Buying a Full Size School Bus, Are we Crazy?

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#1 Thu, 09/20/2012 - 16:33

Buying a Full Size School Bus, Are we Crazy?

We are a traveling family with a pile of children. We ready to hit the road. The cheapest option we have seen so far is buying a school bus and outfitting it for the road.


What are your thoughts? Should we stick with something smaller. Any smaller and we will mostly be staying in hotels and houses along the way. On the other hand we do want to explore and are afraid a bus will be too large. Any thoughts on crossing the Panama Ferry with a bus?


All thoughts are welcome.

Fri, 09/21/2012 - 10:27

sounds cool

I know of two other people traveling the Pan-American via school bus - one had a 'traveling hostel' setup (see this forum post - they were selling the bus) and one guy brought all of his stuff down to Panama in a school bus (while also towing an airplane fuselage behind). So no, you're not crazy, some people have done this before.  Lots of people travel by bus in Latin America, and in some places (Guatemala and Panama City for sure) retired US school buses are one of the primary modes of transporation.  So people are familiar with US school buses down there as well.  

Wanted to ask a question though - what do you mean by crossing the Panama Ferry?  Anyone can drive across the Panama Canal - there is a huge bridge.  However, there is no road connecting Panama to Colombia, so at some point if you want to get your bus from Central to South America you will have to put the bus on a boat.  There is no 'ferry' - you have to ship the vehicle on some kind of shipping boat and then get yourselves there separately, either by a different boat or by plane.  We have lots of info on shipping and how to cross the Darien Gap.  Hope this is helpful. 

Fri, 09/21/2012 - 12:56 (Reply to #2)

Thank you!

Thanks for the encouragement and great site suggestions. Now we will have to decide between the advantange of more room and the advantage of great parking and narrow streets. Really appreciate the info on crossing by boat.

Tue, 09/25/2012 - 10:03

School Bus

When I was a kid my parents bought a "short bus" it was really a Chevy Carry All but it was bright yellow and we traveled all over mexico it.  We use to get flagged down by people thinking we were a regular bus, until they painted it blue.  Good luck!

Sat, 10/06/2012 - 12:37

bluebird school bus

the  famous bluebird from my school days in Canada are everywhere! THEY are the local transport in cent am.Thus they fit on the roads.

some thoughts:

  1. gas will cost you
  2. parts should be readily available
  3. you will be constantly flagged by locals for a ride (interesting no doubt,  and a great opportunity to 'commune with the locals')
  4. a  Guatemalan paint job would be super cool on your bus
  5. A French-Canadian family in a bus( we met in Belize, spring 2012) got 'profiled'  as hippies  while trying  to cross the CDN/US border and were sent back to prove that they would not become 'lost' in the USA.  To wit they had to have a lawyer draft a bunch of documents not withstanding showing the two deeds to their two properties indicating a) they are NOT destitute and b) they are going home eventually.  time and money!
  6. shipping from Panama-Cartagena  will likely be by RoRo ferry and might be costly based on m2.  You will need to find a way to lock up your stuff or cage off the living area of the bus
Tue, 10/16/2012 - 08:16

Not crazy at all

Although you may want to forget about the ferry from Panama to Colombia...probably never going to happen.  If you haven't heard, that idea was shot down and the company was just selling rumours.  The biggest problem would be getting the bus to Colombia, you would have to do RORO shipping which is expensive and stressful.  How far are you planning on traveling?


I've been saying for a few months now that a school bus would be a great budget option for a large family.  They are very common all the way down to Panama, especially certain Blue Bird models because they have a large capacity, are fairly lightweight in comparison to other buses, and have great power.  I suggest a manual transmission if you can handle it, much more robust, more common down here, and better in some of the steeper highlands.  There are tons of these brought down from the states, then sold for public transportation so you may have the option to sell it down south, although the market is supposedly pretty saturated right now so I wouldn't count on it.



Mon, 04/16/2018 - 06:02

Bus is the best vehicle to

Bus is the best vehicle to choose when you travel with whole family members. In a research paper, I have placed an advertisement for hiring a bus. I want to hire this type of bus which meets all my requirements.