Some people dread buses, especially long bus rides where the bathroom looms in the back, the air conditioning is spotty and the guy next to you is already snoring before the bus has even shifted out of first gear. But in Argentina, long bus rides represent a particular level of luxury.
After one week of lounging in Mendoza wine country, my husband and I psyched ourselves up for a long stint in Buenos Aires, the capital. The ride from wine country is 14 hours, considered grueling to some. For us, our Cama Executiva tickets meant we had second floor, reclining seats on one of the smoothest bus rides we’ve had during our travels through the Andes Mountains.
First Class Service from Mendoza to Buenos Aires
For 450 Argentine pesos (US$100), the cabin resembles a business class airplane. Instead of four seats across, our Flechabus had only three new vinyl loungers that flattened out to a comfortable 160 degrees. After we checked our luggage, an attendant greeted us at the door with a basket of candy and a friendly smile. Upstairs, the curtains were drawn, allowing a flood of light into the upper deck as the sun began to set over Mendoza. Engine purring, the driver shifted into reverse at precisely the moment the attendant began the first round of refreshments: Mendoza sparkling wine or champaña.
With tall flutes in our hands, we toasted to a restful journey.
After the champagne glasses were emptied and second pours offered, the attendant reappeared holding two bottles of wine before the dinner service. White wine in the left, red in the right, he worked the aisles pouring generously as the evening movie began and the city lights winked out behind us. We wrapped ourselves with fresh blankets, still fragrant from the laundry.
Three courses began. First a light snack: a cheese sandwich to accompany the regional libations. Plates cleared, our next course included a tray of salad, salami, cheese, and rice. More wine flowed and then the meat course arrived: stuffed chicken and potatoes. Full and warmed through with wine, we handed the final dishes to the attendant who then took the final order of the evening. He asked if we would like more wine or perhaps a whiskey rocks. I ordered coffee liqueur and Neil had the whiskey.
Everything ran on a well designed schedule, formulated to get us snuggled into bed and watching the final scenes of the movie as our digestives worked their warming magic. We reclined and the television flashed the final five minutes of the film. The attendant offered extra pillows and drew heavy curtains closed. I laughed to Neil as the entire cabin drifted off and the bus rolled on east toward Buenos Aires where we’d rented an apartment in San Telmo.
The night went by quickly and at precisely 9am, the attendant re-emerged from the first floor, apron on and neatly dressed. Orange juice and breakfast boxes welcomed us to the Atlantic coast as we stretched watching the landscape change from rural to urban.
Tips for Riding Buses in Argentina
Of all the countries in South America, Argentina can boast some of the best service providers on the continent. For long hauls over 12 hours, a night bus is best especially best if your budget allows for high level services usually called Executive or Suite tickets.
If you are traveling through the Andes for the first time, morning buses let you take in the sprawling vistas at 180 degree views from the second floor.
Consider packing herbal tea or pills for altitude sickness, especially if you will be climbing to or from high points above sea level.
Always ask where the bathroom is and choose a seat farthest away.
Seats #1-4 are panoramic seats on the second floor and have more leg room with unfettered views of the countryside.
Buy your tickets at least a day beforehand. This way you have the widest selection of seats and avoid last minute booking fees.
Regardless of when you buy your ticket, always ask for a discount for cash.
All bus companies share service routes and are owned in a cooperative style of business. So almost all tickets have the same fare and companies will cross-book seats for one another. So a 10pm ticket through CATA can be serviced through Flechabus. At the tourist level ticket, all service is the same in terms of amenities and safety. Sit back, relax, and sip champagne at ease.