Chicken Buses are The Second Life of School Buses

Chicken Buses are The Second Life of School Buses

Unless you have taken the path of La Marche de l’empereur, you haven’t heard about how everyone is living a virtual second life through a community web site. Well, old and retired school buses from the U.S. get to live a real second life as camionetas (the street name for public transit buses in Guatemala). Revue Magazine had an in-depth article about The Birth of a Camioneta (available as a PDF download) which detailed step-by-step how an old retired school bus became a powerful camioneta ready for the curvy roads of the mountain ranges of Guatemala. It is a great read and I recommend that you download the PDF to learn about the shops that make the miracle. The article is between the pages 1-33 in case you don’t want to download the whole magazine.

It is at one of this reconstruction shops, that an old and retired school bus from the use get its powerful second wind to ride in the roller-coaster roads of Guatemala. Interestingly enough, there are quite a few shops around La Antigua Guatemala that make the miracle of transforming the old yellow buses into the colorful exotic rides known derogatorily as chicken buses.

© 2007 – 2016, Rudy Giron. All rights reserved.

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  • Very interesting stuff.
    When I was there recently, I actually saw a bus that said “Laurel School District” on it. Presumably it had not gone through it’s re-construction yet.

    The buses I saw were beautiful actually. I thought it was funny to see the guy hanging out the door directing traffic around the bus.

  • GDSinPA, some schools buses do not go through the second life process… they are used as is. By the way, I don’t like that school buses are used for the massive transit systems. That is one more thing we have to grow out of. On the other hand, I do like the recycling part that Guatemala does to the otherwise garbage buses from the U.S. Dilemas, dilemas.

  • Hmm, Rudy, the recycling part I get, but retired school buses turned over to mass transit systems? Now the colorful designs on these retired buses are spectacular, but I really want to know what’s under the cool paint jobs and how safe these buses really are! How often do they break down?

  • Jerry B

    @Coltrane_lives: The short answer is, they’re not safe. And they’re overloaded, and they break down, and they crash. But, they’re cheap, they’re popular, and they pretty much get the job done.

  • the other scott

    On our most recent trip to Guatemala we decided not to rent a car. For two weeks we travelled almost daily–to and from Guatemala City, to Antigua, Atitlan, Coban, Xela…lots of time on the road, mostly in these buses (I agree th term “chicken bus” is pretty insulting). The cost is insanely low and they really MOVE. Often they’re crowded–sometimes to the point that part of your body is literally hanging out the back door–but you get to meet a lot of people, eat snacks like mania con limon and chili powder, artfully peeled oranges, and chuchitos, and make jokes with the people around you. It’s a lot of fun. Your tailbone won’t be happy if you sit in the last row of seats, but it’s a small price to pay for real ground-level contact with nice people and great scenery.

  • Coltrane_lives, I talked quite a lot about the chicken buses, just follow the link at the end of the entry above. You can also read the following entry:

  • coltrane_lives

    Appreciate the information Rudy and Jerry.

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