San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque (3 Best Ways)

If there’s one route in Mexico that’s talked about more than most it’s how to get from San Cristóbal to Palenque safely. Roadblocks, robberies, travel sickness and cramped minivans, you’ve probably heard it all.

Luckily, getting to Palenque doesn’t mean a walk on the wild side of life. In fact, it can be pretty safe if you choose the right option for you.

And as there’s only a handful of options available to the average traveller, you won’t have a hard time picking. Find out the cheapest, the most comfortable and the safest options in this guide…

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How to get from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque: Overview

There’s 3 ways to get to Palenque that I’d recommend. And 2 that I wouldn’t.

Taking the bus, going on a tour (one-way) and travelling by colectivo are all relatively safe and affordable.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend getting a taxi (it’s over 120 miles!) or driving with a rental car (safety in numbers is essential here).

Journey TimeCostHow to book
OCC Bus/Coach8 to 9 hours~30 USDBooking online is easiest
Tour/Shared ShuttleIncludes trips to waterfalls and ruins on the way
11 to 12 hours
~800-900 pesos (~50 USD)Reserve your spot and pay later online
Colectivo5.5 hours~200 pesos (12 USD)Pay on the colectivo
Can you catch the Maya Train between San Cristóbal de las Casas and Palenque?

No, the Maya Train doesn’t go any further south than Palenque. You’ll need to travel either by bus, colectivo, tour or private vehicle.

Option 1: OCC Bus from San Cristóbal to Palenque

The OCC bus is the most comfortable way to get to Palenque. It’s also the safest, especially if you want to travel overnight, and the most popular (you’ll meet other backpackers).

Personally, this is the option I’d recommend the most having done the trip myself.

You’ll have the most space for the long journey, compared with the other options. And it’s the only overnight option, meaning you can arrive in the town and get straight on a tour to see some of the best waterfalls in Palenque (book at Tulum Travels next to the bus station).

OCC buses aren’t luxurious, they’re Mexico’s second-class option with 44-seater coaches. But they have seats that recline ever so slightly and do have toilets onboard.

There’s 4 or 5 buses each day to Palenque. Generally 3 in the morning/early afternoon and 1 or 2 at night.

Journey Time

The OCC bus from San Cristóbal to Palenque travels via Tuxtla Gutierrez and Villahermosa, taking 8 to 9 hours to complete the journey.

Some of the buses start their journey in San Cristóbal. So the bus should be there in plenty of time ahead of departure.

However, others start in Comitan and San Cristóbal is their second stop. This means there’s a chance it could have picked up a delay on the way, so the departure time is less likely to be exact.

Palenque Bus Station is within walking distance of most hotels and hostels in the town. But if you’re staying near the ruins, you’ll need to get a colectivo or taxi.

Booking & Cost

While you can book bus tickets in person at the bus station in San Cristóbal. The easiest and most convenient way is to book online, that way you don’t have to wait until you’re there and can firm up your travel plans when you’re ready.

Prices are very similar either way, with tickets costing around 30 USD.

Option 2: Shared Shuttle Tour to Palenque

I’m not always a big fan of tours as you spend time waiting for others and feeling rushed. But, a San Cristóbal to Palenque tour makes sense as it’s both a tour and your transport between the two places.

Tour operators aren’t naïve to what tourists want. As such, with a tour to Palenque, you have the option to not return to San Cristóbal like you would on other day trips.

Generally speaking, these one-day tours leave San Cristóbal somewhere between 3.00 and 4.30 in the morning. You’ll then travel in a shared shuttle to Agua Azul Waterfalls, Misol-Ha Waterfall and finally Palenque ruins before being dropped off in the town.

This allows you to see all the main attractions in one day. And leaves you free to organise overnight onwards transport towards Campeche, Yucatan or Quintana Roo if you wish.

Another benefit of this tour is that the shuttles take a shorter route. Travelling via Route 199 shortens the journey plus you’ll break it up with stops at attractions.

Journey Time

Driving time is around 5 hours.

Generally speaking, you’ll first stop for 1.5 hours at Agua Azul and then 30 to 45 minutes at Misol-Ha – both are some of the best waterfalls in Chiapas. Finally, you’ll spend around 3.5 hours at Palenque ruins.

If you join a tour stopping at all of those attractions, you’ll arrive in Palenque mid-afternoon. A total travel time of around 11 to 12 hours.

This can be good if you’re wanting to set off to travel from Palenque to Flores in Guatemala the next day. You’ll have already seen the best attractions on the way, so you won’t need to waste any time before setting off for a full day of travel.

Booking & Cost

Tours from San Cristóbal cost around 50 USD, this generally includes transport and admission tickets.

Considering the bus costs 30 USD, you can consider this as only costing 20 USD to visit three of the best Chiapas attractions!

Prices are pretty much the same whether you book online or in person in the city. But booking online comes with added benefits such as free cancellation up to 24 hours and the ability to reserve your spot without paying.

The best pick is this full-day tour that includes Agua Azul, Misol-Ha, Palenque ruins and two stops for breakfast and lunch.

Option 3: San Cristóbal to Palenque Colectivo

Taking colectivos is the cheapest way to get from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Palenque. To do this you’ll need to make a fairly straightforward change in Ocosingo.

However, this is the least safe option of the 3.

That’s because the road it travels along is infamous for roadblocks (to block tourists and/or force them to pay to pass), cartel activity and poor driving. As such, it’s only recommended to take this trip during daylight.

But despite what you read on the internet at times, this isn’t totally the wild west. For 90% of people, you’ll experience no issues.

That said, on local transport you’ll stick out as a tourist, making you an easy target. Not only that, but the roads are rough! Travel sickness is very common on the bumpy roads and tight corners – don’t expect to be able to sleep.

For that reason, I recommend travelling with the shared shuttle/tour on this route. But I appreciate some people just want the cheapest option.

Route, Cost & Journey Time

The first part of the journey is the colectivo from San Cristóbal to Ocosingo. This takes around 2 hours.

Colectivos to Ocosingo leave from next to the bus station in San Cristóbal. You can see the location on Google Maps here.

Next, you’ll need to take a second colectivo from Ocosingo to Palenque. This takes around 3 hours.

You’ll likely get dropped off in Ocosingo at the same place the colectivos to Palenque leave from – see it on Google Maps.

The total cost for the journey is about 200 pesos. With the change in Ocosingo, the journey takes about 5.5 hours.

Other things to know (Including Highway 199)

  • The bus to Palenque takes a longer route for two reasons relating the Highway 199. Firstly, the road is narrow, winding and bumpy – and secondly, because of the high incidence of crime and roadblocks.
  • Between the roadblocks, robbery, lack of police presence and cartel activity, it’s no wonder most tourists avoid Highway 199. But, in recent years things have improved, and most people travel along the road without issue.
  • So if you’re going to travel along this route, there’s safety in numbers – as well as from having a local driver.
  • On the other hand, if you’re taking the OCC bus you still need to remain vigilant. Unfortunately this route is one of the riskiest (compared with the rest of Mexico) in terms of having your belongings stolen from on the bus – by other passengers.
  • Make sure you keep any valuables physically on you. Never put anything you’re not willing to lose (e.g. snacks, drinks) on the shelf overhead and loop the straps of your bag around your legs and through the seatbelt.

Getting to Palenque: Summary

Ready to make the journey through Chiapas? As someone who spent almost 4 weeks in San Cristóbal, I know it’s not an easy place to leave behind!


Before you leave, make sure you’ve visited the absolutely stunning Cascadas El Chiflon – one of the best places to visit in Mexico!

Do you have any questions or want any more information? If so, drop a comment below and I’ll get back to you!

Information is correct as of February 2024 but is subject to change in future.

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