Chicken Bus Tips

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Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Chicken Bus Tips Quetzaltenango Reviews

MeganMelissa MeganMel…
6 reviews
Jul 25, 2007
I love chicken buses despite the discomfort, the crowding, the smells, the noises, and the constant fear of death. If you are in Guatemala and you don't take a chicken bus, you are seriously missing out on one of the best experiences of your life. Sitting on a bus for five hours to go about 150 km is the closest I can come to meditating. I can stare outside the windows for hours, looking at the patchwork farms plastered on the steep hills of the highlands; I can debate whether or not that egg tortilla will kill me if I eat it (it didn't, but the peanuts did not leave my stomach feeling that great); or I can just be thankful that I am still alive after that last curve around the mountain, where I was certain I was going to be dead at the bottom of a Guatemalan mountain. This is all voided when you get into Antigua and the bus driver is a friggin' maniac and there are only VERY close buildings and buses and children and dogs and bicycles. Then you can stop meditating.

Here are some tips to better enjoy your chicken bus ride:

1. Get an idea of how much the ride should cost you from people around you.

Officially there is no "gringo price", but let's be honest here, people...There IS a gringo price a lot of times. I suggest you find out how much it is for other people, and if they charge you one to five quetzales more, don't fight it. Obviously, it depends on how much it is to begin with. If they're charging everyone else 15 and they charge you 20, I wouldn't bother fighting. If they charge everyone else 5 and you 15, I would probably protest. But if your neighbor pays 6 and they ask you for 8? Seriously, don't fight it. I know, it's the principle of it. Let your principles go. It's 20 cents, for crying out loud; maybe even less. That's right, you can buy my principles for 20 cents.

2. Aim for the seats with kids.

If you're lucky, nobody will make the kids move over and you'll have more room! If you're not lucky, you'll be even more crowded, but you have to gamble sometimes, you know?

3. Keep your valuables with you.

I sit with my backpack on my lap. I don't care if none of the locals do it. There is no way that I am leaving my Ipod and my camera on the rack above my head. What if I fall asleep? What if there is a particularly adept pickpocket? No, thank you, I will sit uncomfortably grasping my bag on my legs for 8,000,000 hours, rather than have to talk to Guatemalan police about my long-gone things.

4. Make sure you see your big bag go in the back or on the top of the bus.

I did not do this one time, and I spent most of the ride panicked until I found someone to help me ask the bus guy about my bag. After that, I made sure that I saw my bag being stashed away. There aren't often problems, but you just never know, and it's not worth the headache. Stand there for 10 extra seconds; it won't kill you.

5. If nobody else on the bus is concerned with dying, you probably will be ok.

I was on one bus that was like a roller coaster ride. I don't like roller coasters. Kids in the back were screaming and laughing like it was the Guatemalteco Loop-de-Loop. My friend and I were gripping the hand rail in front of us and praying that we weren't going to fly off the seat, out of the window, under the bus wheels, and then down the mountain. I finally looked at the woman next to me and said, "Es normal?" After she assured me that it was, I relaxed slightly. I could never quite shake my fear of death, but as long as nobody else seemed concerned, I knew it was...if not normal by my standards, at least normal by Guatemalan standards. And what more can you ask for when you're in Guatemala? I wouldn't want to be on a bus where the Guatemalans were actually afraid. If that happens, run off the bus as fast as your little legs can carry you!

6. Most importantly: Go with the flow.

I am not a patient person, but what good will impatience do me when I'm stuck in constrution, one butt cheek on one seat, and the other in the aisle? Impatience will do nothing for me, that's what good it will do me. Take the time to appreciate the fact that you're not at home, where it's comfortable and most likely boring. Remember that you will soon be stuck in a traffic jam on the Beltway, and you can be good and angry THEN. When the other people on the bus start to get angry at the bus driver, then you know it's time for you to feel (a little) annoyed. If nobody else is saying anything, just cuddle up next to your seatmate and let your mind go blank...
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tavison says:
The "flying backpack" happened to one of my friends on a train in Peru. Nothing to round out your experience like a little head trauma!
Posted on: Feb 10, 2010
umbralwalker says:
Wow... sounds a lot like my time in Laos. I can't wait to experience it again. Thanks for sharing.
Posted on: Jan 21, 2008
Arjewtino says:
Everything here is totally true. I would add one thing: if you DO secure your backpack on the rack above your head, don't be surprised when it comes flying off and smacks two Guatemalans in front of you.
Posted on: Jul 25, 2007
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