Getting the Bus from Mexico City Airport to San Miguel de Allende
San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico has become the place on everyone's travel bucket list. It's not difficult to see why. It's charming, colorful, fun and has a great climate. One thing it doesn't have is an airport. That's probably a good thing as the city is quite heavily touristed and I'm not sure that making it easier to get here would be positive. Your airport choices are Leon (BJX), Queretaro (QRO) but another great option, given the massive array of flight options, is Mexico City. Here is our experience of getting from Mexico City (CDMX) Airport to San Miguel de Allende (SMdA).
Buses are a very common way to travel around Mexico. We have used them in the past and always been happy with our experience. The most luxurious companies have pretty swanky buses, with seat back screen, men's and women's toilets and large reclining seats with lots of legroom. The prices are great and the money you'll save over a private transfer can buy some extra cervezas once you get to SMdA.
There is a bus station at CDMX airport but there is no direct route from there to SMdA, you would have to transfer in Queretaro. We decided it was easier to take a taxi from the airport to the bus station where we could get the direct bus. CDMX has a number of large bus stations and the one that serves the route to SMdA is the Estacion del Norte (aka Mexico Norte). The bus company we used was Primera Plus. ETN is another luxury service that goes to SMdA. You can buy tickets on line, at least in theory. We took this route a couple of times. Only once we were successful booking online but on the other two attempts we were not. Who knows the reasons why but the purchase would fail when validating the credit card transaction?
You get a slight discount by booking online, if you can get it to work. We paid 396 Pesos per ticket (~US$21). Be aware that you need printed tickets to board the bus. For us that was easy. We gave the ticket agent at the bus station our booking reference and they printed them out for us when we arrived.
It is about a 15 to 20 minute cab ride from the airport. We went to the end of the terminal in CDMX and prepaid the taxi at one of the taxi kiosks. They give you a ticket which you can then hand over to the driver, so there's no risk of any shenanigans. For us it cost the equivalent of US$12.
Once at the station, we found it pretty straightforward to find our way around. After printing our tickets out at the Primera Plus desk we went to wait near the their dedicated boarding hall. Near departure time, we went through the security screen to find our bus. All buses are clearly labeled with the destination across the illuminated display at the front. The departure time is normally handwritten in white marker near the door on the windscreen. Before you board someone checks you in on the seating plan and gives you a choice of drink and some snacks. You can load large luggage in the cargo compartment and get a baggage claim ticket. Then your hand bags are usually searched as you board the bus. All very straight forward and quick.
Note: We took this route twice during our recent stay, the first time it was relaxing and stress-free, the other time was on Jan 2nd and the place was mobbed after the New Year celebrations. If you think it is going to be busy my advice is to get to the station early. It may take some time to navigate the crowds.
Once on the bus you can relax. It's a non-stop journey that takes about three and a half hours. The bus station at SMdA is a ten minute taxi ride into centro. Taxis are not super regular at the station for some reason. We had to wait 15 minutes for one to show up. We were never successful with Uber while we were in SMdA. It seems like there maybe one driver in the whole town. Wherever your cab ride is you shouldn't pay any more than 50 pesos to get there from the bus station.
If CDMX is your entry airport I would really recommend the bus service. It's super easy and efficient and such good value compared to private transfer.