Transport In Xela

by Susana Raymundo

We should start with the famous chicken bus, aka the camioneta or parrilla (grill), the grill being the rack on top where the luggage and sometimes passengers ride.

The assistant uses his neck to lift the luggage up to the grill and while he ties it down, the driver starts to move – they need to hurry so the other buses don’t beat them to the  passengers waiting down the road. When a roadside passenger does appear they need to grab on quick. The bus barely slows down and if they don’t hurry they´ll end up under the wheels.

The pick up truck is another extreme adventure. The double cabin can fit 4 to 7 people and in the tray maybe 16 or 20 people. If the truck is fitted with bars for the standing passengers to grab, good for them and if not, good luck to them.

The new vehicle that’s gaining fame (although sadly outlawed in Xela), is the moto-taxi, the toro or the tuc-tuc. Whatever you call it, it’s got 3 wheels, a roof and handlebars like a motorcycle. The passengers are supposed to sit behind the driver, but with large families or big groups you will see a passenger on each side of the driver, 3 or 4 sitting in the back seat and each of them with more passengers on their laps.

If you have to move house, look for a ruletero or fletero – they can bring a truck or pick up and cram your whole house on board. Don’t worry, they have ropes to tie things down.

We can’t forget about the minibuses. They’re the kings of transport through the center of Xela, and the commuters travel, as the saying goes, packed like sardines.

They say the pullman bus is the vehicle for people with class – a passenger in every seat, their luggage in a special, supposedly safe hold below and fares are paid in the office before you board the bus. Sounds great, but prepare your buttocks – I recommend a massage for the muscles that will be crushed as the ride which can take double or triple that of a chicken bus.

Shuttles are the other option – they arrive at your door and drop you where you’re going. The time is supposedly set, but leave some leeway as you’re not the only one they’re picking up. Few Guatemalans take shuttles as the fares can be as high as a week’s salary.
Traffic lights, speed bumps, traffic police and transport laws. These are those who dream of controlling Xela’s traffic – take a look outside and you can see how they’re doing.

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