Brave or Insane? This Woman Rode Local Buses in Colombia


Where’s the party at? Chivas in Colombia come with booze, music, and dancing! (Photo: Jacqui De Klerk)

The bride asked us to arrive at her house by 2 p.m., as transport was going to be provided to the wedding venue. 

We were all relaxing and talking in small groups, when suddenly the ground started to shake. In the distance I could hear a very deep bass and what I recognized as the beat to a popular reggaeton song. Before I blinked,  a huge colorful bus stopped outside. I was in awe,  and by the grin on the driver’s face, I clearly wasn’t the only one wearing a look of shock. I was about to take my first trip on a Colombian chiva!

Chivas are synonymous with Colombian culture, and have been a popular mode of mountainous transport since the early 20th century when two inventive engineers took a basic bus´ chassis and modified it to withstand the harsh terrain of the mountainous Andean region in Colombia.


Chivas are always painted red, blue, and yellow — the colors of Colombia.(Photo: Jacqui De Klerk)

There are a few things that make Chivas unique. First, passengers sit on wooden benches with doorways instead of windows, and on the top is a roof rack to carry more people, livestock, or merchandise. Instead of muted colors, chivas are always painted using the three colors of Colombia — red, blue and yellow — and each bus is decorated with intricate designs that distinguish one chiva from another. Most drivers will even give their bus a name. Nowadays, outside of the countryside, chivas have become more of a novelty than a practical mode of transport. 

The driver waved us over, and we all piled into the brightly painted vehicle and prepared for the ride.  This particular chiva was designed with a party in mind, so the benches were arranged with a space in the middle perfect for dancing. There was even a pole!

Riding in a chiva was unlike anything I have ever experienced, and I felt as if I had been snatched from reality and transported to secret Colombian world. A world that only locals get to see.

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Our chiva had an open space in the middle perfect for dancing. (Photo: Jacqui De Klerk)

 As it’s virtually impossible for Colombians to just sit still and tap their feet to music, up they jumped, (grannies included) out popped a bottle of aguardiente (very strong aniseed-flavoured alcohol made from sugarcane), and just like that the party was started at 2:30pm on the way to a wedding and without the bride and groom. 

Related: Don’t Be a Bus Hater: It’s Actually a Great Way to Travel

The entire trip lasted just 45 minutes, but by the time we arrived at the wedding, I was a little sweaty from dancing and ready to keep the party going. 

Thanks to this classic Colombian pastime, I got to experience a new side of a country that I love. Riding in a chiva was fun, and provided me with an unusual and rustic way to travel. 

I strongly recommend riding in a Chiva if you ever make it to Colombia. It’s a ride you’ll never forget. And if you go, save me a glass of aguardiente. 

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