Getting to the Beach | Mexico | Living in Mexico

Getting to the Beach

If you live in San Miguel de Allende, you're basically living in the midwest. People in the state of Guanajuato are politically and religiously conservative, and they work in agriculture or industry. Think Michigan. More important to a retired California boy, there's no ocean. When my yen for that salt water tang becomes irresistible, I make the long trek to the beach.

The nearest beaches are nearly a day's drive away. I can drive to Puerto Vallarta in seven or eight hours. Zihuatenejo takes longer. Tolls and gas make driving expensive: I spent about $200 US round trip between San Miguel and Manzanillo. Potholes and topes batter the car. In some parts of the country, police attempt extortion, threatening to impound my car for some manufactured infraction. Dealing with them is unpleasant.

I like the alternative: Mexico has a bus system that will take you anywhere cheaply. I always take the first class ETN bus to Mexico City, avoiding the corrupt traffic cops drawn like flies to my Texas plates. (I have been stopped every time I have driven in the State of Mexico.)

Getting to Zihuatenejo by bus is easy. You take the 10 PM Flecha Amarilla bus from San Miguel to Celaya and transfer there to the midnight Primera Plus bus for Ixtapa/Zihuatenejo. Climb aboard, deploy the footrest, recline the first-class seat for sleeping, and wake up at 7:30 AM surrounded by sand and palm trees. You get a good night's sleep and gain an extra day of relaxation instead of spending it driving.


The image shows the interior of a Primera Plus bus: four deeply upholstered seats across and television monitors where airline-type (i. e., puerile) movies play. The more luxurious ETN buses seat three across and the movie sound track is piped through headphones so you don't have to listen to it.

One feature needs pointing out. Check out the red light shining above the door in front. That light mysteriously flickers on and off. I asked what it's for. Well, it's a safety feature required by law in all highway buses. Whenever the driver exceeds the mandated speed limit of 95 kilometers per hour, the light comes on. This is so that frightened or outraged passengers can report the driver to the authorities.

Only a committee could have come up with such a scheme. Drivers are not intimidated at all: the light is on almost constantly. Nobody bothers to report speeders anyway. We know that an illuminated red light assures us we'll all arrive just a little sooner.