A chicken bus (Spanish: “camioneta”) is a colloquial English name for a colorful modified and decorated US school bus and transit bus that transports goods and people between communities in Honduras and Guatemala. The word “chicken” refers to the fact that rural Guatemalans occasionally transport live animals on such buses, a practice that visitors from other countries often find remarkable. The buses are also commonly used in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panama, and Costa Rica.
Often two young men will partner in the operation of a bus, one of whom will have his license, while the other dubs himself the ayudante or “helper”. The ayudante is responsible for heckling passengers aboard, collecting money, and organizing the luggage, livestock, produce, etc. onto the roof of the bus — often while in motion. In Guatemala this helper is also known as the “brocha” (brush), referring to the fact that this person prompts people to get inside the bus (brushes them in) by shouting the destinations the bus is reaching.
Each bus is painted vibrantly with its name and permanent route. Buses are stuffed with passengers (whenever possible) and then hard-driven to their destinations at top speed.