Trips from Hell: bus rides in Central America
Bus rides in Central America can be challenging. There is no end to how uncomfortable they can be. Although I must admit they can also be a lot of fun, as one gets to meet other backpackers, share tips and stories.
Getting to Copan Ruinas, Honduras, from Flores, Guatemala, was a really long trip that tested my spirit for adventure, my patience not to mention my physical and mental fitness! It started at 4:30 am, when a cab drove me to the bus station in Santa Elena, which is really just next to Flores. Then I boarded a Fuente del Norte Bus going to Chiquimula. It was predicted that the bus would take 8 hours. I think it easily took 10. Fuente del Norte is a national company, similar to Viazul in Cuba, with the difference that it is widely used by Guatemalans, so it really is cheap. Compared to it, Viazul buses are like first class. I was sitting in a tiny spot, it was loud, dirty, crowded, rotten, I am pretty sure the seats had fleas, and it was hot as hell, not to mention the fact that the driver would stop every now and then to let vendors in, so I got to see a lady selling “chicharrones”, a boy selling water, another candies, a man who predicated something and then tried to sell pamphlets and another who sold who knows what.
By 10 am the bus had a flat tire. It did not occur to the driver that since it was crazy hot he may let passengers out to go in the shade a bit, while he changed the tire. No. He left us on the bus, under the sun. I thought I would go crazy from that heat.
After many more stops, I finally made it to Chiquimula, where as soon as I got off the bus I boarded another one going to El Florido, which is the border with Honduras. The bus could fit some 20 person but I promise there were at least 15 more: they even had extra seats in the corridor. And it kept stopping to let people on and off. There is no proper stops, so when people need to get off, they just call the driver. The problem is that they kept wanting off, every 10 meters! So I was wondering how on earth it would not occur to them to just walk those 10 meters and it would have been much faster. Nevermind! I was just worried that I was not going to make to the border in time to cross (they close here!), and would be stuck who knows where. So at some point I started calling from the rear of the bus asking if it was actually going to El Florido/La Frontera, and they said it was, but it took forever.
I eventually made it there, crossed the border surrounded by people who wanted to change my Quetzales in Lempiras, had to pay a fee to leave Guatemala and one to enter Honduras (a total of 4 dollars) and that was it – although the border control in Honduras did not have change and had to go around ask for it. When I was finally done, I started my way towards the bus stop, but I guess by then I looked so tired as a guy from France stopped me and offered me a ride on his van, he was actually going to my same hostel. At least, I did not have to take another bus from hell!
I then left Copan Ruinas, thinking this time I would travel first class and pay a little extra cash. Apparently there is no such thing in Central America. I spent 18 hours on a tiny bus. It had air conditioning and free wifi, but in order to fit more people, the bus company removed the original seats and in their place put smaller ones, so instead of 15 passengers they could carry 20. It was crazy uncomfortable. But the best part is that to go from Honduras to Nicaragua we actually crossed into Guatemala, then El Salvador, then back to Honduras and finally Nicaragua.
You can surely imagine how happy I was when I made it to my hostel in Leon.