Updated: Apr 9
Getting Around in Merida
We have just crossed the 2 month mark for us to be in Mexico. I have not driven a car in over 60 days and it feels great. We use Uber and our bikes as our main forms of transportation but as of Saturday we got a pretty good crash course on a third option, colectivos.
Colectivos, are small van like buses that cover all the small pueblos in Mexico. They are the connecting vehicles from small town to small town. They are used by thousands, if not millions, of people everyday to move efficiently and inexpensively through the country. Along, with the other bus options such as the city buses, ADO and Oriente for long distances, colectivos make up a great transportation network.
Our journey began on Saturday when we decided to try and take the Merida to Progreso direct bus. We have taken this bus before from the Centro bus station and knew that it made stops along the way north so our plan was to just get on at one of those stops after breakfast. The cost from Centro for the Merida to Progreso bus is $38.00 pesos round trip our about $2.00 dollars.
So we headed out on our bikes to have breakfast. This was our normal 5 minute ride and we had delicious parfaits at our normal spot. We’ve eaten the same thing here so much in the last two months that they now anticipate our order and bring us one cup of cafe americano and two Capucinero’s with extra crema de batida. You got to love the service in Mexico.
Once breakfast was finished we began our walk over to the bus stop in front of the mall. We live within 3 miles of three different malls. Malls are still very popular here much more than in the states. In fact, the Harbor Mall was was just completed this year. For a point of reference it’s like living in Buckhead behind Phipps plaza for my Atlanta folks.
As we approached, I could see the bus coming over the bridge so we made a mad dash to the bus stop in our flip flops. As I told you, we have never taken the bus from this stop so we were unsure if it was the correct stop or how to flag the bus down to pick us up. Well needless to say, we missed the bus to Progreso and considering that it just left we didn’t want to wait for the next bus and risk not being able to flag it down at this stop.
Therefore, the decision was made to Uber to the beach. Since we were summoning an Uber why not go to a beach that we’ve never been to before? So we hail the Uber and off to the town off Sisal, where the wealth in Merida began. Sisal is famous for being predominant supplier of Sisal rope, made from the henequen plant, that was used in the shipping days before synthetic fibers hit the the scene. The town of Sisal is a 55 minute car ride from our North Merida location.
So a little over 55 minutes later, having driven through several small pueblos, we arrived in the beach city of Sisal. To say that I was a bit shocked at how small it was would be an understatement. I expected the town that created the wealth of Merida to be a bustling beach town with lots of people. When arrived we were greeted by the guy who would be our awesome tour guide, Rene. There were about 15 people on the pier fishing and exactly 7 other folks on the beach in two palapas. So bustling it was not, but beautiful, remote, and tranquil it was in spades. We even had service right the beach.
So now the thought occurs to me to try and see if there is Uber service. Strike one, no cars available. No worries, we had 3G cell service, AT&T is rock solid here in Mexico. Let’s see if we can figure out the return. No luck. Oh well, lets enjoy the water, and we will worry about if or when we will make it back to Merida later.
So after a very good lunch at what appeared to be the only resturant by the beach, we went on an exciting 2 1/2 hour tour of the lagoon and the mangrove islands. It was a very good tour led by our guide Rene and his cousin, Gabriel. They even stopped. U the side of the dirt road and let us sample the Tuna fruit from the local cactus. It was pleasantly sweet and reminded you of a pomegranate in taste and in color.
Now was the moment of truth! We had discussed with Rene, since he spoke very good english, what our best options would be for making it back to Merida. He explained that the Colectivos run from Sisal every 30 minutes. As we arrived around 4:20, the next would would depart at or around 4:30 or once it was full. So with a few minutes to spare we headed to the central square which houses the main park , the church, stores and probably the city offices. This design is repeated in every town I’ve been to in Mexico. Some are a little grander than others, but the same lay out exist in every one.
At 4:30 we showed up at the main square only to see the colectivo loaded and pulling off. That made for the second time in the same day that we had missed the bus. However, the good news is we knew that we would only have to wait for 30 minutes and the next bus would arrive. So we hung out for 30 minutes while we waited on the next colectivo.
Across from the main square was a church where they were having a children’s program. The baby saw the kids go out to the play ground and wanted to join them. We encouraged her to go over and see if they would invite her to play. She stood at the fence and looked in but right on time the bus arrived. No sooner than the bus got arrived, there were about 15 people who had arrived after us standing in line. At this moment, I just knew we would have to wait for the next colectivo, but a kind gentleman, who had been sitting in the park the whole time while we waited, spoke up to the people in line and said that we were first and for us to go to the front, in Spanish. So I did just that. As Tnita and the baby approached I announced to them that we were first in line. Side note, I’ve noticed that standing in line here is very different than the comformity that is drilled into us in elementary school. People que up for all sorts of things here but it seems to be a get in where you fit in type of culture. No one outwardly questioned that we were there first but no one in line volunteered to let us go up front either. So we simply inserted ourselves and went about our way. By the way, we were the only foreigners on that bus and probably the only African Americans for for many towns.
Thirty minutes later, we arrived in Humanco. It is a much larger city with a much bigger central square park. After exiting the bus and paying the $38 pesos for Tnita and I, we asked for directions to the bus to Merida. Just a tip,only Spanish and the Mayan language is spoken in these small towns. The colectivo station in Humanco is an actual station and the buses leave from there every 10 minutes. We walked over to the bus station waited about 2 minutes and boom we we off to Merida on a much larger 50 passenger van. One point to note is as the new colectivo went down the road, it made periodic stops to let people on and off.
About 1 1/2 hours later from the time we took the first colectivo in Sisal we arrived in Merida. The central colectivo station is blocks from the grand plaza. It is a different station than the progreso to Merida bus station Or the ADO station. This day was one of our most exciting, relaxing, and entertaining days we‘ve had in México. The idea of a new adventure, not knowing what the next move would be, and just letting God and good sense guide us was spectacular. I’m sure we will talk about this day for many years to come. For those that want to see a video of the adventure check out our YouTube channel
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Summary of costs for transportation:
Uber To Sisal $637 peso or $33.52 dollars and 1 hour of time.
Sisal to Merida via collective $76 pesos or $4.00 dollars total and 1 1/2 hour time.
We still had to Uber from centro which normally about $60 pesos but on this night because of the festivities it cost double or about $6.00 dollars.
Total for the day
$43.52 USD transportation
$21.00 USD lunch where I had a whole fried fish.
Tour $73.68 USD for private tour, including tips, of the flamingo lagoon which including beverages and fruit toasting.