“Mexico, you’ve come a long way, baby…”
I remember Mexican buses in the early 80s. Many were right out of a movie, with chicken cages and no air con. I even remember a bus in Oaxaca taking a perilous mountain road where the driver stopped to make prayers at a roadside chapel.
Yeah back then buses did not have such strict rules. The driver would stop at whatever taco shack he felt like, told passengers to hang out for a while, and disappeared into the adjacent cottage of some girlfriend. He then reemerged half hour later, fumbling with his belt. So typical.
Back in the early 80s the Mexican authorities were to be feared. I remember a bus ride, also in Oaxaca, where my college buddy and I – along with all other males on the bus – had to step off the bus, stand next to it with our hands behind our heads, and be frisked one at a time, with an automatic rifle pointed at us.
Immigration, too, was in the business of shaking down foreign tourists. And my travel buddy had long hair, a sure sign of a hippie drug smuggler.
When I talk about Mexico in the 80s, the Mexican woman (shown last week below) would joke that I am referring to “the Porfiriato,” which is a historical era of Mexico beginning in the 1880s and ending with the Revolution of 1910.
Yes, exactly, I remember the Porfiriato…
Today, Mexico’s transportation infrastructure is a marvel. The bus system is clean and comfortable – even luxurious. I just got off a bus where the seats go almost all the way back, and I had a touch screen TV.
Also just like the airlines you can join their frequent flier clubs to earn points and whatnot. Greyhound has a lot to learn from Mexico’s bus lines.
Mexican airlines are also excellent, and I once read that they have better “on-time” departures than in the US. I’ve flown plenty on Aeromexico without problems.
Fortunately, Mexico’s federal government – at least with how it engages with transportation and travelers – is highly professional. The Army checkpoints are as low-touch and unobtrusive as they can be and still remain effective. No one is pointing guns at anyone…
Officers are courteous – including the immigration office people I visited in Mazatlan (with some trepidation because I remember the Porfiriato). They told me I do not need a tourist card if I am leaving the country by bus. So that’s that. Mexican buses blow by the checkpoint, being filled with nationals.
I guess there are very few Americans going to the Mexican bus stations in the US, where English is seldom heard, and buying a bus ticket across Northern Mexico on a Mexican bus line like Elite, Tufesa or TAP. So Mexican Immigration does not care. But now you know. If you ever want to disappear into a country after robbing a bank, it is easiest to do so in Mexico. If you take the bus.
The high-quality of Mexican services in transportation is only partly explained by competition. Companies vie with one another for customer loyalty.
Another, deeper explanation is that most people remember the bad days of earlier decades, when traveling within Mexico involved risk and even humiliation. No one wants to return to those days.