Last Updated on June 26, 2023 by Jerardo Gomez
Being Mexican-American and spending my life in between both countries, I have spent a lot of time on Mexican buses and as a travel blogger, I know that learning the ins and outs of the local transportation system in Mexico can be overwhelming to foreigners. I decided to create this guide to show you how to use the ADO bus system to help you navigate your travel.
If you are reading this article, most likely you are looking into the ADO bus line for transportation and I’m here to tell you that the ADO bus system is safe, in great condition, and affordable!
I’m here to tell you a step-by-step guide on how to use this bus system. Feel free to use the table of contents to skip ahead as necessary.
*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.
Planning an epic trip to Mexico? Taking an ADO bus in Mexico is one of the best ways to get around from city to city at major destinations.
ADO is the largest and most popular. With routes from Mexico City to Chiapas to Cancun and everywhere in between, ADO buses can take you just about anywhere you want to go.
We will provide you with all the information you need to have a hassle-free and pleasant bus trip in Mexico, from where to book ADO bus tickets to important tips for overnight buses. Additionally, we have included a helpful list of key phrases for bus travel in Spanish.
ADO is an acronym and to say it, you just spell out the letters in Spanish. For example, if you are going to ask for the ADO bus, you will say:
A = ah
D = deh
O = oh
The company’s name is Autobuses de Oriente which is mostly in the Southern, Eastern, and Central regions.
Why should you use ADO buses?
If you’re looking for a comfortable and modern bus with different service levels and prices, ADO buses could be a great option. They have a basic first-class line and a luxury line too.
ADO is a well-known bus company in Mexico offering routes to popular tourist spots like Mexico City, Oaxaca, and Riviera Maya. If you want to save money, enjoy beautiful landscapes, and explore Mexico like a local, booking an ADO bus can be a good choice.
How to use ADO bus in Mexico? (Step-By-Step Guide)
The easiest method is by buying the day of at one of the bus stations. Buses run very often and I have never seen a bus completely full. This is the easiest method because you are able to buy your ticket quickly and only wait a few minutes for your bus to arrive.
Step 1: Purchasing ADO Tickets in Person at the Station
Buying an ADO bus ticket directly from the station is very easy and good for last-minute plans. You can book for the next available departure or any dates in the future.
Simply find your nearest station and look for ticket agents in the kiosks.
It is suggested that you purchase your tickets in person at the ADO station as it has been a reliable option for us even during peak season. However, there have been reports of some routes being sold out, so it is better to be cautious.
Step 2: Asking for your Destination
You can use google translate to say where you want to go and at what time to the agent.
For example, I want to go to Playa del Carmen as soon as possible on google translate would be Quiero ir a Playa del Carmen lo mas rapido possible.
On most days and routes, you’ll have no issue getting the next available departure, but some limited routes may be busier.
The agent will confirm the destination and time before payment and printing the ticket. Cash or credit cards are accepted.
When booking a bus during peak weekends and holidays, keep in mind that buses fill up faster and you may have to wait for a later bus if you book on arrival. It’s recommended to book your bus ticket days in advance to avoid any inconvenience.
Alternatively: Pick out your tickets ahead and show the agent the route
It is recommended to go online first and select your preferred bus before going to the kiosks. This is because many workers at the kiosks may not speak English well. After choosing your bus, write down important details such as the origin, destination, date, and departure time. Doing this will be especially useful if you need to book multiple tickets.
Step 1 Using ADO Spanish Website
You can only buy tickets from Mexico so you can use a VPN to set your location to Mexico from your home country.
Here you are able to purchase ado bus tickets online however it is in Spanish only. What I recommend is using a laptop on Google Chrome to book. You can use Chrome to translate the page into English.
Step 2 Selecting route and seat
You are able to select the departure and destination along with the date needed in advance. Enter that information and you will be taken to a page with buses available with times. Select and confirm.
Step 3 Pay
Once you pay, you will get an email confirmation which can be shown as you enter the bus. You do not have to print out anything.
Recommended if you are paying in Mexico Online: Atlas VPN
To prevent data theft and fraud, it’s important to always use a Virtual Private Network (VPN) when using unsecured wifi while traveling.
This is especially important in Mexico, as your credit card information can be vulnerable to hackers. Using a VPN will protect your information from potential thieves when connecting to wifi at hotels, airports, restaurants, and other public places.
I recommend using Atlas VPN because of its ease of use! Use my link to get 82% off!
Ticket Pricing and ADO Discounts
To compare ticket prices for your trip, keep in mind that ADO bus routes do not have a standard price. The price varies based on factors such as time of day, date (with higher prices on holidays), bus service class, and more.
If you are very cheap then you can get your tickets 3 days ahead of time for the best price. Overnight buses tend to be cheaper.
These buses are a fraction it would cost you if you were to take a taxi, and it is something locals use to get around the country.
Choosing Your ADO Bus Seats
Picking your seats is pretty simple, when you are selecting your ADO ticket online you have to pick your seats, and in-person the agent will either ask or provide you with a randomly assigned seat which is found on the ADO ticket.
Regardless, people on short routes less than 2 hours tend to sit anywhere and Mexican people are relaxed about seating. On the longer journey, you see seating arrangements being more followed.
The Best Place to Sit
Based my experience riding ADO buses several times, I recommend reserving a seat in the middle of the bus.
If you’re seated at the very front of the bus, you may be bothered by the bright headlights from oncoming cars at night and the driver’s personal radio at any time of the day. Additionally, it may be better for your peace of mind to avoid looking out at the road ahead, which may expose you to certain risks like oncoming traffic, animals, and motion sickness.
The baggage policy of ADO is straightforward. Travelers are allowed to bring a personal carry-on bag and keep their checked bags underneath the bus. There are no restrictions on the number of checked baggage or carry-ons.
You may bring small handbags, briefcases, laptop bags, and backpacks that are similar in size to personal items allowed on planes as hand luggage or “equipaje de mano” on the bus. You can store your personal bag in the overhead compartment or under the seat in front of you.
I recommend to always keeping your valuables close to you and hidden for safety.
Bags that are too big or have wheels are not allowed on the bus. These bags must be checked and stored in the baggage area under the bus. Fortunately, you won’t be charged an additional fee for checking in your bags on ADO. If you try to board with an oversized bag, the driver will ask you to store it under the bus.
You will be given a ticket that corresponds to your luggage.
Although there is a weight limit, I have never seen any bags being weighed or any scales anywhere at the ado bus terminal.
Your checked baggage will be stored in a locked compartment below the bus during the trip. An ADO employee will unlock the compartment only when a passenger presents their checked baggage ticket to retrieve their luggage.
ADO Bus Stations in Mexico
ADO bus stations are located all over central and southern Mexico reaching both coastal areas.
Bus stations have various amenities like waiting areas with seats, restrooms, ATMs, convenience stores, and food stalls, and some have storage lockers as well.
To know the ADO Bus schedules, you can check the ADO website or visit an ADO bus station in person. You can easily buy bus tickets by following the steps mentioned above.
Pro Tip You do not have to book tickets in advance as buses come around very frequently! However, if you already have a day and time in place to travel, here is my tip.
Book your tickets on a laptop, and use google chrome. Once you go on the ADO website, you are able to translate the site from Spanish to English! Its very easy to select your destination and time to see what is available! This is a sample of popular travel routes below!
|Cancun Airport – Playa del Carmen||1 hr 10 min|
|Cancun Airport – Tulum||2.5 hrs|
|Playa del Carmen – Tulum||1 hr 10 min|
|Merida – Tulum||3 hr 50 min|
|Tulum – Bacalar||2 hr 59 min|
|Mexico City – Oaxaca||6.5 hrs|
|Mexico City – Puebla||2 hrs|
ADO Bus Safety
They take several measures to ensure the safety of their passengers: ADO buses are regularly inspected and maintained to ensure they are in good condition, the drivers are well-trained and experienced, and they adhere to safety protocols.
Don’t be alarmed if someone on your bus starts filming. On certain routes, an ADO employee is required to film passengers’ faces as a safety protocol.
ADO buses sometimes take alternative routes to avoid unsafe areas and ensure the safety of passengers and their belongings.
Mexico Travel Insurance
Traveling to Mexico involves risks that you may not be aware of. To protect yourself and your belongings, I strongly recommend getting travel insurance for your trip.
Travel insurance is an important investment for any trip to Mexico. It provides financial compensation for any unexpected medical and non-medical expenses incurred due to illness, injury, theft or accidents.
It covers trip delays, cancelations, luggage damage, and more!
My favorites IS Travelex Insurance.
What to Expect on an ADO Bus Trip
Bus Boarding Process
The boarding for ADO buses usually starts approximately 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time. Although the departure time may vary slightly, the buses usually leave on schedule.
At most ADO bus stations, the destination is announced over the loudspeakers when boarding begins. If you miss the announcement, you can still identify the bus by looking for a line of passengers forming around the time it is scheduled to depart.
Please join the queue of people at the entrance of the outdoor bus boarding area. Keep your ticket ready to present to the bus station employee at this entrance.
After entering the bus area, please ensure that you locate the correct bus before boarding. Don’t rely solely on the destination displayed on the front of the bus, since it may show only the final destination without the stops in between.
When you locate your bus, you will usually see someone who is arranging luggage according to destinations in the compartment. They may or may not provide luggage tags. We have never experienced any problem with our baggage stored below; however, we recommend that you keep your valuables with you during the bus journey.
After boarding the bus, locate the seat assigned to you, place your luggage in the overhead compartment, and get comfortable.
If you haven’t checked your bags yet, go to the side of your bus where an employee is loading luggage. Give them your checked bag and they’ll give you a ticket.
You should keep this ticket as you’ll need to show it to retrieve your bag when you arrive. Once your bag is loaded, show your ADO bus ticket to the person at the bus door (usually the driver or an assistant). They’ll scan your ticket and welcome you onboard.
Passengers riding the regular ADO or OCC class level should expect shared entertainment displays and speakers to play movies and shows loudly, almost nonstop while the bus departs. ADO Platino passengers have individual entertainment displays and are not subject to these conditions.
The temperature on ADO buses is usually on the cooler side, like arctic blast cold. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s 50 or 90 degrees outside, the AC is always on.
The bus may stop at various bus stations on its way to the final destination to drop off and pick up passengers. The driver may announce a 10-minute or longer stop, during which you can get off to buy snacks or use the bathroom at the station.
Remember that public restrooms in Mexico may differ from what you’re used to. It’s a good idea to bring some coins to pay for the bathroom usage fee and travel tissues in case there’s no toilet paper. Also, it’s recommended to bring the hand sanitizer along. Additionally, during your travel, it is possible that vendors may come on the bus to sell different snacks.
The driver will make stops every 4 hours on long bus rides at designated rest stops that have food stalls and restaurants for meal and bathroom breaks.
Although the bus has a toilet, it’s best to avoid using it because the bumpy roads with speed bumps and potholes can make it difficult to pee without bouncing around.
Arriving at Your Destination
Upon arrival, please exit the bus and wait for the luggage handler to retrieve your checked bag by presenting your luggage ticket as proof of ownership. Once you have received your luggage, you are free to explore your new destination. If you do not have any luggage, you may simply depart the bus.
Useful Spanish Terms
autobús or camión – bus
Estacion de Camion – bus station
terminal de Camion – bus terminal
comprar – to buy
boleto – ticket
con anticipación – (purchase) in advance
fecha – date
nombre y apellido – first and last name
identificación – ID card
tarjeta o efectivo – card or cash
sala de espera – waiting area
ruta – route
parada de autobús – bus stop
conductor – driver
asiento – seat
horario – schedule
directo – a direct, non-stop bus route
de pasada – a bus route which stops along the way to pick up more passengers
abordar – to board
equipaje or maletas – luggage
destino – destination
ADO bus service levels
Bus Class Levels, Seat Selection, and Luggage
The ADO bus company has a reputation for providing modern and comfortable first-class buses. They offer various service levels of first-class, such as Regular, Executive, and Platinum, which differ depending on the station. However, not all routes have all these service options available.
ADO provides airport transfer services through ADO Aeropuerto and offers frequent and short routes through ADO Conecta passenger vans.
ADO Bus Service Class Levels
ADO buses offer various amenities based on their service levels, including features like entertainment displays, reclining seats, and onboard restrooms. However, all ADO buses come equipped with air conditioning, blackout curtains, reading lights, and overhead luggage compartments.
It is important to note that the more luxurious ADO buses with extra perks are only available on select routes and come with a higher price tag. Below is a breakdown of the different ADO bus service levels in order of cost, from least expensive to most expensive.
ADO Primera Clase (First Class)
The ADO Primera Clase is the economy class level of the company that is offered on all their routes. While it is economy it is a very comfortable bus that provides air conditioning and a bathroom, but no additional amenities. This option is ideal for those on a budget and for shorter distances.
44 reclining seats
3 to 4 entertainment displays
Some with onboard WiFi (only available on a few)
USB charging outlets
ADO GL (Executive)
The ADO GL buses are designed for business executives and frequent travelers who seek greater comfort and luxury. They are equipped with improved seating and additional amenities, surpassing the standard First Class offering.
40 reclining seats with more space
Individual audio channels
Regular and USB charging outlets
6 entertainment displays
Separate bathrooms for men and women (2 toilets)
Access to the Platino departure lounge
USB charging outlets
Complimentary onboard drink
If you’re looking for a good ADO bus class with frequent schedules and services similar to Platino but at a lower cost, ADO GL is the right choice. Additionally, GL passengers can use the same free lounge as Platino passengers, which includes amenities such as wifi, a coffee station, tv’s, and a restroom.
ADO Platino (Luxury)
For the utmost comfort and luxury, consider riding on the ADO Platino bus. This class of bus includes leather seats, individual entertainment systems, and free drinks and snacks.
Additionally, ADO Platino customers have access to a VIP waiting lounge at the bus station. Please note that this service is currently available only in select major cities such as Mexico City, Cancun, Merida, Oaxaca City, and Acapulco.
Exclusive access to VIP Platino Lounge
27 reclining seats with more space and a lower recline
Seats in rows of one or two, with the option to sit alone
Folding table for laptops and food
Individual touch displays with the ability to choose your entertainment
Complimentary beverages, snacks, and travel kit
Regular and USB charging outlets
Separate bathrooms for men and women (2 toilets)
USB charging outlets
Personal monitor w/ entertainment
Platino is the highest level of service ADO buses offer.
By booking the service level, you get a separate waiting area in the bus terminal, which has free wifi, coffee, tv’s, and a restroom exclusively for Platino and GL travelers.
However, you should know that this service tier is more expensive and not available as frequently as the others. Alternatively, you can opt for GL for a lower price and similar departure. But if you’re going on a longer journey, booking this class with all the amenities is a great option.
ADO Aeropuerto and ADO Conecta
The ADO Aeropuerto buses transport passengers from airports to the ADO bus station in the nearest city center. Occasionally, a passenger van may be used instead of a bus. The ADO Conecta passenger van operates on short, frequent routes but does not have a bathroom or charging outlets onboard.
The smaller buses, which resemble shuttle vans, are designed for transporting a smaller number of passengers over shorter distances. Typically, they are used for travel between cities and airports.
Traveling by ADO bus in Mexico can be a safe and enjoyable experience. With the right preparation, you can ensure that your journey is comfortable and hassle-free. Now that you know what to expect on an ADO bus trip, it’s time to start planning your next adventure!
Make sure to subscribe for more travel tips like itineraries and helpful Spanish phrases so that you’re always prepared for your next Mexican getaway. Bon Voyage!
Where do ADO buses travel?
The ADO bus system covers destinations in the southern and eastern regions of Mexico, including the Yucatan peninsula, southern Mexico, and the East Coast. However, it doesn’t operate in the northern half of the country. In case you need to travel beyond Mexico City to the north, you’ll have to choose a different bus company because ADO only provides long-distance services, not short inner-city trips. Fortunately, there are several other options available.
What to expect at ADO bus terminals
The size, amenities, and level of modernity of each ADO bus station will vary depending on the city it is situated in. Despite these differences, every ADO bus station will have a ticket counter, a snack stand, a restroom (usually accessible for a small fee), and seating that may be limited depending on the terminal.
In big bus terminals such as the one in Mexico City, the organization is similar to that of an airport. Each bus company departs from a designated station labeled with either a letter or number. On the other hand, smaller towns may have a small ticket office with or without seating, or they may offer ticket sales at a nearby convenience store.
What to Bring on the Bus Ride?
Below are a few items we recommend packing in your carry-on bag to make your ADO bus trip in Mexico more comfortable and enjoyable.
Travel Backpack: A travel backpack is a good way to keep personal items and valuables close to you at all times. Backpacks are a popular item that a lot of bus passengers have and it is really convenient to hold food, souvenirs, and passport.
Neck pillow and eye mask: A neck pillow will make your travel’s more comfortable if you decide to take a nap. Most likely you will be traveling into Mexico on a plane so it is best to take one with you even for that.
Tissues and sanitizer: Not all bathrooms will have bath tissue or soap so bring your own mini kit just in case.
Warm layers: The AC is always on! It feels like the temperature is in the 60s and when I went, I only had a T-shirt and Shorts, and was very cold so make sure to bring some layers.
Food and snacks: To avoid getting hungry during the trip, make sure to bring lots of snacks and a packed lunch. Although the buses make stops for meals every few hours on longer routes, having your own supply of snacks is always a good idea.
Travel insurance: As stated earlier in this article, if anything were to go wrong such as damage to luggage, theft, trip interruption or cancellation, you would want to be covered. If your flight was canceled, you will get compensation from the insurance.
Headphones: Some ADO buses have personal entertainment systems, but you will need headphones to listen to the content. Usually, they offer complimentary earbuds, but the sound quality is terrible. Bring your own set if you want to listen to anything during the trip (you will need wired ones).
Are ADO Buses Safe?
Traveling on ADO buses is a safe option in Mexico. The carry-on bags of passengers are checked, and they pass through a metal detector before boarding. This ensures that no one can bring weapons on board. Although the concern for weapons is low, the metal detector provides peace of mind. Additionally, ADO buses take toll roads whenever possible, which are the safest routes in Mexico due to regular patrols and good repair.
While petty theft on buses is generally uncommon, there is still a small possibility of it happening on heavily touristic routes such as those in the Riviera Maya. It’s important to be cautious and not leave any valuable items like passports or laptops unattended in bags, as there have been instances of theft inside the cabin. To be safe, it’s recommended to carry any valuables with you in your seat and keep a close eye on them rather than storing them in the overhead bin.
To begin with, the buses operate in areas that are away from cartel regions and always take the best routes to ensure passenger safety.
It’s important to note that ADO buses only use toll roads in Mexico since they are regularly patrolled and well-maintained, making them the safest routes to travel on. Drivers are not allowed to exceed posted speed limits, and if they do, the bus will emit a beeping sound.
Passengers are required to have a ticket to board the bus and at some stations, they go through a metal detector and bags are checked to ensure no weapons are brought on board for added security.
Police checkpoints along ADO bus routes are frequent. However, there is no need to panic or worry. To stay informed in case the bus is stopped, there are a couple of things that you should be aware of. The police may either let the bus go through without any hassle or conduct either a partial or full check of the bus.
If you don’t have any illegal substances and have your passport with you, there’s no need to worry. Usually, the police will ask the bus driver to open the luggage compartment and check for drugs using their dogs. After that, you can continue your journey. Sometimes, there can be a full bus check where the police may come on board and ask to see everyone’s IDs, but this is a rare occurrence.
Is it safe to take the bus at night in Mexico?
Although buses in Mexico take safe routes, it is not recommended to travel at night due to the many risks involved. There is a chance of encountering unexpected animals on the road, a possibility of bus drivers falling asleep while driving, and impaired drivers that may cause accidents. It is better to avoid night buses if possible. I used to take night buses previously, but after considering the risks mentioned above, I no longer do.
Are there toilets on ADO buses?
There are bathrooms in ADO buses and for longer routes, it will take a short stop for you to use the bathroom, or go to a local convenience store.
Do I need to book ADO bus tickets in advance?
Booking ADO bus tickets in advance is typically not required, except during holidays. However, booking online through Busbud can be helpful in saving time and avoiding confusion, particularly if you’re unfamiliar with Spanish. Typically, multiple buses leave for your destination each day, and if one is full, you can catch the next one. Nevertheless, scheduling ahead of time can bring immense peace of mind, allowing you to avoid waiting around at the bus station. Additionally, purchasing ADO bus tickets online in advance often provides a discount.
I suggest purchasing bus tickets a day or two in advance. If planning a trip months ahead, refer to the current month’s bus schedule as a reference for future schedules. Keep in mind that the information may not be entirely reliable, but it can give you an approximate idea of the number of buses that operate along your chosen route each day.
Is my luggage safe on an ADO bus?
Your luggage is generally safe when checked on ADO. However, there is a possibility that items could be stolen from your bags in the cabin, as they are not secured. Although I have not personally experienced any issues, there have been reports of pickpocketing on popular tourist routes, like Cancun to Tulum. To be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you keep your most valuable possessions (passport, phone, etc.) with you in your seat rather than storing them in the overhead compartment.
Furthermore, purchasing a GL or Platino ticket may reduce the chance of encountering pickpockets while traveling. It’s unlikely that most petty thieves would spend more than 500 pesos on a bus ticket.
How far in advance should I book my ADO ticket?
Booking your ticket two to three days in advance should be plenty to secure a seat on most ADO buses.
Can you take food and drinks on ADO buses?
You can have food and drinks on ADO buses. If you choose GL or Platino buses, you’ll also get drinks. Moreover, Platino will give you a free snack bag when you board. When the bus stops, some passengers quickly go out to buy more snacks.
How early should I arrive at the ADO bus station?
The Primera Clase ADO buses usually start boarding five minutes before departure. However, if you reserve a GL or Platino bus, you can start checking your baggage 30 minutes in advance, and boarding normally starts 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time.
Is it safe to take the ADO bus in Mexico at night?
ADO buses are one of the safest ways to travel around Mexico. So yes, it is safe to take the ADO bus at night, as a nighttime airport route or overnight route.
Are there toilets on ADO buses?
Yes, there are toilets available on each ADO bus service level.
Do note though, some bus routes tend to be bumpy… we think you can connect the dots there.
Luckily, along some routes, the bus driver will stop for 10-minutes (sometimes more), where you’ll be able to use a stationary restroom (bring some peso coins) as well as pick up snacks or a drink. On longer routes, the driver will stop every 4 hours.
No matter your preference, pack travel tissue and biodegradable hand sanitizer since some restrooms lack one, the other, or both.
Can I take food and drinks on ADO buses?
Yes, ADO buses allow food and drinks on board. Both GL and Platino classes provide drinks on board, and a snack is given complimentary on Platino services.
If you’re not taking those classes, other buses and routes stop periodically for a snack/beverage pit stop.
Do the ADO buses run on time?
The bus trip begins usually on time across all ADO bus classes as the bus companies want to have a good reputation. If it is last minute, consider purchasing tickets 15-30 minutes ahead or buy ADO bus tickets online while you are in Mexico.
How early should I arrive at the bus station?
If you already have your ticket booked online, we recommend arriving 15-20 minutes before your bus leaves so you have time to get a lay of the land and find your bus.
The ADO bus schedule is accurate.
A Note on Police Checks
Police checks are frequently conducted on ADO bus routes and I’ve encountered them numerous times. Sometimes, the police just let the bus pass by, while at other times, they conduct a partial or full check.
If you don’t have any drugs and have your passport, don’t worry about the checks. Usually, the police will ask to search your bags with their dogs after asking the driver to open the luggage compartment. Sometimes, they may come inside and ask for everyone’s ID, but it happens less frequently.