Taking the chicken bus

Toma la camioneta

The camioneta (chicken bus) is a popular form of transport in Guatemala. Chicken buses are re-purposed American school buses, refurbished and decorated in a myriad of colors. Other alternatives for transport include three-wheeled tuk tuks, taxis, private vans, and shuttles.  Chicken buses for local travel around Antigua are generally well-maintained, clean, and well-lit. Depending on the route or time of day, the buses leave at short intervals, and are usually full but not standing room-only full. In comparison to many transportation systems around the world, here in Antigua the chicken buses are quite efficient and pleasant to ride in (bumpy cobblestone streets aside). I’d dare say even more comfortable than trying to squeeze into a San Francisco Muni bus. Sure, there are no seat belts, and sometimes a third person will need to squeeze onto a bench, but overall they are nice. Some blare loud music, or even have flat screen TV’s playing comedic shows. However, having been here less than two weeks, with our nascent Spanish, we’ve made some errors in navigating the buses. This has resulted in more time, money, and walking than necessary. My wife says that all camionetas lead to tuktuks.  🙂

Tips for navigating chicken buses:

  1. Read the front top of the bus indicating the route name(s).
  2. Note what side of the street the bus is on and which direction it is pointed in.
  3. Verify and ask the ayudante (assistant / fare collector)  where the bus is going.
  4. Tell the ayudante where you want to go.
  5. Know how much the fare costs and pay the exact fare or use smaller bills. The fare will be generally based on distance. Know how much your change is supposed to be. Notice how much other passengers are paying. For a short journey, it’s usually 3 to 5Q per person.
  6. If you suspect you may be going the wrong direction, ask someone next to you where the bus is going, then tell the ayudante or bus driver that you need to get off the bus.  They will drop you at the next stop and probably tell you where to go.
  7. If it’s late at night, use common sense and travel with a partner if possible.
  8. Sit back and enjoy the chicken bus experience.

Revue has a great article on how camionetas are built if you’d like to read more on camionetas.


Brennan Pang

Brennan Pang is a Co-founder of Trekaroo. He is a father to 2 boys and a girl and loves exploring and adventure travel. A California kid who loves mountaineering, climbing, snowboarding, and riding his bike everywhere. He has lived in a hut at a chicken farm in Zimbabwe, gotten amoebic dysentery while paddling a dugout tree in Madagascar, hiked to Everest base camp in winter, chilled with the giant tortoises of the Galapagos, and witnessed a fair number of volcanic eruptions. He spent six months traveling through Central and South America with his family and has enjoyed swimming with sharks and stingrays in Tahiti. Follow him on instagram at @overdare.


2 thoughts on “Taking the chicken bus

  1. You might want to add: Have the person with the best Spanish talk to the Ayuneta. These guys are in a hurry and it’s noisy in a camieoneta. If you can’t get the words out effectively, they’ll probably nod their heads and shoo you onto the bus all the same. Which can sometimes lead to going in the opposite direction that you want to go.

  2. I like your writing on “Toma la camioneta”. It reminds me of the jeepneys in Manila. Filipinos also outfitted former American army jeeps with fancy decorations in colorful and creative ways. These are used heavily for daily transportation all over Manila, with full ridership. As for Philippine buses, people do bring chickens on the ride, whether they are in baskets from the open markets or in a bucket from Kentucky fried chicken!

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