Have you ever heard of a public transportation called tuc-tuc? Well, Guatemala is full of them. It is similar to a three wheel bike to transport passengers on the back, but this one has a motor and no pedals. The first time I took a tuc-tuc it cost me 5 quetzal (less than US$ 1) and I had a total blast. These tiny vehicles are decorated with exotic paraphernalia. In the city of Fronteras, Rio Dulce, they are painted in red, with flashy rooftops, Real Madrid or Barcelona stickers everywhere, and a loud sound system. People use them as taxis and each small town is full of them. Just be aware of checking prices before taking one; in Antigua they should charge 15 quetzal to take you anywhere in town, but I didn’t ask and I ended up paying Q20 (less than US$3). Other colorful and efficient way to travel in this country is the chicken bus (here they call them camionetas). They are old American school buses, too old to drive children to school in the US, but good enough to ride crowds of passengers everywhere around Guatemala. The Lonely Planet guide says once a school bus reaches 10 years or 100,000 miles it gets auctioned and then travels all the way through Mexico to Guatemala, where it gets a new motor, wider seats, and a complete tune up. Each bus becomes then unique with shiny chrome touch ups, religious phrases all over, new closer seats to fit more people, and women’s names on the front. I even found one called María José!!!!
The bus ticket is really cheap and you will be seating by women dressed in their traditional dresses (beautiful “cortes” and “huipiles”), children, babies, shopping bags, men, and teenagers in uniform going to school. I took several of these buses. One, from the bus station in Antigua. There was no building there, no ticket window, just a line of buses and drivers shouting their destinations. You ask anybody and they will direct you to the right vehicle. I paid Q3 each way to go to Parramos, a small town 25 min away. The way there was less crowded than the way back, but I ended up having nice conversations with the locals and I felt always safe. There are no particular bus stops. People seem to know where to wait for these buses and you just call them from the roadside as you would call a taxi. A friend of mine told me in the past there had been some shootings killing most passengers when the bus owners hadn’t paid the gangs, but everything I read or heard when I asked was that the situation was now under control. Well, I might not choose a chicken bus for a long distance trip. I’d rather pay a little more for a line bus, but I have no problems using them for short distance trips. I actually enjoy this ride very much. Finally, I need to describe the transportation I keep using the most: the “lancha” or motor boat. working as a volunteer in the area of Rio Dulce, the only way to access my school is by boat. When I have a morning off to go to town, I call Antonio, a man who leaves in the near village of Brisas, and he picks me up at the school peer. His boat is always full of people. Many women go with their small kids, as they did in the chicken bus. The motor boat is not very fast, and it takes forever to go each way, but for 10 quetzal, a little bit over one US dollar, not only you get your way to Fronteras, but you also enjoy a pleasant boat ride on this beautiful river. Just one note, wear a raincoat in case of rain and a hat when it is sunny. With no roof nor canvas over your head, you are always exposed to weather conditions when you take the lancha.