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There are three main sources of public transportation in Mazatlan: buses, taxis, and pulmonias. Each option has something different to offer its customers, but the bottom line is that they all get people where they need to go for a relatively minimal price.
The first thing that a tourist will notice about the public busses is the abundance of locals riding them. For some this is a good thing, as it gives the opportunity to interact with locals and experience a slice of what their daily lives are like. Buses are the cheapest means of transportation (aside from walking of course), as fares range from 6 pesos for standard models to 9.5 pesos for air conditioned units. It is very easy to tell the difference between the white local buses and green Greyhound style tourist buses. It almost always pays to take the green since they are somewhat faster than the white buses. Catching buses is very easy, and can be done at marked stops or by simply waving them down at the side of the road (most drivers will stop if there is room). Waving one down is done by pointing an index finger straight out towards the road. Bus Drivers will give change! Sometimes they will be slow offering it, but stand and wait until you receive your change. Standard operating hours are from 5:30am and 10:30pm, but certain buses will run late into the night. Routes and stops are generally written on the front of the bus at the top, or on the windshield. Most tourist destinations are easily accessible. Grab a free Pacific Pearl newspaper found all over town for info on the routes. You can literally save $100 U.S. learning to take the bus compared to taxis. Example: Bus to El Centro (Downtown) 9.5 pesos vs taxi 100 to 120 pesos. Also ring for your stop early at night because these babies move!
Taxis are the next cheapest means of tourist transportation. Licensed cabs are the best bet, which can be identified by a red or green stripe down the car’s side. Make sure to agree on a fare before getting in. Rates can vary wildly from cab to cab around the Golden Zone 30 to 50 pesos. From the Golden Zone to downtown is 80 to 100 pesos. If you are staying out in Sabalo Cerritos/ Nuevo Mazatlan they can be as much as 50% more if you can find one. Here learn to take the bus! If the price isn't right find another cab.
The most unique form of public transportation in the area is the pulmonia. Pulmonias look like hybrid golf carts, are open aired, and are worth riding at least once. They are easily waved down and can be found everywhere in Mazatlan. In fact there is a full size bronze staue on the Malecon commemorating this version of the old VW Safari. Again prices vary and are unregulated. They can actually be cheaper to downtown because 12 miles is a long drive with no windows. The prices should be close to or sometimes cheaper than a cab since there are so many competing. Again, make sure to agree on a price before getting in. Don’t be afraid to negotiate, as this is part of life in Mexico. If the price isn't right pass for the next driver. Usually that will result in an immediate price dropIf it is right and you know it don't negotiate since this can be a little insulting. Pulmonia is Spanish for pneumonia. They are called this for a reason and after a long day in the hot sun even 68 at night can seem cool, so dress appropriately if you plan on using one. Two words of caution: drunken women alone or in groups of two should never get in a pulmonia with a male driver with a friend up front. Just not wise. Secondly, almost every pulmonia is a rolling sound system which can be heard from a block away. If you have sensitive ears or hate throbbing techno ask for the volume to be lowered before you get in. Many, many taxi and cab drivers don't speak English so you should ask this too if you don't speak Spanish.