How to travel: Buses in Argentina

Argentina is HUGE! I know this might seem like an obvious statement, if you glance at a map for a moment it’s obviously a big place, but maps just don’t get the point across. Coming from a small island in the North Atlantic, it’s very hard to get my head around the distances involved in travelling Argentina. 18, 24 or 32 hour journeys are a matter of course when traversing the world’s eighth largest country. In the course of a week we’ve gone from deserts, cacti and 30°C heat to snow and -2°C on Antarctica’s doorstep. How you’re going to get around this country is one of the first things travellers are going to think about, hopefully this will help.

Buses / Coaches
Unless you’ve got limited time and lots of money then you’re going to be using buses as your mode of transport. Certainly if you come from Britain this is not a pleasant prospect, my experience of busses in the UK are either “rail replacement” or school trips. If this is your expectation then prepare to be very pleasantly surprised.

I felt writing this on a bus would ensure I could write an accurate account of what to expect. I’m currently sitting in what could be best described as a leather armchair, it reclines by 160°. I have my feet on a foot rest and someone has just brought me a glass of wine. This beverage indicates that my evening meal should be here soon, first the cold course then the hot. Sound good?

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Classes
There are multiple classes of coach in Argentina from ordinary single deck with or without air conditioning to full 180° recline, WiFi, steaks and Cognac. Depending on the length of your journey it’s usually better to fork out a bit more cash for comfort, remember this is probably going to be your nights accommodation. I would always suggest that if you plan on sleeping then reserve a “Cama” seat. Usually this is a larger seat with good cushioning for the head and around a 150° recline, you’ll know straight away when you get on the bus as there are only 3 seats to a row instead of 4. In most cases you will get meals and a few drinks included with this seat. If you’re in doubt just ask when you book your ticket, most companies have pictures of their seating options at their offices.

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Semi-Cama are one step down from this. 4 seats to a row, not as spacious and they don’t recline quite enough for a “good” sleep. That isn’t to say that these aren’t comfortable. For journeys during the day or short hops where you’re not trying to catch a nights sleep, they’re absolutely fine and usually a good bit cheaper. You might get offered a biscuit and coffee but not always.

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The top end bus travel seems to be called different things depending on the company, so if you really want it, ask at the desk. Cama-total or Super Cama seating are the 2 that we’ve come across. As Cama-total would suggest the seat converts into a flat “bed”. Champagne and a nightcap is provided for parting with that extra cash. A word of warning for this fully reclined seat though, remember it is still a seat and not a mattress meaning you could wake up more stiff than if you were in Cama seating.

Tickets
Before heading off to buy your tickets, i find its a good idea to have a clue on prices and timings. At some of the bigger bus terminals there will up to 30 companies so it’s better to know which one you’re going to before you get there.

http://www.plataforma10.com/en-US

This website is invaluable for planning your trip around Argentina. Whilst it’s possible to buy tickets direct through their website, we generally just use it as a reference tool. Whilst we’ve found a specific service isn’t always running the prices have been correct on every occasion. Upon deciding which bus you want to catch, you can head straight to the relevant booth at the bus terminal and have a hassle free experience (especially useful if you have limited Spanish).

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Companies

One of the questions i researched a lot was which companies are good to travel with? They’re all fine, sure some are cleaner than others or offer newer coaches, but so far in 2 months in Argentina we haven’t had a single “bad” experience. If you’re really worried just ask other travellers who they used on a specific route. In northern Argentina we used FlechaBus almost exclusively and never had a problem, I wouldn’t say they were the best but there was nothing to complain about. Certain companies specialise in certain routes and generally therefore offer the best service on that route. For trips to Bariloche from BA for example ViaBariloche are meant to offer excellent options.

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Food

As I’ve already mentioned with Cama and above you usually get meals thrown in. If you’re counting on this to be your main form of sustenance on a 24 hour journey you might be disappointed. The food is certainly edible, we haven’t had any problems and its always nice to get a hot meal before you try and sleep. If you’ve got any dietary requirements then the safest option is to bring your own food.

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Safety

We can’t say we’ve had a problem or met anyone who has whilst on the buses. Obviously bus stations are a place to be wary of your bags. If you place bags in the luggage hold then you will generally get a receipt and there’s plenty of space under and above your seat for hand luggage. As the buses are travelling such long distances and everyone is just trying to get some sleep it’s unlikely you’ll encounter any problems.

Toilets

Yes the buses have toilets and they’re generally pretty clean at the start of a journey. (Lauren advises all girls carry toilet paper as after the first hour it’s usually gone!)

Price

Prices are quite expensive for the busses. Don’t expect to travel across the country for £10. Here’s an example of average costs on some of the more popular routes (1st May 14*)

Buenos Aires – Puerto Iguazu: 850 ARS, 106 USD, 63 GBP

Buenos Aires – Bariloche: 1150 ARS, 144 USD, 85 GBP

Buenos AIres – Rosario: 200 ARS, 25 USD, 15 GBP

Buenos AIres – Mendoza: 650 ARS, 81 USD, 48 GBP

 

*With the current inflation in Argentina I’d expect these prices to be wrong quite fast.

 

3 thoughts on “How to travel: Buses in Argentina”

  1. Wow thanks for such an in-depth post about travel in Argentina. Much of it I’ve already read but wasn’t 100% sure about, so its good to have a detailed explanation to back it up for my trip later this year. Bit scary thinking of 24 hours on a bus! Did you find the overhead storage was safe for expensive things if say you’re travelling alone and have to leave your seat?

    1. Hi Ngaire!
      The overhead storage is fine but if you’re worried about valuables we’d advise putting them under your seat. On Semi-cama and above there’s usually space for a small bag or rucksack. As an extra precaution you could take a small cable lock and attach it to the seat. A quick fix that’s great for peace of mind.

      1. Hi Iain!
        Ah good point! Got to love the cable and locks – I’ve started using that a lot for hostels or hotels where there are no lockers. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for the buses too. I had visions of having to lug my camera backpack to the bathrooms!

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