Saturday, April 5, 2014

Traveling by Bus- South America

first row and food on the double decker
The long bus rides in South America is a unique experience. Many of the buses are double decker, with the more pricy full reclining seats on the bottom and the semi-reclining seats on the top floor. They have lots of entertainment. They play American Movies in Spanish and Bingo for a free bus ticket, all in Spanish so learn your numbers. They serve three meals, many of which come in little lunch boxes. They are not very vegetarian friendly, its usually ham and cheese for lunch and arroz con pollo (rice and chicken) for dinner. If you are not picky, you can eat just the rice or just the bread and cheese. Many of the sides are vegetarian, usually a cookie, some weird fruit cup or apple and a juice box.

My recommendations for long journeys is go to the supermarket and buy some snacks before you load onto the bus. Either if you are vegetarian or always hungry its a good idea to have something to curb your hunger before you arrive to your destination. Trust me a 30hr bus ride makes you very hungry. Also vary your snacks. On many occasions I would buy more sweet snacks, because that was the mood I was in at the supermarket, and half way through the bus ride I was so done with dried fruit and chocolate and just wanted some salty chips or pretzels. Make sure to get salty and sweet snacks that have a good amount of calories to prevent you from being starving.

If you are going for cheaper (semi-reclining) also called semicama (cama as in bed) I would try to get the seat in the first row. It has lots of leg space and a huge window and great views of the surrounding. Although from Lima, Peru to Santiago, Chile its all desert, so not much to look at.

Note to those with fear of hights, the first row on the top gives a great view, Butkus also very high above the road, so it seems like your flying. There are curtains you can shut if you feel uncomfortable.

Cama and delux cama are very nice, the seats are much bigger, one on each side of the aisle on the bottom floor of the bus. They recline almost all the way back, to give you a semi normal night sleep.

No matter if you pick semi cama or delux, the bus attendants try to make you as comfortable as possible. You get a blanket and small pillow, it can get quite cold with the AC blowing full blast so bring a sweater.

Buying Tickets:

 The lowest prices are at the bus stations, from the companies offices. You can also buy tickets from your hostel and travel agents, but they usually charge more. By going to the bus station you can compare prices and amenities, you can even negotiate prices. 

Typically I would buy a ticket for my next bus when I arrived at a new location. This would ensure that I had a seat on a bus on the next date that I wanted to travel. Usually you can get tickets the same day for a later bus, but on a couple of occasions I have met people who could not get tickets and had to stay an extra day. 


Keep your valuables secure and out of sight, if you are flashing an ipad or iphone, it will encourage people who might be looking for items to take them. Also try not to take sleeping aids on buses, its easy to steal from a sleeping person, especially if they wont wake up. When you sleep keep your valuable items hidden and in inside pockets. 

Sit as far from he bathroom as you can, especially on long rides during the summer. 

Make friends.

1 comment:

  1. I have to admit I've never taken a long haul bus ride before (an overnight 20 hour train in Myanmar was plenty for me) and part of the reason I avoided them was because I heard so many horror stories. But some privacy, a fully reclining seat (which I'm guessing would kinda be like a bed) and some snacks would make it much more tolerable. Good tips on the snacks - 30 hours is a LONG time to just have once taste sensation, no matter how much you might like it under normal circumstances.