Belizeans seeking medical attention in Merida or a beach vacation in Cancun can now travel in air-conditioned comfort for Bz$79 one way on a new premier bus service introduced by Mexico’s bus company Autotransportes del Oriente, ADO for short.
ADO began its service from the Novelo terminal in Belize City to Cancún and Merida without any fuss or fanfare last Friday, August 26, after finalizing the details of their road service permit with Minister of Transportation Melvin Hulse in Belmopan the day before.
The company screened their drivers and chose the 10 best to pioneer this new service which makes travelling to Mexico much easier for Belizeans. It also promises to bring more tourists to Belize, as ADO Public Relations Officer Gabriela Osuna explained to the Belizean media at Belize City on Wednesday afternoon, August 31.
The ADO buses seat 44 passengers in seats that recline 60 degrees for maximum comfort in traveling at night. The bus also has three flat screen displays for passengers to enjoy onboard entertainment, and has an onboard restroom.
Fares are Bz$79.00 one way to Merida or Cancun. The bus to Merida leaves Belize at 8:00 pm and arrives in Merida at 6:15 am. The service is called ‘The Hospital Route’’, and the bus will stop in Orange Walk and Corozal to pick up passengers who also wish to travel Merida. The bus makes courtesy stops at the most important hospitals of Merida before its final stop at the Merida bus terminal. The return route makes the same stops and the bus arrives in Belize City in the morning.
The bus for Cancun departs from Belize City at 8:15 pm and arrives in Cancun 7:00 am. This bus also stops in Orange Walk and Corozal, before travelling on to Playa del Carmen, Cancun Airport and its final stop at Cancun’s bus terminal. On the return portion leg the bus also stops in Tulum, where ADO is promoting Belize and offering special deals for international tourists to travel to Belize.
Local bus operators had raised a storm of protests when ADO made its first overtures to introduce the service two years ago, but ADO’s Operations Manager Luis Perez explains that this is an international service and not a local bus run, so tickets will only be sold for Merida or Cancun. Passengers will not be able to get a ticket to Orange Walk or Corozal on the northbound run, as the stops at those terminals are only to pick up passengers travelling on to Mexico, and the southbound buses coming from the border will stop in Corozal and Orange Walk only to let off passengers wishing to disembark, but will not be taking on any passengers for Belize City. Each ticket has an assigned seat number, and passengers are given a ticket stub for their checked in baggage, just as on an airline, with the same security. The buses do not enter Chetumal at all.
ADO’s Gabriela Osuna said the service is intended to save Belizeans time and money, because travellers will not need to spend money on an extra night at a hotel or have their family to come to pick them up at the Mexican terminal in the wee hours of the morning. The bus company will initially assign 15 seats to made available for passengers from each of the three Belize terminals: Belize City, Orange Walk and Corozal, so when there is a demand for more seats at one terminal, that ticket agent will need to inform the other terminals before selling the seats.
ADO’s Luis Perez said the break-even occupancy is 20 seats, but the first runs have been arriving with only 18 passengers, and some of the runs over the weekend had only 12-13 passengers. But Perez is optimistic that occupancy will improve as travelers get to know of the ADO service.
This first week the buses were also monitored for the time taken to cover each stage of the route, while ensuring that the drivers stay within the speed limit, and drive in a manner that does not cause any undue discomfort to the passengers.