10 Tips To Make Bus Travel In South America Easy
In South America, traveling by bus is the most common and least expensive way to travel. Even so, routes can often be difficult to find online and accommodations are definitely foreign. Having bused over 700 hours and counting (I can’t believe it’s been that many) through most of the South American continent, we’ve complied our list of tips to make bus travel simple and easy.
1. DO IT! - in our opinion, traveling by land can lead to some of your favorite memories of a trip. Passing through the countryside and observing the simple life of the rural communities helps provide a greater perspective on the culture and landscape. Even if you get car sick (like us), we’d highly recommend this method of transport in South America if you have the time. Just pack some motion sickness meds and everything will be groovy!
2. OPT FOR AN OVERNIGHT BUS - To get the biggest bang for your buck, opt for an overnight bus so you can sleep while you ride. Accommodations on many of these buses are better than first class on an airplane with comfortable seats that lie all the way down, meals, entertainment, and even wifi on board. Our favorite bus companies in this area of the world include: Oltursa, Cruz Del Sur, Andesmar, and Flechabus.
3. HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST SEATS - Our rule is that the longer we are on board, the more we spend on a good seat. Anything under 4 hours is bearable in an inexpensive seat & will definitely result in a more exciting ride. For longer overnight rides, splurge and pay the extra $10 or so for the most expensive seats - you’ll get better rest, better service, and a lot more room to relax. If the prices on all the seats are the same, choose a seat on the first level towards the front for the smoothest ride.
4. BRING TOILET PAPER, WET WIPES, AND HAND SANITIZER - Just trust me on this one!
5. BRING MOTION SICKNESS MEDICATION - Beautiful South American roads can often be steep and winding, so make sure you have some medication on hand, even if you don't think you'll need it.
6. DON’T SHOW UP TO THE BUS TERMINAL WITHOUT A PLAN - Do your research, know the bus company you want to use and make your schedule accordingly. This tip is soooooo important because some bus companies can be dangerous or run-down - ask around and the people in the area will have a go-to bus suggestion for you! Voyenbus.com is also a great resource for seeing bus schedules and routes all over South America. You can purchase your tickets through the website as well for an added surcharge, although it probably isn't necessary since most people purchase theirs in the moment at the bus terminal.
7. DON’T PLACE YOUR ITEMS ON THE OVERHEAD RACK - Check secure luggage pieces before you board and keep all carry-on items near you. I always carry my wallet and passport underneath my clothing in a money belt during overnight rides and keep any special personal items like our cameras, phones, and laptops in a closed bag at our feet.
8. DON’T STRAY TOO FAR FROM THE BUS DURING REST STOPS - Always have an eye on the bus while not on-board. Announcements that the bus is leaving are often not well-publicized. Believe me, you don’t want to be the one running after the bus because you took too long picking out your snack at the tienda (guilty).
9. BRING EYE MASKE & EAR PLUGS - Long haul buses often make a variety of stops (even in the middle of the night) and when they stop, the lights come on and can disturb your sleep. You often may be traveling with some noisy co-riders, so make sure you’re prepared!
10. BRING YOUR OWN GRUB - Even when the company says they provide meals, make sure you have food on hand that you love and makes you feel good. Often meals can be very heavy, greasy, and full of mystery items that may not settle well with your traveling stomach. Absolutely take a taste and try the items, however don't depend on them to fill you up.