One of the most popular means of travel for the farmers is the Chicken Bus, called so because it is very common for farmers to bring chickens to market holding them on their laps. I have seen pigs, ducks, and goats also on the buses. Most of the buses began their transporation careers carrying North American children to school everyday....for about 20 years or so. Once the North American school districts decide that the buses are no longer practical, they are brokered out and sent to Central Armerica for another 20 years of use! Only first, if you are truly in the culture, you the bus owner will name the bus and put the name on the side or on the windshield in metallic letters....Many of the buses have Biblical message emblazed on them ....I guess to encourage you to ride in faith. It appears that the drivers do their own mechanical work and tire tread never seems to be a concern. Often there will be a young boy hanging out the folding door to wave your vehicle to the side so his bus, which happens to be passing another vehicle at that point, will have room to avoid colliding with you!
I took the local bus to Chichicastenango - a fantastic experience. I was the only Gringo (white man) in the bus, and I was squesed in between some indians. Everyone was going to the biggest indian market in Guatemala, and many of them brought big bags and boxes with stuff they were going to sell there. It was not at all comfortable sitting in the bus, it was very warm and the trip took 1-2 hours on the bad bumpy Guatemalan roads - but still I had a great time talking to the local indians. They were very interested to hear about Denmark, and they had a very good sence of humor.
You can take a local bus or a tourist van to get to ChiChi. We came in from Lake Atitlan and by van, it only took about an hour. It's more like 2 or 3 hours from Guatemala City. The mountainous roads rising up through the Western Highlands of Guatemala are a bit harrowing, but make for an interesting ride.
There are plenty of chicken buses leading to Chichicastenango so there is no need to pay more for the epensive tourist vans. Just ask around the bus terminals and someone will take you there or at least tell you which bus is the correct one.
The easiest way to go to Chichicastenango is to book a minibus from Panajachel, one of the bigger villages at the Lago de Atitlan. It takes about 40 minutes to get there and they will wait for you at the market to bring you back.
I was staying in Antigua, Guatemala, for a week and on Sunday took a mini bus shuttle to Chichicastenango to visit the market. The cost of $16US was very reasonable but the trip was long and ardorous. I spent a total of seven hours (round trip) crammed into the back of the crowded bus with my knees pressed against the seat in front of me and rubbing elbows with the person on either side.
The road took us by cornfields, small villages, and pine forests. More than once during the 108 km. we had to stop for road construction. The final leg of the trip into Chichicastenango was over twisting mountain roads with uneven pavement and hairpin turns. It was a very interesting journey.
I loved taking public transport in Guatemala. It was always an adventure and you are never sure when, whether, and how will you get where you are headed. Here is how my transport from and to San Pedro to Chichi went - all in one day:
In the morning I took the chicken bus to las Encuentros (2 hours - US$2). There I got on cramped collectivo with people hanging on the outside (30 minutes - US $0.50). On the way back, I took a collectivo that broke down half way (15 minutes - US$0.25 - I got 25 cents back). Then I walked a little and then took the next chicken bus (10 min - US$0.25) to Las Encuentros. There I waited a little longer - but it was fun watchin the scene and what they pile on the chicken buses. Then I hopped on the chicken bus to San Pedro - but the wrong one. Got off at KM 148 (45 minutes US $1). On KM 138 got on another chicken bus to the correct San Pedro (1hr 15min - US$1). Got back to San Pedro in the evening - spent the night relaxing on the hammock....:-)
It´s possible to get shuttle buses to Chichi on market days from Antigua or the city ($20.00). Or you can use the local buses, every 30 minutes to the city or Santa Cruz del Quiche.