Taking the TAP Royal Bus from Arizona to Sonora

TAP Royal in Tucson

918 W Irvington Rd #110
Tucson, Arizona  85830
+1 (520) 573-7033

TAP Royal – Phoenix Central

2707 W McDowell Road
Phoenix, AZ 85009
+1 (602) 272-3030

TAP Royal – Phoenix East

2345 E Van Buren Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006
+1 (602) 273-3544

In the spring of 2017, I wanted to visit Southern Sonora. But I did not want to fly, or hassle with the gauntlet of taking transportation to the border from Tucson, crossing the border with my luggage, and taking a Nogales border taxi to the bus terminal before heading south on the bus to Navojoa.

Then I remembered that both Tufesa and Transportes Pacifico, also known as TAP, offer direct bus service from Phoenix and Tucson to major cities in Sonora, Mexico and points farther south.

I have since taken two trips from Tucson on TAP Royal, one to Navojoa at night and the other to Hermosillo during the day. This post includes things I learned and other information from both trips.

TAP Royal is a Mexican bus line, so your ticket information and everything on the bus is in Spanish. The ticket agents and driver speak English, but you will soon find that English is the second language on the bus. This can be fun, a Spanish immersion experience from the start.

Purchase Tickets

I purchased tickets online for both trips. The process is pretty basic, and the payment is processed through PayPal. The advantages to ordering online are obvious, from determining availability for the route, date and time that is right for you, to being able to select your seat and make a purchase.

After making the online purchase, you will receive an electronic copy of your ticket as an email attachment. When you arrive at the TAP Royal terminal, you will need to tell the ticket agent your ticket’s Operation Number and NIT and present a photo ID in order to get a paper ticket for your journey.

About the Bus

The TAP Royal buses are clean and comfortable, but perhaps not all they are advertised to be.

In its promotional literature, the company portrays buses that have wireless internet, on-board entertainment and an outlet for the recharging of devices. In anticipation of my first trip I was imagining how I would surf the web on my laptop, plugged in to maintain its charge, while watching an on-board movie.

Well, reality was a bit different.

The buses do have wireless internet, when the driver decides to turn it on. And it is so painfully slow as to not be useful.

Some TAP Royal buses have electrical outlets, others do not. The buses with individual video screens with touch-screen selections did not have an electrical outlet, those with an overhead screen every four rows or so did have an outlet.

Movies are overdubbed in Spanish, occasionally there are movies in English with Spanish subtitles. You need to have a plug-in set of ear pods or headset to be able to hear the movies, and some of the buses have a headset for every (or nearly every) seat.

The TAP Royal buses with the seat-back video screens are signs of the future for bus travel entertainment. The only problem is, the bus driver can turn off the individual entertainment stations, and did during much of the trip.

The bus seats recline, and every seat has a pull-out leg rest that allows you to recline comfortably. But if you are in a window seat, you may be gently pummeled by swaying curtains as the bus rolls down the road – the curtains were apparently measured for a bus with shorter windows, and cannot be secured at the bottom of the window. As a result, they will swing freely during the trip.

Crossing the Border

Although the ticket agent at the Tucson TAP Royal told me that we would not have to get off the bus in Nogales, she was incorrect.

On my first bus trip to Navojoa, which was at night, we crossed the border at the DeConcini Border Crossing in downtown Nogales. On my second trip, which was during the day, we crossed at the Mariposa Port of Entry, a couple miles north of DeConcini.

I don’t know how often which bus crosses at which crossing, or what the inspection routine typically is, but I think that in the two trips I got a good idea of what you might expect from a Mexican Customs border crossing inspection..

Everything Off

On my first trip, the bus stopped at the Mexican customs station located just across the border. Everyone had to disembark, all of the luggage was removed from the baggage storage area, and everyone had to place their suitcases and bags on the conveyor belt of an x-ray machine.

After everything had been inspected, the bags were loaded back into storage and everyone got back onto the bus for the short ride to the Nogales, Mexico bus station.

Everybody Off, with Selective Inspection

On the second trip, with what I think is the more typical cross-border bus inspection, everyone got off the bus at the Mexican Customs inspection station located just past the toll booths on the Nogales toll highway.

We all lined up behind a stoplight to push the button, after which a green light (Pase) or red light (Revision) was displayed. For anyone who got the red light, their bags were removed from the bus for a manual inspection by the customs official.

After that, we all got back on the bus for the trip to the Nogales, Mexico bus station.

The Nogales, Mexico TAP Bus Station

On both trips, everyone had to disembark at the Nogales, Sonora Transportes Pacifico bus station while the bus was cleaned, washed and serviced. The longest wait was during the day trip, when the bus did not depart for an hour.

The TAP bus station has a comfortable waiting area, clean restrooms and a snack bar that sells sodas and packaged snacks. If you want something more substantial to eat, there is a food cart on one side of the parking lot that sells quesadillas, and a restaurant across the street (be very careful if you decide to cross the street, there is a lot of traffic from both directions).

After the bus has pulled back into the station, you can re-board and it will shortly be on its way. Along the route the TAP Royal bus will make stops in Santa Ana, Hermosillo, Guaymas, Ciudad Obregon and Navojoa. If you take an express route, the bus will only stop in Hermosillo, Ciudad Obregon and Navojoa.

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