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Bussing It in Argentina

El Chalten village in Argentina.


Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world. Trains are more or less non-existent, car rentals are fairly expensive and domestic airfare is severely taxed for non-residents, which raises the question. How does one get around on the cheap? The answer is buses.

First, dispel any immediate notions you have of what a South American bus ride might look like. Chances are, you have never been on a bus as nice as those you will find in Argentina. The most basic buses for trips longer than an hour or so are equivalent to what you might expect to see a professional sports team arrive in. From these ample coaches, the luxury only increases until you find yourself on double-decker dream machines that wrap in you comfort every minute of your journey.

One of the biggest advantages to bus travel in Argentina is the cost. It is far cheaper to take a bus than it is to rent a car or fly. What’s more is that the bus is often more convenient. Bus stations are usually centrally located in the busiest parts of urban areas, they provide access to harder to reach destinations and do all this at a fraction of the cost. For example, a one-way plane ticket from Buenos Aires to San Carlos de Bariloche in Patagonia would cost approximately $200-300. A bus ticket between the same destinations would run between $75-100.

Buying tickets is exceedingly easy in-country. Inside each bus station are windows that correspond to different charter companies. Most will have the destinations they serve displayed on the window. You can ask for a schedule of departures for the destination of your choice and then purchase a ticket, which involves choosing specific seat and class.

For smaller jaunts of a few hours, all seats on the bus are usually identical. However, for longer trips companies typically have at least two sections: first-class and coach class, more commonly denoted as cama and semi-cama. Because cama is the Spanish word for “bed”, this translates to bed and semi-bed. In the real world, this means that semi-cama seats are normal bus seats and semi-cama seats fold down almost completely horizontally into a bed for catching a nap during your trip. If other terms are used to describe seat sections, they most likely refer to lower classes. Stick to cama. Full cama seats are infinitely more comfortable and usually only 20% more expensive. Definitely worth it.

If the seats and size of the buses don’t impress you, the amenities will. Expect movies to play on integrated TVs. Expect meals, wine, snacks and hot towels on longer trips. And expect a clean, comfortable bathroom that rivals the facilities of any major airline in the world and whatever they don’t give you, make sure to load up in your Venturesafe 400.

By Patrick Hutchison


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