Bus Station Hotel Mexico
SALINA CRUZ, Mexico- The hotel was filthy on the outside, worse on the inside. A broken down reindeer Christmas ornament of a with dim lights arched over the door. The place was called the Stag Hotel, and it sat directly across from a bus station in Salina Cruz. The place looked awful. We crept up to the door and hesitantly rang the doorbell. An older fat woman, keenly befitting this scene, appeared from behind the door gate.
“250,” was the first thing she said to us — not hello, not may I help you, but 250 — as in 250 pesos to stay in her piss smelling nest of a hotel for a night. Over $20, a truly ridiculous price. I had not yet paid close to this amount for a hotel room in all my travels in Mexico, and this lady wanted 250 pesos to stay in the worst hotel I have seen yet.
But she she thought that we had no other choice. The hotel around the corner charges 400 pesos per night (we had already checked), it was 11:30PM, the center of the city was a taxi ride away, where else were we going to go?
We were unsure of this ourselves, so we stepped inside to see of the Stag Hotel was as hideous as it made itself out to be from the reception. We told the woman that we would like to see a room, and she unlocked the gate and lead us through an unpainted concrete corridor into an open room with a folding table and her laundry sitting in the middle of it. We could hardly hear the woman point out our room over the blaring sound of the television — which, as I have come to think about it, was probably turned up so loud as an ironic sort of service to the clientele, as this did not seem to be the type of hotel you sleep in.
We walked across the room and pulled open a big steel door, within we saw what was being offered for 250 pesos a night: a bed in a completely enclosed in four walls, a concrete cell. Windows in such an establishment would be not be a selling point, the action happens inside these rooms, what is outside is irrelevant.
“I don’t want to touch anything in here,” my wife, Chaya, spoke a logical sentiment.
I looked at my wife, she was tired; I looked at my baby, she was doing well but I knew that she could crack at any time. Even from within the hotel room with the door closed we could hear the television blaring. It was nearing midnight, and the hotel showed no sign of quieting down enough to allow for sleep. I went back out into the laundry room and offered the lady running the hotel a lesser price.
She out rightly refused. 250 pesos is the price, no empathy for the weary family with a baby.
“What do you want to do?” I asked Chaya, letting her know that I would actually fork over 20 bucks for this bullshit — I was thinking like a family man.
I dug into my pocket. I was stopped short:
“What are you doing!?!” my wife exclaimed sharply, “If I wanted to be kept up all night in a loud place I would go sleep over in the bus station for free.”
And so we came to stay in the Bus Station Hotel of Salina Cruz.
World travel and the station hotel
I once had a rule in my younger days of travel:
If I arrived in a town past 11 at night and the bus or train station was open 24 hours and seemed to be an alright place to stay — well lit, busy, not too many sketchy looking people festering about — I would just doze there until early morning. I have saved myself dozens upon dozens of nights of accommodation using this strategy, but saving money is not the key impetus for the station hotel: in point, it sucks walking around a town in the middle of the night with all of your bags looking for a place to sleep; I would rather just wait until morning.
If a train or bus station seems secure enough — and by secure I mean that it is busy 24 hours, full of people, has security — its waiting room can second as a place to hunker down til morning. The station hotel often comes in as a good backup plan when arriving in an unfamiliar town late at night, or if you are too broke to pay for a room. The station hotel is free, and you will generally not be kicked out — as you look like just another passenger snoozing, waiting for your bus to arrive.
The bus station we stayed at in Salina Cruz was a first class, it was brightly lit, boasted two security guards, was reasonable lively, and had other passengers, vendors, cleaning people, ticket sellers, and taxi drivers milling around. We checked the arrivals and departures, found that there were buses coming and going all night, and took a seat.
I locked our bags up to a bench with a bike lock, making sure that the essential zippers were also padlocked shut, sat down, leaned back, and braced myself for an uncomfortable night at the station hotel. Petra was napping. I bought my wife and I some snacks, and we debated what would be the best time to leave.
We had the option of just hopping onto another bus and doing away with Salina Cruz completely, but it was only a four hour ride to our destination — and arriving in Pochutla at 4AM would not leave us in much of a better off than we already were. And we felt secure in the Salina Cruz bus terminal, we did not know what Pochutla would be like at four in the morning — and I did not have the pressing urge to find out.
When you are snug and warm in a pile of shit . . . you are still snug and warm.
We bought tickets for a 3:30AM bus to Pochutla, and settled in for a handful of hours on a bus station bench.
It was not too bad.
Petra played with a little Mexican kid, the ticket selling lady, and anybody else she could find; my wife chased Petra around, read a little, and ate snacks; I turned out the lights and went to sleep.
Typical night in the station hotel.