Buses, Buses and More Buses...
Mexico has an efficient, effective and low-cost bus system throughout the country.
Bus service is composed of three categories in Mexico and differs dramatically from countries north of the border. Not all the routes offer all three categories, especially the shorter distances.
Busing is the main means of transportation for the working class of Mexico. And you can go most anywhere in Mexico by bus. They are safe and reliable.
The First Class (Executive) Buses
The first class (executive) buses like Primera Plus, ETN, etc. are excellent (and inexpensive), very comfortable and run between major cities. They are modern, very clean, offer meal service and movies and have bathrooms; it's almost like flying first class. They offer wide, reclining seats and leg supports. You can even take a first class bus to the border for a very reasonable cost.
Second Class Buses
Second class buses serve every city and village in Mexico. They may or may not have air conditioning and it is more like riding economy class in an airplane. They are older, make frequent stops and are generally crowded, and very economical. It is not uncommon for entertainers to climb on board, sing a few songs and pass the hat for a donation for the entertainment. This is all part of the fun and we're inclined to tip a couple of pesos.
Small Local Buses
The third category of buses is smaller and run within local communities, up and down the streets picking up and dropping off along the way. They are usually packed (standing room only) with local workers and students and the fare is around 7 pesos between Lakeside villages. They aren't very luxurious but they will get you to where you need to go. However, for long journeys, I'd stick to the first class buses.
Fortunately on the lakeside, we have a very reliable bus system and it is a great experience going from village to village on one of the local buses. When a bus is full and it stops to let someone off, invariably they are at the back of the bus and everyone in front piles off and then back on till the next stop. The experience can have everyone talking and laughing after doing this a couple of times.
Taxis in Mexico
Taxis are abundant and very affordable, in spite of the high cost of gas. However, on the lakeside, they don’t run late at night. Often people will go to a restaurant anticipating they can simply call a cab to get home. More than once we have been at a restaurant (that has no phone, and couldn’t get a cab if they did – unless previously arranged) and noticed people standing in front later in the evening watching for a passing taxi. Invariably we (or other patrons, or even the staff) have driven the people home.
It is best to negotiate your fare BEFORE getting into the taxi, although most will charge a standard fare. It is not necessary to tip until they help with your luggage.
Sometimes you can hire a taxi and driver for the day if you want to go into Guadalajara or Tlacapaque shopping. Taxis can be found parked at each town plaza in Chapala and Ajijic as well as at every bus station.
Renting Cars in Lake Chapala, Mexico
Renting a car is no problem in Mexico. $50 to $80 US dollars a day at the airport is typical. You can also rent locally on the Lakeside and probably for less. The nice thing about Lake Chapala is you can get around so easily and economically by bus and taxi, even into Guadalajara so for short stays you may not need to rent a car.
If you are visiting friends in the area or renting a home and expect to borrow a vehicle (that is foreign plated) to do some sight seeing while you are here, think again. It is illegal to drive a foreign-plated vehicle if you aren't the registered owner (Exception: you can drive it if the owner is in the car or you are a spouse, ascendant or descendent of the owner). If you do borrow someone else's car and get stopped, you stand the chance of having the vehicle confiscated.