A complete Oaxaca transportation guide

If thoughts of food smothered in spicy chocolate mole sauce and petrified waterfalls on mountaintops have you itching to visit Oaxaca, you’ve come to the right place. Whether you want to know how to get to Oaxaca beaches or are in need of tips for traveling to Oaxaca from other amazing destinations in Mexico, I’ve got you covered.

Where in the world is Oaxaca?

Oaxaca sits in a valley of the beautiful Sierra Madre mountain range and borders the Pacific Ocean, but the name can be confusing—Oaxaca is both a city and a Mexican state. When most people say “Oaxaca,” they mean Oaxaca City. For this article, we’re going to do as the locals do; as I talk about how to get to Oaxaca, I’ll specify if it’s for a destination within Oaxaca state. Otherwise, when you see “Oaxaca,” you can assume I’m talking about Oaxaca City.

Common routes to Oaxaca

Mexico is massive. As a result, there are an array of destinations that you can travel from to get to Oaxaca. Depending on where you’re coming from, you can catch a direct bus, flight, or private transfer. Otherwise, if you’re traveling from destinations such as Cancun, you’ll have a layover before arriving in the land of tlayudas (an Oaxaca-style pizza).

Whether you want to know how to get to Oaxaca from Mexico City, which is a relatively short journey, or travel there all the way from the Yucatan, below are some of the most popular Oaxaca routes and their departure details.

RouteTransportation optionsDepartures per day
Mexico City to OaxacaBus, private ride, flightApproximately 27 per day
Mexico City to Puerto Escondido, OaxacaFlightApproximately 5 per day
Tijuana to OaxacaFlightApproximately 2 per day
Guadalajara to OaxacaFlightApproximately 1 per day
Mexico City to Ixtepec, OaxacaFlightApproximately 1 per day
Monterrey to OaxacaFlightApproximately 1 per day
Cancun to OaxacaBus or flight via layoversVarious

Getting to Oaxaca by flight

Traveling to Oaxaca by plane can be quite an adventure, and it’s the most common way to arrive there if you’re departing from most major destinations outside of Mexico City. Per the chart above, many airports only offer one direct flight per day. That said, you can choose from numerous flights to the Oaxaca airport if you’re traveling from Mexico City. 

©seanfoneill/Flickr

Small planes and mountains make flights to Oaxaca City notorious for turbulence (I may have had to peel my hands from the armrest when we landed!). Needless to say, you should take medicine beforehand if you’re prone to motion sickness. On the plus side, if you fly on a clear day, you’ll get to enjoy stunning mountain views. Additionally, plane tickets to Oaxaca are cheap, and you’ll save loads of your precious vacation time compared to driving.

When you arrive at the Oaxaca International Airport, the word “international” in its name might surprise you—the airport has a single terminal that manages domestic and, yes, international flights. If you’re traveling from Dallas or Houston, you’re in luck, as American Eagle and United Express offer (limited) flights to Oaxaca.

Getting to Oaxaca by bus

Taking a bus to Oaxaca is a great way to see Mexico’s stunning mountain landscape. The ADO bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca offers an impressive 20+ departure times per day. Since the ride takes around seven hours, you can opt to travel entirely in the daylight. Alternatively, if you’re looking for budget travel to Oaxaca, Mexico, choose an evening departure to save money on a hotel night.

©mini_malist (off is new on)/Flickr

The ADO Oaxaca bus has a number of amenities to keep you comfy for your snooze or window watching. They offer reclining seats, a footrest, and high-definition TVs. You can get your camera charged up with a personal charging port and head to the onboard restroom when Mother Nature calls.

Getting to Oaxaca by a private ride

If the thought of a Mexico City to Oaxaca road trip excites you, but you want to have more control over the journey (ADO won’t pull off on the side of the road at to-die-for viewpoints along the way), hiring a private ride could be a great fit for you. 

©Steve Cadman/Flickr

Often, taking private transportation from Mexico City to Oaxaca is more expensive than flying, although it depends on how many people travel with you and how much luggage you have. However, a private driver will let you out at real restrooms that won’t have you grabbing at walls when the bus flies around a bend and will pull off on the side of the road for you to snap those beautiful photos if you ask nicely.

Speaking of bends, for both the bus and private transfer, be prepared for a winding ride. Oaxaca sits at just over 5,000 feet, which is low enough so you probably won’t experience altitude sickness, especially if you’ve already had time to acclimate to the high altitude in Mexico City. Nevertheless, it’s best to prepare for the journey by eating lightly and staying hydrated. 

Wandering around Oaxaca

Once you arrive in Oaxaca City, colorful architecture, vendors selling textiles, and delicious Oaxacan food await you. If you’re staying in downtown, you can get around most of the main sites on foot. Otherwise, you can take a taxi or a shared van called a colectivo

If you want to know how to get to Puerto Escondido or other destinations within Oaxaca state from Oaxaca City, ADO serves many places. Just keep in mind that between the mountains and being such a large state, it can take even longer to get to these destinations than traveling from Mexico City to Oaxaca. Don’t believe me? A bus from Oaxaca City to Puerto Escondido clocks in at just over 10.5 hours!

Whether you fly or drive, visiting Oaxaca is worth the turbulence and curves you may encounter. The small-town vibe will make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time; if you’re lucky, you might even stumble upon a streetside religious ceremony or festival. As parting advice, if you want to visit Oaxaca during Day of the Dead, book your transportation as soon as you nail down your dates to avoid availability issues.

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