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Chicken buses, express buses, shuttles or rental car? How best to travel around Guatemala?

Chicken buses, express buses, shuttles or rental car? How best to travel around Guatemala?

Old Jan 7th, 2008, 02:40 PM
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Chicken buses, express buses, shuttles or rental car? How best to travel around Guatemala?

So, I am trying to decide on what mode(s) of transportation we should use to get around.

I have to say that the chicken buses sound like a "must" at least once for us...we love that kind of thing! We like experiencing the "real" parts of the places we visit.
Is the chicken bus a viable way to get from GC to Antigua?
If not, where would one use the chicken bus?

However, for the longer legs of the trip we are looking for a cheap way to get from GC to Pana then Pana to Antigua. (Not necessarily in that order, haven't firmed this up yet).

When I looked into the shuttles (at least on transportguatemala.com) they seem pretty expensive for Latin America:
$50 for 2 people from GC to Pana
$24 for 2 people from Pana to Antigua
$24 for 2 people from GC to Antigua
And these aren't the private shuttles!

We're used to paying around $1-3 dollars for a 1-2 hour bus ride in Latin American countries. These shuttle prices seem so high that we were thinking about renting a car instead.
I can get a car for $127 for 5 days and then we could come and go when we please instead of having to catch a shuttle at a certain time.

We were really hoping that there would be bus service that's a step up (or maybe 2 or 3 steps up ) from chicken buses with buses that run very frequently for less than the shuttles.
Express buses? Do they exist?
I'm having trouble finding info if they do.

Can anyone help with express bus info, like prices, schedules, etc???
I'd also love to hear feedback about the chicken buses!

Thanks
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Old Jan 7th, 2008, 06:15 PM
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I'll give your questions a shot. IMO chicken bus isn't a viable option from the airport to Antigua because you'd have to take a cab to the bus station and it would cost you most of what you'd save taking the bus instead of taking a shuttle or cab clear to Antigua; shuttle is $10 each, taxi $25-30 for 2-4 depending on your bargaining skills.

You could take chicken buses from GC to Pana or Pana to Antigua but you'd have to change buses at least once each way. I spent a lot of time last summer on chicken buses and colectivos (12 seater vans hauling as many as 27 people to the next stop, roughly the same cost as the chicken buses). Some of the rides were downright terrifying - careening around blind curves next to huge drop offs on the wrong side of the road - yikes! We were typically stuffed 3 or 4 to a seat, sometimes with chickens or cats (no joke). Once my friend and I came out of the bathroom, not having taken time to get TP out of our bags or wash our hands and the bus was pulling out with our bags on top!! We had to run like the wind, shouting and waving our hands like crazy women and climb aboard a moving bus. That whole day was like The Amazing Race but we arrived intact and with our luggage so I guess that means we won.

If you really want to take a chicken bus but not a long leg you could do a day trip from anywhere, Antigua or Pana, for example, or have a shuttle drop you off at an intersection and take a chicken bus the rest of the way (like Los Encuentros on the way to Panajachel).

There might be something in between chicken buses and shuttles for some of your trips; not sure about that. Honestly $12/person doesn't seem like that much to me for a 3 hour trip (Antigua to Pana) in my own comfy seat. If you want to pay just $1-3 then you're wanting chicken buses, transfers, chickens, 3 seatmates, blind corners, and all.

I wouldn't consider renting a car in Guatemala - too much responsibility and hassle for me. You'd have to stay in places with protected parking which would greatly limit your lodging options, and have the additional stress of navigation and watching the road instead of the scenery. Just my 2 cents' worth.

Hope that helps! My photos and travelogues are here if you're interested:

http://flickr.com/photos/staceyholeman/collections

Happy trails!

hopefulist is offline  
Old Jan 8th, 2008, 05:53 AM
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Hello,

Yes, I agree that chicken buses are a muct at least once . . . but only once. Driving in Guatemala is bad enough without trying to keep a handle on your luggage while squeezed 4 to a 2-person bench seat riding through hot muggy weather for 3 hours. You should be able to take one from Pana to GC, if thats a leg of your trip - I hopped a chicken bus from Santiago de Atitlan, on the other side of the lake to GC fairly easily last year and even as a lone blonde female felt fine about it.

I do NOT recommend renting a car, period. The roads are unreliable, dangerous, and the responsibility of a car is simply not worth it. Especially if you are interested in experiencing the "real" stick to public transportation and shuttles when you have to - i would especially recommend springing for the shuttle from the airport since taxis around the airport are shady and not to be trusted.
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Old Jan 8th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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Thanks hopefulist and cebca for the advice.

I guess we got spoiled in Mexico City where we took a nice greyhound-type bus to Teotihuacan for $1US. (1 hour trip)

Is it necessary to book shuttles in advance from, say,:
GC to Pana
Pana to Antigua
Antigua to GC

Or can you buy a ticket as you walk up?

I've looked into transportguatemala.com and mayanguate.com.
Prices seem to be comparable.
Anyone suggest one company over another or a different company altogether?

Again, thanks for the replies!

>-
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Old Jan 8th, 2008, 01:20 PM
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I didn't waste a lot of time in Antigua researching shuttles, so not sure about which companies have which types of vehicles, etc. I think most of the agencies work with a very few shuttle companies. I wouldn't just walk up because the next shuttle might not be leaving for 3 hours; in other words, it seems like it's worth looking into it ahead just to know the schedules in addition to the risk of shuttles being full. They do fill up. We headed straight to Antigua so I can't help at all with shuttles from GC except from the airport, which leave as they fill. Happy trails!
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 04:59 AM
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luv2globetrot - Are you planning to visit the market in Chichicastenango during your trip?
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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 08:51 AM
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With so little time I haven't put it on our "must-do" list.
But if, while we're there, we realize that we can squeeze it in, we would be interested in going.

As it is, we'll only have 2 whole days at the Lake (3 nights but we'd have less than a half day the day we arrive, if that) and I don't even really know if that will be enough time there.

I sure have lots to think about still.

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Old Jan 9th, 2008, 10:12 AM
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I was just asking because I recommended to another traveler to shuttle to Chichi from Antigua and then take chicken buses to the lake - sounded like something you might like if you end up making the transition on a Thursday or Sunday. Happy trails!
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