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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

The Bus Trip to El Salvador

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

We neither own a vehicle nor rent one on our travels. We prefer to take public transport and below we will show you a sample variety that we take on our travels, this journey from Panajachel, Lake Atitlan, Guatemala to El Tunco, El Salvador and back to Antigua, Guatemala.

In Panajachel we got up early to begin our trip to El Salvador and grabbed a tuk-tuk at the end of the callejon where our hotel is located. For 5 Quetzales per person (about $0.63USD) we were taken to the Santiago dock where we boarded our water transport.

A launch on the lake

A launch on the lake

It was a glorious Lake Atitlan morning with the sun shining and the lake was smooth as glass. As soon as we arrived on the dock, we each paid our 25Q (about $3USD) and boarded the launch. No sooner did we get our seats and the boat took off directly across the lake.

 

Half an hour later, we arrive in Santiago where we walked up steep hills to where we would catch our next mode of transport, a chicken bus.

Akaisha on a seat that sits 2 people comfortably

Akaisha on a seat that sits 2 people comfortably

Our next stop is Esquintla, Guatemala and it's just under 2 hours to get there by bus. We each paid our 60Q for this hair-raising trip (about $7.50USD) and it's a good thing we got on when we did. Passengers piled on at every stop.

Guatemalan spirituals were blaring on the speakers

Guatemalan spirituals were blaring on the speakers

At first our driver was going like a bat out of Hades and for some reason liked to speed up on turns and slow down on the straight-aways. Guatemalan spirituals were blaring and soon we had 3 people to every seat and some passengers were standing in the aisles.

Our hotel in Esquintla

Our hotel in Esquintla

At about noon or so we arrive in Esquintla which is our first stop on this trip. We leave the bus and there are helpers everywhere on the street directing us to the taxis who take us to our hotel - only a few blocks away - for a total oof 20Q for 3 passengers.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day, so we decide to take it easy here at La Villa Hotel which charges 207Q for a double (about $26USD) and 150Q ($19USD) for a single.

We grab something from our packs to eat, and head off to the swimming pool for a dip.

The afternoon passes pleasantly, a few beers and dinner later at the hotel's restaurant, we call it an early night.

Buses becoming more crowded and I have a "1-cheeker seat"

Buses becoming more crowded and I have a "1-cheeker seat"

The next morning we grab some more travel food from our packs, and take a 2Q bus to the bus terminal which was just a gas station where we board another bus. We pay 60Q each to reach the border of El Salvador from Esquintla. This bus already had passengers from other destinations, and we were lucky to get what we call "1-cheeker seats" which means the seat is built for 2 people, but they like to put 3 people on them. This leaves you about 4-6inches to put only one of your cheeks on a seat and you spend your whole time just hanging on for dear life when the driver takes turns.

This is not comfortable and it's a toss up between which is more preferable: standing or sitting on a partial seat.

Clown on board

Clown on board

To make the situation even more interesting, we have a variety of vendors and entertainers who board our bus, and, for the most part want a few of your Quetzales for their trouble.

This clown did a comedy routine and had his daughter shout out English phrases as a wonder of the world. There were acne cream salesmen who smeared cream all over their faces, and sterilizing creams they rubbed on their hands to represent an athlete's foot.

Let's not forget the man who felt compelled to read from his Bible (prounounced BEE-blay) to save our souls. After an hour sermon where we were told about earthquakes that would strike, he decided to sing a hymn. He was surprisingly on tune, and gave a shudder of ecstasy when he finished. He told us he didn't want any money and thanked us for our time.

Mini-van to the border

Mini-van to the border

After almost 2 hours of bouncing around on a partial seat, we make it to the location where we must board a mini-van which will take us directly to the border. This mini-van was included in the 60Q price we paid previously.

Now one would think that the mini-van would be comfortable after the exciting bus drive earlier, but this, too, is packed with passengers. I grab the first seat available which fortunately for me, is up by the driver. Billy has a seat with no room for his legs due to packs and packages everywhere, and our traveling companion sits on the motor cover. It's 80+ degrees already and the heat from the motor, alas, cooks him further.

Three wheeled bicycle takes us from the bus to the border

Three wheeled bicycle takes us from the bus to the border

About a half an hour of this mini-van ride and we make it to where we must either walk the kilometer to the border or take one of these pedi-cabs for 5Q a person. These are far more comfortable than anything we have ridden yet this morning, with at least a breeze blowing by and having our own seats.

Hot, humid weather greets us in the pedicab

Hot, humid weather greets us in the pedicab

This is a comparative joy but it doesn't last long - and I'm happy for the bicycle driver. He had to push us both plus our gear the full kilometer for us to get stamped out of Guatemala. We catch another pedicab on the El Salvador side and make the ride for $1USD per person to get registered into this country. (El Salvador uses US currency.)

A 6 seater mini-van

A 6 seater mini-van

After our week of beach bliss in El Tunco, El Salvador, we decide to arrange for a comfortable min-van ride to Antigua, Guatemala. We pay twice the price ($30USD) per person to have our 6 seater van arrive 2 hours late.

28 seater mini-van

28 seater mini-van

 

Less than an hour of travel later, we board a 28 seater mini-van which will take us to Antigua, Guatemala, about 6 hours away. As we wrote in our 6 Hour Trip that Took 22 Hours we suffered from 3 flat tires that took hours to repair.

Packed mini-van at 11 PM

Packed mini-van at 11 PM

Tired, hot and frustrated, we waited in the van until the repairs allowed us to limp to a hotel where we spent the night, 3+ people to a room! But without working tires, we could not move forward to complete our trip.

We awoke at 5 AM the next morning and bleary-eyed, we crawled through the morning commute traffic in Guatemala City. At 9 AM we arrive safely in Antigua.

Our friend, Hernan, the taxi driver

Our friend, Hernan, the taxi driver

Disappointed with our "luxury" travel option to get us to Antigua, we debate on how to make it from this city the 3 hours it will take us to get back to Panajachel, Lake Atitlan.

We discuss going back to the Chicken Buses, trying our luck with another mini-van service or possibly taking a cab. While walking through town and mulling over our options, who do we see, but our old friend Hernan who was our taxi driver when Akaisha injured her finger!

This seemed like a positive omen because Hernan is reliable, he certainly has good tires and in the 25 years he has been driving a taxi, he has never had an accident. We take his card once again, and the next day we make arrangements to have him pick us up and drive us back to our little lakeside town.

The Pan American Highway

The Pan American Highway

The morning we decided to leave Antigua we had a wonderful breakfast at a neighboring restaurant and go back to our hotel to finish packing and pay up our bill. We gave Hernan a call to say we were ready and by the time we opened the door of the hotel to the street, Hernan is pulling up in his taxi.

What a welcome face to see!

We put all our gear in the trunk of the car and get in to begin our journey. Hernan knows all the streets and the back roads to take and in two-and-a-half-hours we were safely back at our hotel in Panajachel.

For more stories about El Salvador, click here

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About the Authors
 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

Retire Early Lifestyle appeals to a different kind of person – the person who prizes their independence, values their time, and who doesn’t want to mindlessly follow the crowd.

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