Paul Hudson is a food, travel, and surf enthusiast who writes about Mexico in English and California in Spanish. He grew up in San Diego, went to school in Santa Cruz, and has been in Guadalajara since 2009. He loves exploring the pueblos, reading North American history, and finding exquisite new foods.
Using the long-distance bus stations in Guadalajara is not as simple as it would be in a small town. The Metropolitan Region is large and there is a bus station on the way out of town on each of the three major freeways. And, there are smaller bus stations inside the city with a shorter list of destinations. Doing a little bit of research can save you time and money.
If you don’t know where you are going, the Central Nueva Guadalajara on the far east side of town will get you there. However, you might save a little time heading to one of the other terminals. If you are in Guadalajara and going to Puerto Vallarta, there is no reason to take a taxi 45 minutes to the east only to backtrack on the bus to the freeway entrance on the northwest side of town, at rush hour. It would be way faster and cheaper to take the free shuttle to the terminal in Zapopan and leave from there. You get on the bus and the bus gets on the freeway. There is almost no city traffic.
I feel like I’m giving away my secrets here. The midnight express Guadalajara to Mexico City line that leaves from Plaza del Sol and is incredibly convenient because its inside the city and leaves when there is no traffic. I like taking the bus more than I like flying. The seats on the ETN and Primera Plus buses are like a plush recliner. I can sleep like a baby on that ride.
The Central Nueva is the main long-distance bus station in Guadalajara. It has a massive 7 terminals and feels significantly larger than the airport. It is one of the largest bus stations in Mexico and has service to every state in the country.
The long-distance bus station is in Tlaquepaque right on the border with Tonalá, where the free road and the toll road to Zapotlanejo split as you head out of town. Some taxi drivers say it’s in Tlaquepaque and others say it’s in Tonalá. Google Maps says it is in Tlaquepaque but what the hell do they know anyway. As long as you say “Nueva Central de Camiones” or “Nueva Central de Autobuses” they will get you there without a problem.https://bb8820b06f64f0e625fff21909897a14.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
This is the best bus station in Guadalajara to use if your final destination is somewhere to the southeast along Interstate 15 like Michoacan, Mexico State, or Mexico City. It is also the best departure point for places northeast along Interstate 80 towards Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Zacatecas, Querétaro, or San Luis Potosí.
The terminals at the Central Nueva are organized in a V-shape with the premium carriers Primera Plus and ETN located in Terminal 1 and 2.
Terminal 7, the far opposite end of the V-shape, just got a major remodel. The new metro line drops off its passengers right across the street from Terminal 7 so it has become very high volume. Terminal 6 serves Omnibús. Terminal 4 and 5 look like they are not in use right now. Terminal 3 has Sur de Jalisco, Tap, Chihuahuenses, and a number of smaller lines I have not ridden with.
The carriers get a little more locally specialized and economical as you move down the line. The big carriers aren’t going to hit the pueblos but the smaller carriers will.
Most of the bus companies also operate a freight shipping business. You have to pick up the package at the bus stop but it is a cheap way to send something that you forgot in another city.
How to get to the Central Nueva Guadalajara
The cheapest way to get to the Central Nueva Guadalajara is to take the new metro line all the way to the end. Currently, it costs $9.5 pesos or about US$0.50. Line 3 of the Guadalajara Metro was inaugurated in July of 2020. The newest line of the Metro system is by far the most functional because it runs across Zapopan, Guadalajara, and Tlaquepaque all the way to the Central Nueva bus station.
There are stops in Downtown Guadalajara and Downtown Zapopan that will take you all the way to the big bus station. Because it was inaugurated in the middle of a pandemic, it still feels new, and not many people have been using it. I think the plan is to eventually run line 3 of the metro all the way from Tonalá to Tesistán.
Taking an Uber will cost somewhere between $75 and $150 pesos depending on the time of day, traffic, and surge pricing. A taxi will cost a little more.
From just about every part of Guadalajara, you will take Calzada Lázaro Cárdenas to the east until you reach the off ramp for the Central Nueva. When you are getting off the freeway where it is marked Central Nueva, take the second right. The first right is a roundabout that will send you north into Tonalá. The second right, Calle Carlos Salgado (it isn’t marked well), is where the street-food vendors start.
The Central Vieja is the old bus station in Downtown Guadalajara just a block away from the Parque Agua Azul and the Calzada de la Independencia. It is across the street from a small government administrative complex with a couple of museums. During the day the area is perfectly safe. After dark, I wouldn’t leave the terminal and go walking around with a piece of luggage. Get a taxi or an Uber.
The Central Vieja serves Lake Chapala and the airport on the way. There are busses to small towns along the free road to Puerto Vallarta like Ameca, Mascota, Talpa, Tequila, and Etzatlán, just to name a few. The majority of busses leaving out of the Central Vieja are second-class busses.
Central Camionera Poniente And Central de Autobuses Zapopan
If you are heading to Puerto Vallarta, Nayarit or Sinaloa you may consider leaving from the bus station on the west side of town. There is no point in taking an Uber all the way over to the Central Nueva in Tonalá and then sitting in traffic on the bus as you slowly head back to the Westside. The bus station in Zapopan is on Av. Vallarta as you head out of town. It is WAY smaller than the Central Nueva but if you are heading to Puerto Vallarta it is much more convenient.
There are actually two terminals about 100 meters/yards apart, on the opposite sides of Av Aviación. Vallarta Express is on the eastside of Av Aviacion and ETN/Primera Plus is on the westside of Av Aviacion.
Terminal Zapopan serves Vallarta Plus, Tequila, Tepic, and Tufesa. They have free shuttle that runs from The Glorieta Minerva to the Terminal Zapopan every hour from 6 am to 9 pm. The shuttle leaves from the Vallarta Plus tickets sales office in the Minerva, between the Telcel and the Flor de Cordoba coffee shop, on the Av Agustín Yañez side of the glorieta.
Periferico Sur Bus Station in Guadalajara
If you look at this bus station on the map it may be called the Terminal Tlaquepaque. Don’t call it that. Someone might confuse it with the Central Nueva. Make sure to call it the Periferico Surf Bus Station.
This is a very small bus station on a very busy corner of the Metro Region. It is at the junction of two busy freeways, a major university, and massive business park including HP and Jose Cuervo Tequila. The traffic is insane around here at rush hour. You need to plan accordingly.
The Periférico Sur bus station serves Colima State and the Costa Alegre of Jalisco. From Colima City or Tecomán you can access the local busses heading down the Michoacán Coast.
Some of the busses leaving the Central Nueva will quickly stop here to pick up passengers. Coming back from Colima they don’t stop at the bus station because it is on the other side of a busy freeway. They just drop you off on the freeway underneath a bridge in front of an Oxxo. It’s kind of sketchy. I found that taxi ride to be more expensive than it should have been.
You can take Line 2 of the Guadalajara metro to the Periferico Sur Bus Station in Guadalajara but you will have to walk 150 meters down the sidewalk. It is a very busy area with a ton of street food that I would mostly avoid. The freeway kicks up a lot of dust which is the enemy of street food. I’m not a huge fan of the tacos I ate there.
Central Primera Plus Plaza Del Sol Bus Station in Guadalajara
This is my favorite bus station in Guadalajara to get to Mexico City because the bus leaves around midnight and arrives at the Monumento de la Revocución at 6 am sharp. Traveling overnight minimizes the traffic in a perpetually gridlocked metropolis. If you guys saw Narcos Mexico you will recognize the hotel that played the part of Miguel Angel Felix Gallardo’s Hotel Las Americas. The Casa Blanca is a beautiful retro-chic hotel with a beautiful view of the Monument de la Revolución and a fabulous rooftop pool. The bus drops off right in front of the hotel. https://bb8820b06f64f0e625fff21909897a14.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
Premier Plus and ETN are first-class busses with very comfortable seats that make the airlines feel budget. When you factor in the time it takes to get to and from the airport, security, and check-in line, the bus doesn’t take much longer. I took the bus to Mexico City and flew home, and preferred the bus to dealing with the Mexico City airport.
The Primera Plus ticket office is located in the Condoplaza shopping mall on Av Plaza del Sol, directly across the street from the Plaza del Sol mall and 5 minutes away from Colonia Chapalita. The busses line up on the next street over, Rinconada de los Ahuehuetes. There are usually a few busses leaving between 11 pm and 2 am. It is not uncommon for this route to sell out so it’s best to try and get your tickets at least a little earlier in the day.
With just a little bit of planning you can save yourself a lot of time on the road. Guadalajara is a big city and the traffic on a three-day weekend can be brutal. If you learn which bus stations in Guadalajara to use, you can save time and money.
While you are in Guadalajara you should check out some of my other articles on the capital of Jalisco. This link will bring you to an index of all of the articles I have written about Guadalajara.
by Paul Hudson