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Travelling in Argentina by Bus

Many of our students complete a Spanish course and experience everything Buenos Aires has to offer.  After spending a couple of weeks (or months) here, foreigners tend to get the travel bug and want to explore Argentina more.  It comes to a surprise to many foreigners that travelling around the country by plane is not very common, but rather by long-term bus (called omnibus in Spanish) is the choice of the typical Argentine.  At first many are aprehensive to an extremely long bus trip over a quick plan ride.  For example, a plane from Buenos Aires to Iguazú Falls is about 1 hours and 30 minutes while a bus takes about 20 hours.  Sounds crazy, right?  Don’t be afraid as a 20-hour bus ride is not as scary as it sounds.

Since planes tend to be much more expensive and not have as many destinations, a bus is the way to go.  The long-term buses in Argentina are actually quite luxiourus, especially if you choose a higher class bus.  All buses (should) have air conditioning, heat, and bathrooms.  Longer buses also serve food (similar to airplane food).  They usually show movies as well and some even stop at restaurants or bus stops along the way for passengers to get off and stretch their legs or buy something.

To give you an idea of the different options of seat/bus types, I have compiled a short list.  Each bus company varies in terms of exact services, but this can hopefully give you an idea.

Semi Cama

  • Seats recline 120° (like a “normal” airplane seat).
  • This option sometimes has food, but mostly things like crackers or alfajores.
  • It is a good option for shorter bus rides where you will not be sleeping much, like heading to Rosario or Mar del Plata.

Cama

  • This option has large seats that recline to between 140° to 150° with foot rest.
  • Translated it means “bed”, so the idea is that you can sleep while you travel.
  • This option is good for both short trips and long trips.

Ejecutivo

  • Seats recline 150° to 160° with foot rest.
  • This options usually serves cold and hot food (dinner, lunch and breakfast) with wine, whisky and champagne.  It sometimes has personal televisions, but depends on the company.  If you are looking for service and comfort, this is the way to go.

Super Cama

  • Sometimes called Tuto Letto or “Todo Cama”.
  • Seats recline 180° with foot rest.
  • This options usually serves cold and hot food (dinner, lunch and breakfast) with wine, whisky and champagne.  It also has personal televisions with headphones where you can watch movies and listen to music.  It is the ULTIMATE option for travelling by omnibus.

Recently I travelled to Iguazú Falls with the Super Cama option and was completely surpised by how nice the service was.  Not only was each seat bigger and nicer than first class in an airplane, we had personal televisions with about 20 movies to choose from and about 200 songs to listen to.  The seats also had little curtains that you can pull across to give more privacy.  Although the bus ride was 20 hours, it went by quickly as I was so busy either eating food, watching movies or sleeping.

Here is a breakdown of my trip:

8pm – Got on bus, got settled, chatted with neighbor
9pm – Started watching movie #1
9:30pm – Dinner served with wine/soda/water
10pm – More wine served
11pm – Finished movie #1
11:05pm – Started movie #2
11:10pm – Champagne/whisky served
12:00pm – Paused movie and fell asleep
8am – Woke up
9am – Breakfast served
10am – Started watching movie #2 again
11am – Finished movie #2
12pm – Arrived at destination

By the end of the drive, I was so comfortable and happy that bus attendent kept bringing me food and drinks that I did not want it to end.  I could have spent my entire vacation on the omnibus!

My general message to visitors to Argentina is to try out the omnibus option for travelling.  It allows you to go to a lot of destinations, see the scenery along the way and travel like a local.