Monday, February 15, 2010

To Provincia and Beyond: Long Distance Buses Part 1

Apparently I'm obsessed with buses. Here is yet another bus how-to, just like my Riding the Colectivo series, except this time we're going long-distance baby! First part of the series: Basics and the Miracle that is Plataforma10. Vamos!

If you're coming to Buenos Aires for any period of time longer than a few weeks, you might want to get out of the city and explore other parts of Argentina. There is so much to this country besides Capital, and life really is completely different outside the Av General Paz. So get out there, OK?!

When traveling inside Argentina, and even to neighboring countries, the best and cheapest way to go is by bus. Plane tickets are absurdly expensive--flying to Santiago, right over the mountains, costs an arm and your first-born child, according to Aerolineas. Anywho, the long distance buses in Argentina are often called "micros" (not that they are micro in any sense of the word) or "omnis," and they go pretty much everywhere: Mendoza, Rosario, Salta, Patagonia, Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Bariloche, El Calafate, Iguazú, Brasil, Paraguay, Chile. I think there's even one to Perú!

They are also very comfortable. Considering how large a nation Argentina is, some might be deterred by 10 or 12 or even 24 hour bus rides, but it really isn't too bad. The seats on the majority of these buses are "cama" or "semi-cama," meaning they recline to a full or almost full horizontal position. None of that bolt-upright, 10 square inches of leg room nonsense they have on airplanes...these seats are the BOMB (couldn't say THAT on a plane either!)

The service on these buses is also excellent, at least from what I've experienced personally. I'm sure there are some bad eggs, but all the companies I've travelled with have been great. On longer trips they provide snacks and meals, which aren't stellar but certainly not awful. The bus I took to Octoberfest even gave us wine with our dinner, WITH free refills! Put me right to sleep. They also play movies of varying caliber, but honestly, we can't blame Nicolas Cage's bad acting on the poor bus companies, now can we. 

There are probably a hundred companies that offer service to various locations, but the best way to find a bus to your desired destination is to use a website called When you go to this site, enter in your origin (Retiro if you're leaving from Capital) and your destination, and the date you wish to travel. A list of all the available buses to that destination will appear, with the company name, time of departure, time of arrival, class of seat (cama, semi-cama, cama ejecutivo, etc), number of seats available, and price.

There are a bunch of different seat options, but basically the more expensive the seat, the more it reclines. However, keep in mind that even the cheapest seat option (usually semi-cama) reclines almost completely, and I've travelled in semi-cama seats on 8 and 10 hour trips with no problem.  

Semi-cama seat- check out that recline!

To buy your actual tickets (pasajes) there are also several options. You can buy directly through the Plataforma10 website using your credit card, which requires you to sign up and enter in a document/passport number--personally, I don't like putting that kind of stuff on the web. You can also call and buy them if your Spanish is good enough.

Alternatively, you can go back to the home-page and on the left side of the screen, click "Dónde comprar?" A list of locations will appear, organized by barrio, and you can choose the place closest to you, go there, and buy your tickets in person. There is a dropdown menu where you can change the province if you live outside Capital Federal.

The locations in Capital are usually locutorios, or sometimes grocery stores like Disco. There will be a black and orange Plataforma10 sticker on the door or window of the locutorio so you'll know you have the right place (the first time I did this I was so confused...I was expecting more of a travel agency place, and the dinky little locutorio was a surprise!)

To buy your ticket, just tell the person at the counter that you would like to buy "pasajes de Plataforma10" and then tell them the destination and date. They will kindly bring up the actual Plataforma10 page, just like you did at home, and then you can show them which specific bus you would like. You can also choose your seat, aisle (pasillo) or window (ventanilla).

They will ask for a document, so take along a copy of your passport. You pay, and then they print out your tickets. Easy peasy and with no risk of identity theft, always a plus! Up next, we return to Retiro (that place haunts my dreams, people) for the actual catching of the bus. Not as easy as it sounds, but no worries...I got you. :-)


  1. Thank you so much for your blog! I have found it remarkably entertaining and informative. I travel to BA for the second time next week, and have been fussing over travel by bus to mar del plata, but your detailed accounts have me so much more prepared than any other information anywhere on the web! Maybe you could help with bus travel from mar del plata to villa gesell, pinamar, and back to BA? Your narrative voice is super smart and full of momentum!

  2. Next time try the train. There are very good overnight trains to Cordoba and Tucuman with private room sleepers and a rolling restaurant. Less comfortable service to the Atlantic coast but trains will get you there.

  3. Thanks for this.

    Seeing as how you're a bus geek n' all, could you give us a blow-by-blow account of the different seat categories? Plataforma10 just offered me up about five different but similar categories, including not just semi-cama and cama, but cama c/ servicio, ejecutivo and norteño VIP. If it doesn't specify c/ servicio, does that mean I don't get fed / watered??