Mexico Travel tips part 4: Public Transit

The area has an extensive public transit system. We are also walking distance to the center of town in Chelem which has restaurants, bars, pharmacy, and stores. While the stores are all small they do seem to carry everything you would normally need. More extensive shopping is available in Progreso, and US chain stores and restaurants are available in Merida. Thus you can get anything you need without a car.


Bears en la playa is 6 blocks from the edge of town, the main road, 4 restaurants,  a small convenience store carrying beer, wine, soda and snacks. We are 10 blocks from the town square which has many restaurants, bars, stores, and a collectivo terminal (more on that later).  Before progressing I should mention that we are in a tropical climate so its hot most of the year. The streets have no shade and the smaller transport vehicles don’t have air conditioning. Be prepared to be hot and sweaty!


A Collectivo is a van used as a mini bus. It has a standard route, and will stop anywhere along that route to pick up or drop off passengers. The route starts and ends at terminals where they wait until one fills up and then starts it’s run. Hence there is no schedule. As soon as one fills up it leaves and the next one starts filling up. This also means that on the route shortly after leaving the starting point there won’t be any room for the van to pickup anyone. Luckily we are close to the terminal so you can just walk over there.  While there are Collectivos that go to Churbuna (a small fishing village west of Chelem), most head towards Progreso.  Typically you would board in Chelem town square and exit at the Progreso terminal. You can do that without knowing a word of Spanish. If you want to get off along the route, you need to tell the driver in Spanish.


Buses are available in Progreso, Merida, and between the two. Except for a single bus that leaves Chelem in the morning and heads to Merida (returns in the evening), Chelem has no bus service. Buses within the city are just larger versions of Collectivos while those that travel between Progreso and Merida are modern, air conditioned buses. Progreso and Merida have the same sort of bus service you would expect to find in any city. There are various lines, with fixed stops and run on a schedule. In Progreso you probably will only use the buses to/from Merida. It’s just too small to bother with the other lines. Instead most people use Collectivos in Progreso to get to various sections of the town. As a tourist, you probably won’t even use those since the town is small enough that you can walk to the areas/stores you are interested in.

Progreso has a bus terminal (which is different from the Collectivo terminal) where you would board a bus to Merida. You can take the bus to Merida centro or various stops along with way like Costco. Where you exit is also usually where you pick up the return bus. Once in Merida, if you speak Spanish, you can take one of the other lines to get around. Getting to Merida you don’t need Spanish but once in town, there are so many buses and  collectivos you need to speak Spanish. Finding and getting on the return bus to Progreso can be done without Spanish (just point and say Progreso? and look for a “yes” head nod lol).


Progreso and Merida both have taxis that you can flag down. In Chelem you typically need to call for one. Obviously you will need to communicate where you want to go. Driver’s generally do not speak English nor do they take credit cards. However if you are going to a well known destination you can just say the name (“Plaza Santa Lucia”, “Plaza Santa Anna”, “Gran Plaza”, Costco, Bestbuy, etc.) just don’t say Walmart since there are so many of them. As in any city they might take you for a ride, but its cheap so don’t worry.


Merida has Uber! As does Progreso and Chelem though there are not many drivers there. In Merida many foreigners use Uber since its so familiar and there is no language barrier. Your cellphone app will work in the area just like anywhere else. However, if its not peak time, don’t expect to get one in Chelem (though you will have no problem getting one to drive you to Chelem). In Progreso the availability drops to nothing later in the evening or early in the morning.



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