Driving in Guatemala-Akin To Being In a Really Bad Video Game
I’ve been in Guatemala now for just a little over 3 years. It’s a place I call home. It is, by far, the quirkiest and most amazing place I’ve ever been to in my life.
The little lake town I live in is pretty and sweet, but also small, dirty and cluttered. The people are warm and friendly. The landscape includes 3 volcanoes towering over one of the most beautiful lakes in the world, and magnificent mountains.
Yup. It’s amazing here. But it doesn’t come without its struggles. Like driving around town.
I was reading a hilarious article this morning from Bebe Nicholson about driving in Atlanta and laughed my bum off. Here it is and you should definitely check it out.
Some Do’s And Don’ts For Driving In Atlanta
If you’re coming to Atlanta, you’ll want to fit in with other drivers and not immediately be pegged as an outsider, so…
So I thought I’d take (a gentler word for steal) her idea and give you some insights as to what it’s like driving around in my small quaint town of Guatemala.
I didn’t actually start driving here until June of this year when I got my first scooter! I already knew the traffic was somewhat chaotic but when you actually become a driver on the road, chaos takes on a whole new meaning.
Buckle up and hang on for the ride:
Speaking of buckling up, you don’t really have to. No one does. In fact I’m not really sure the vehicles have seat belts or if anyone knows what they’re for. Motorcycles often have up to 4 people and a dog on them at one time. #truestory
Pickup trucks which is another means of transportation can hold up to 25 people in the back. This number could be higher. I should try to count one day.
So ya, neither seat belts or safety are mandatory, necessary or even heard of. Now let’s get to the driving around part.
- Dogs, roosters, chickens and other critters run around the streets. Many just dart out on the road without looking (kinda like me when I’m walking). Slamming on your breaks, beeping and carefully maneuvering your vehicle around them can be effective in not hitting them. Not 100% of the time, but close enough.
- Chicken buses rule the road. Period. They will ride up your ass, honk at you until you’re deaf, pass you (even on corners) and do whatever else is necessary for you to get out of their way. Use caution always and keep a mouthful of expletives ready.
- Motorcycles, scooters and bicycles are plentiful here. They will cut you off, slam into you (this happened to me once), also beep, yell and swear at you and side swipe you if you are in their way or not driving fast enough. Stay to the right if you can’t keep up (though if you do that then you’re dodging dogs, chicken food carts, wheelbarrows full of God knows what…you really can’t win here).
- Signalling is never necessary. Beeping is mandatory. Learn to swerve in and out of traffic like a squirrel on acid looking for nuts. Dodge the dog, watch the chicken cart, oh shit did that pickup truck with 30 people in the back just slam on his brakes, wtf is this tourist van doing and for the love of God, will you just drive!!!
- And we can’t forget the potholes. Drive fast, slow down, swerve, watch the hole, watch the fruit stand on the side, oh shit there’s a dog in the way and don’t hit those kids!!! These are much worse when you are traveling from one town to the next. There is no shortage of hairpin turns and you never know what to expect when you get around the corner. Hello chicken bus grill.
- Just as you’re sailing along smoothly a tourist van will pass you and blow disgusting toxic black thick exhaust fumes right in your face, blinding and choking you so you can longer see where you’re going, or breathe. Breathing is overrated anyway.
- Oh and let’s not forget the adorable little children who are playing with firecrackers and think it’s super fun to throw them on the streets when you’re driving by. Yup. Good times.
- During rainy season is when you can expect the best driving fun. Not only do you get to dodge all these absurd conditions mentioned above but throw in a mudslide too!! Wee!! Such fun!! Watch for fallen rock takes on a whole new meaning here 😮
In my 7 months of driving, I’ve only been hit once so far (yay Iva) swore a whole lot and have yet to hit anything, either moving or still. I’ve had more accidents walking then I have driving.
So if you’re planning a trip to my little town anytime soon, and you really should ’cause it’s super awesome, you now have an idea what traffic chaos is like here.
Peace and Love
ox iva xo