Life on a bus

Yesterday we had a picture of a trip to a post office from volunteers in El Salvador. Today, another volunteer in El Salvador, Laura, gives us her thoughts about Life on the Salvadoran Bus:
To give some background, there are two main types of busses. Big busses and little busses (microbusses). The big ones are mostly used school busses like I remember from grade school. The micros can be anything from smaller versions of the big bus or big vans. The micros are crazier and go faster. There is usually a driver and a person who jumps off at everystop and yells "CENTRO, CENTRO, SUBA SUBA, UNA CORDA, UNA CORDA" (Downtown, Downtown, get on, get on, a quarter, a quarter). The drivers tend to race each other and chase down customers, especially if they are the same number. Most are decorated with stickers or paint about God and Jesus or with women´s names. There are usually safety warnings and rules written in English. Sometimes there are bullet holes in the windows and they are usually dirty. Music on the busses can range from Ranchero to Reggaeton to American 80´s music. Sometimes they are so crowded that everyone is standing and some people are almost hanging out the door. Sometimes they are almost empty.(more)


expatwizard said…
Thanks again for the wonderful article on the buses. I am a long term resident who a while ago sold my auto, too old and expensive to maintain, so I take those buses everyday and did a lot during daytimes even when I had my car, insurance on used cars very expensive in Central America so few are insured, the only thing I miss is freedom to go out after dark, now rely on friends going out after dark in San Salvador or take a taxi only when necessary (late night). First time visitors to El Salvador/Central America be aware at crowded city bus stops ‘Paradas’ and also note that "dia del pago" is usually the 15th and 30th of the month, so theives are out in force on those days, especially the evening rush hours, never sport jewelry or fanny pack around the waist on public transport. Many young Salvadorians utilize their cell phones on the bus, not a good idea for the visitor, well over 100,000 cells get stolen every year in El Salvador, most on the crowded buses. Also if on a crowded bus don't speak loudly in English, attracts undue attention to yourself .

All this "stuff" easy for me..I'm a former New Yorker used to crowded public transport and also resided in Mexico City, former ‘chilango’ and Guatemala City former ‘capitalino’, but still all timesm, gotta use common sense and be aware at all times..”Life in The Tropics”..”Love it or Leave it”!

. Best time to ride San Salvador (or Guate City or Teguc or Managua) city buses 930AM-1130AM (Lunchtime 12-2PM many persons go home to eat or go shopping, run errands..mandados)and 2 to about 430PM weekdays, Saturdays after 1PM and Sundays pretty much all day, less service, though...Best city ..Interurbano.. Route in San Salvador 30B (55) Zona Rosa to Galerias to Metrocentro to San Luis CC, nice modern buses, crowded to or from Metrocentro Mall, worst route for robberies is the 44 Buses and Microbuses, from National University to Metrocentro to La UCA (Antiguo Cuscatlan) to Santa Elena US Embassy area...crowded, drivers often get percentage of "take" from gangs of theives and extorionists who work this route, early evenings, rush hours, the worst. I live here a long time folks, don't "argue", my best source Salvadorian friends who ride to and from work or school every day!

I work volunteer part time with project located in a 100% crime free, pollution free village in rural El Salvador..all are welcome to contact us and spend a day there….
Our project: (I am retired so I volunteer to "help to help" part time)

Local transportation to and from Cinquera provided from San Salvador or Suchitoto, Cinquera is a village, crime free, very hospitable people!
Cinquera is located “Well Off the Beaten Path”, short term volunteers now would need to stay in nearby colonial town of Suchitoto or in San Salvador until the hostal in Cinquera is constructed. Limited Bus service to Cinquera via Suchitoto, 1 bus each way per day, so local transportation, usually in pick up truck provided. After volunteering we are able to connect you with other humanitarian aid organizations throughout Central America and offer you tips on travelling cheaply and safely anywhere in the region. Travelling on a very low budget? Contact us and we shall connect you with the non profit "Hospitality" sites on line, whereby you may stay a day, a week or more in the homes of local members...many members now in El Salvador, Central/south America and worldwide. Helping to Help!

ARDM and the residents of Cinquera also planning to construct a Revolutionary War Museum to rival the one in Perquin as well a Butterfly Farm and exhibit and sale of crafts made with Añil dyes (Indigo), profits beyond expenses go back into the community. All visitors, national and international are required to pay for transportation, fuel costs, admission to rain forest and park and fees for native guides.

**Seeking short term volunteers residing in or traveling through Central America to El Salvador with 'very green' eco/historic tourism project..non profit cooperative – “Association for the Reconstruction and Municipal Development of Cinquera” ARDM
..Cinquera Cabañas El Salvador.."As well as eco tourism Cinquera boasts historical and cultural sites, the village was destroyed during the worst years of the civil conflict in El Salvador in the early 1980s and those residents who survived either hid out in the nearby caves (which are viewed on tour with trained uniformed guides from the community) of fled the country. After the peace accords of 1992 former residents began trickling back to Cinquera and in effect this small town was "reborn". Aside from the Rain Forest tour, there exist in Cinquera historical and cultural sites such as the Church, a building which stood alone and empty of worshipers throughout the armed conflict." The Uniformed native guides will escort you every step of the way through the rain forest, trails have been constructed.

ARDM and the residents of Cinquera organization is also planning to construct a Revolutionary War Museum to rival the one in Perquin as well a Butterfly Farm and exhibit and sale of crafts made with Añil dyes (Indigo), profits beyond expenses go back into the community. All visitors, national and international are required to pay for transportation, fuel costs, admission to rain forest and park and fees for native guides. The organization receives limited funding and low income natives are unable to support traveler stays, long or short term. Punto.

Volunteers and visitors alike expected to help with fuel costs for transportation, required to pay for their home stays or lodgings themselves in nearby Suchitoto or in San Salvador city.

E mail elsalvadorinfo at or marco at Subject = Cinquera
For more detailed information.

Le Esperamos con gusto....
Anonymous said…
Very interesting.A wizard of a traffic update and a travel advisory and a glimpse into a most fascinating street culture. Reading through the vivid description , it feels like Ive just taken a ride in those buses , have survived the paradas and have just dodged and outsmarted cellphone robbers till I finally arrive to a real tropical paradise.
Am I not sooo glad to reach that part of crime-free and pollution-free place ?
But guess what.El Salvador is not alone.The good and the bad , could happen in other cities anywhere in the world.We can rant or we can rave about it.There is not much anyone can do .It is the government that is supposed to govern these things so that peace and order will be maintained.Maybe traffic police should be strategically located as bus crime deterrent?

expatwizard said…
99% of the time nothing untoward happens..walking or taking the bus in El's that 1% like in just about any other country that one must be aware of..governments and laws (even when enforced) are able only to provide public security at a minimum level, a minority of the PNC (National Civilian Police) in El Salvador..and many other Latin American countries..are corrupt, a few rape and rob in marginal areas and many extort bribes, especially for traffic violations..again, human nature, as I was told by the women who worked in Immigration Offices in Warsaw, Poland in 1983.."They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work"...I was told one month to wait for visa extension..2 cartons of Marlboro, 2 Chanel No. 5's and a few Dollars later had my visa stamp in 15 minutes...human reason for the diaspora to the USA a good obrero (manual laborer)with skills can get up to $15 hour, send the bulk of money home and return someday to open a small business, basically in my street jargon (not an academic or intellectual)it sucks for a lot of young people here...I am working part time now with two projects helping to change that little by little, non-governmental, maybe one case at a time, like the 5 young Salvadorians a few months ago ready to pay the Coyotes (people smugglers)$6,000 EACH to smuggle them through Mexico (A hellish journey for Non-Mexicans)The project co-ordinator suggested strongly they take that $30,000 and start their own business, I gave a bit of asesoría (advice) and now they are sucessful, happy and making a go of it, not sleeping on a bed in a "Coyote House" up north...$250-300 month for rights to sleep on a bed 8 hours a day only.
No if we held our breath and waited for "Government" to help, and that applies to USA in my opinion we'd all be blue in the face. By the way, as in the USA, the leaders and congress people and candidates of both major political parties here in ES fiercly debate in public, but all have business interests, family and friendship ties, often intertwined in the background..human nature..human to err..and if you think I'm totally in error, well be "divine" and forgive.
Our projects moving ahead..all welcome to visit..notify me in advance of your arrival and I shall be happy to introduce you around..most Salvadorians are friendly and helpful and few walk around with ipods and blackberries, so we are still human here, not walking connectivity machines, and in the rural areas few have ever touched a computer.