Chicken Buses

Photo of chicken bus.

Chicken bus – Running between Masaya and Granada.

I take chicken buses whenever I can while in Central America. I do so because they’re reasonably safe, convenient and incredibly cheap.

You’re probably wondering what, exactly, a chicken bus is… if they’re really full of chickens.

Honestly, I’ve never seen a chicken or any other type of animal on a chicken bus. I did see a chicken bus with caged chickens strapped to the roof though. That said, everyone says they’ve heard about chicken buses in outlying areas with chickens, even goats riding inside buses. I suspect this was the norm at one time, and I’ve seen photos of people with chickens on buses. However, I suspect such tales are nothing more that urban myth today. After all, what bus crew is going to want to be cleaning up feathers and bird or animal poop at the end of their shift?

What a chicken bus actually is, is a school bus that was retired from service in the USA or Canada. The bus was then sold to be used as public transport in Central and South America, mostly in Central America. There are bus lines using chicken buses that are repainted in the livery of the bus line. However, most chicken buses that are painted at all are given unique paint jobs. Many are left school bus yellow.

There are a few negatives to using chicken buses…

First is a lack of comfort. Being converted school buses the placement of the seats was made in consideration of the passengers… children. So leg room is virtually nonexistant.

The number of passengers stuffed into each chicken bus is dependent only upon the physical limitations of available space. Claustrophobics may want to avoid using chicken buses.

Cheating of tourists seems to be a standard on chicken buses. Of course the amount foreigners are overcharged amounts to pennies usually, never more than a dollars or so. That said, a tourist need only look to see if there is a posted price and pay that amount. If there is no price posted, ask another passenger what the price is or watch to see what other passengers pay. It’s actually entertaining watching the facial expressions of the driver’s assistant who collects fares when a foreigner gives him the correct change.

Only once have I witnessed a bus crew threaten to put foreigners off a bus if they didn’t pay the inflated price. Of course no one was put off the bus, but in truth it was not much of a threat. Another chicken bus will come along, probably in less than 15 minutes, and be happy to pick up more passengers.

It’s a good idea to pay with correct change if you have it, or as close to the correct amount as possible. If you pay with a large bill you’ll be asked to wait until the assistant has collected enough fares to make change. Then he’ll be impossible to catch up with to collect your change from later.

There are hustlers on chicken buses, but there are no more pickpockets and outright robbers than one would expects to contend with when using public transit anywhere in the world.


Len Bowcott

I've been globetrotting since I was a teenager. I contribute my lust for travel as being my savior from a very different, very disappointing life adventure. I'm traveling again and will until the day I die. My new mission is to show people how they can travel or live a broad for less than it would cost to remain living in the USA, Canada, Britain, or any similar economy. Currently I'm living in Nicaragua.

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