Chicken Buses of Guatemala

Oct 14, 2012 5 comments

What happens to yellow school buses retired from commission in the United States? They start a new colorful life as Chicken Buses in Guatemala.

When American school buses reach the age of ten years or 150,000 miles, they are sold at auction. Many of these buses are bought and driven down through Mexico to Guatemala and other Central American countries where they are prepared for their second lives. Instead of carting children to school, the buses spend their second life transporting people often filled to the brim with goods and driving at high speeds over mountain passes. The word "chicken" refers to the fact that rural Guatemalans occasionally transport live animals such as chicken - a practice that visitors from other countries often find remarkable. The word might also refer to the tight manner in which passengers are crammed into these retired U.S. school buses. Either way, the experience is something travellers never forget.

Each bus has one or two young men called ayudante or helper. The ayudante is responsible for passengers and luggage, collecting money, and organizing the suitcases, livestock, or produce, etc. onto the roof of the bus–often while in motion. Loudly announcing destinations the bus is reaching is also a responsibility.


Former American school buses. Photo credit

These buses sport vibrant paint consisting of colorful murals, the bus' name and permanent route. Each bus reflects the owner and driver’s personal style, be it love, machismo, religion, national pride, or some combination thereof. It isn’t rare to find a sticker of a hot women pasted above a bible verse or framed picture of Jesus.

The best spot to catch a Chicken Bus is to head to the town’s bus terminal and wait patiently with other passengers. The buses don’t run on any kind of timetable. They usually come and go and the frequency depends on how heavily populated are areas are.

If you ever visit Guatemala, make sure you take a ride on a Chicken Bus. Checkout this nice do’s and do not guide to travelling in a chicken bus.

Also see: Dekotora: The Ridiculously Decorated Trucks of Japan


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How many people can you fit in a chicken bus? Obviously, one more! Photo credit


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Sources: Wikipedia, Transport Guatemala, Chronicles of On The Road Travel, Guatemalan Chicken Buses


  1. In spanish the word chicken means "pollo", and in Mexico the "chicken bus" is called "pollero", but is not used anymore in large cities, just in small towns

  2. Nice post! I traveled to Guatemala last year and my best experience was with Guatemala transfer

  3. I love Guatemala! i remember hire a bus to travel to Guatemala with a group of friends

  4. Remember hire a private transportation service to visit Guatemala!

  5. cool article and really nice photos. I spent a lot of time on chicken buses while traveling through central america and think it's not only cheap but also a great way to dive into local culture for a little while.
    here are some of my observations about chicken buses ;)
    keep up the great work and safe travels


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