A Bus Trip to Southern Sonora
There’s typically not a lot of tourism activity in Sonora during the summer months, especially the late summer. That may be why the TAP (Transportes Autobuses Pacifico) bus line offered a half-price sale between major Sonora destinations in August.
I knew that it would be hot and humid in Southern Sonora, but I was ready for a trip, and with cut-rate transportation (and discounted summer lodging rates) I decided to go.
There were some specific destinations I wanted to visit on this trip. Two of the places I’d visited before, Ciudad Obregon and Alamos, and two others where I had not been before – Huatabampo and the beach at Huatabampito.
I crossed the border on foot at the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales. There are bus lines (like Tufesa and TBC) that offer transportation from US cities like Tucson and Phoenix (as well as Nogales, Arizona), but since I was traveling on TAP I decided to walk across the border and take a taxi to the bus station in Nogales, Sonora.
A traveler’s tip – if you are traveling on foot with a suitcase or large bag, rather than trying to squeeze through the border turnstile you can push the button located on the wall to the right of the turnstiles and a Mexican customs official will buzz open the door located between the turnstiles.
If you don’t have a Mexican visa, you’ll need to stop at the office that issues travel documents to get one. If you are going to stay for five days or fewer, the visa is free. Otherwise, the process involves walking to a nearby bank to pay for the visa (you may want to withdraw some pesos from the ATM during the visit), and returning to the issuing office to complete the paperwork, so it’s best to get your visa in advance. They’re valid for six months.
After passing through Mexican customs, walk straight ahead for about 30 yards and you’ll see (and hear) the taxi drivers, asking if you need a taxi. The ride to the TAP bus station (central de camiones TAP) takes 10-15 minutes, depending on traffic, and typically costs 60-70 pesos (about $5).
TAP has a new terminal on Avenue Obregon, next door to a new Tufesa terminal. Both are modern and comfortable, and you’ll want to check departure times and prices online as part of your online planning.
There are other bus lines and terminals in Nogales as well, but these two are probably the best options for getting where you want to go, with one exception – if you plan to go to Caborca or Rocky Point, the Albatross bus line located at the TBS terminal a short distance past TAP/Tufesa has direct buses every two hours. TBC also has direct buses to Alamos.
After purchasing my ticket (about $15), passing through the customs check and waiting a short time in the terminal’s waiting area (another tip – use the restroom at the bus station – even though the buses have one or two restrooms, they’ll be cleaner at the terminal) the bus departed on time.
While I’m thinking about it, here are three more bus traveler’s tips:
1. Bring a carry-on bag for snacks, camera, and other essentials you’ll need during the trip. Check your larger pieces of luggage at the side of the bus before boarding – the bus line employee who checks your luggage will want to know your destination, so that he can put the correct tag on your bag. Make sure to get the stub of the claim ticket, you’ll need it to claim your luggage at your destination.
2. Bring a bottle of water and food/snacks for the trip. The bus may make some brief stops along the way, but the snacks will cost more and the food may not be to your liking.
3. Keep your change handy – most bus stations now have coin-operated turnstiles to enter their restrooms. The turnstiles typically cost 4 pesos, and they make change from larger peso denominations. There may be someone outside the restroom handing out pieces of toilet paper, but don’t count on it – better to bring a small supply of your own.
The trip to Ciudad Obregon took about eight hours from Nogales, making brief stops in Santa Ana, Hermosillo, Guaymas and Empalme. The bus was also stopped by soldiers along the way for a brief inspection. The trip also included bus journeys to Navojoa, Alamos and Huatabampo, Sonora.