Getting to San Miguel de Allende on a Budget

Interested in getting to San Miguel de Allende on a budget?

The least expensive way to make it to San Miguel is the bus. While timewise, it can be exhausting, the conditions are quite good and it’s very inexpensive – perfect for getting to San Miguel de Allende on a budget. When flying, the choices include Leon, GTO or Queretaro, QRO, both of which are close (about an hour to an hour and a half) but can get quite pricey. Flights into Mexico City are less expensive, but require a 4 hour (50 dollar) bus ride upon arrival, as well as a basic knowledge of Spanish to navigate a significantly large international airport.

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One bus company is called Transporte San Miguel and departs from San Miguel to Houston, Dallas, and Austin. I’ve used it a few times, traveling from San Mike to all of the above (a bus change in San Luis Potosi is included, changing to Los Chavez buses). The bus costs 100 USD one way which is incredibly cheap compared to a 600-700 dollar plane ticket. While the bus service itself is slow, but air-conditioned and plays movies (in Spanish) for the duration of the trip. The bus to Houston leaves San Miguel de Allende at 2:30 pm, and it’s recommended that one arrives at 2:00 pm to check in. The services (supposedly) take 18 hours, not including discrepancies at the border.

I’ve tried a lot of different bus-lines including Omnibus and my current favorite, Grupo Senda. You can check times, cities and book tickets here.

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Naturally, the border presents some complications. Depending on the day of the week, it can take anywhere from 1 hour to (in my case) 7.5 hours to cross. We unwittingly crossed on the busiest day: Saturday. I’d imagine based on the commentaries, that Friday might be a busy day as well, since many Mexican workers travel during the weekend. The bus runs from Mexico to the states Thursday to Sunday and returns Thursday to Monday. Mexican workers and those visiting family abroad primarily populated the bus. Sean and I were the only foreigners.

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Interestingly enough, my only complaint was the complete lack of efficiency at the American border. After crossing several checkpoints in Mexico in which our identifications were checked, but only took a few minutes of our time, we were shocked by the 7.5 hours it took us to step on American soil. We arrived at the bridge at 1 a.m. and there were about 4 buses in from of us, each carrying approximately 45 passengers. We sat on the bridge (at the entrance to the border) for 6.5 hours before they actually let us into the inspection area. The bus driver, a kind and friendly man named Juan, had told us it would be a long wait so we’d slept and not worried much about the enormous time lapse. But once we got to the inspection area in Nuevo Laredo, we found the customs officials carousing and eating donuts. They didn’t permit us to get out of the bus and begin lining up for baggage inspection for another half hour while they did nothing.

When they finally permitted us to get our luggage and form a line, the whole process took a brief 15 minutes, in which they speedily checked in the 45 people from our bus and their bags. I must say, I was both shocked and disappointed by their lack of professionalism, efficiency and courtesy. I’ve crossed a lot of international borders and never have I waited so long, not in Ghana nor in Cuba.

All said, just don’t cross on the weekend and it’s an otherwise pleasant (though long) trip. We plan to return on a Thursday, so I’ll report back on the differences I find in crossing on a weekday as well as entering Mexico versus entering the United States. I would recommend the service as a good budget option, minus the whole weekend business.

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