The Guagua Rules the Road – This Ain’t No Chicken Bus

You hear people talking of the chicken buses through all of Latin America.  I have yet to see a chicken on the guagua.  So here, I don’t think the title CHICKEN BUS applies!  Though some of the guaguas do look beat up enough to be chicken coops.  Passengers do bring an amazing assortment of goods on board.  In a country where poverty is extreme, bringing home your purchases on a bus or motorcycle is common place.

A few insights:

  1. The more beat up and old the bus is, the higher the decibels.  Whether that is from the old air conditioners cranking, the lack of air conditioners and the windows open, or from the sound system and the wanna-be singers.  Some of the singers are pretty good though, but some … aye mi madre!!!  But when the driver gets involved in the singing, now, THAT’S a party 😀
  2. No working air conditioning makes for a hot guagua ride.  Thankfully most windows open and there are curtains … yes … curtains … to block out the sun’s rays and heat.  I remember well the first time I saw this, that memory still brings me a smile and a chuckle.
  3. At the bus “terminal” and lol, traffic lights, vendors are there selling their wares.  Water, fruit, sunglasses, cell phone cards and chargers are common sales.  Though why you need a car charger for your cell phone on the bus is beyond me!  The bus terminals are used for those journeys outside the cities.  Within the capital city of Santo Domingo, there are regular routes like any other city.
  4. There is not always room for one more person.  No matter how packed like sardines.  The fold down seats come into play and are well used.  However, there’s always another bus.  Sometimes it takes a few going past you during peak hours before you can climb aboard.  It’s fun getting off when 1/2 the guagua has to empty to let off the person in the back.
  5. The drivers peddle as fast as they can and squeeze into amazingly tight spots.  Hence why they are banged up.  They maneuver expertly … sort of!
  6. Drivers multitask.  If you are gringa, you are a giant topic of curiosity and they will engage you in conversation.  Cell phones are … yes … for texting … and calling … while driving.  To be fair, 1/2 the 2-way radios don’t work so it is their communication.
  7. As with all other vehicles, the driver calls the shots.  Two buses side by side may engage in conversation … lolz.  There’s no rush after all, this is manana land.  Schedules!  Just a suggestion.  Truthfully, unless there’s a breakdown, they maintain their schedules pretty well.  I love that though there are designated stops, I can just stand at the side of the road and they will slow down to ask if I need to board.  They have many stops, for passengers, or a simple snack for the driver!
  8. I’m just a little person, and there is barely room for me.  I can’t imagine being a big burly person or tall and trying to fit in the seats for a long ride!
  9. Fares are collected at some point after boarding.  There appears to be no visible hard and fast rule as to when and where.  It’s different for each route.
  10. Challenge … routes!  And, of course, the return trip!
  11. Generally speaking the buses are safe in DR.  However, remember where you are and take the necessary precautions as you would walking around.  Don’t carry a lot of cash or wear expensive jewelry and keep your possessions where you can be vigilant of them.  People on buses get robbed too … in any country.

This concludes the briefing of the Guagua … chao!  Gotta go and catch the bus!

Listen to the palms…

~Loca Gringa

© Loca Gringa and


6 responses to “The Guagua Rules the Road – This Ain’t No Chicken Bus

  1. Great imagery – I can just imagine being jammed into one of those buses. I did jam onto local buses in Panama which were smaller (12 passenger vans), although they would drive a few blocks off the route to drop old ladies with bags of groceries at their door for an extra 60 cents. And the A/C never seemed to reach the rear of the bus.

  2. Sage advice from an obvious pro. I’ve been on a few rattle-trap buses around the world, and mostly, your tips hold true. However, I did take an upmarket bus from Mexico City to Oaxaca and really enjoyed the movie (in Spanish obviously) – Goofy Dos!!

    • Jajajaja, yea, I never do upscale! Today my friend drove me and my daughter to Punta Cana to catch her plane. Gosh, thought I was going to kill his old car. It made it but we got a flat tire conveniently in front of a gomera. National Police pulled up as I was perched on the cement barrier in the shade of a lamp post, helped change the tire and now … lol … I have a date on Friday 😀

      Love my country!

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