Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bus Travel, Argentine Style

This country has bus travel down to a science. Unlike Guatemala or Honduras or Nicaragua, there is not a chicken bus in sight. I just got off the bus from Buenos Aires to Iguazu, and I don’t think I could have improved upon one thing to make it a better ride. I opted to travel “super cama” this time (also variously called “tutto letto” or “cama suite”), which is the most expensive option – but my 18-hour bus ride still only cost me about $80 Canadian. And I got to ride up top, which amuses me immensely for some reason.

What made it so good, you say? Let’s start with the seat – it folded down completely and utterly flat, and a leg/footrest anchored on the wall in front could be levered up to create an actual bed. It was at least as wide as a business class plane seat. Dividers between rows meant you had complete privacy, as did curtains that could be drawn between side-by-side seats. I had a row of 2 to myself, so I had acres of room.

Each seat had an individual LCD screen attached to the divider in front, with an individual set of headphones, so you could choose to watch/listen to the movie or not, as you choose. Soft fuzzy blankets were at least as big as those you’d put on a twin bed, and pillows were firm and comfortable. Windows all had curtains that could be drawn at night to shut out any glare from streetlights or passing traffic .

Food was very good, and (unusually for Argentina) came with an adequate amount of vegetables. (They’re big on the meat and starches here, but often skimp on the green stuff. My sister Shelley would be horrified by the lack of broccoli – even grocery stores often don’t have it.) Dessert was sinfully rich but not so large that I felt like a glutton. Your choice of beverages was provided, including wine if you wanted it; naturally I opted for the Argentine malbec. Champagne or whiskey was served after dinner; actually, they’d probably give you both if you wanted.

A charming and handsome young attendant served us at our seats, and he even thoughtfully switched on the English subtitles of the movies just for me. I should always live my life with handsome young men to dance attendance on me; any ideas as to how I could arrange this?

Quite delightful, all in all. If you come to Argentina for no other reason, come just to take an overnight bus ride somewhere, and go for the top class. You won’t be sorry. 

There are other choices, of course, if you don’t want to pay the extra $8-10 that this class costs. It’s a little complicated to figure out, as bus companies seem to call the same class by different names, but there are basically these choices:
  • Común: cheapest class, no frills. Seat doesn’t recline, usually no food provided.
  • Común con aire: as above, plus air-conditioning. The usual option for short trips (in this country, “short” means anything less than overnight, it seems).
  • Semi-cama: meets certain specifications about distance between seats and angle at which seats recline. May be “con” or “sin” servicio; that is, there will be food available, but it won’t necessarily be served at your seat (you may have to help yourself from a minibar). May also be called “Dorado” (gold).
  • Cama: meets certain specifications about distance between seats and angle of recline (more stringent than for semi-cama, so your seat will go back farther and it’ll be easier to sleep). 3 seats per row instead of 4 as the seats are wider. Food and beverages are usually (but not always) served at your seat but do not necessarily include wine. There is a range of comfort in this class from “cama economico” to “cama ejecutivo” (the latter term may also be used to refer to the next, top class of travel).
  • Super cama: the most comfortable (and most expensive) way to travel. Seats recline completely flat, and other amenities available as described above. May also be called “cama ejecutivo” or “cama suite” or “tutto letto” (the last referring to the seat that folds down flat).
I haven`t tried them all yet (still have to take a ‘semi-cama` somewhere) but even the basic service has been pretty good – at least as comfortable as travelling Greyhound, anyway.

I have a feeling, though, that I might be in for a rude shock when I cross the Bolivian border; I might be back to chicken buses again. So I`d better enjoy travelling the Argentine way while I can.

1 comment:

  1. High-class travel indeed! Love it!
    As to the handsome young men who'll dance attendance on your every need, I'm sure that with enough money, you can hire a houseboy for yourself when you get back. ;-)