The journey from Puerto Escondido to San Cristóbal de las Casas – or the other way round – is a common one on the backpacker trail of Mexico. But, perhaps it’s also an unpopular one due to the long journey and few options.
That said, many people make this trip each day because San Cristóbal in the state of Chiapas is worth it. In the month I spent in this special mountain town I went to Spanish school, did so many day trips, admired the views every day, drank $1 glasses of wine and just felt at peace here.
It’s the kind of place where you come for 3 days and stay for 3 more and then another 3 more…
Travel-wise, you only have two options from Puerto Escondido: flying or the bus. But, since San Cristóbal doesn’t have its own airport, the flight option also includes a shuttle to the final destination (plus there’s no direct flights. See what I mean about a lack of comfortable and convenient options!
But fear not, this guide has everything you need to know about both options so you can decide which is best for you. Prices, routes, times, how to book – and importantly – how to stay safe as you travel from Puerto Escondido to Chiapas’ gem
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FASTEST ROUTE: Fly to Tuxtla Gutiérrez + Shuttle
CHEAPEST ROUTE: Bus to San Cristóbal
How to get from Puerto Escondido to San Cristóbal de las Casas: Overview
From Puerto Escondido, people head to 4 main destinations overland, generally.
The final option is to head east to the Chiapas city of San Cristóbal de las Casas and closer to the Guatemala border.
And oh my, I don’t think I can do my love of San Cristóbal de las Casas (or San Cris as it often gets called) any justice. I stayed for one month and loved it so much!
Your transport options to San Cristóbal:
- Direct long-distance bus (day and night available)
- Fly indirect via Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutiérrez, then take a shuttle to San Cris
|Flight + Shuttle
|Via Mexico City usually
|40 to 80 USD depending on how in advance you book and the class of service
|80 USD to 300 USD depending on how in advance you book
|Hand luggage + one bag that goes under the bus
|Check-in bag costs extra, fare includes carry on
|Direct and easy, although not very comfortable. Can walk or take a taxi to your hotel or hostel on arrival
|Slightly quicker but requires a layover in Mexico City and taking a shuttle for the final leg
|Most people experience no issues, occasionally luggage or personal items are stolen by opportunistic thieves
|Generally very safe
|How far to book in advance
|Up to 50% saving if booking more than 1 week in advance, seats generally available last minute
|Best prices when booked two months out, good prices booked 1 month out, seats available last minute
Frequently Asked Questions
The bus journey itself is safe, however, the biggest worry for most people is not having their belongings stolen – which does occasionally happen. Keep your valuables on you, not under the seat or on the overhead shelf.
This is a common question, as many people would prefer shorter journeys to avoid the long overnight bus. But, there really isn’t anywhere between Salina Cruz and Tuxtla – and that leg takes around 6 hours and the bus services are still overnight. Just bite the bullet!
Yes, it’s generally safe to travel to San Cristóbal. The roads have a lot of bends but are overall safe. The city is also relatively safe to visit as a tourist – the biggest issue is usually food poisoning or water contamination.
Travelling around Mexico by bus is safe, as long as you apply common sense measures and keep your belongings out of sight but on you.
Daytime Bus from Puerto Escondido to San Cristóbal
Taking a 13-hour bus isn’t a great way to spend a day of your itinerary. But, sometimes, you just have to do what you gotta do.
And long-distance, long-duration buses in Mexico are pretty inevitable. The country is huge and roads are often slow going.
Travelling during the day also means you don’t have to try and sleep upright on a bus. A bus that is winding its way through the mountains from the beautiful Oaxaca coast.
For those travelling in the opposite direction, unfortunately, there isn’t a day bus from San Cristóbal to Puerto Escondido. Instead, you’ll need to take an overnight bus.
There is one daytime departure each day from the Puerto Escondido ADO bus station. Although, given that the journey takes over 13 hours, it does arrive in the middle of the night.
OCC buses leave Puerto Escondido at 11.30 am each day, arriving into San Cristóbal at 1.15 am (13 hours and 45 mins later). So, about 8 hours of your journey will be in daylight hours.
Unfortunately, this late arrival time isn’t ideal as many hotels and hostels do not have 24-hour check-in. If you do take this bus, make sure you’ve confirmed with your accommodation that you’ll be able to check-in at this time and that someone is expecting you.
Cost (And how to Save Money)
The standard price for this bus ticket is 1086 pesos, roughly 64 USD, when booked direct online or at the bus terminal.
If you choose to book through an agency or travel website, you’ll pay slightly more.
However, you can get a bus ticket for as low as 686 pesos (40 USD) if you book in advance through ADO.
You’ll need to book at least 1 week in advance and only a small number of tickets are sold at this price. So, it really does pay off to plan your trip in advance.
How to book
You’ll get the best price by booking direct through the ADO website or at the counter in the bus station.
However, the ADO website and app are notoriously unreliable. Sometimes they won’t process payment and sometimes you get charged twice even though you thought it didn’t go through.
If you have the patience, book through the ADO website.
Alternatively, bus comparison websites like Busbud are a convenient option for booking your trip to San Cristóbal. Busbud also charges you in major currencies like GBP or USD – which can be handy if your bank charges foreign transaction fees (the price will be shown first in pesos but switches at checkout).
Specifically for daytime buses, it’s important not to get complacent about safety just because it’s light outside.
You should keep all your valuables in a small bag that you can wear the whole time. Alternatively, keep them in a small backpack that you can see the whole time (I recommend looping it around your legs or seatbelt).
Never put any valuables on the overhead shelf or loose on the floor. Especially because as the bus navigates the mountain roads, they’ll slide up and down the full length of the bus – making them an easy target for opportunistic thieves.
The only thing I’d put in the overhead shelf would be snacks or drinks.
Puerto Escondido to San Cristóbal de las Casas Night Bus
Night buses are generally popular because they save you the cost of accommodation for one night. But I don’t like them, I really don’t like them.
Because, while you do save money on accommodation, you can end up losing two days to waiting around and lost sleep. Check out of your hotel at 11 am, wait until 9 pm for the bus, arrive at 7 or 8 in the morning, and wait most of the day before you can check in at 2 or 3.
But, I get it. For long journeys, it’s better to do it overnight, especially if you’re short on time.
However, in Mexico, you have to be prepared not to sleep. These are not night buses like in Asia or South America – the seats barely recline. It’s a standard 50-seater or so coach – no beds in sight.
Leaving from the ADO terminal next to the Chedraui supermarket, the bus will also stop at Pochutla, Salina Cruz and Tuxtla Gutiérrez. At each, the lights are abruptly turned on, even in the middle of the night!
I’m not trying to put you off but to paint a realistic picture, so you can plan accordingly.
3 overnight buses run each day, at the following times:
- 6.30 pm depart Puerto Escondido, arrive in San Cristóbal at 7 am the next day (ADO gl)
- 8 pm depart Puerto Escondido and arrive in San Cristóbal at 8.55 am the next day (OCC)
- 9.30 pm leave Puerto Escondido and get to San Cristóbal at 11.15 am the next day (OCC)
If you want to travel the other way from San Cristóbal to Puerto Escondido – check the bus times online.
OCC vs ADO gl
OCC is the standard class bus and ADO gl is an executive class bus. For OCC, (a sister company of ADO) you book their buses through the ADO website.
Both buses have:
- Toilets on board
- USB charging ports
- Air conditioning (not individually controlled)
However, the ADO gl has the added benefit of:
- Complementary drink
- More legroom and more recline
- Individual audio connection
- Wifi (this doesn’t always work especially if you’re somewhere with no mobile signal)
And impressively, sometimes you can get the ADO gl for as little as 18 pesos (1 USD) more than the OCC bus. For a long journey like this one, I’d opt for the ADO gl bus if it’s in your budget.
Cost (and how to save money)
The standard cost of an OCC ticket is 1130 pesos (66 USD) and a standard ticket for an ADO gl ticket is 1334 pesos (78 USD) – when booked direct through ADO.
If you choose to book through an agency or travel website, you’ll pay slightly more.
However, you can get a bus ticket for as low as 658 pesos (40 USD) for OCC and 676 pesos for ADO gl, if you book in advance through ADO.
You’ll need to book at least 1 week in advance. And only a small number of tickets are sold at this price.
So, it really does pay off to plan your trip in advance.
How to book
The best prices are available when booked direct through the ADO website or at the counter in the bus station.
However, both the ADO website and app are pretty well known for being frustratingly unreliable. At times, you can’t pay. And at other times you get charged twice.
If you have the patience and resolve, book through the ADO website.
Alternatively, bus comparison websites like Busbud are a convenient option for booking your trip to San Cristóbal. Busbud also charges you in major currencies like GBP or USD. This can be useful if your bank charges foreign transaction fees (the price will be shown first in pesos but switches at checkout).
Safety + Comfort Tips
Though the roads may be winding and overtaking drivers are bold, the bus journey itself is not unsafe. The route is popular and the bus drivers know it inside out.
However, a night bus does come with more risk to keeping your belongings safe and in your possession than other modes of transport.
> > > KEY TIP! I cannot sing this from the rooftops enough, but you need to keep your valuables on you. Like physically on you, at all times. Wear the bag, spoon the bag, attach the bag to your seatbelt and put the straps around you.
Unfortunately, opportunistic thieves and pickpockets know that tourists typically travel with valuable items. Cameras, laptops, cash, jewellery, passports.
Keep these items out of sight and safely stored – on you. Never put anything you’re afraid to lose on the overhead shelf.
> > > MORE TIPS: My other top tips for surviving a night bus are:
- Pick a seat in the middle of the bus (away from the toilet and away from the front window where most light comes through)
- Pack layers so you can keep warm or get cool as needed
- Bring plenty of water and a few snacks
I personally don’t like using earplugs and an eye mask because I feel too unaware of my surroundings. But these could also come in handy.
Flying to Tuxtla Gutiérrez + Bus to San Cristóbal
As San Cristóbal doesn’t have an airport, you’ll need to first fly to Tuxtla via Mexico City and then take a shuttle or taxi.
Because of this, the overall journey time is only slightly shorter than the overland Puerto Escondido to San Cristóbal de las Casas bus journey.
Routes + Times
The earliest departure from Puerto Escondido Airport (PXM) is at 8 am and the latest is 10.25 pm. The earliest possible arrival into Tuxtla Gutiérrez Ángel Albino Corzo Airport (TGZ) is at 3.04 pm the same day, although overnight connections are available.
All flights transit through Mexico City International Airport (MEX). The shortest is just 55 minutes, with up to 24 hours or more in Mexico City possible.
The shortest journey from Puerto Escondido to Tuxtla Gutiérrez is just under 7 hours.
Once in Tuxtla, you’ll need to take a shuttle or taxi the 77 km to San Cristóbal. And do know that the airport is a long way out of Tuxtla.
When booking at least 2 to 3 months in advance, you can get a carry-on-only, one-way ticket for around 100 USD. However, if you leave it to the last minute, then tickets can cost over 250 USD.
I’d recommend booking your flight at least two weeks in advance to avoid paying too much.
How to book flights
Aeromexico, VivaAerobus and Volaris operate this route. Because of this, it’s best to use a flight comparison site like Skyscanner to find the best price and times, including whether you should book with a mix of carriers.
Simply put in the date you want to travel and see what your options are for Puerto Escondido to Tuxtla Gutiérrez…
Shuttle from Tuxtla Airport to San Cristóbal
Since the ADO bus no longer runs this route, you can take a shuttle from the airport to Cristóbal.
No advance booking is required, you can buy a ticket for the shuttle at the airport kiosk. It’s located just past baggage reclaim on the right, at the end of the row of car hire and taxi kiosks.
A ticket costs around 250 pesos and drops you off at the bus station in San Cristóbal 1.5 hours later. From there, you can get a taxi or walk to your hotel or hostel.
As an airport service, they know when flights are landing – which is pretty easy since that’s only about 15 flights a day. So, there’ll be a service waiting for you.
It’s also possible to book a taxi, you’ll get the best price when buying from the official kiosk in the arrivals hall. The cost is around 1000 pesos, so can be cost-effective as a group of 4. Sometimes the taxi staff will also group people together, so it’s always worth asking.
Puerto Escondido to Chiapas: Summary
Ready to make the journey to the beautiful state of Chiapas?
The journey might be long, but it sure is worth it. My top two recommendations for day trips are the Sumidero Canyon boat and viewpoints and El Chiflon waterfalls.
If you have any questions or want any more information, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!
Information is correct to the best of my knowledge as of August 2023 but is subject to change.
More Mexico Travel Inspiration…
PUERTO ESCONDIDO: Playa Bacocho, Puerto Escondido (Oaxaca Beach Guide)