I get a lot of questions from readers about whether or not it’s necessary to have a car to get around Lake Chapala. It’s a personal preference, but for many it’s apparently essential, since our high season brings considerable traffic congestion from the many tourists and “snow birds” who fly south to enjoy our beautiful climate. But for those who want to leave the driving to someone else, Lake Chapala buses are a great alternative to a car.
Our primary buses cruise the main highway link along the north shore of the lake about every 20 minutes. They are large-capacity-seating buses that comfortably accommodate two adults per bench seat. Community bus stations are in Jocotepec, Ajijic and Chapala, and include a waiting room area and an agent who sells bus tickets.
Most passengers, however, use the designated sheltered bus stops along the highway route and just signal the driver with their hand raised, index finger pointing upward, and purchase their tickets when they get on the bus.
Within the past year, the municipality of Chapala has built and installed additional bus shelters at heavily-utilized sites, and replaced many deteriorated old shelters for rider’s comfort and convenience. Bus drivers are equipped with cash to accept your fare and even make change, so a ticket at the bus station is not required.
There also is a secondary level of bus service that mostly operates with smaller and older buses that provide routes that branch off from the main highway. They provide bus service to stops in the residential and Centro plaza areas of Chapala, San Antonio Tlayacapan and Ajijic. The fare schedule is the same, but they are a more convenient option for the many seniors and people with walking limitations because they bring them closer to their residence or central shopping area without having to walk on sidewalks and cobblestones from the main highway.
Fares are subject to change, but currently the fare between Ajijic and Chapala is 9 pesos, or about US$.40. Seniors (persons over age 60) with the Mexican government issued INAPAM card, receive a 50 percent discount on their bus fare.
Those without an automobile or who just don’t want the stress of driving the metro region of Guadalajara with its estimated five million people, can easily and inexpensively travel to the city by bus. The Chapala Plus service, which is First or Executive Class transportation, offers hourly bus service from Ajijic on the half-hour. The Guadalajara-bound bus originates in Jocotepec and gathers passengers along the route to Ajijic. It then becomes direct non-stop service to Guadalajara’s “old” bus station in the downtown area utilizing the Libramiento (by-pass) from Ajijic. The trip takes about 75 minutes and costs 60 pesos, or about US$2.75. If you have an INAPAM card, you’ll get a 50 percent discount.
There also is Chapala Plus service from the Chapala bus station, which is non-stop and leaves about every half-hour. Return service to Ajijic is hourly on the hour, and to Chapala, each half-hour.
There is a taxi stand just outside the bus station in Centro Guadalajara, and with a negotiated taxi fare, my wife and I can visit the Historic District for usually 50-to-60 pesos.
In my next blog, I’ll take a look at other transportation alternatives. The point is, you don’t need a car to enjoy the good life at Lake Chapala.