We used to go to Chihuahua, Mexico, several times a year, driving our own car. Since we have come back to El Paso, we find that the effort to make that trip is much more difficult than it used to be. And, that is not just because we are older. No, ever since 9/11, the entire process has become tiresome, bothersome, and downright stressful. Where once we just needed to gather together everyone's birth certificates, fill up the tank, and stop at the bridge of choice to get permits, now we must have a passport in order to even get back into the U. S., and we need to pay for personal permits, the car permit, buy Mexico Auto Insurance, anticipate paying tolls at least twice (for very poorly maintained roads), and deal with Mexican immigration, the Mexican Military (there is at least one military checkpoint on the road), and then deal with CBP Gestapo upon our return to the U. S. border.
So, we have been making our now rare trips to Chihuahua by bus since our return to this area, and even that is becoming very stressful and bothersome. In order to avoid having to go to either the Central Bus Station in Cd. Juarez, or the one in Chihuahua itself, we have been traveling by El Paso Los Angeles Limousine Express, Inc. This is really a Mexican company that - somehow - is able to operate in the U. S. They offer "service" to (as their name implies) Los Angeles, from El Paso, as well as to a long list of locations in both Mexico and the Southwestern U. S. You can see the full list of places here: http://eplalimo.com/index_files/Locations.htm. They do serve way more U. S. locations than Mexican, by the way. They have a small, but really dirty and primitive, terminal in downtown El Paso, and their buses can easily go across the border via the Stanton Street Bridge, and then, after dealing with Mexican Immigration, they proceed to Chihuahua, bypassing the Juarez bus station.
None of their buses are new, nor do any of them give the appearance of good maintenance. No Wifi, no bathrooms onboard, no amenities other than spotty air conditioning, and occasional movies in Spanish. It costs about eight dollars more per ticket to travel from El Paso, to Chihuahua, than it does to travel from Chihuahua, to El Paso. I have no idea why. If you buy tickets in Mexico, to any destination they serve, they offer serious discounts for Senior citizens, Teachers, children, and students, with proper identification. (Mexico, by the way, issues special ID's to senior citizens, that entitle them to a multitude of very real discounts all over the nation, up to fifty per cent off the cost of regular goods and services). Unfortunately, however, U. S. citizens are not offered, nor allowed any discounts, wherever they purchase, or travel. So, our cost from El Paso, to Chihuahua, was $39.00 each. Our return tickets, from Chihuahua, however, only cost us $610 Pesos ($31.72, at today's rate).
We just returned from a weekend trip to Chihuahua, yesterday afternoon. We left here Friday morning, at around 9:00 AM. (We were supposed to leave at 7:45AM, but it was around 8:05-10, before we moved out of the little terminal, and started across the bridge, to Juarez. Once across the bridge, as per usual, the bus had to stop for Mexican Customs and Immigration, and everybody got off, with their luggage. Those who were not Mexican citizens proceeded into the building to request and obtain visitor permits, at a cost now of $553 Pesos ($28.76) per person. These are good for six months. I should point out that this was not an anticipated expense for the trip, because the last time we went to Chihuahua, there was no charge for a permit for three days. (They keep changing their system). The Mexican Immigration guy was seriously stressed dealing with those of us who entered the building on Friday morning, so the process took longer than it should, and was accompanied with all kinds of conflicting directives from him to all of us.
So, by the time we all had our permits and were back on the bus ready to go, it was after nine o'clock. There was still another stop on the highway out of town, and then off to the "30 kilometro," where Mexican Customs and Immigration has a checkpoint. Fortunately, that was not a real stop, but just a tiny pause, and we were finally on our way.
By the time we got to Villa Ahumada, about one third of the way to Chihuahua, we were seriously behind schedule. The bus drivers or the company obviously have a deal with a restaurant along the highway, just before the first toll booth for use of that highway, because they now stop at "Parador Villa," a very greasy spoon. This is a good opportunity to use the bathroom, and grab a quick bite to eat, and buses have long stopped along the way, in or near the town of Villa Ahumada, so one would think that this location is not a problem. It is a problem, however, when you consider that the menu is not only very limited, but very misleading, and the prices are worse than tourist prices. A bag of salted peanuts and a bag of potato chips cost me $60.00Pesos ($3.12), with the manufacturer's price on those peanuts clearly saying that they should only cost about fifty cents, American. The most common burritos around those parts have long been "carne desebrada," or shredded beef. Properly done, these will come with either green chile, or red chile, and usually chopped up onions and tomatoes, as well. Parador Villa's menu offers both kinds, but makes no mention of the fact that the burrito you get is mostly diced potatoes, which have no place on a meat burrito.
The driver, meanwhile, parked the bus and announced a twenty minute stop. Nearly forty five minutes passed before we got back on the road. Much later, just as we finally approached the second and last toll booth, only some thirty kilometers shy of our destination, he pulled off the road, to the left side, turning the bus completely around so that it was facing back towards Juarez, or away from our destination. Another bus driver, from a parked bus, got on and spoke to our driver for a couple of minutes. Then, our driver announced that that other bus, from Chihuahua, to Juarez, had broken down, and we were on the only bus available that could make the trip all the way back to Juarez. So, we had to get off, remove all of our luggage, and wait for another bus to come from Chihuahua to pick us up and carry us the remaining thirty kilometers into town. We waited in the hot sun for about ten or fifteen minutes, until a much older bus pulled up. This thing proved to lack air conditioning, and, we quickly learned, had a transmission problem (the driver could not get it to go into second gear without a lot of grinding). We did eventually (nearly three hours behind schedule) get to the Chihuahua terminal, where nothing was ever said by anyone connected with the bus company about why they would treat paying customers so shabbily.
Personally, I was surprised that none of the passengers spoke out against this treatment. I mean, a number of us questioned why this was happening at the time, but the driver just ignored us. Ultimately, I wish there was an alternative to taking that bus, but the cost of using our own car is pretty steep, so I guess we're stuck with this kind of treatment, as they obviously know very well. All I can say is be careful, and be prepared for all kinds of unpleasantness if you are ever thinking of using this bus line.