Chicken Bus Etiquette
By Robin Friday
Chicken Buses – Some travelers will do whatever it takes to avoid them, and some relish in the opportunity to ride packed like sardines. Whether you love em or hate em’ here are some rules for the road…
1. Hold on to your wallet. Every story of being robbed ends the same, “I don’t even know when they had the chance to take my wallet.”
2. Old lady elbows. It is not the kids or men who are the pushiest, beware the jabby elbows and rump bumps that will knock you on your ass.
3. Don’t drink and drive. Once on the road there is hardly a chance for bathroom breaks, and terminal bathrooms are an olfactory experience you´ll want to pass.
4. Always travel with a seat! It makes life so much less painful. If it is a regular bus and it´s already packed, do your self a favor and wait the 10 minutes for another bus to get a seat.
5. Listen for the abbreviation. Gotta love Pullman slang, you won’t hear the
bus for “Guatemala City” or “Momostanango” or “Mazatenango”. Listen for Guate, Momos or Mazate, respectively.
6. The going rate. Sometimes tourists are given a “special” rate (not that an extra 10 Q is going to break the bank). Ask or listen for the going rate.
7. Chicken buses are never full! A two seater fits three, and a three seater fits four. And remember the space in-between seats is also a seat (one butt cheek can rest on the edges of both seats).
8. If you offer your seat, be prepared to lose it. Families rarely “split up” with some in one row and the rest in another. If you offer your seat to a family of 4, they will take the whole row leaving you with nothing.
9. Getting change. The fare is Q15 and you drop a Q100, don´t be surprised when the ayudante walks away without giving you change, chances are he just doesn´t have it yet. Just ask for an IOU.
10. Chat it up. Don’t be afraid to converse with your neighbors; it is a chance to share your astute and sophisticated cultural insights. Those are the rules, and if you are really lucky, you will see why they are called chicken buses and sit down next to some real livestock.