Getting Around at Lake Chapala 101

May 30, 2012

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Getting Around at Lake Chapala 101

I don’t advise renting a car at the airport or after you arrive.

Read below to see why?

This article is for those folks who decide against renting a car, but we have several places to rent cars here if that’s what you prefer. Unless you already know the area you’ll find that driving here can be a challenge.

Is this street one way or two ways? How do I tell? What street am I on now? I don’t see any street signs.  Where can I park legally?

These challenges are not insurmountable, but it takes a while to learn how to over come. This is especially true if your visit will be under a couple of weeks.

I recommend the three easy ways to get around set out below.


Walking – Great exercise, pleasant weather, and you’ll see a lot you would miss from a car or even a bus. A favorite past time even for permanent residents.


Take the bus Gus. Another interesting inexpensive way to go longer distances.

Here’s the stuff you need to know to use our local bus system.

1.    The local bus station both for most local buses and the buses that go to Guadalajara and most all points in between is located on Madero (main N. & S. Street) in Chapala at the intersection with Miguel Martinez.

2.    There are formal bus stops all around the area usually with benches and overhead covers.

3.    No need to find one of these however, because if you know how to signal the bus to stop and assuming there’s room for the bus to pull over the driver will stop.

4.    How to signal: Face the traffic and extend your right arm at a 45 degree angle with your arm rigid and hand pointing up. Don’t just wave. This doesn’t work.

5.    The drivers can make change but best to already have change and forget giving a large bill.

6.    There’s a an overhead cord to pull to signal you would like the get off at next stop.

The buses have a marquee which indicates where they go. Some have large signs on the bus sides indicating the area they serve.

Smaller buses will go into the small villages. The drivers are very skillful and can drive these large vehicles in very narrow cobblestoned streets with great precision.

There’s one group of buses that will take you all the way from Chapala to the far West end of the Lake to the city of Jocotepec about 30 miles. The marquee will read “Jocotepec”.

Others marked San Juan Cosala will go to this town and make a U turn and return to Chapala passing through Ajijic.

If you want to visit the Thermal Water Spas at San Juan Cosala you could take either the Jocotepec marked bus or the one marked San Juan Cosala.

I understand that some buses marked “Ajijic” also go as far West as San Juan Cosala and return.

Bus Fares are subject to change, but are always reasonably priced. Most fares will be under $1.00 USD (in pesos of course).

The last I knew, the fare from Chapala to Ajijic or reverse was 8 pesos (around 60 cents USD)


Take a Taxi. Taxi’s here use meters. The fares are reasonable. They have bright yellow bodies and white tops and may say “Sitio” or “Taxi”.

You can find them in front of the bus station, in front of the Chapala Plaza (market) and the San Antonio Plaza (sometimes), and at the Plaza in Ajijic.

The license plate number is the same as the number stenciled on the vehicle.

Great for going shopping (I see them waiting on clients at Wal- Mart and at Sorriana (another big box store).

I’m a car guy and so very infrequently use either a bus or a taxi so this information is second hand.

Bonus Transportation: I do recommend my wife’s private car service  for trips to Guadalajara for site seeing, to doctors, etc. as well as  to and from the airport.  E mail us for our rates.

Speaking of Bonuses, a bonus of riding the bus is that you will get to see the Mexican culture in action. Great people watching and site seeing all rolled into the same trip.


  • Marilyn Bell

    I got on the wrong bus in Mazatlan.  I ended up on the east side of town and all the passengers laughed and pointed at me.  I acted like a dumb blond, and shruged my shoulders.  A young man got back on the bus and rode with me back towards the beach and showed me where to get off.  We didn’t speak each other language, but the kindnes of strangers was amazing.  I love Mexico. 

  • Sid Grosvenor

    Hi Marilyn,  Mexican people love to laugh. They have a hard life and look for opportunities
    to lighten the load a bit, You gave them an opportunity. They are also very group oriented and are usually quick to help someone in need.

    I’ve experienced their helpfulness and do my best to return the favor when I see a way I can help.

    Thanks for you comment, Sid

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