Long-Distance Bus Travel in Argentina: Bunny’s 20-Hour Experience on the Bariloche-Mendoza Bus
Bunny loves her luxury travel but she is no stranger to more arduous forms of transportation either. She recently took her longest bus ride yet - 20 hours from Bariloche to Mendoza in Argentina. Read about Bunny’s experience in tackling this famous route from Patagonia to Argentina’s premier wine region.
Bariloche Bus Station
Bunny arrived at the Bariloche bus station by taxi, with her heavy suitcases, and a firm plan of stocking up with food and drink at the station for her long journey. Not so fast. The bus station sucked.
There was not much to write home about, whether it concerned the facilities, comfort, shopping opportunities, internet or even information about the bus schedules. Bunny first hopped around trying to find out from which platform her Andesmar bus to Mendoza would leave. She gave up when three different officials she approached had given her the same answer: any platform. Any platform it would be then.
Next Bunny turned her attention to the all-important issue of securing enough food and beverages for her trip. She was already feeling a bit peckish and the mere thought of spending the next 20 hours on the bus with a hungry Mr. Bunny terrified her.
Unfortunately, there were no grocery shops at the bus station. There were no restaurants either, only a small cafe selling rubbery sandwiches Bunny wouldn’t touch with a 10-foot pole. The best option seemed to be an overpriced kiosk where Bunny bought a healthy mix of crisps, chocolate and sugary soft drinks. That would have to do.
Bunny’s “any platform” Andesmar bus arrived a bit later than scheduled, first dropping off passengers. Bunny was the first one to board. She handed over her documents for inspection (a passport is needed) and left her luggage with the luggage boy, tipping him in the process. Bunny reckoned the tip might increase her chances of being reunited with her suitcase in Mendoza.
The Andesmar bus was a modern double-decker and reasonably clean. At first glance, Bunny was quite impressed. Her bed executive seat was downstairs, which had only 12 seats in total, two per row on one side and one on the other side of the aisle.
The leather seats were wide and comfortable, with a nice decline of up to 140 degrees. The best part was that the bottom level was very empty; there were only two people in addition to the Bunnies. Not bad. There was also the promise of Wi-Fi which, however, didn’t materialise. Bunny had expected as much.
The Bunnies got cozy on the bus and distributed their hand luggage on the empty seats around them for more comfort. Before doing so, they had glanced at the bus driver questingly. He clearly approved of the plan, telling the Bunnies in Spanish that it was “comoro” on the bus. The Bunnies nodded in unison, it was very comoro indeed, whatever that meant.
The bus left the Bariloche station at 1:20pm, only 20 mins later than scheduled. This was not a bad start.
The only problem was that Bunny was already hungry and there were 20 more hours to go. So about 10 minutes into the journey, the Bunnies pulled out their emergency Seitan sausages, reserved for avoiding potential starvation during the trip, and gobbled them up in seconds. Their immediate needs now satisfied, they were able to observe their surroundings.
The scenery in the beginning of the trip was really gorgeous, partly the same route the Bunnies had taken during their Seven Lakes Drive earlier in the week. Bunny enjoyed the landscapes, reading her book and listening to music. The first couple of hours of the journey just flew by.
The first official stop happened in Piedra del Aguila after three hours of driving. It was one of those godforsaken little places in the middle of nowhere. Bunny had a short bathroom break at the bus station and bought some more drinks. A lot of hungry-looking dogs were hanging about the station. Bunny tried to feed one of them but it wasn’t hungry enough to get excited about Bunny’s vegetarian fare.
Shortly after the first stop, a film started playing in the bus. It was Arrival, with Spanish subtitles. Too bad Bunny hates science fiction. The scenery was pretty unremarkable at this point so Bunny started working on her latest blog post instead.
Six hours into the bus ride, the bus attendant handed over coffee and tea mugs. The sun was starting to set slowly and the passengers were served hot drinks and cookies. Bunny was happy to have brought her own tea bags (the snob she is) so she was able to enjoy her favourite tea. There were only 13 more hours to go…
The next stop was in the provincial capital Neuquen. It was a big bus station where a lot of new passengers entered the bus. This meant that the Bunnies’ so far blissfully uncrowded surroundings were now getting busier.
Some more stops and a gas station break soon followed with a steady stream of new passengers entering the bus at each stop. Mr. Bunny was starting to doze off at this point - it was 8pm after all...
Around this point, the bus attended entertained the passengers with a long explanation about something in Spanish. Bunny understood the word breakfast.
At 9pm, there was an offer of bingo sheets. The Bunnies politely declined. In addition to the bingo, another movie had started to play in the background. Bunny kept reading her book instead.
Bingo? Maybe next time...
Before 10pm, the lights inside the bus were suddenly dimmed. Bunny took this as a sign for quiet time and, right on cue, she got sleepy. A cold breeze kept coming from the window so she changed places with Mr. Bunny and hoped to sleep reasonably well. She should have known better.
Dinner Is Served
The bus lights were suddenly back on at 11pm and dinner was served!
It was a typical meaty affair (i.e. not for Bunny), travel-sized and served on a plastic tray. There was no wine service (damnit) but at least the dinner came with a grapefruit-flavored soft drink that Bunny quite enjoyed. She refused the hot part of the meal and didn't touch much else on her tray either, except for a small muffin. Other passengers seemed to delve into their dinners with gusto so maybe it wasn’t all that bad if you enjoy eating corpses…
In the meanwhile, the bus kept making more stops, too many stops if you ask Bunny. More people boarded at each stop and the lower level of the bus was now full. Nonetheless, Bunny still found the journey quite comfortable. Certainly better than flying!
With midnight fast approaching, the bus attendant next distributed pillows and blankets. Bunny was grateful for both and only hoped that the lights inside the bus would be switched off soon. She was ready to sleep.
The next entry in Bunny’s bus diary came at 3:20am when she checked the time on her phone. She had been sleeping on and off for more than three hours. Not bad. It had not been deep or relaxing sleep, what with the unfamiliar noises, smells and sensations around her, but it was some sleep nevertheless. Bunny was quite pleased with this and decided to doze off some more.
At 5am the bus arrived at yet another nameless bus station, a rather big affair this time, and Bunny decided to make a little run for a bathroom break inside the station. She much preferred bus station bathrooms to the small and dirty cabin on the bus itself. In fact, after 17 hours on the bus, she hadn’t had to resort to the onboard toilet facilities once. Great progress!
While up in the early hours, Bunny noted that many people had left the bus during the night so it was back to being quite roomy again on the lower level.
The lights inside the bus came on again at 7:30am. It was time to wake up, smell the coffee and eat more cookies. A nice young man who had been to the gym a lot was administering the hot drinks. He had been the bus attendant the whole time but Bunny only got a closer look at him now and nodded in approval. The bus ride was quite a pleasant affair after all.
In the meanwhile, the mighty Andes had appeared on the left hand side of the bus. Bunny was quite impressed with the massive mountain range. Hot coffee and cookies tasted all the better with the spectacular scenery.
Arrival in Mendoza
Then suddenly it was all over. The bus arrived at the Mendoza bus station, granted, an hour later than scheduled, and the Bunnies hopped off with relief. They had survived the dreaded 20 hours, arrived safe and sound, even somewhat rested, and their suitcases were all in one piece. A great success, if you ask Bunny!
Bunny’s Tips for the Over-Night Bus
Taking long distance busses in Argentina is not exactly rocket science but there are some things that can make your journey much more comfortable, Bunny says.
- Choose your bus company carefully, they are not all created equal. Bunny went with Andesmar, which is one of the more reputable ones, and can recommend them based on her experience. She was also very pleased with Via Bariloche on her later journey from Iguazu Falls to Buenos Aires.
- Go for the best available class on the bus. Bunny’s ticket was for Cama Executive and it was very comfortable. The seats were wide and declined up to 140 degrees. She also appreciated the additional services in that class.
- Bring lots of drinks and snacks with you. The offerings on the bus and at bus stations are somewhat limited, unhealthy and uninspiring.
- Wear comfortable, loose clothing and bring layers as the temperature inside the bus can vary a lot. Prepare to take your shoes off (clean socks!). A travel pillow is a great idea if you have one.
- Bring a hand sanitiser, lots of toilet paper, a rubbish bag, some good reading material and charge your electronic devices in advance. There was a USB plug at Bunny’s seat but this is not something you can always count on.
- Toilets onboard are sometimes nasty, particularly as the journey advances, so try and use the ones in bus stations. Bunny found all of them quite OK. Then again, anything is fine compared to the ones she experienced in the Chinese countryside 15 years ago but that’s another story…
- A few words of Spanish will help you a lot, although if you are lucky, the bus staff might speak a smattering of English.
Twenty hours on the bus sounds worse than it actually is, Bunny says.
In fact, she was quite happy with her Bariloche-Mendoza journey with Andesmar. She felt safe at all times, the bus was clean and comfortable, the service was friendly and even some food and drinks were included in Bunny’s ticket price.
Taking the bus saved Bunny some time, money and perhaps even energy. She would have no problems doing it again!