, I DO need to re-read that article.

    Rainie, It really was an adventure and I think that even if you don't exactly know which bus to take, you can't get too lost. The one's headed south pass through at least some part of the Centro. Fine-tuning the process could make it quite convenient, easy, and inexpensive to get around the city.

  4. Thanks for linking the excellent Yucatan Living article - hadn't seen it before. I'm still puzzling out the system by trial and error. I tried to read the printed bus route map but it made my head hurt.

  5. I'm glad the bus worked out for you. If you have an iPhone, its GPS is a great help when you're on an unfamiliar bus route.

    The different routes are "owned" by different bus companies. Each company has its own fleet of buses, so the colors differ by company.

    All buses heading into town that are marked "centro" have a final stop downtown. That stop is a good place to get on the bus if you're not sure of how it gets out of the centro. To find the stops, find the bus on this site and click on "mapa":

    On that site, you can also click "descarga" just below the header, on the right, to download a highly detailed map of the centro stops. You'll need to zoom into the map a lot to be able to read it.

    There's also a map of the city that shows the bus routes, but unfortunately this year they published it in a nearly-useless booklet form that chops up the city nonsensically. You can buy it at one of the newsstands on the north side of the Plaza Grande, though the vendor that sold me one for some friends kept warning me that "no one likes it" and was reluctant to sell it at all.

  6. The article is very good but I read through it very quickly the first time and didn't remember much. I probably should print it and keep it for future use.

  7. Thanks Yucatango. That site should definitely help.