Travelling by Bus in South America

South America is huge, in fact if we’re being technical, it’s 17,840,000 square km of hugeness. That’s a lot to see, and a lot of different landscapes to take in.

We do have to consider some safety aspects though, regardless of gender, age etc. There are parts of South America that are considered unsafe for tourists to travel to, so before you go anywhere heed advice from the government websites, and make an informed decision. If you’re advised to avoid a certain region of a country, then avoid it. This advice is there to look after your safety, after all.

Travelling around countries and between them will involve huge distances, and with a pretty sub-standard rail network, and high costs for flights generally, it’s no surprise that coach travel is the way many people choose to get around.

But what is it like?

Buses will take you from country to country, but it’s important to note the subtle, and sometimes huge, differences between countries, who all have their own bus networks.

Safety – Stations are bustling and busy places, so always watch your belongings carefully, as this is a pick-pockets idea of heaven. When you’re on the bus, especially if it’s a night journey and you’re planning on sleeping, secure your valuables, and travel as lightly as possible. If your bus stops for a comfort break, don’t venture too far from the bus, as they have been known to just leave!

Standards – If you’re travelling within Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil or Paraguay, you’re going to be treated to comfortable buses. In Argentina and Chile, you’ll find different types of bus, called semicama and cama. The only difference is the size really, and they’re both comfortable, with food served on board, clean surroundings, and usually a TV. This isn’t the same in Bolivia, where you’ll find quite basic buses, although they are very cheap. Not all buses have toilets, but if they don’t then you’ll find you do stop a few times along the way – just remember that you probably won’t stop at the Ritz, and this can sometimes just literally be a road-side!

Cost – Sometimes it will be cheaper to fly, and it’s a case of searching for flights, seeing if you can find a bargain, and if you can then go ahead and book it. You’ll save time flying, but then on the downside, you won’t see as much of the scenery as you would on the coach. Brazil is probably the most expensive country for coach travel, so in this case it will probably be better to fly. Bolivia on the other hand, it’s as cheap as chips to get on the bus.

Conditions – Roads are generally quite well formed, however you may encounter mountain roads that are little rocky to say the least. Just be aware of this really, but make sure you keep an eye on the passing scenery, as its bound to be rather breathtaking.

Travel light, keep your wits about you, weigh up the pros and cons, see if you can get there just as cheap by air, and remember your camera!

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