Getting Around Lake Chapala
Transportation is always a concern when moving down to Mexico, there are many options and lakeside is no exception. Growing up here I took the bus and used taxis, getting into Guadalajara was easy and for the most part, it still is. In fact, today we have all kinds of public transportation options available to us.
Taking a Bus
Bus transportation is a great way to get around and it’s one of the cheapest ways with the exception of walking, but if you need a relatively simple way to get back and forth from one town to the next bus transportation is readily available.
Like a lot of things in Mexico catching the bus takes skill and in some situations, you need to be light on your feet, especially during peak hours of the day. During peak times in the mornings and afternoons usually, 8:00 – 10:00 am and 4:00-7:00 pm is when most people are going to or getting off work. During these times buses can be crowded and many times you won’t find a place to sit, so you may end up standing a better part of the route.
Not all the buses take the same route.
There are different routes, the smaller buses are the ones that go through the small towns and villages, these are usually either the smaller red or yellow busses.
The bigger buses mostly red will often have lettering on them, that says either “Primera” o Directo, these don’t go through the village and stay on the main highway, these will get you to point A-B much quicker since they don’t through each town.
Buses run all day long from 6:00 am till 9:00 pm usually at 30:00 minute intervals.
In Jocotepec there are blue busses, these go as far as San Juan Cosala and they also go into Guadalajara the back way which takes you through El Molino, Tlajomulco, and the west side of Guadalajara.
I can remember back in the ’70s when I came down with my parents, my dad would hire a local taxi driver from Ajijic. he would take us into Guadalajara and we would do all of our shopping, even a whole day was inexpensive back in the day.
Today taxis have gotten more expensive, this is understandable, the cost of gas and the maintenance of a car is costly, especially with all the cobblestones streets in the village and topes along the highway.
While taxis are more expensive. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry or want someone who knows the area a taxi may be a better way to get around in spite of the cost. Most town squares have taxis available. Most town squares have taxis available including Ajijic and Chapala, there are taxis parked on the square most of the time. In Jocotepec taxis are available in front of the church.
Ask how much before you hire a taxi
There are no set regulations on how much a taxi may charge you. If you are a foreigner, most drivers see you as a big $$ sign. Make sure wherever you go that you ask how much it is going to cost before you get into the cab.
The proper term is “Cuanto me cuesta ir a Ajijic o Guadalajara, Jocotepec” You get the point. Make sure you negotiate the price first before you get into the car, if not you may be overcharged.
If the driver is courteous and helps you say with groceries, you may want to consider a small tip. That will make points with the driver and is a good gesture, especially if you plan on using a particular driver in the future.
Taking an Uber is another option, I have personally not been very successful with the service, then again I live on the west end of the lake in El Chante. Using an Uber lakeside is hit and miss, there are some local Uber drivers but not as many as you will find in the big cities.
Many of the Uber drivers available lakeside are usually here because they have brought someone back from Guadalajara. This is not to say there is no service locally but it is not as reliable as getting a taxi or local driver.
Renting a car is a good option many choose when arriving here, while it’s not the cheapest option, it does offer a lot of flexibility. The original and first formal car rental agency lakeside was Linea Professional they offer different vehicles ranging from compact, sub-compact, and small SUVs. The cars are insured and they do take credit cards.
There are dozens of other people who also rent cars but are more informal, many of them work out of their home and might offer cheaper rates, this is fine, but if you are in an accident or fender bender things could get complicated, mainly because many of the cars are not insured for commercial use.
There are real estate companies that offer car rentals, many of them do this as a value-added service for people who come down looking to buy or rent a home.
Regardless of whom you chose, its a good idea to ensure the vehicle has full coverage insurance. This is important, especially if (god forbid) you are involved in an accident or have an emergency and need to contact someone immediately.
There are several local drivers available lakeside, in many situations some people find these to be convenient and more flexible. People who don’t want to own a car find hiring a local driver to be a good way to get around lakeside.
Unlike taxis that will charge more, you can work out a flat rate with some of the local drivers to run errands or to take you shopping at the local shops and stores. I know several elderly women who will hire them for a day to go pay bills and take them shopping. One of the benefits of local drivers is that they can also be hired for early morning airport trips or at times when other transportation methods are not available.
Whos the best local driver?
That is a matter of preference, I won’t recommend anyone, in this case, your best bet is to ask around once you arrive. I’m sure you will get plenty of answers from people are willing to share their personal experience with drivers whom they have used.
As you can see there are many ways to get around, some people rarely need a car, if you find a home downtown in any of the villages, this includes Ajijic, Jocotepec, San Antonio and Chapala you will find that most of the things you need are within walking distance. I know many ex-pats who live here that don’t own a car.
Most of them find that hiring a driver or taking a taxi to Guadalajara once or twice a month is more convenient and cheaper than maintaining a vehicle.
As you can see transportation in Chapala is readily available, there are many ways to get around the Lakeside area, some are inexpensive others are more costly but ultimately there is a variety of transportation methods that will suit just about any need.
Have additional questions about transportation and getting around the lakeside area feel free contact, you can call me 332-086-3471 or use my contact form below.