Chicken Buses


Let’s talk about these infamous “chicken buses”. The metro transit system in Guatemala is fairly new. Before the metro, people relied on the “chicken bus”, which is basically a  school bus painted in bright colors with extravagant designs. Depending on who hops on the bus, there is a possibility you could be riding alongside a chicken or two.

This weekend we took a trip to Antigua. Compared to taking a shuttle bus, which is much safer, chicken buses are very cheap. From Guatemala City to Antigua it cost 10 quetzales, which is equivalent $1.10ish US dollars.

I wish I could have more pictures of the whole experience, but the number one rule for riding on the buses is to never pull out any item that signifies any wealth or affluence. It will be cut out from your purse or backpack by the least suspecting person. Yes, happy little old man will smile and engage in conversation while they stealthily cut a whole through your backpack. I was only able to snag a phot of the bus as it drove away from Antigua.

This brings me to the second rule, always sit holding your belongings. The top store-away rails never get used… unless you are a badass (which I am not). Also, if possible sit by a friend; “safety in numbers”. It can get pretty cramped in their. People will create a sit for themselves. There is no time to be timid on the chicken bus.

Back to the story, we arrived at the city center where many chicken buses depart. A man came running towards us shouting.

“Antigua, Antigua, Antigua!”

Immediately we were rushed onto the bus.

At different stops on the chicken bus’s route, vendors or homeless people will jump on and try to sell items or beg for money. They usually ride to the next stop then get off and repeat.

There is no limit to the extremities these people will go to in order to persuade you to buy something or give them money. I felt like I was watching infomercials for an hour and a half.

I thought the man with one hand and eye was pretty convincing, but I was soon proven wrong by our next visitor. One homeless man got on the bus and dramatically lifted his checkered shirt to reveal what appeared to be a fresh bullet wound. He spoke of his journey to America in order to reunite with his family. In the process, he had lost his money and was injured. As he did this he squeezed his wound and poked at it. At that point, I wanted to give him 10 queztales to stop.

My favorite was this very articulate man who got on advertising coloring books of Guatemala maps. I am sucker for anything educational and kid-oriented.

There are so many characters on the chicken bus. People will enter the bus only to intensely pray over you. Some vendors actually sell very enticing snacks and treats, but you must resist. You will never make to your stop with any money if you fall for their sometimes very strategic marketing. Nonetheless, every Central American traveler needs to experience the chicken bus.


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