Ok, my title is kind of a lie because instead of ‘surviving’ long haul and over night bus travel, I really enjoy it – I much prefer it over flying! If you’re going to travel around Argentina (or any South American country really!) and aren’t going by plane, then chances are you are going to catch a coach or drive, as trains aren’t really widespread across Argentina.
Obviously, you take the back with the good, some journeys are great with 3 large glasses of free red wine, yummy hot meal and 8 hours of sleep. Other journeys turn out more like… waking up on the bus, learning through your broken Spanish the bus has broke down miles from anywhere with an extra 3 hours added onto a 24 hour bus journey.
I have made countless trips now, up and down Argentina (and Chile) on coaches, from Buenos Aires to Mendoza, Mendoza to San Rafael, Tucuman, Salta, Jujuy, Bariloche and El Bolson, and have picked up some tips:
- Before boarding the bus, you’re going to have to buy a ticket. I always recommend getting the ‘full cama’ option, which costs more but gets you a seat that reclines nearly all the way back, and is wider than the ‘semi cama’ option; ensuring you get a great night’s sleep. These seats also come with blankets, pillows and meals.
- When you get to the bus station, I would always go to the company window that you are travelling with and ask them between which stops your bus will arrive. Some bus stations can be large (Retiro station in Buenos Aires has 75 stops!) so it’s better to know where your bus will arrive and save you traipsing up and down with heavy luggage.
- When you’re putting your luggage onto the bus, be ready with small bills (about $5 to $20 pesos) to tip the station attendant. This small gesture could be the difference between your bags being at the top of the pile, or the bottom.
- There aren’t big boards with updates to where your bus is or whether it’s going to be late or not. Most coaches I’ve been on have always arrived about 5 minutes after their specified time, so do not panic. If your bus is really late, go ask at the company’s window.
- As I said earlier, bus stations can be big and confusing, I’ve found that if you ask any coach driver for help, they will make sure you get on the right coach. Very different from the stereotypical grumpy bus driver I was used to back home!
- Your ticket will have your seat number on it, and if you can’t see it, ask your driver. Stick to these seats even if the whole bus is empty, as on my first journey I decided to take over 2 seats for maximum comfy sleep, only to be awoken at 2am by two ladies asking me politely to move out of their seats 🙂
- It’s possible your bus will stop throughout your journey, you will be asked to get off at a seemingly random location and 5 minutes later your next bus will arrive to take your further on your journey. When this happens, your seats remain the same.
- Take water! Mostly with a Semi-cama or Full-cama ticket, you are provided with hot meals, hot drinks (sometimes as much wine as you can drink) and fizzy drinks, and maybe 1 glass of water. For long journeys I usually take about 2 litres of water extra. I have found the meals to be quite tasty, my favourites being vegetable cannelloni and filet of tuna served over creamy mash. I also take snacks and fruit to curb my hunger between meals. For breakfast you are usually served two packs of biscuits, a packet of crackers and tea, coffee or mate. Bringing along mini condiments (from a hotel) can totally upgrade your breakfast.
- More essentials include an eye mask, ear plugs and/or headphones. Most coaches are great and show 1 or 2 films before they turn the lights out for sleeping, and there is a headphone jack above your head to listen to the film. Eye mask and ear plugs go without saying, and have made the world of difference for me (there’s always a snorer)!
- Some buses (mostly Andesmar) have entertainment such as bingo, where the bus attendant will bring round bingo sheets and then call out the numbers. Always worth brushing up on your numbers to 90 in Spanish, as the prize is a bottle of wine.
- And lastly, an extra hoodie or pair of socks go a long way, as overnight the bus can get quite cold if you’re going through deserts or mountains!
I hope these pointers stand you in good stead for taking the bus across Argentina. It’s very cheap, super comfortable, and the views of Argentina from the coach window can’t be beat. I feel as if I have now successfully seen the entire country from my luxurious seat and enjoyed it all the way.
Upcoming post – Salta