After my most horrendous bus trip yet, with much of the 10 hour night trip spent kicking a Bolivian man every 15 minutes as he perserved to piss me off by laying his bare feet over my seat, I felt inspired to jot down a few pointers about one of South America´s most popular types of transport.
Bus tickets can be purchased from agencies, hostels and of course bus terminals. It is almost always cheaper to book directly with the bus company at the terminal, thereby cutting out the agency commission. However I´ve found that sometimes the price of catching a taxi to and from the terminal to book the ticket can outweigh the cost of booking through an agency.
2. Which bus?
They might all have four wheels but buses, like people, come in all shapes and sizes across South America. Local buses and micros (like small mini-buses) are significantly cheaper than some of the more luxury buses but you get what you pay for. There´s semi-cama, where seats go back a little and cama, where seats fold out into a bed-like position. I paid the equivalent of about £6 for a local night-bus from Sucre to Tupiza for 10 hours squashed on the back seat of a bus next to a woman and her child, both on the same seat. Fast forward to Argentina and I have just forked out about £100 to take advantage of the luxury VIP bus from Salta to Buenos Aires. Not only will I be able to watch movies, be served my meals akin to being on a flight but champagne will be at my disposal. For the jaw-dropping amount I am forking out I expect Dom Perignon. Me expects it taste more like Lamborghini.
3. Take off
Eventually the bus will leave the terminal. Rarely on time as the bus company tries to get another passenger on board. Ahh the relief when it does. Ten minutes later the bus stops. Another departure point in town. More passengers get on. Your patience falters.
4. You´ll never go hungry or thirsty
Just before departure amigos and amigas, and children, will come on board and try and sell you water, bread, meat and vegtables, jelly – almost anything random. And at each check-point and each stop, sellers will come to the bus windows and try and offer more foodstuffs to passengers.
5. I´ll have the window seat please!
I always opt for a window seat because it means I am able to look out and see some of the continent´s most beautiful landscapes. Particularly great journeys are from Cusco to Puno and from Cochabamba to Villa Tunari. If seats are cheap and your budget allows, book two seats next to each other so you can spread out during the journey.
PS take some extra layers for the night journeys when temperatures can fall to below zero. And avoid Bolivian men with bare feet.