If you plan on exploring the culturally rich Yucatan peninsula during your trip to Mexico, you might be looking for information on how to make the journey from Merida to Uxmal. The Yucatan capital makes an excellent base for taking day trips out to the various archeological sites, ruins, and cenotes in the region, and the UNESCO-protected city of Uxmal is a highlight of any adventure to Southern Mexico.
Although public transport in the area leaves a little to be desired and the availability of information online about navigating your way around the Yucatan can be scarce, it is relatively straightforward to get from Merida to Uxmal (and Uxmal to Merida). There are a couple of different ways in which you can make the journey and we will explore them all here.
This article has been written by a British Travel Writer who has been living in Merida for the last two years (Me!) I have visited Uxmal several times both by car and by public transport.
Rest assured, you are in good hands here ;)- We will run through all of the possible options to get from Merida to Uxmal, their costs, and the travel time and then you can decide which seems like the easiest for you.
Merida to Uxmal: 2023 Transport Guide
The Uxmal ruins are a UNESCO-protected world heritage site that has been recognized as such since 1996. They are one of the must-see sites in the Yucatan and during the days of the Ancient Maya, they were on a similar level to their famous neighbor Chichen Itza in terms of political and commercial importance and size.
Uxmal is the first Mayan city along the Yucatan’s Ruta Puuc (Puuc route). This is a 30km long route in the southern part of the Yucatan state that takes you past the cities of Uxmal, Kabah, Sayil, Xlapak, and Labna.
These Mayan ruins have been created in a distinctive architectural style known as the ¨Puuc¨ style, known for its ornate friezes and buildings adorned with masks of the Rain God Chaac. Of these cities, Uxmal was considered the most important and likely a political hub for the region.
If you only have the opportunity to visit one or two Mayan ruins in the Yucatan, one ought to be Uxmal. There are some key structures to look out for in this expansive site – including the Magician’s Pyramid (which has a fascinating story behind it and according to local legend was built by a magical dwarf), the Nunnery Quadrangle, the Governor’s Palace, the Great Pyramid and the House of Turtles.
The Uxmal archaeological site dates back to around 300 AD and really thrived during the Late Classic period between 700 and 900 AD. In its heyday, the city was home to over 25,000 people.
You should dedicate at least 3-4 hours to visiting this expansive site. The first step in planning your visit lies in figuring out how you are going to make the journey from Merida to Uxmal.
How to Get from Merida to Uxmal in 2023
There is an 83.4km distance from Merida to Uxmal. The journey should take approximately an hour and ten minutes but this can fluctuate substantially depending on what transport method you use to get to Uxmal.
You can choose to drive, take the bus, participate in a private or small group tour, or take a taxi/private transfer. Driving is arguably the most convenient option but of course, not everyone feels comfortable with renting a car in Mexico and driving overseas.
Taking a bus is the cheapest option. However, buses from Merida to Uxmal do not run frequently despite the popularity of the site, even during the peak season so you need to be patient and willing to wait around for buses if you choose this option.
Organized tours can be a little pricier but they are often worth it since exploring the ruins with a local guide helps you gain more information and context to the things that you see, and that way you know that someone will be picking you up and dropping you off at your hotel so you don’t have to worry about the logistics of getting from A to B.
Take a day tour from Merida to Uxmal
There are plenty of day tours from Merida to Uxmal that are organized by reputable local companies. They take a lot of the stress and hassle out of planning a trip and navigating the confusing Yucatecan public transport network.
Most tours include skip-the-line admission to the site, an English-speaking guide, lunch, return transport to your hotel, and a visit to nearby attractions. For instance, the Kabah ruins are worthwhile and very different from other Mayan sites.
They would be difficult to otherwise access without your own transport. A selection of reputable Uxmal tours from Merida options is detailed below for your consideration.
Reserve your spot online in advance to avoid disappointment!
Best Uxmal tours in 2023 and beyond
- From Mérida: Uxmal and Kabah guided tour with lunch
- Uxmal light and sound night experience tour from Merida
- From Merida: Uxmal, Hacienda Yaxcopoil and Cenote with lunch
- Uxmal with private guide and transportation from Merida
- Uxmal: vintage land rover expedition to Uxmal cenotes
Take the bus from Merida to Uxmal
The most economical and arguably the most popular way to get from Merida to Uxmal and back again is to take the bus. There is limited information about this online, however, the process of taking the bus is relatively straightforward.
The route is serviced by the company Autobuses Sur. Buses leave from the ADO bus terminal in Merida at 06.00 am, 09.00 am, 12.00 pm, and 15,30 pm respectively.
The departure times on the Rome to Rio transport site always seem to be up to date and are correct as of the time of writing (August 2023). There are currently four buses per day departing from Merida to Uxmal.
You can often buy Mexican bus tickets via the ADO website and app and third-party sites like Busbud but unfortunately that isnt an option for the Merida to Uxmal bus (and the Uxmal to Merida one). Instead, you need to purchase your tickets from the ADO bus station.
It is generally fine to buy the ticket about an hour or so before you travel but for your own peace of mind, it may be worth swinging by the bus station a day or two before to purchase a ticket.
Purchasing your bus ticket in Merida
The Merida ADO bus station is clean, air-conditioned, and modern. There are no separate kiosks for the different bus operators so just get in line at the ADO ticket queue.
(There is no designated Sur bus queue even though the bus that goes from Merida to Uxmal is operated by Autobuses Sur.) A single ticket from Merida to Uxmal costs 85 pesos or around $4.50 USD.
It is better to make sure that you have plenty of cash and small change with you as the ticket office doesn’t usually accept cards and they may not be able to break large 200 or 500 pesos notes.
You will only be able to purchase a single ticket to Uxmal which can be anxiety-inducing, but you can easily purchase a ticket from Uxmal to Merida directly from the bus driver on your way back. (For another 85 pesos/ $4.50 USD).
Do note when buying your ticket that Uxmal is actually pronounced with an ¨s¨ like ¨Uss-mal¨. (Although the ticket office staff are probably used to plenty of tourists butchering the pronunciation 😉 ) S
Since English is not widely spoken in Merida, if you want to order your ticket in Spanish you can simply say ¨Yo queiro un boleto para Uxmal por favor¨.
You can also buy tickets directly from the driver when you are boarding the bus but since it is often busy, it is better to be safe than sorry and arrive at the bus station a little early to purchase your ticket from the kiosk.
The Merida to Uxmal Journey
Although the actual driving time from Merida to Uxmal is only around 45 minutes, the bus journey takes much longer. The bus makes several stops on the outskirts of Merida and at the various villages en route to Uxmal.
In all, you should allow between an hour and a half to two hours for this journey. That being said, the route is pleasant and the time flies by.
You will trundle along quiet roads surrounded by lush greenery and woodlands. The little village of Muna, one of the closest settlements to the Uxmal ruins, whizzes past the window.
It is a charming collection of colorful houses, stores, and taquerias. The bus driver will automatically stop at the roadside bus stop for Uxmal.
From here, you have just a short walk to the ruins. The signposts make it clear to see where you need to go.
Your best option is to take the 9.00 am bus to Uxmal and return at 3.00 pm. This allows you plenty of time to explore the ruins at a laid-back pace, as well as to have lunch at one of the nearby restaurants or check out the Mayan chocolate museum, as you like.
Download an offline map on your phone like Maps Me. That way, you can follow your location on the map and you will know when you have to get off the bus.
Taking the return bus from Uxmal to Merida
There is only one bus that returns from Uxmal to Merida in the afternoon. It is operated via autobus SUR – the same company that services the Merida to Uxmal route.
Rome to Rio has the bus time listed as 15.15 p.m. However, you will likely hear an assortment of different times from everyone you ask.
You can ask the ticket office salesperson in Merida, the bus driver, and a Uxmal employee and they will each tell you a different time. One will tell you 15.00 pm, another will tell you 15.15 pm and another will tell you 15.30pm.
Your best bet? Wait at the bus station from 14.45.
The fluctuations seem to be due to the amount of time it takes for the bus to get to Uxmal from its earlier stopping points along the journey. So, the bus can arrive at any time from before 15.00pm, right up to around 16.00 pm.
The bus departs from the opposite side of the road to the Uxmal ruins, right outside the Choco-story chocolate museum. If you wait on the Uxmal side though, you can sit beneath the shelter from the sun.
There is a small orange snack cart outside Choco-story where you can buy drinks and snacks while you wait.
What if I miss the Uxmal to Merida bus?
There is only one afternoon bus from Uxmal to Merida and frankly speaking, it is a small bus. On a busy day during the peak season, there can be more tourists than seats and a lot of people wind up standing in the aisles.
Should you be so unfortunate as to not be able to get a seat onboard or to miss the bus completely, you have a few options. First of all, you could take the bus or a taxi to Muna.
It takes approximately 20 minutes to get from Uxmal to Muna. If you have missed all of the connections for the day, you can get a taxi.
This should cost you no more than around $130 pesos and an employee at the Uxmal site, one of the nearby hotels, or ChocoStory will help you to get one. This is a very rural area and there is no phone service in and around the Uxmal bus stop.
Uber and Didi do not operate here so you need to take a local cab. It is worth also downloading an offline translator app on your phone so that you can ask for help if you cannot speak Spanish.
Once you get to Muna, you can take a bus to Merida. Buses depart hourly from Muna to Merida.
If you prefer, you can also opt to stay overnight at one of the gorgeous hotels close to Uxmal. However, many of them are on the higher end of things price-wise.
Take the Puuc bus
If you are interested in visiting Uxmal along with some of the other spectacular Mayan cities in the area (Kabah and Labna), you can choose to take the Puuc bus. However, this operates on an even more limited schedule than the Uxmal bus.
The bus leaves from the TAME bus station in Merida every Sunday at 8 a.m. and stops at all 5 cities along the historic Puuc route. You only have around 30-60 minutes to explore each of the sites so it is definitely a whistle-stop tour, but if you are only in the area for a day or two, it is a nice way to cover a lot of sites at once.
Take a cab from Merida
One comfortable way to get from Merida to Uxmal is to organize a cab or a private transfer. This is likely to cost around 700-900 pesos in each direction. ($41.60 – $53.50 USD)
If there are a few of you traveling together, or you can find other people willing to visit the ruins with you in the various Merida travel/expat groups, this works out pretty reasonable when you split the costs between you. You might be able to negotiate this price down further with a local driver, particularly if you can find someone that is willing to wait for you at the ruins and then drive you back from Uxmal to Merida.
In Mexico, it is always better to use ridesharing apps like Uber or Didi rather than hail a cab on the street. This is both for safety reasons and for clarity on prices, etc – taxis hailed at random on the street are more likely to make up a heavily inflated price on the spot and assume that as a tourist, you are unaware of the correct rate of things.
If you do not feel comfortable using rideshare apps, you can ask the receptionist/concierge at your hotel or your Airbnb host to call a trusted driver for you.
Using taxi apps to call a cab
You will likely find more competitive rates through Uber and Didi. Didi is a similar app to Uber that Mexican people tend to prefer.
Fares are often lower cost here and the app is still safe and secure. To download it, you need to change your phone (and Apple ID, if applicable) location to Mexico.
It is important to note that although the journey to Uxmal is only an hour each way, a lot of Uber and Didi drivers may be reluctant to do it. Generally speaking, Uber/Didi drivers in Mexico prefer to accept fares where the customer is paying in cash.
If you have your Uber/Didi account set to pay by card by default, you may experience some frustrations with drivers constantly accepting your fares, making you wait, and then canceling. If you can, carry enough cash with you to pay your taxi fare and Uxmal admission by cash.
Apparently, when Uber drivers are paid by card, it can take a matter of weeks for the payments to clear. A lot of people don’t make a lot of money here and they need their earnings as soon as possible.
Driving from Merida to Uxmal
While you do not need to rent a car in Merida if your Merida itinerary is largely going to be focused on staying in the center of the city, doing so can give you a lot more freedom for taking day trips from Merida to other places in the Yucatán.
The drive from Merida to Uxmal is relatively straightforward. The roads here are excellent and in very good condition (i.e. no potholes or poorly paved roads, etc.)
All of the signposts are clearly marked in English and the route leads you through the lush dense jungle, past traditional Yucatecan towns and villages, etc. Heading south from Merida, you mostly need to follow the Uman-Hopelchen/México 261 route to Uxmal and follow the signs.
There is a parking lot located right in front of the Uxmal ruins and you can easily park your car here for a small additional fee of $80 MXN. Alternatively, if you choose to stay overnight in one of the hotels near Uxmal while exploring the ruins in the area, the properties here do offer free parking for their guests.
(And then you can simply walk across the road to the site entrance).
Final thoughts on traveling from Merida to Uxmal
Do you have any additional questions about getting from Merida to Uxmal? Have you made the trip recently?
This is one of the most popular archeological sites in the Yucatan and for good reason. The nice thing about Uxmal is that even though plenty of locals and tourists come here on a daily basis, the site is never as crowded as Chichen Itza.
(Although you may want to avoid it on Sundays when entrance is free for Mexicans and the site is a lot busier because everyone in the Yucatan is off work!)
Do note that the entrance fee for Uxmal is currently priced at 466 pesos per person. (Circa $26.55 USD). Make sure that you have plenty of cash on you to purchase your bus tickets, admission tickets, and any drinks or snacks that you may want to buy at the site.
If you do not visit the ruins as part of a tour but decide that you do want the help and expertise of a local guide, you can pay for a private tour at the entrance for around 200 pesos. Since it is usually hot and humid in the Yucatan, be sure to pack plenty of sunscreen and of course, a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated and protected in the intense heat.
Have a wonderful time! I have been living in Merida since January 2022 and you are welcome to reach out to me if you have questions.
Safe travels. Buen Viaje! Melissa xo