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Bus to Flores Guatemala

Crowded Bus from Rio Dulce to Flores Guatemala At one PM I boarded a bus from Rio Dulce bound for Flores — one tick away from Mexico. One minute later I realized that I would be riding this bus for three hours without a seat, crammed in between other unfortunate passengers without seats, resting my [...]

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Crowded Bus from Rio Dulce to Flores Guatemala

At one PM I boarded a bus from Rio Dulce bound for Flores — one tick away from Mexico. One minute later I realized that I would be riding this bus for three hours without a seat, crammed in between other unfortunate passengers without seats, resting my rump on the shoulders of the fortunates who got on the bus in time to take a proper place. I paid full price for my ticket — 60 Q — but every seat on the bus was taken, and even the aisle was filling up fast with passengers who paid for seats they would not receive. Fuente del Norte bus lines obviously does not stop selling tickets when the bus is full. Anybody can take the ride, if they pay the price — seating capacity means little.

This is normal for world travel.

The below photo is the true reality of world travel

crowded bus

Crowded bus from Rio Dulce to Flores Guatemala

I entered this bus with my wife and baby directly behind me, the conductor instructed us to put our backpacks in a pile of other backpacks that were sitting in one of the front seats rather than stowing them below the bus. No problem, I would rather ride where I could potentially see my bags. So we tossed our rucksacks onto a stack of other luggage. As the other travelers filed un behind us, there soon grew a towering pile of backpacks in this seat.

I did not stand around to watch it grow. The bus was crowded, I scrambled to find a seat. I walked to the rear of the bus with a long train of people following me. I was quickly met by a crowd walking down the aisle back in my direction. I was sandwiched, there were no seats left unoccupied, only around 15 people milling about the aisle hoping that some seat on the bus would magically present itself for the presence of their buttocks alone.

There was no such seat, and, in reality, we all knew it. We all had to accept the fact that we would be rinding “no-seat.”

I had no idea what happened to my wife and baby. They were not behind me. I crane my body over some seats to look for my family. They were sitting snug in the front seat of the bus opposite the towering stack of backpacks.

I fought my way to meet them. I took a seat leaning against the backpacks. The conductor tried to remove me from my vantage point. I refused to move — I found a seat of sorts, even through it was just an arm rest. I knew that the backpacks would not complain of my intrusion, though a real human probably would. The conductor tried to move me again. Again, I refused. I found the best seat in the house next to a real seat.

“I am staying here with my family,” I said with finality. He left me alone.

A trick of travel is that you don’t always need to listen to people when they tell you what to do, the old stone face still works wonders.

“How did you get this seat?” I finally asked my wife.

“The bus guy made the person that was sitting here move.”

Open roads for mothers with babies.

Fat lady selling food on bus

Fat lady selling food on bus to Flores

food seller guatemala bus

Food vendor on a Guatemalan bus

Just when we thought we were at full capacity . . .

Everything went well on this “no-seat” journey until the bus pulled up to a stop and two rather large women with baskets of food on their heads waved to the driver and ran over to the bus. They boarded.

At this point there was nowhere to move on this bus, the entire aisle and the front landing area were packed full of passengers. But the two fat women squeezed on anyway. It must be said that they were wide enough to have difficulty fitting through on a normally occupied bus, not to mention this one that was filled to overflowing. They were going to try to sell their food and they were not going to do so by passing it through the windows.

They plowed everyone.

Bodies where thrust this way, bodies were squished that way, as the large women used their bulk to clear a path.

It is amazing how pliable the human animal can become when riding a crowded bus.

Crowded buses and world travel

If you cannot take being wedged into a crowded bus aisle for hours on end then traveling may not be the occupation for you. Riding “no-seat” on a bus is one of the arts of travel. The art, in my opinion, comes in not getting upset about standing in the aisle of an oversold bus — it is often to be expected. Travel teaches nothing if not sensory tolerence — lack of comfort is less important than getting there.

This is a part of travel — on a bus you may get a seat or you may have to stand, the majority of bus companies on the planet do not seem to pull the plug on ticket sales when all of the seats are taken. One more can always be squeezed on — somewhere — this is the maxim of ground transportation for most of the planet.

How to ensure you get a seat on a crowded bus

Riding bus to flores

Riding in a seat on a crowded bus

Other than being a mother carrying a baby there is only a few other ways that I know of to ensure that you can get a seat on a crowded bus.

  1. Get on the bus at the beginning of the line – the farther you are away from the place the bus originates in the better the chance that you will not get a seat.
  2. Pay extra money to ride with a first class bus company who does not over book thier buses.
  3. Travel only in countries who don’t have the custom of sardining people in on buses, taxis, or trains. This leaves out at least 60% of the countries in the world.
  4. Try to get on a bus that is not leaving at a peak time. Ask at the bus ticket office when the buses are the least crowded.

Though in the end, the only advice I can shed here is just to deal with crowded buses. I make no preparations to try to ensure that I get a seat. I don’t care this much — travel is about seeing life from the ground, it is difficult to get much closer to the people whose country you are traveling through than when their arms, legs, and bodies are strewn all over you in a literal menagerie of physical humanity.


Filed under: Bus Travel, Central America, Danger, Guatemala, Transportation

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3691 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Trenton, Maine

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  • Caitlin September 1, 2010, 7:57 am

    The other day in Mexico City this old man screamed at the bus driver: “DRIVE MORE CAREFULLY, WE’RE HUMAN BEINGS, NOT CATTLE.”

    Mexico City is not exempt from the crowded bus phenomenon.

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    • Wade | Vagabond Journey.com September 1, 2010, 10:19 am

      That is awesome. It has always seemed to me as if the locals are so immune to being packed into buses like cattle that they hardly even notice anymore. It is good to see that the human adverse reaction to being packed is still alive haha.

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