All you need to know about Iberian America

Transportation Issues in Latin America

Published October 4, 2020 in Personal Stories & Opinions - 0 Comments

Here is another issue you will likely come across while traveling around Latin America.

“Transportation.”

In my experience, transportation can have a lot of issues when moving around Latin America.

But to a degree some issues are probably more common in some countries more than others.

Here I will break down the most common things that come to mind when it comes to talking about transportation in Latin America.

We will focus on 16 issues with transportation down here that came to mind and one positive to all of it at the end to finish on a positive note.

If you have anything that comes to mind when it comes to this topic that wasn’t mentioned here..

Or want to expand on one of the things mentioned below…

Just drop it in the comments.

Thanks.

So let’s begin.

Issue 1: How to Save Money

Back when I was living in Colombia…

I had to take a flight from Barranquilla to Bogota.

My girlfriend at the time had to be in Bogota for a week for whatever reason – I think it was to get a visa for some country she was going to travel to but I forgot.

Anyway, she had to go to Bogota and I figured I might as well go with her because I wanted to know Bogota and seemed like a fun trip.

So I start looking for flights on typical sites we use in the US.

And when I brought up the prices to my girlfriend at the time..

She mentioned how those flight prices are insanely expense compared to what she was seeing.

In short, the flights I was seeing were maybe like 200 to 300 bucks when the flight she saw were maybe 50 bucks more or less.

I don’t remember the exact numbers but the idea is the same – the flights I saw were around 5 times more expensive than what she was seeing.

But she, being Colombian, was looking at the website Avianca and the prices they have on their website.

Which their website assumed she was Colombian and was giving her much cheaper prices.

But websites like Orbitz were giving me prices much higher.

So I booked a flight using what she was doing and saved like 200 bucks more or less.

I’m not sure if this happens in other Latin American countries but it is worth checking out.

Issue 2: Mountains & Busses

One time when taking a bus in Guatemala…

The bus was having difficulty getting through the mountain..

It got to a point where it had to reverse and move forward and repeat the process.

That wasn’t uncommon in Guatemala.

And maybe isn’t so notable but to a guy from Iowa where we don’t have mountains it was.

Worried the buss would fall off the mountain.

But that is actually a common issue in some countries down here.

The more mountainous ones anyway.

Like described in this article here when I was traveling through Peru…

And the driver was obviously driving recklessly and way over the speed limit.

And you can see videos like this one here..

Where one mistake in a bus on a mountain in countries like Peru or Bolivia can mean death easily.

Given how high up everything is and how bad the fall would be from the mountain you are on.

Again, for someone from Iowa, the drop you see from outside your bus window looks pretty intimidating.

Even more so when regular traffic rules are not followed, infrastructure is bad and you see videos like this one…

Issue 3: Pick Pockets

Just remember to watch your belongings well when on a bus or using public transportation.

Because it’s not uncommon for this to happen.

Especially in the Mexico City Metro where apparently it happens often from what I have been told.

Though I have never been pick pocketed in my 5 years so far in Latin America or anywhere down here.

But it does happen so just be watchful of your stuff.

On the metro in Mexico City, it can be easy to be in a situation where you are squished among a shit ton of people and find it easy to forget your belongings.

So remember that.

Issue 4: Technical Issues

It’s not uncommon for public transportation to have technical issues either.

In Mexico City, the metro fucking up isn’t uncommon.

Where you are on the metro and it simply stops and doesn’t go on for 5 minutes or so..

And then goes on again for a few seconds and stops again.

One piece of advice for this…

Have patience.

 And also hold onto something in case the metro makes an abrupt stop and you could fall down.

Not just on the metro but can happen on busses too.

And transportation through a city can be interrupted in other ways.

Like if your city in Latin America has flash floods and some cities have those more than others..

Like Barranquilla, Colombia.

So keep that in mind.

Issue 5: Bus Breaks Down

This is probably a pretty rare issue…

But it happened to me once in Peru!

As you can read about here.

Where basically the bus I took literally broke down..

And we had to wait hours for the next one to stop by.

So keep in mind shit doesn’t work down here properly all the time.

Issue 6: Beggers

On a chicken bus in Guatemala…

You see someone begging for money or selling some random shit like chocolate or whatever…

To the metro in Mexico City where someone is begging for money.

Pretty common in the metro – beggers and people selling shit.

Or just straight up intimidating people.

I remember a few years ago with an ex of mine we were in the metro of Mexico City sitting down…

And some random dude from Ecuador was intimidating people to give him money and some old lady basically stood up and told him to fuck off.

And so he did.

Nobody is tough enough against the Abuela with her Chancla.

Not even barrio motherfuckers from Ecuador.

When you fuck with the Abuela, oh you fuckin wit the chancla too, bitch.

Well, that’s an aspect of transportation down here..

Begging, selling random shit and intimidation sometimes…

And…

Issue 7: Robbery

Granted, I’ve never had anyone rob me on the metro or anywhere in public transportation.

But living in Mexico…

You hear the occasional story of some dude pulling a gun on people in a combi in the State of Mexico..

Combis, for those who don’t know, are basically white vans that have very specific paths they go down taking people along the way.

So you get stories every once in a while of someone pulling a gun and demanding people give him their shit.

Here’s a funny video anyway of one of these retards getting the shit kicked out of him by the locals who just had enough.

Issue 8: Hijacking

Outside of stealing from people on combis…

You also have the issue of sometimes folks fucking with busses that drive around.

Especially at night from what I have heard.

Where they might hijack a bus and/or steal from people on the bus similar to a combi.

Or of those driving around in their vehicle.

Here’s a video on that.

Issue 9: Getting Lost on Combis

Going back to combis for a second…

I remember when I was in Guatemala years ago…

And took their version of a combi.

Now I forgot what they call them – maybe combi also but I don’t remember.

Anyway, I assumed that the combi just goes wherever I want in the city.

You get in, tell them where you going and that’s it.

Was I wrong…

I was new to Latin America at the time and didn’t know they went to specific areas.

Well, I keep on waiting and waiting…

And the combi driver eventually leaves Xela basically (the city I was staying in)…

And drove to some random rural area dropping people off in rural areas outside the city.

And given my Spanish as weak in those days..

I tried to put together the question “we going to x…”

X being the neighborhood I was living in…

And the driver responded “que?!?”

With an older woman – in her 60s or so – clearly catching onto the fact we got this young foreign guy who is lost and took the wrong combi.

She asks me where I am going and I start to realize I might have fucked up.

Well, I tell her and when she gets off her stop..

There isn’t anyone left in the combi actually and she gives the driver some extra change and asks him to take me to where I need to go.

That was very nice of her obviously or else my young ass at the time would have been wondering around Guatemala thinking where the fuck am I…

So that was that – I got home and all good.

But don’t make the same mistake I did – know that combis have specific routes obviously.

Issue 10: Sexual Assault

Though I don’t know anyone who has been sexually assaulted in public transportation down here..

I have read it apparently happens often enough.

And almost always to women.

I was reading on Facebook a few months ago..

Where a woman on a Facebook group in Mexico wrote her entire story of getting an unwanted advance from some random dude on the metro in Mexico City..

I didn’t know this woman personally and she was Mexican herself..

And her story was basically that she was on the metro during the night…

When apparently this Mexican dude, who she took a photo of, was masturbating.

While staring at her.

And from the photos she provided…

Yeah, it looked a bit strange this motherfucker.

Well, she told the police about it as he got off the stop that she did.

And they held him up.

Then they told her that it would be difficult to do anything legally against him.

Since the photos she had didn’t actually show his dick out of his pants.

But that they could kick his ass for her if she wants.

And so off they went to kick his ass!

That, by the way, shows how informal things can be down here but that’s another topic for another day.

Supposedly they kicked his ass and that was the end of it.

But either way, just keep in mind that sexual assault or unwanted advances like that could happen.

As apparently it does often.

Issue 11: Criminal Taxi Drivers

Speaking of crime down here..

One issue that apparently hits people are bad taxi drivers.

Back when I was living in Bolivia…

We had informal taxi drivers and formal ones.

Where informal ones were just random dudes who spray painted TAXI on their taxi and drove around picking people up.

They had a bad reputation for more commonly doing illegal things to the people they picked up but I never had issue with them.

And in Mexico City, you hear similar things of taxi drivers robbing people, raping chicks, etc.

Which might explain, in part, why Uber is more popular these days.

So keep that in mind also.

Issue 12: Crap Infrastructure

People in the US love to complain about the public roads and such…

And in my hometown, we had to close up a bridge from what I remember some time ago due to safety issues.

Truth be told, that same bridge would probably pass safety inspections down here in counters like Nicaragua or wherever.

As mentioned before in this article…

Public roads, bridges and general infrastructure are just not as good here.

So that’s another issue.

Issue 13: Driving Scams

It’s also not uncommon for other drivers down here in some parts to try and fuck other drivers over in scams.

As you can watch yourself.

Driving scams in general, given the lack of proper law enforcement, can be more common down here.

So if you are driving yourself, just keep that in mind.

Issue 14: Bribes

I remember back when I was around Spain..

I met another American dude who had spent time in Mexico.

And this was before I moved to Mexico as well.

I told him about my plans to move to Mexico and he told me about his time there.

One thing he noticed often – being a Mexican-American actually – was the amount of bribes he had to pay when driving a vehicle across the border near Northern Mexico from the US to Mexico.

And then going along and having more cops getting him for bribes.

And that’s not an uncommon story – of people having to pay bribes for stuff down here while driving.

I never had a vehicle down here so I can’t speak from personal experience on this particular topic.

But I always assumed that bribes were more common among folks who drove than walk.

Just seems like common sense to me since driving probably exposes you to more shit like that.

And who else would you have to bribe?

Issue 15: Bribing the Parking Person

Another issue you will find down here is having to bribe the parking person.

This isn’t true everywhere in Latin America.

But I was first exposed to it in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

It apparently happens in Chile also from what  I heard.

And I have seen it happen in Mexico City.

Basically you want to park your vehicle in a certain area of the city.

You park..

And someone wants money from you for parking there.

And what you pay depends on the street you are on (how popular it is) and your type of vehicle (how nice it is).

If you don’t pay something, your car might get keyed.

That’s the basics of it.

Issue 16: Fuck Traffic Laws

As you can see here in this video of this American dude driving by Tijuana…

When road conditions are not great.

Or when it can be challenging for Americans to drive in Latin America when it might seem traffic laws are not as common down here.

When they are!

It just seems like most people don’t really care about them.

But this was more notable when I was living in Barranquilla, Colombia…

Where taxi drivers would literally honk their cars when going past a stop sign or a red light…

Basically to tell others “FUCK YOU I AIN’T STOPPING!!!”

Now imagine if two people did that at the same time with similar egos..

Might cause an accident….

Funny enough…

People think of Colombia and think the ghost of Pablo Escobar and the narcos will kill them.

But when I was in Colombia…

Every time I got into a taxi…

I would think to myself…

“Is this the day I die….?”

Because driving was so bad in Barranquilla that you could never trust a taxi driver to drive normally.

And that happens elsewhere in some parts of Latin America also but not everywhere.

Either way, another issue to know about…

Positive Note: Cheap

To end everything on a positive note…

One thing I will say about transportation in Latin America…

Is that it is much cheaper than transportation in the US.

Where in many places you don’t need it to get around as the city might be walkable.

And/or the transportation is cheap anyway.

So that’s nice!

Anyway, if you got a comment or a question…

Leave it below in the comment section.

And follow my Twitter here.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Matt

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