Long-distance bus trips – the how-to guide

With a lack of rail networks and what feels like a monopoly on air travel within South America the costs of flights can be exorbitant which means that buses become your number one option for getting around.

However, not all buses and routes are created equal so here are some tips that I’ve picked up over the last few months:

Purchasing
– Ask the company if the bus is direct. You can often pay a little more for a direct bus that doesn’t stop everywhere
– Ask for the arrival time so you can let your accommodation at the destination know when they can expect you
– Figure out which side the sun will be on for most of the journey and select seats on the opposite side if it might bother you
– If you love taking en route photos, figure out which side will have the best views
– If travelling alone, ask the bus companies if they have any Suite or Executive class buses on the route – some of these have three seats per row, with one on its own (common in Argentina)
– Clarify the bus company name because in some areas they will sell you a ticket on another carrier’s paper and won’t actually tell you what the actual carrier is
– Purchase tickets directly at the bus station as agents often add a significant commission on fares

Safety and Security
– Mind your bags and sleep with a strap looped around you if possible
– Wear your seat belt and try not to sit at the very front or very rear (common sense – these areas are most susceptible to damage in an accident)
– There are occasional reports about hijackings/robberies on overnight buses in some areas, particularly in Bolivia. We only took daytime buses in Peru and Bolivia but felt comfortable with overnight buses throughout Argentina

What to take
– Toilet paper, as it’s not always changed promptly
– Noise-cancelling headphones – you may get stuck right under the speakers that are blasting the sounds of a badly-dubbed  movie, or you might get a snorer on an overnight bus
– A fully-charged iPod and/or book to read. Movie selections are often dubious
– Snacks and fruit – Argentinean buses serve a Celiac’s worst nightmare for breakfast so if you want some healthy fibre, take your own fruit (unless you are crossing a border and fruit is not permitted). Also, on some buses the only food provided is that of local people who come on board to sell their goods.
– Tummy pills/stopper pills in case you have eaten something that wasn’t quite right – there’s nothing worse than being stuck on a bus with a sore stomach
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2 thoughts on “Long-distance bus trips – the how-to guide

  1. Flor says:

    Hahaha, awesome tips!One I heard about on the security front is to beware of good samaritans who point out that something in your bag is leaking. This will encourage you to empty your bag so they can scope what you have. Alternatively, you might be prompted by someone to put your bag in one of the overhead racks… that’s just asking for trouble, especially if you’re planning on sleeping.On thing I hated on the buses was the A/C. You can catch pneumonia on a bus in Argentina in the middle of summer, so I always brought along a light blanket or a jacket to throw over my legs. The food is definitely an issue (not just for celiacs, think of us long suffering vegetarians!), and the border I had the worst experience with was with Chile. They’re extra spikey for some reason. Anyway, I’ve been enjoying keeping up with your travels 🙂 I’m heading to Brazil on Thursday, yay excitement! Can’t wait to catch a little more summer!<3

  2. Solange says:

    You’re a vego?! I did not know this. Where are your Argentinean roots? ;)We had the opposite problem re the temperature. In Peru we were on a bus with 33 degrees C. It was ridiculous. When are you back from Brasil? Will we only get to catch up in the States?

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