Bus from Oaxaca to Mexico City — Second Class is Luxury for Vagabonds
MEXICO CITY, Mexico- “Wow, this is nice, huh?” I spoke to my wife from inside of the Fosa bus company’s waiting area in the second class bus station of Oaxaca City. There was a separate waiting area for people who were waiting for this company’s next bus to Mexico City, it had seats and dust, and slightly less grim than the common waiting areas in the other parts of the station. I sat down in an empty seat and leaned back, then I was reminded that this was the same bus company whose bus broke down the last time we were on it en route between Tuxtla and Salina Cruz. But the big sign over the ticket window read “First class service,” I tried to argue, but I knew that we were in a second class bus station and was confident that we would receive first class service of lower class transport. I take it.
The day before departing from Oaxaca City I went to the second class bus station to scope out the prices. 230 pesos, nearly $20, to Mexico City — six and a half seat hours away. This price seemed steap, so I went to the first class station — Ado bus line — to check it out, as I could not imagine a first class bus charging much more than this. “10 more pesos and I can ride in total and complete luxury,” I thought to myself. I thought wrong. 480 to Mexico City in a rolling, luxury class airplane cabin. I retreated to the class of my birthright, now happy to lie down the 230 pesos.
“It is a first class direct bus,” the rep selling the ticket let me know, and then he did not hesitate to validate his statement: “There is a bathroom on board.”
Now knowing what elements differentiate bus classes here, I looked forward to a ride to DF not needing to hold it. Though I had already been to the first class station in Oaxaca, seen the first class Ado buses (even rode on one from Salina Cruz to Pochtula) and I knew that the Fosa bus that I was getting on would not match it — though I also knew that the service that I would be receiving would be more than completely adequate.
Second class bus transport in Mexico is the equivalent of first class, executive service in Central America and most of the world. These buses are truly decked out — AC, bathrooms, seats that have not recently been peed on, and the services are more or less direct.
I say more or less here as the guys selling the ticket will tell you that there are no stops prior to your destination, but then you find yourself in a bus sitting in some podunk city picking up more passengers who invariably will ride in the aisle, trying when they can to use your shoulder as a seat. But so be it, for half price over Ado service — saving $20 — I take it.
The first class Ado bus station was full of foreigners and rich, vastly lighter skinned Mexicans, it had a squeaky clean floor, everything was white washed and sparkling bright, The place shone like a brand new airport. The second class station was old, dusty, full of people in ratty clothing and busted up cowboy hats milling about, the common classes of Mexico entering and departing Oaxaca through a plethora of gates from a plethora of different second and third class bus companies. Though if I had not previously known of the class system that differentiates bus services in this country, I would have this referred to this place as a “bus station” without the additional adjective, as it was no worse than the hundreds of other bus stations that I have been in throughout the world.
As we waited for our bus to depart, I took my daughter Petra for walk. She loves bus stations, seemingly because there are lots of people just sitting around with nothing much else to do but play with her. She ran up to a young woman and jumped into her arms. The lady smiled and asked Petra the basic questions a traveler receives all around the world — where are you from? what is your name? how old are you? — which she answered herself in Spanish. She then jumped down and ran off to the next group of people to repeat the scene (and to snag some free food — Petra learned early on that if she points to someone’s food and looks cute enough chances are they will give her some). Petra meeting people gives me the opportunity to talk with people as well. As we walked through the station together, I lost count of the people I met and the conversations I had.
In the first class bus station we were stared through, as though we were a family of matterless apparitions. As such class goes.
Traveling second class means meeting the people
I do not understand why people would want to visit a country just to avoid the people. If you are afraid of Mexicans then coming to Mexico is probably not the best of ideas. I cannot fathom why someone would want to pay more money to experience less. Riding lower class transport means riding at ground level, jammed in with “the people,” it means touching people, being touched, pushed, snarled and smiled at, talking with strangers, getting good and dirty within a culture, within a place. Traveling cheap is not just to save money. In my opinion, the second class buses of Mexico are pretty posh, comfortable, nice — it is only in relation to the first class buses that I can consider myself enduring any sort of paltry discomfort in the name of traveling cheap. In actuality, I too travel in luxury, but world travel has been gentrified to the point where a person can now be shuttled through a country without ever touching the ground.
First class buses allow you to stay in your little bubble and easily float through a country, untouched, unfazed. As such is tourism.
Tourism is the mechanism through which people can visit places without needing to deal with the people who live there.
Sure, you may meet tour guides, hotel workers, bar girls, and ticket vendors, but the smiles you receive all too often come complementary with a purchase. I do not understand why someone would want to go to a foreign country — replete with preemptive ideas of adventure, serendipity, and exploration — just to hang out with a bunch of people from their own culture (or one all too similar to it) on first class buses, overpriced hostels, and on tours. Backpacker bars and hostels — unless trying to get laid — seem like pretty boring places to me. But, then again, from working at hostels in various regions of the world, it seems as if this truly is the prime directive of modern travel: pay to look at something, say “that’s cool,” get drunk, get laid (psst, an ugly dude can easily hook up with a pretty girl in a hostel if they are the last man standing). I’ve seen it; I’ve experienced it. In this scenario thinking twice about paying double price for a bus ticket, a grungy dorm bed that costs more than a nice private room in a less trendy hotel, and expensive drinks in the hostel bar is a moot point: this is not excess, it is part of the modern travel experience.
What does spending a little more money matter when it overflows from your bank account? It doesn’t.
What sort of world am I traveling in that $50 a day is now considered a cheap budget?
In a world that has been explored and mapped to the point of saturation, who needs to bother with self-touting discovery? The maps have been made, what else is there to do now but party all over them? Sit down in those nice cushy bus seats, lean back, watch a movie in English, and float away to the next city, the next hostel, the next lay, the next bar, the next tour. Take home pictures and foggy memories of the semi conscious chick with smeared makeup and googly eyes who took your ugly ass into the hostel bathroom. Travel is entertainment, be comfortable and enjoy the show — we are kings of the road.