Chicken buses in Central America are an essential mode of transportation for locals. What seems to be a complex and hectic way to get from place to place, is actually the most sensible. You can figure out the schedules by asking the locals and with a little bit of luck and research, it can be the best and easiest way to travel.
1. Find out the schedule and location: Bus stops aren’t always in the most likely places, it is best to do a little research on where you can catch a bus in the morning to a different city or border crossing. Ask a local or look online, buses usually run every hour to all the different locations.
2. Grab a seat: Chicken buses are always packed and they will squeeze every last person onto the bus, so make sure you grab a seat when they are available if you have a long bus journey.
3. Make sure you know your stop: There are frequent stops along the way between your departure and destination. Make sure you or someone you are with is paying attention to where you need to get off. They move quickly and you must exit the bus promptly if you do not want to miss your stop.
4. Have your money ready: There is always one guy that helps put the bags above the bus, tells people where to stand or sit when the bus is crowded and takes the money for the journey. Usually, he asks for the money midway through the bus ride if you are taking the bus to the final destination. However, if you get off at an earlier stop, they will ask you for it sooner. In Nicaragua, it usually costs between 20-30 Cordoba’s which is no more than $1! Also, women come on the bus from time to time with cookies, juice or pastries if you want a snack for the ride.
Tip: Try to have exact change and local currency in smaller bills. They do not always have change!
5. Be Courteous: There is no air conditioner on these buses and they tend to get warm if there is a lot of people. If you are fit and capable and you see a pregnant woman, a woman with a baby or an elderly person, offer them your seat. Hopefully, someone else will be getting off before you, allowing for another available seat. Others on the bus will be grateful and more willing to give you their seat in return! Also, make conversation with the locals, they have a lot of interesting advice on places to go and things to see. Plus you can work on your Spanish a little!