Border crossing: 20+ hours by bus from Mexico to Guatemala through Tapachula

Our bus trip from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, to Guatemala City was uneventful and long. Our experience at the border near Tapachula, Mexico, was easy.

We were on two different buses for about 21 hours (a traffic jam in the Guatemalan countryside on a two-lane road set us back about an hour). I set out with the intention to take a picture each hour. I missed a few hours due to sleep, but I captured the essence of our trip.

There isn’t a ton of information about this particular border crossing that we found before we left, aside from a few blogs and a few old posts on Lonely Planet. So maybe this will help shed light on what this experience was like for other travelers who want to take this route, with these two bus companies – ADO and Tica. It’s a little under 1,000 kilometers, or a little more than 600 miles, from Puerto Escondido to Guatemala City.

Most captions have some info about stuff like prices, tips for a better trip, and a few unexpected tidbits that made our experience quite memorable.

And yes, we always felt safe.

Us on ADO bus to Tapachula
Me and my spouse Tedly on the ADO bus to Tapachula, Mexico, from Puerto Escondido, Mexico, at the start of the trip. This was at 5:30 p.m. on a Monday. It’s about a 13-hour ride. It cost about $79 USD for two people, based on 19 pesos per dollar.
Us on ADO bus
Another view of our area on the ADO bus. We are still wide awake and comfortable, although my legs are too short to reach the ground. Usually, this bus was full. If people got off at one stop, others would get on at another stop. The greatest number of people got on in Huatulco. Worth noting buy your ticket a few days early to pick the best seats.
Us, ADO bus
Tedly rigged up a system with my feet on a backpack so I could brace myself somewhat. The roads are twisty and the bus sways with each bend in the road.
Us, ADO bus at nightfall
By the start of the fourth hour, it’s dark, and we are getting sleepy…. and maybe a little bored.
Potty stop on ADO bus
There is a bathroom on the bus, but we stop several times for passenger exchanges at stations with more spacious accommodations. Worth noting — bring five peso coins for bathroom trips inside stations and stop points – that’s what most of them charge. I got out of the bus often to stretch my legs.
Midnight meal for bus driver
Around midnight (or was it 1:00 a.m.?) the driver needed sustenance so it was time for a buffet meal in the middle of nowhere. We were stopped here at least 45 minutes. Worth noting — by this point, at about six hours on the road, I was glad to be able to buy a cold water.
Middle of the night on ADO bus
I woke up at some point to take a picture in the dark, to keep the picture-an-hour thing going.
Middle of the night shot on ADO bus II
Another middle-of-the-night attempt at a picture. You might be wondering how the driver stays awake. There are actually two drivers, and they switch off every few stops. That fact helped me sleep some during the night.
Disheveled selfie switching buses
A disheveled selfie as I ran to the connecting bus with the Tica company into Guatemala. Tedly was getting our bags from the storage area of the first bus, while I went ahead to make arrangements. Worth noting — knowing a little Spanish definitely helped here. This was at 7:05 a.m. on a Tuesday, and the bus was supposed to leave at 7:00 a.m.
Us, on the Tica bus into Guatemala
We made it. Not a minute to spare. The Tica bus workers actually held the bus for us for a few minutes. They were very kind. By the time we rolled out of Tapachula, Mexico, it was 7:19 a.m. This ride cost us about $42 USD for two people. Unlike the first bus, this one was not full. In fact, there were hardly any people on it – fewer than 20.
Tedly at border crossing in El Carmen, Guatemala
Tedly and I hold up our stamped passports at the border crossing in El Carmen, Guatemala. It cost nothing to leave Mexico (we paid when we entered) and nothing to enter Guatemala. We were stamped for 90 days. That’s our Tica bus in the background. The bus let us off on the Mexican side, so we could go through immigration and return our tourist cards. Then we walked across the border to the immigration office on the Guatemalan side.
El Carmen, Guatemala, outside the immigration offices.
This is outside the Guatemalan immigration office looking back towards Mexico. Worth noting — there are no signs for the office once you cross from Mexico – but if you just keep walking down the road, you will eventually see it. It’s not that far, but it’s a bit confusing with no signs. (You can see the actual sign over Tedly’s head in the previous picture – it’s rather small.)
El Carmen, looking towards the road leading to Guatemala City
The Tica bus waited for everyone to pass through immigration for the rest of the journey to Guatemala City. Worth noting — beware of the men offering to exchange your dollars and/or pesos for Quetzales – the Guatemalan currency. At all border crossings, not just in Guatemala, these ‘money men’ are aggressive and don’t give good exchange rates.
Me outside the Tica bus
OK, I’ve now been on buses and through a border and it’s hour 15 and counting (or something like that). I’ve looked better, and I’ve looked worse (as you’ll soon see). Worth noting — our entire border crossing experience with Tica took us less than 45 minutes.
Wifi on the Tica bus
Worth noting — a pleasant surprise on the Tica bus: free Wifi! We were able to communicate with our next Airbnb host, and track our journey. Tica runs through Central America, and we are now fans so we will definitely use this company again.
Snack time on Tica bus
Snack time on the Tica bus as another hour passes. Worth noting — this bus did not stop at all between the border and Guatemala City, so it’s helpful to have snacks and water, at the least. Also, there is a bathroom on this bus for emergencies.
Me, asleep on Tica bus
Tedly took this shot while I was zonked in hour 18 or 19 or 20 of the journey. I share this with you because it’s funny and you deserve a laugh after reading all of these captions.
Tica bus station in Guatemala City
The Tica bus station in Guatemala City. We made it. Now we’ll enjoy a new place for a few days!

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9 thoughts on “Border crossing: 20+ hours by bus from Mexico to Guatemala through Tapachula”

  1. I’m on a Facebook break since before Valentine’s Day. You can reach me at earthvagabonds at gmail – I’m happy to help if I can. Thanks for reading- and safe, fun travels to you!

  2. Hey thanks for documenting! Much appreciated by this lowly traveller. I’m currently in Puerto Escondido and looking to go into and across Guatemala into Honduras and your blog should prove very helpful! I appreciate all the effort put in and time taken. Maybe we will run into you this March :p

    Add me on Facebook if you have it perhaps I could message you with questions if you don’t mind! Thanks again

  3. Congrats on your return! And thanks for your kind comments.

    I’m not sure if there is any formal arrangement. I would think there might be, since there must be some Tica passengers missing if the ADO bus hasn’t arrived yet.

    The buses were within a few stalls from each other – the station is small. So logically that would be another notch on the column for some kind of arrangement- even if informal.

    I wish I could be more helpful. Let me know how it goes! Best wishes, Bob!

  4. Ellie Mae, Great blog, even greater sense of humor. Returning to Guatemala with my family after 50 years away, a possible bottleneck: Connecting from the ADO Bus in Tapachula to Guatemala!

    ADO ETA TAP is 0630 (IF it’s not late!) TICABUS leaves at 0700 for Guatemala. (GALGO and LINEA DORADA leave at 0600, who knows why…) To make the TICABUS conex, as you say….
    “We made it. Not a minute to spare. The Tica bus workers actually held the bus for us for a few minutes.” (Luckily for connecting, TICABUS uses the same, new ADO Terminal in TAP.)

    Question: Do you know if there’s an understanding between the two to wait for passengers if the ADO bus is late? It would ‘make sense’ commercially, but…. I’d hate to be stuck in TAP overnight and miss our first night res in Atitlan.

    How about adding your recent adventures. Thanks, Bob

  5. Ellie Mae, I appreciate your comments, they are very helpful. Actually for us though, we would just need a cab or bus from the airport to the the border and we could walk across. We have friends that could meet us there on the Guatemalan side of the border to drive us to San Marcos. It is only about a two hour drive at most. I think the border city we would cross at is El Carmen if I am not mistaken. By the way, I have read a few more of your posts and you two look like you are having an awesome time. I haven’t noticed yet, but have you made it to Panajachel yet? I love that place. So beautiful.

  6. Yes! We met friends there for lunch one day and spent another day exploring the town. We lived in San Pablo for a month, and San Pedro for two weeks, so most of our time was spent on the other end of the lake. But we did make it to Pana and we understand why many people decide to call that home away from home!

  7. Thanks Deb! I’m not sure how big Tapachula is – it looked pretty small to me, so I’m not sure where you would hop on the bus. It might be at the border, where the bus parked while we went through immigration. Also, the bus did not stop until Guatemala City. I don’t know if it that is because no one was going anywhere else – or it only goes to Guate. If you Spanish is good, these are questions to consider asking… good luck!

  8. Great information. We have been to Guatemala many times and are considering retiring there in 1.5-2 years. Our next trip is scheduled for March 2018. We have always flown into Guatemala City but we are thinking of flying into Tapachula this time. The bus ride to San Marcos in the Department of San Marcos is only 2 hours from TAP vs 6 hours from GUA. We were so happy to find out this border crossing isn’t a big hold up. I think I will enjoy reading some of your other blogs.

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