Saturday, April 16, 2011

Taking the bus to Buenos Aires

Well, this post is only a few days late.  I am pretty sure this is something a lot of people who don't live in Argentina don't know about Argentina - you can take overnight buses that have accommodations extremely similar to a first-class section of an airplane.  There are several tour companies that provide this class of service, but I took AndesMar from Mendoza to Buenos Aires and it was fantastic.

I booked my ticket earlier last week for leaving on Friday night and returning on Tuesday morning to Mendoza for $780 pesos. That's roughly US $160, roundtrip.  The cheapest airfare I could find was US $360 roundtrip. My friends/coworkers convinced me to go a day earlier and helped me change my ticket. My friend called the bus company and asked if I could change my ticket, and he said yes but was all iffy about it, so we went immediately to the Terminal in Mendoza and went to the ticket office. The first chick we talked to said I had to change it online and couldn't do it.

But my friend doesn't take no for an answer, and I'm really glad she doesn't. We went to another AndesMar office (yes there are several in the station) and she got the manager to change my ticket, no questions asked. I then had about 2 hours to pack for a weekend in BA (it was 430pm) and get back to the bus station with my stuff to leave at 7pm.

The bus ride to BA takes about 12-13 hours. You can choose to do this in a regular seat, or you can pay extra and spring for an Executive Suite. On some buses, the entire bus consists of Executive Suites (first class), and are double-decker buses. This was my bus. They have bathrooms and bars on board, with a bus attendant, televisions, radios, curtains and fully-reclining flat beds with pillows and blankets for your comfort. Sure, it may be way slower than flying, but if you're not in a rush, why not be comfortable and even save a night or two in a hotel?
Comfy flat beds, plush leather and blankets? What's not to love?!

You only need to arrive 10-15 mins before departure and give the guy standing next to the bus your bag to store underneath. He gives me a claim ticket and I get on the bus, finding my reserved seat. There's a bag for your shoes that bungees to your armrest. Then we leave the station.

The bus attendant introduces themselves and we watch a safety video.

Then he hands out motherf*cking BINGO cards and I get to play Bingo! The prize being a bottle of wine.

The first movie starts. It's in English (subtitled in Spanish) and it's Grown Ups.

You get your meal served an hour later. But before the meal, you are offered wine and soda. Afterwards, you can have champagne, coffee or tea.  Anyone who knows me knows that I went for the wine and champagne. Non-alcoholic drinks are for plebes.

Another movie starts. This time in Spanish. I've lost interest, but amused that it features Kirk Cameron as the lead.

Bed goes back flat, curtains drawn. It's sleeping time, biatches.

Wake up to honking like someone is having a baby and we're in their way as they're trying to get to the hospital. Turns out it's just a traffic jam somewhere on the outskirts of BA. The sun is rising and we're on a highway, but there are tons of buildings everywhere. This city is enormous.

We pull into Retiro station and park. It was cold and drizzling, but it was still so exciting to be in Buenos Aires that I didn't care. I got my luggage (and the man really does check your claim ticket, which is a nice security measure) and wheeled it downstairs to the sign where it said to get a taxi. No line for a taxi. Yay!

Got in the cab, gave the driver the address and I was on my way to the apartment in Palermo. Cab driver was talking about Chuck Norris and the TV show Dallas, and I was just happy he understood my Spanish.

And so the Buenos Aires adventure began...

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