Things that go on top of chicken buses

Chicken buses; an entertaining rite of passage for backpackers in Latin America. Covered in stickers and brightly coloured paint, usually with only a thin portion of windscreen free for, you know, seeing the road.


The stickers themselves play on the buses’ reputation. Think ‘Jesus is my driver’, and ‘Live fast, die young’.


Last summer I travelled around Panama, Nicaragua and Guatemala on these brightly-coloured buses and had a great time. Originally American school buses, the vehicles are converted for public passengers throughout Central America. As with all Latin American transport, the number of seats only provides a starting point for passenger capacity – get ready to be squished up close to your fellow travellers.

One of the most amusing things about chicken buses (there areĀ many) is the type of luggage that is stowed on top. Here’s a snapshot of the types of things I saw:

1. Backpacks

2. Suitcases

3. Blankets

4. A child’s chair

5. Small dog

6. Baskets of food

7. Pots and pans

8. Surfboard

9. Bicycle

10. Despite the name, I never actually saw a chicken!

In short, if you’re carrying it, you can reasonably assume it will thrown up on the roof with everything else. It’s an extremely fun and cheap way to travel, and if you’re visiting Central America I’d definitely recommend the experience.