When I took my trip home to England for Christmas, I realised it was the first time I boarded a plane in over a year.
I shouldn’t have been that surprised. One of the reasons I decided to base myself in South America was so I could do more overland travel and fly less. This turned out to be even easier than I thought. Last year I mangaged to travel extensively across Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. Once even I hopped to Patagonia for the weekend.
It’s all down to the good, old long-distance bus. Admittedly those in Bolivia and Peru were a little lacking, but Argentina’s system is – as countless travellers in South America have discovered – outstanding.
Argentinian buses have certainly become more expensive over recent years but they still remain the best I have ever experienced. Argentinians seem surprised when I tell them this. "They are sooo much better than the buses in the US," I qualify. This really knocks them for six.
My last trip was 16 hours overnight, from Buenos Aires to San Juan with these guys (www.SanJuanMardelPlata.com.ar). For £40 each way, the "cama VIP" service provided an armchair-like leather seat that fully reclined, a hot meal, a glass of wine, onboard movies and, in an interesting new twist, wifi access. Ok, the wifi access was sporadic, the food was plain and the wine wasn’t the province’s finest, but nonetheless, six years after boarding my first Argentinian bus, I remain impressed. If you’re going to traverse this vast country overland, this is certainly the way to do it.
The thing I love most about living in Buenos Aires is you can choose to take an overnight bus north, south, east or west and you’ll end up in the jungle, the plains of Patagonia, the Andes or the heart of the Uruguayan pampas. It’s an amazing feeling waking up somewhere so different and it has so much more impact that boarding a plane. In Argentina, it’s particularly important to appreciate the vast, empty spaces in between the sights to really get a feel of the land.
I’d encourage anyone to take at least one long-distance bus in Argentina, even if they are only on a short trip. Puerto Iguazú is a good choice from Buenos Aires.
Recently I’ve heard rumours of it being cheaper to fly to Iguazu than to get the bus. This would be a shame. I’d hate to see shoddy budget flights overtaking the bus industry. Flying with Aerolineas Argentinas already has an extra incentive for locals as they get a reduced rate compared to foreigners.
One thing they don’t have here, unlike the US and Europe, is bus passes that last a month or so. The difficulty is there is no Greyhound or National Express monopoly here. Perhaps that’s why they’ve made more of a success of it? Competition has kept them on their toes.