Bus trip to Panama City not for the faint of heart

TRAVEL Q & A

November 19, 1995|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

I am planning a trip to Panama City by public transportation. I will go from New York to Mexico by Greyhound and would appreciate any information about buses from the Mexican border to Mexico City and then to Panama City.

Assuming no mechanical hitches, the trip from New York to the border and then to Mexico City should be fairly straightforward.

The trip through Chiapas and Central America, however, will be of an entirely different character. You can expect to travel on slow, narrow, mountainous roads, and once across the Guatemalan border with Mexico, bus quality will be hit and miss. You might get a modern vehicle in good condition, but you might also be a passenger on a bus that had its best years a long time ago on the roads of the United States.

You should also know that each city in Central America usually has several bus stations, divided among the various bus companies. Everything south of Managua, Nicaragua, goes through the Tica stations.

Mexico City to Tuxtla Gutierrez, Chiapas. Take the A.D.O. bus line (Autobuses de Oriente) at the Tapo bus station next to the San Lazaro subway stop. They leave Mexico City at 5:15 p.m. and 8 p.m.

The trip takes 18 hours and costs about $26.50, calculated at 7.50 pesos to the dollar.

Tuxtla Gutierrez to Tapachula, Chiapas. Cristobal Colon buses leave every hour on the half-hour between 6:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. The trip takes seven hours and costs about $8.40.

Tapachula to El Carmen (also known as Talisman), Guatemala. Cristobal Colon buses or numerous small commuter buses called micros leave at 1:30 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. The trip takes 30 to 45 minutes and costs $1 to $2, depending on the type of bus.

El Carmen to Guatemala City. The five-hour trip costs $5, calculated at 6 quetzals to the dollar.

Guatemala City to San Salvador. Melba buses leave every hour on the half-hour between 4:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. The five-hour trip costs $6.35.

San Salvador to Managua, Nicaragua. Tica buses leave at 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. The trip takes 8 1/2 hours and costs $8.30 at 188 colons to the dollar.

Managua to San Jose, Costa Rica. Tica buses leave at 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. The trip takes 9 1/2 hours and costs $8.35.

San Jose to Panama. Tica buses leave at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The 18-hour trip costs $14.

Total bus time: 71.5 hours.

Total cost: $83.65.

We will be visiting our daughter in Okinawa at Christmas, and we have a six-hour layover in Guam. Can you recommend a travel guide to Okinawa and suggest any points of interest in Guam?

Most travel books on Japan will have a section on Okinawa, which means the choice is very wide indeed. One of the best, with a strong section on Okinawa, is "Gateway to Japan," by June Kinoshita and Nicholas Palevsky (Kodansha International).

You can send for a free copy of an eight-page pamphlet on Okinawa, published by the Japan National Tourist Organization as No. 77 in a series called "Combined Travel Mini Guides."

More information from J.N.T.O., 1 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 1250, New York, N.Y. 10020; (212) 757-5641.

On Guam you might consider swimming or snorkeling in Tumon NTC Bay, visiting Gef Pa'go, a village reflecting the life of the indigenous Chamorro people of 300 years ago, or Chamorro Village, a marketplace selling locally made goods and ethnic foods. For military history enthusiasts there is the War in the Pacific National Historical Park. It is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Admission free. All are within 35 minutes of the airport.

Information: Guam Visitors Bureau, 1150 Marina Parkway, Alameda, Calif. 94501; (800) 873-4826, fax (510) 865-5165.

Can you give me any information about the Mystery Play cycle in York, England? Will it be presented next year and how do I obtain tickets?

The York Cycle of Mystery Plays, held every four years, will be performed next year from June 6 (Corpus Christi Day) to June 30, with previews June 4 and June 5.

The plays, which date to medieval times, tell the Bible story of the dawning of Christianity from the Garden of Eden to the Harrowing of Hell.

Tickets will cost from $8.25 to $25.50, calculated at $1.65 to the pound. There are no performances on Mondays June 10, June 17 and June 24, but there are matinee performances on two Saturdays, June 15 and June 29. Telephone and mail reservations began Nov. 6.

Information: Theater Royal, St. Leonard's Place, York YO1 2HD, England; (44 1904) 623568.

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