Comparing South American Bus Rides 2

Posted by Beth | December 5, 2015

In both Chile and Argentina travel by bus is the most popular mode of transportation. We had heard pretty good things about the buses in South America, and we’ve been quite impressed by all the options. Some of the actual rides have been far better than others, but here’s a snapshot of a few of the buses we’ve taken so far.

Route:             Santiago to Mendoza
Company:       El Rapido
Seat Type:      Semi-cama (standard reclining seat)
Cost:               $76 USD for two people
Tickets:           Bought online, with small convenience fee.
Length:           7 hours, including 2 hours at the border.
Departure:     10 a.m.

  • Was convenient to buy online but then we were at a disadvantage not knowing where to find the bus the next day. (In our defense we did try to go to what Google told us was El Rapido’s downtown office but it turned out to be a random restaurant with same name).
  • Very difficult to find the exact bus because the terminal is huge. If taking El Rapido get off at the Universidad de Santiago metro stop, not the Estacion Central stop. Luckily we found an Irish couple looking for same bus and the four of us ran around wildly looking for it together.
  • The bus was old, stuffy and kind of dirty, especially the bathroom. We sat behind some smelly characters too.


  • Amazingly scenic views the whole way, first vineyards, then mountains, then more vineyards. The border is at the top of the pass and you go up a road with 28 hairpin turns to get to top.
    IMG_1053 (1)
  • It left promptly on time and despite our confusion and high stress levels we made it on to the bus. They advise you to be there 30 minutes early but it was fine that we weren’t.


Route:             Mendoza to Buenos Aires
Company:       Chevallier
Seat Type:      Suites class. Our seats turned into lie-flat beds
Cost:               2600 ARS, about $175 USD for two people
Tickets:           Booked through CATA International at the Mendoza bus terminal
Length:           13 hour ride, overnight
Departure:      7:15 p.m.

  • We splurged on the nicest tickets to get a good night’s sleep, and we’re glad we did, but there certainly were more budget-friendly options.
  • Food was a little weird, but hey, at least they were serving food (and wine!)


  • Probably the nicest bus we’ve ever been on. Our seats turned into lie-flat beds and we slept well. The comfortable seats made the 13 hours fly by.
  • Attendant on the bus who served us dinner and drinks around 9:30 p.m. then breakfast and coffee the next morning around 7:30 a.m.
  • Arrives to the Retiro bus terminal in BA, which is a short walk to the Retiro metro stop or you can catch a local bus
front row seats!

front row seats!

Route:             El Calafate, Argentina to Puerto Natales, Chile
Company:       Cootra
Seat Type:      Standard. Only one option to the best of our knowledge.
Cost:               880 ARS Roundtrip, or 480 ARS one-way. Roundtrip $118 USD.
Tickets:           Booked in-person at the El Calfate bus terminal
Length:           5-6 hours, including the border crossing.
Departure:     8:30 a.m.

  • We almost tipped over. About halfway to Puerto Natales our bus driver pulled over to talk to someone on the side of the road and ended up getting the bus stuck in the gravel. We all had to get out, the bus was leaning so far we thought for sure it would tip, and eventually another bus had to tow us out. Shockingly the whole ordeal only took 30-40 minutes.
    IMG_0867 (1)
  • There’s a few different bus companies that all leave at the same time from the same place, and like everywhere else it’s easy to book your tickets a day in advance or likely even the same day.


  • Option to leave your return trip as an open ticket.
  • Border crossing is a piece of cake here compared to the border near Mendoza.

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2 thoughts on “Comparing South American Bus Rides

  • Mike

    I’ve heard about these buses for years, but never heard them described quite so expensively. The imputed exchange rates are all over the map on these tickets. How were you acquiring Pesos and what did you pay for them?

    • Beth Post author

      Some of them are in Chilean pesos and some were Argentinian pesos. In Argentina we were getting pesos via the Blue Dollar Rate, which varied on each transaction, but averaged about 14.5. We certainly could have found cheaper buses, but were glad we spent more to be more comfortable.