Argentina: Bus vs plane

Considering that driving to Ushuaia from Buenos Aires via bus takes approximately three continuous days of bus riding, we were very happy to take a 3.5h flight instead. The price made sense too.

(psst, I did it anyway!)

We heard great things about how affordable it is to ride long-haul buses, but when it came down to booking during high season with only a few weeks left and on the spot while in the country, it was expensive! A bus ride might cost $170, while a flight would be $200. Saving $30 to spend a 24-72 hours in a bus suddenly didn’t really make sense, unless we were keen to explore the interiors of Argentinian and Chilean buses, which we actually weren’t.

The problem is that often booking domestic flights in a South American country is more expensive for foreign tourists, and in fact, it sometimes did stop us. From Buenos Aires to Ushuaia and from Bariloche to Buenos Aires cost about $269 per person per flight on Google Flights, but on LATAM’s website, they would double or triple in price if you went to check out. A $240 bus ticket looks very different compared to either a $269 or $750 plane flight.

How did I get around this? Well, even though LATAM is a member of Oneworld, their flights show up in Delta (Skyteam alliance) flight searches. For whatever reason, I could look up the flights directly on the Delta site and purchase them there for the same price as in Google Flights, and I could not do this on the LATAM site. Even better was that I am still a Oneworld gold member, so I got some more upgrades and lounge access for us. (Just kidding, there is no lounge in Buenos Aires or Ushuaia or Bariloche! Hahaha. But it did get us priority boarding.)

Unfortunately, this didn’t work when I was looking to book Aerolingus tickets from El Calafate to Bariloche, so we ended up buckling down for a 24h ride from El Chalten to Bariloche, which ended up being like 26h. It was not a great day, but the bus tickets were still a lot cheaper than a $800-900 plane ticket.

We ended up flying down to Ushuaia, taking the bus to Puerto Natales in Chile to visit Torre del Paine, then to El Calafate, El Chalten and Bariloche before flying back to Buenos Aires from Bariloche.FWIW, it’s not fun traveling as a celiac on buses. They do not provide any special food for you at all, you just receive the pitiful “meal” above: a sandwich, bread-thing, and cookie. There is no opportunity to get off the bus during stops, so you need to bring enough food and drink for the entire journey. Also, they only provided this crappy meal twice, and one cookie for breakfast, so Kay was pretty hungry and needed snacks too, even eating double the portions since he got all of my bus food. I’m glad we asked beforehand and that we bought ALLLL the pão de queijo in El Chalten before we left!

The moral of the story is, buy the plane tickets if you can finagle the price. It is worth it, especially on shorter holidays, to see more of the country instead of being cooped up in a bus. If you have several months off and find good bus prices, go for it. Otherwise, fly and don’t regret it!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *