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Cool School Buses: Tricked-Out and Unique Buses from Around the World

It’s that time of year, when children around the country – and the world – are hopping on buses and heading off to school after a lengthy summer vacation. Some students have been in school for a few weeks already, their moms having gleefully waved bye to the big, yellow school bus as it drove off on the first day. Students here in New York City don’t have their first day of school until Monday, and it definitely feels like our kids are the last kids in America to head back to class.

During this extra week of vacation, I got to thinking about how exciting and wonderful that first day of school is, and not just for people who want to “get rid of” their kids, but for everyone who remembers their own school days fondly and who send their kids off into another year of learning with a sense of hope and pride. School buses are emblematic of that hope. They’re the vehicle that drives our children toward their futures. Even though school buses can also feel like a moving coffin for those trapped in them with bullies (including some poor drivers), they remain a symbol of opportunity and democracy, of social progress and human curiosity. So in homage to the vehicles that are, for most of us, a giant part of our formative years, here’s a collection of buses from around the world that are almost too cool for school:

  • A Happy Thomas Built Bus 1 of 23
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    Summer school 2012. Taken in Albemarle County, VA.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Bill McChesney

  • Cambodian School Bus 2 of 23
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    Taken in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

    Photo credit: Flickr user spotter_nl

  • Cool Bus 3 of 23
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    From the photographer: "School Bus Wheelie, this was taken at Night of Fire which is a special event at Pittsburgh Raceway Park. They also have jet engine cars and a jet propelled fire truck. I like the wheelie bus. I have seen on t.v. wheelie ambulances but this is the only bus. Also at Lernerville Speedway they have school bus races and sometimes at the Butler Fair is school bus demolition derby. Pittsburgh must have a thing for school buses doing crazy stuff."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Kev

  • Bus of the Undead 4 of 23
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    Don't get on this bus, kids! It's parked on the south side of 59 near Kirby in Houston ... where the zombies live!

    Photo credit: Flickr user Ed Schipul

  • The Magic School Bus! 5 of 23
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    Are your kids reading this series? It would be pretty cool to get a visit from The Magic School Bus at school! If this flying spaceship isn't coming your way, maybe you can get a peek at Junie B. Jones's Stupid Smelly Bus next Spring/Summer.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Clyde Robinson, taken in Sarasota, FL

  • Chicken Buses 6 of 23
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    According to the photographer, "Guatemalans buy our retired school buses and convert them for use as public buses that cruise the entire country. They replace the front-end and engine of the old bus with massive 8 cylinder semi-truck engines and front-ends. (The old front-ends are scattered throughout the countryside....) Then they pimp 'em out -- mainly with Looney Tunes cartoon characters. They're known as "Chicken Buses". Two or 3 times a month, a bus packed with riders - and chickens - will go careening over a mountainous cliff. We didn't ride the Chicken Buses."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Towle N, taken in Antigua, Guatemala

  • 1926 School Bus 7 of 23
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    Description: New 1926 school bus photographed in front of Zeeuw home on West Meeker (which was later moved to 5th South). Taken in Kent, Washington, USA.

    Photo credit: Flickr user IMLS DCC

  • Thai School Bus 8 of 23
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    A Thai School Bus in Singapore on a school trip.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Yosomono

  • Gay-Straight Alliance 9 of 23
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    Taken during Seattle Pride in 2008.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Jon Gilbert Leavitt

  • Muhammad’s University of The New Islam 10 of 23
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    From the photographer: "I've passed this bus on various occasions but still don't really know what Muhammad's University of the New Islam is." Taken in Jefferson County, Mississippi.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Natalie Maynor

  • Bangladeshi School Bus 11 of 23
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    Taken in Bagerhat, Bangladesh.

    Photo credit: Flickr user John Pavelka

  • Tijuana High School 12 of 23
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    The photographer says, "This 21 y/o student catches the skoo buz." I'm assuming this is some kind of tequila shot truck at a balloon festival. Because if you're going to go hot air ballooning, you should definitely be drunk first.

    Photo credit Flickr user Bugeater

  • Russian School Bus 13 of 23
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    The side says, "children."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Peretz Partensky

  • Rickshaw 14 of 23
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    Mulsim kids going to school in a loaded rickshaw. Taken in Jaipur, India.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Poi Apeles

  • Bas Sekolah 15 of 23
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    Taken in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Michael Coghlan

  • 1955 Carpenter School Bus 16 of 23
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    ...  on 1954 GMC chassis. From the photographer: "The engine is a 270 c.i. inline six. The transmission is a four-speed manual. Brakes are power assisted drums, but steering is manual. The rocket hood ornament is a rare factory option. The bus now resides in Big Valley, California (Lassen County)."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Darron Birgenheier

  • Sanskrit Rainbow 17 of 23
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    Taken in India.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Colleen Morgan

  • Short Bus Monster Truck 18 of 23
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    Taken at the 2012 Camp Barnes & Delaware State Police Benefit Stock Car Race. From the photographer: "Camp Barnes is a free summer youth camp that is run by the Delaware State Police. The Delaware International Speedway in Delmar, DE holds this special event each summer and donates all of the proceeds to Camp Barnes. This is the 40th anniversary of the event."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Lee Cannon

  • School Bus, Mekong Style 19 of 23
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    School children on the Mekong River in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Tom Coppen

  • Flamin’ School Time Jet Bus! 20 of 23
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    From the photographer: "The Indy Boys School Time Jet Bus opens it up on the runway at the 2011 Fort Smith Airshow in Fort Smith, AR."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Doug Wertman

  • 50′s Chevrolet School Bus 21 of 23
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    Taken at the AACA Museum in Hershey, PA.

    Photo credit: Flickr user John Lloyd

  • Off the Hook 22 of 23
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    As the photographer joked, "Must be a charter school."

    Photo credit: Flickr user Derek Bridges

  • I Miss School 23 of 23
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    Remember kids, no matter how much you say you hate school now, you will probably feel nostalgic about it someday. Either that, or a kid tagged this while running alongside the bus he just missed.

    Photo credit: Flickr user Senor Codo, taken in Chicago, IL

All photos via iStock.

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