How to get from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas?
San Cristobal de las Casas has gained the nickname of Mexico’s magic town due to its vibrant bohemian vibe. It’s a city that has a place for all types of travellers.
What gives San Cristobal its magic is its well-preserved, colourful colonial houses that give you the feeling of stepping back in time. There’s also a remarkable cultural and artisan scene that’s worth discovering.
With a unique mix of indigenous, colonial and contemporary influence, the artisan market is one of San Cristobal’s must-see. Here you’ll find colourful and exceptional handmade items that include some of the most exquisite textile and jewellery works.
If you want to try some of the area’s unique flavours, then the municipal market is the place to go. At night, we recommend trying out at least one of the many bars and restaurants that line almost every street. One not to miss is La Vina de Bacco where you can get wine plus free tapas for under $1!
Travelling during the pandemic?
Due to the current pandemic, availability and prices can change from week to week. Please visit the booking websites discussed in this article to check the updated availability.
Also, don’t leave your home without travel insurance! If you are looking for an insurance provider that covers COVID-19, we recommend SafetyWing. They offer Medical and Travel Insurance starting at just $40/month. Another advantage: you can still sign up if your trip has already started!
New to San Cristobal de las Casas? Our compact San Cristobal de las Casas guide shows you the best areas to stay, restaurants you don’t want to miss and many more tips for your visit to San Cristobal de las Casas!
2 ways to get from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas
The most popular ways to travel the 220km (136 miles) from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas are an 11-hour-10-minute bus or a 6-hour taxi. Fares range between 418 MXN ($20.50) and 3,400 MXN ($165).
Of course, the most affordable option is to take the bus, especially if you are a solo traveller and want to stay within your budget. Both day and night buses are available from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas. Travel time takes 11 hours 10 minutes as the buses take the longer route via Villahermosa for safety.
Since both destinations are part of the same state of Chiapas, taxis are also available even despite the long distance. The taxi journey is faster, around 6 hours, as they normally take the way via Ocosingo. Taxi rates from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas via Ocosingo start from 3,400 MXN ($165). We’re not a fan of this route though. We’ll tell you in the next section why.
If you are travelling with more people, you can split the cost of the taxi and make it more affordable. Taxi Palenque GL and Wayak are authorised companies that provide a reliable service from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas.
Road Safety from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas
While Palenque and San Cristobal are perfectly safe destinations to stay for tourists, it’s not the same for the roads between these two towns.
To be clear, the route via Villahermosa also has occasional roadblocks. But they are not a daily event like those in Ocosingo. They happen only once in a while. Also, more cars and public transport operate on this route so if ever there is a roadblock, you most probably won’t be alone.
Buses take a safer route than taxi’s
Luckily, buses only take the route via Villahermosa so you don’t need to worry about safety during the journey. However, taxis and some other private transfers often prefer the shorter route via Ocosingo.
To be fair, taxi’s normally travel in a convoy as a form of defence, so you will normally get to San Cristobal without any trouble. It’s usually with a short line of minivan shuttles and other private transfers that travel together for safety.
Still, the convoy isn’t always effective, so we would recommend to ask the taxi driver to take the route via Villahermosa instead.
Renting a car?
Are you thinking of renting a car and driving this route on your own? It’s possible, but we don’t recommend it. Taking the bus or a taxi will be safer.
Local drivers know the area very well and are trained to take the safest roads and know how to act in case they drive into a roadblock.
If you’re really set on driving on your own, make sure you take the Villahermosa route and inform yourself very well about the route to take.
For the Ocosingo route: if you’re travelling in just one car and not as a part of a convoy, you’re an easy target.
Why we don’t recommend travelling via Ocosingo
Roadblocks. You will pass by some of the poorest towns in Mexico. The roadblocks are like toll gates. For each roadblock, you will be asked to pay around 100 MXN ($4.95) to be able to pass. There are several of them so better prepare the bills beforehand. If they see you taking the money out of a wallet full of cash, we can already tell you that you won’t have any money left to pay at the next road block.
Robbery. On a regular day, you’ll only really have to worry about roadblocks. But there have been instances of robbery – cars being stopped and everything of value being taken away (gadgets, jewellery, cash, etc.). This is not common, but it has happened. We don’t think it’s worth taking the chance when there is a safer route via Villahermosa.
Narco territory. The road between Ocosingo and San Cristobal is a well-known Narco territory, as well as the base of a few political and militant groups. They may have no beef against tourists and other civillians, but their presence in the area makes the government virtually non-existent.
No order. That also means that the government has very little control over this area. If something happens to you, you are most likely on your own. You may not be able to ask for help to take back your lost things or post a complaint for an injury. There have been incidents where authorities even covered up crimes to stop any further investigation.
While speed is important, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. For guaranteed safety, always pick the Villahermosa route.
Itinerary from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas
There are at least 2 bus departures each day from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas, one in the morning and another one in the evening. The company providing this service is ADO’s sub-branch OCC. It offers first-class buses that include AC, reclining seats and a toilet.
The bus journey takes over 11 hours – much longer than the travel time of a taxi – because all buses take the Villahermosa route. It’s longer but safer. So even though it’s a lengthy journey from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas, you can be at peace for the entire journey. The buses also make short stops where you can stretch your legs and go to the toilet.
A bus ticket from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas costs 418 MXN ($20.50).
Bus schedule from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas
To avoid turning up at the station and there being no tickets left, we recommend booking in advance online. BookAway is our preferred booking platform for its excellent customer service.
Bus departure in Palenque
All buses from Palenque to San Cristobal depart from ADO Bus Terminal, located within walking distance from the town’s main square, just 12 minutes away. It’s also surrounded by lots of accommodations so chances are you’re already staying nearby.
If your hotel’s a bit far though, you can reach the bus station by taxi. It takes around 5 minutes from the city centre. Rates start at 50 MXN ($2.45).
If your accommodation is further away, or you just don’t fancy walking, there are taxis available outside the bus terminal with fares from 40 MXN ($1.95).
Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas by Taxi
Duration: 6 hours
Cost: 3,400 MXN ($165)
Duration: 6 hours
Cost: 3,400 MXN ($165)
When taking a taxi or other forms of private transfers from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas, you can choose which way to take: via Villahermosa or via Ocosingo.
As we mentioned above, the road via Villahermosa is the better choice for safety, especially if you’re travelling with kids.
The safer route via Villahermosa is more expensive
However, the Villahermosa route is longer and travel time by taxi can take over 7 hours, compared to 5-6 hours via Ocosingo. Taking the longer route via Villahermosa also means the ride is a bit more expensive. Rates start from around 5,000 MXN ($245) for a 3-seater car.
This is why many taxi operators and travel agencies choose to take the Ocosingo route. There are roadblocks, but the drivers are trained to react and deal with the locals.
They also know the safest roads, so most of the time you can really complete the journey by just paying a few hundred peso extra. There’s just a high chance that you’ll be a nervous wreck throughout the 6-hour journey.
Recommended taxi companies
Rates for a 3-seater taxi from Palenque to San Cristobal de las Casas via Ocosingo start from 3,400 MXN ($165) when you travel with Palenque GL. If you’re with more people, Wayak also offers a 9-seater shuttle with prices from 7,130 MXN ($355).
Note that you can always ask them to take you via Villahermosa for an additional charge (which we think is well worth it). If time and budget are more important to you, make sure to be very prepared when taking the way through Ocosingo.
Safety tips when travelling via Ocosingo
Pick a trusted taxi company. Don’t just hail a taxi from the street. Ask your hotel’s staff to help you find a good ride or choose one that is well reviewed.
Ask if they’re travelling in a convoy. There is safety in numbers, especially if you’re passing through unknown territory. Tour operators know this, which is why it’s a common practice to be a part of a convoy. Just make sure your taxi also plans to join one.
Secure your valuables. Hide all gadgets and anything flashy (especially jewellery!).
Separate a few 100-peso bills ($5) from the rest of your cash. You will encounter at least one roadblock along the way. When paying for your “toll fee”, it will be better if you don’t show that you’re carrying a lot of money.
Look brave, not fierce. It helps to look calm and confident, but definitely not annoyed, aggressive, or scared. You don’t want to end up pissing off the locals, or look like a pushover.
Travel during the day. No taxi will want to travel at night anyway. That would be like asking for trouble.
Many people say that Hotel Bo is ‘one of the best places they’ve stayed in’. You’re certainly treating yourself if you decide to stay here. Alongside the stunning gardens brimming with flowers, there’s modern and cosy rooms, a gym and onsite restaurant.
The hotel’s restaurant treats guests to upmarket Mexican cuisine and international dishes in a thoughtfully lit dining room. Their exceptional breakfast is the perfect way to set you up for a day of exploring San Cristobal. Trust us, you won’t want to leave once you arrive at Hotel Bo.
You couldn’t be more at the heart of San Cristobal than at Casa Lum. The popular walking street filled with restaurants and bars are literally on your doorstep.
Contemporary style and colonial architecture coexist in harmony at Casa Lum. This is clearly exhibited throughout it’s 8 rooms and delicious restaurant.
Another thing we love about this place, they’re also a social and environmentally sustainable hotel.
Posada del Abuelito is a cozy and colourful hostel situated inside one of San Cristobal’s stunning colonial buildings. The heart of the hostel is the perfect place to chill, surrounded by plants and hammocks.
The delicious breakfast that’s included sets you up perfectly for a day of exploring the city. The communal kitchen also means you can dabble in a bit of cooking yourself. The atmosphere created by the hosts will make you feel instantly at home.
We’re not quite sure how Puerta Vieja Hostel makes money, but we’re definitely not complaining. For just $9, you get both breakfast and dinner included in the price. On top of that, they even offer a free burger and cocktail night every Friday!
There’s plenty to keep you occupied within the hostel too. There’s table tennis, a TV lounge and a large garden for chilling in. The hostel is also only seconds away from San Cristobal’s main square. It’s a great place to meet other travellers.
Free breakfast and dinner
TV lounge and table tennis
Close to the main square
Dorm rooms from $9 per night, including breakfast and dinner