17 May 2011

bus etiquette

So many people might wonder how I make the 15-30min journey from Ciudad Vieja into town to go to work each day... Well I take the camioneta, aka chicken bus (which is a semi-offensive name, so I choose not to use it) aka school buses from the US that were probably deemed unfit to carry children... So they get sent here to carry me around. Once they get here, they get painted all colors of the rainbow and totally "pimped out" (as my dad called it) with Jesus slogans and decals of semi-naked ladies.

Though it might seem straight-forward, there's actually quite a lot of etiquette necessary when riding a camioneta.

First, to get on the bus. You stand on the side of the road at a "bus stop" (which you just have to know exists where it is, because there are no signs.) Sometimes you can flag one down any old place, but this has very mixed success, so I wouldn't recommend it. So you stand on the side of the road at a "bus stop," and once you see (or hear) (or smell) your bus coming, you stick your hand out and flop it up and down. Hopefully the bus will slow and pull over and call out where they're headed and you get on. Step one: success.

Once you're on, scan the bus for open seats. If you have a gigantic basket of anything (chickens, vegetables, whatever), you can either leave it at the front or give it to the ayudante to strap on to the top of the bus. Otherwise, proceed to a seat.

It's 3-to-a-seat on camionetas, so try to find somewhere to sit as near to the front as possible. It's likely that there are a TON of people, so one is ever mindful of their purse as they squeeeeeze through lots and lots of bodies to try to get a seat. If you find a seat- Yay! Keep in mind, though, that only people over 7yr pay-- so those under 7 do not count in the 3-to-a-seat rule. That means that a woman is quite likely to have a baby strapped to their back, and one sitting on their lap, and count as 1 person. Also, it isn't too uncommon to see a lady with a box of live chickens sitting on her lap (hence the name "chicken bus). Just try to act casual and sit where you can.

So if you found a seat, congrats! If not, better luck next time. Just do your best to hold on for dear life. Usually you're so wedged in between people that there's really not even a need to hold on!

After a few minutes, the ayudante ("helper") will come around to collect your money. Always best to pay in exact change, because he is not above giving you your change in 10 and 5cent coins.

Once you start approaching your destination (which again, is not marked by a "bus stop," you just have to know where the bus is going to stop), start making your way towards the front again, squeeeezing back through all the people (or, if you're feeling really adventurous, you can hop out the back emergency exit), and off you go! After a few bumpy roads, some sharp turns, very loud music, and multiple semi-illegal passings-on-blind-corners, you arrive to your destination!

Way to go, you rode a camioneta!

Buen Viaje!
bendiciones, juli


  1. Wow--good for me! At first I was nervous, and it was really hot in there, but I rode a camioneta! I feel such a sense of accomplishment.

  2. Have you learned or applied the one cheek rule? That is pretty much the fact that I and Ellen from our year learned that to have atleast one cheek on a seat was a successful ¨seat hunt¨. We always seemed to get on the buses with no seats.

    I miss the on the roof storage here in Peru, none of that. I think the bus culture in Guate is far cooler.

    Just remember there is always room for one more!! Hee Hee.

    Thanks for bringing back the memories Julie!!

    Lisa Hermann