While travelling you will be faced with many options on how to cross borders using either land, air or sea. Ciarán and I opted for flights on many occasions during our time in South America as we were moving so quickly from one location to another. It was convenient for us….but not always cheap.
After looking at our bank balance only 2 weeks into our 6-month trip and realising we went completely OTT, we decided that travelling by bus from Mendoza, Argentina to Santiago, Chile would be a good option for us. I won’t lie, I had heard horror stories about bus journeys in South America, so I was a bit apprehensive when Ciarán initially suggested it. However, after 5 seconds of being on the bus, I knew we were in for an epic bus ride.
We purchased tickets online about a week before our departure date. We opted to use Andesmar Bus Company. They offered two different seat types:
· Semi-cama seats – Seats that recline 120 degrees ( Approx. €12)
· Cama seats – Seats that recline 160 degrees ( Approx. €17)
We opted for Cama seats, which were super comfortable and much bigger than your average airplane seat. We also took a double decker bus and chose for seats on the upper level in the very front. This seat option offered us panoramic views throughout the journey. Be warned, these seats are normally snapped up like hot cakes, so we were lucky, proving the advantage of booking tickets online. We then sat back and relaxed, taking in the crazy views of the vineyards on the Mendoza side of the border and the Andes on the Chilean side for the next 10 hours.
There were some downsides of the journey however, which we hadn’t really anticipated.
Firstly, the food was not great, we were offered ham sandwiches and tea but for a trip that took just over 10 hours, a little more sustenance would have been nice. So, some packed snacks are a necessity when taking a long bus journey, remember not to bring anything smelly though, you do not want to annoy your fellow travellers.
Secondly, the biggest headache. We were travelling during peak winter and due to bad weather, the roads at the crossing had been closed for three days and only opened the morning we were traveling. As you can imagine, the queues at the border were horrific and we ended up stranded in the queue to enter Chile for around 4 hours. So if you are planning on travelling during winter then be warned that flexibility on travel days is key when crossing by bus.
The border crossing was peculiar for me, as it is slow and a bit of a mad process really.When leaving Argentina, everyone is told to get off the bus and get in line. After your passport is stamped to say you have exited Argentina, you move to another line to get your Chilean entry stamp in your passport. Everyone is then loaded back on the bus and you drive for 50 metres. Once again you are all instructed to get off the bus with your belongings and enter a room where you must queue in two rows in front of a long table with all your bags on it. Enter the sniffer dogs who run up and down the table looking for illegal substances. Before leaving the customs rooms, a hat was passed around to collect funds for the gentlemen who unload the bags off the bus for inspection.
After the border, the real adventure began. Travelling through narrow bendy cliff roads with the Andes as our backdrop was something I don’t think I could have imagined in my wildest dreams. I won't lie it was a little scary but the experience was surreal. Even if you don’t like the idea of travelling by bus while in South America, the border crossing from Argentina to Chile through the Andes, is a journey not to be missed.