Bus Travel

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Bus Travel

Arriving and Departing

Many travelers arrive in and depart from Guatemala by bus. The services listed here are all so-called "first-class" buses, which means little more than that there is a toilet on-board and air-conditioning. Departures are usually punctual. Several second-class buses operate international routes, but have neither Web sites, reliable enquiry numbers nor, at this writing, fixed terminals, due to the Guatemala City transport authority's chaotic attempt at terminal reorganization.

Popular with budget travelers, Ticabus is an international bus company connecting all of Central America. It has direct daily services from Guatemala City to Tapachula in Mexico ($17; five hours) and El Salvador ($17; five hours). Connecting services go to Nicaragua, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama, but usually involve one or two overnight stops. Hedman Alas is a Honduran company that connects Guatemala City and Antigua with Copán Ruinas, San Pedro Sula, and Tegucigalpa in Honduras ($68). Línea Dorada runs services from Guatemala City to Tapachula, Mexico; and from Flores to Belize City and Chetumal, Mexico. It offers connecting services to other Mexican cities.

Contacts

Hedman Alas. 2362-5072. www.hedmanalas.com.

Linea Dorada. 2232-5506. www.tikalmayanworld.com.

Ticabus. 2459-2848. www.ticabus.com.

Getting Around Guatemala

Guatemalan buses come in three very different subspecies. Locals still favor the recycled Bluebird school buses known as camionetas; but the newer, pricier pullmans—once Greyhound coaches—are gaining popularity, especially for longer trips. Quicker and more comfortable are private minibus shuttle services: you can hire one for yourself or buy a seat on services with scheduled departures.

Dressed up in the gaudiest paint jobs around and blaring merengue, camionetas whiz along at breakneck speeds. They often start out from terminals near a market, but will screech to a halt whenever a potential passenger appears on the roadside. People pile in like hens in a coop, giving rise to the tourist nickname "chicken buses." Camionetas can get you just about anywhere cheaply and quickly, making them great for short trips. Tightly squeezed seating, short routes, and their drivers' disregard for basic road rules means they probably aren't a good idea on longer journeys. Their schedules are also loose, sometimes delaying departures until buses fill up. Be aware that on some routes the last bus of the day isn't always a sure thing, so always ask before waiting around.

Drivers and their assistants, called cobradors or ayudantes, are often a bit gruff, but really know their stuff: they can tell you whether you're on the right bus and remind you when and where to get off. Within cities, you pay the cobrador as you board (Q2 to Q4 is the norm); on intercity buses a fare collector passes through the bus periodically to take your fare, showing an amazing ability to keep track of riders who haven't paid. Large bags are typically stowed on top—this may make you nervous, but thefts aren't common. Except for occasional pickpocketings, incidents involving foreign travelers on public buses are rare.

Several companies operate long-distance pullmans, the self-styled first-class service, between Guatemala's main cities. On a few routes there are de lujo (deluxe) express buses with air-conditioning and other comforts, which cost a few dollars more. Take the pictures shown at bus terminals and on Web sites with a pinch of salt, and keep your comfort expectations low even on deluxe routes: maintenance standards fluctuate wildly and you never really know what you're getting until you board the bus. You can buy tickets in advance at bus terminals, but it's usually unnecessary for routes within Guatemala: arrive at bus terminals about a half-hour before your departure.

From Guatemala City ADN (Autobuses del Norte) has services to Flores and Río Dulce. Litegua operates many daily regular and first-class services between Guatemala City and Puerto Barrios. Línea Dorada offers direct bus service between Guatemala City and Flores. Servicios Turísticos Atitlán, known as STA, is one of the best-known shuttle companies.

Bus Information

ADN. 2251-0610. www.adnautobusesdelnorte.com.

Litegua. 2220-8840. www.litegua.com.

Linea Dorada. 2232-5506. www.tikalmayanworld.com.

Servicios Turisticos Atitlan. 7762-2246. www.visit-antigua.com/vans.htm.

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