Buenos Aires was ideal to get used to the language, habits, culture, food and people – and also an ideal place to get 3 good weeks of work done.
But now things get tough, unknown, uncomfortable. I believe here’s where my trip officially starts. And there is no better way to get uncomfortable when you have to spend 17 hours on a bus.
Plane vs Bus vs Train
Only when travelling throughout Argentina you do realize the size of this country. Its length is about 3,650 km North to South and its width 1,430 km. Just to give you an idea:
- Argentina is 9 times bigger than Italy
- Argentina is 40 times bigger than Ireland
- United States is (just) 4 times bigger than Argentina
Yes, it’s huge. And the first place I wanted to go to after Buenos Aires was Puerto Iguazú, home of the Iguazú Falls.
According to Google Maps, we’re talking about 1300km. And I had several choices (well, actually just 2): getting a plane or a direct bus.
In fact, travelling by train in Argentina on long distances is very uneconomical, low-quality and usually non-existent. So, no one travels by intercity trains.
Then comes the plane option. For unknown reasons, flying in South America, and specifically in Argentina, is very expensive for us Europeans. Maybe we’ve been spoiled by Ryanair – but a flight from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazú was approximately 250-300 US dollars. And it’s a 2 hours flight.
Therefore, the bus. Buses here in Argentina are the best, most affordable and most fun way to travel long distances. But you need to know a few things before you hop on a random bus for 17 hours…
Where and what to book
You could easily book your ticket at the bus station. However if Spanish is not your first language you’d better use a computer and Plataforma10.com.ar to plan, compare fares and pay online with your international credit card (if you don’t own an Argentinian credit card, you have to select the payment method “Mercado Pago” and only then enter your credit card details).
There are several companies covering the same itinerary. Some of them take extra time as they stop more often. Some of them are cheap and others are “expensive”, so it’s important to know the difference before you book.
What really makes a difference is the “COMODIDAD” (level of comfort – travel class). And usually this is what you get, from the lowest to the highest class:
1. Semi Cama Class
The buses are equipped with rows of individual leather seats (4 seats per row, 2 on each side of the corridor), with arm and foot rests, and reclining angle of 40 degrees. Also provided are air conditioning, breakfast, a cold dinner and coffee/tea. Comfort level of the Semi Cama class is better than a typical bus services in Europe and North America, and similar to the economy class on a flight.
2. Cama Ejecutivo & Cama Classes
This class offers better seating comfort, and because of the larger seats there are only three seats per row (2 on 1 side and 1 on the other side of the corridor). In this case the maximum reclining angle is 55 degrees, great for sleeping on a night bus. On top of the Semi Cama features, you also get a hot dinner and -usually – a personal TV screen with your own headphones.
3. Cama VIP Suite, Super Cama & Tutto Letto Classes
This is like business class on a plane. Not only you get extra drinks, extra food, pillow, bed sheets and even free alcohol – you are also provided with free Wi-Fi, curtains to basically isolate yourself from the rest of the bus and bigger and fully reclinable seats (175 degrees). Basically, more comfortable than your own bed.
I had to try Cama VIP Suite of course
Well, when you take a look at the price difference between the above for a 17 hours trip, you realize how cheap this is and why you should always travel business class.
Semi Cama was 1500 Pesos, approximately 90 Euro. Cama VIP suite was 1990 Pesos, approximately 120 Euro. For a 30 Euro difference I got to travel in Business Class – and got a decent sleep 🙂
I left Buenos Aires from the Retiro Bus Station at 7pm. The station is ok during the day, but I’ve been told not to hang around at night, as it’s a dangerous place… Well, I found it ok, maybe because I’m used to Termini and Tiburtina stations in Rome 🙂
At 9 pm, after I was offered a random packet of snacks and a drink, I was served dinner.
Not bad, it was good quality food – yet nothing special. Good thing was I ordered a bottle of wine (it’s only 50cl) so I enjoyed my time while watching the movie “Jobs” and looking at the outside view.
Now, I was a bit unfortunate with the seat choice. I picked the front seat on the upper floor. Great view and everything, but I’m tall and leg space was less than the other seats. Lesson learned!
How I slept
Overall I has a great sleep.
Just a couple of things… the American lady sitting beside me on the other side of the corridor was snoring like a dinosaur. Ear plugs added to the shopping list!
And, the motorway was really bad. Holes, dips, ruined surface. The bus was driving fast and I got a little bit disturbed by the noise and vibrations.
Funnily enough, this didn’t bother me much and I slept ok. I woke up a few times but I could completely turn my body to the other side (I sleep on a side) without any issues. If the lady wasn’t snoring (or if I had ear plugs) I would have slept for the full 7 hours.
The blanket was really warm and saved me during a very humid night – after all we were now approaching the rainforest.
Breakfast and my first #17hoursonabus completed!
At 6.30 am we got woken up and served breakfast. Arrival time was for midday, so I don’t really get why it had to be that early. Anyway, it was lovely outside, and the sun was shining.
Finally, I arrived at Puerto Iguazú
I have to say, this trip bothered me less than my flight from Rome to Buenos Aires. Yes, the bus was more comfortable than my Alitalia plane. Food was decent and TV was awesome – I watched 3 movies and totally forgot I was in a long-distance journey.
Sleep was ok, and now that I got ear plugs in the pharmacy, I’m looking forward to my next bus trip (Tue 15 Nov > Wed 16 Nov, destination Salta)… or at least I’m ready for it!
Here’s our bus in Puerto Iguazú:
Now that I remember, the bus stopped several times during the night. This was done to either switch driver or to pick up new drivers along the way.
At some stage, the bus even stopped at a garage to get the tyres checked, throw away the rubbish and I don’t know what else. We were there for 30 minutes or so. I didn’t mind, as I slept anyway.
So, my first crazy transfer is now done.
And more has to come.
But if you’re wondering why I went to Puerto Iguazú, and why I believe this is one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, check out my next blog post.