|A Cruz Del Sur bus (from their site)|
We felt we should add a post purely about bus travel in South America and share some of our experiences. Generally it is very safe and the companies are great. This goes for all countries except Bolivia, where many companies are dodgy (generally) and the buses are not of a very good standard. We had a theory that Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile sell their old buses to Bolivia when they are run down and looking pretty tired.
In Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Chile the buses are like being in business class on a flight. They have Semi-Cama (almost flat seats, with a leg-rest) and Cama (fully –reclining beds, totally horizontal – amazing).
We had great buses in Brazil, we also used a couple of private transfer companies (listed in the links on the left), but also used Catarinense & 1001. Both fine.
In Argentina we used a small company (sorry can't remember their name) where our bus was severely delayed but the company bought a ticket with an affiliated company for us and we were fine. It was lucky we spoke some Spanish as all announcements of the cancellation (a bloke walking along the platform, shouting) were in Spanish.
Peru was probably the best for buses in the countries we went to. We mostly used Cruz del Sur. They are more expensive but very good, efficient and great staff (apart from the surly woman we came across in Paracus). There is a watch out in Puno; we did some research and found the best company to book from Puno to Lima was a company called TourPeru, so we went to their ticket office at the bus terminal in Puno and booked 2 tickets for the next day, they told us their system was down and issued us a receipt for the tickets and asked us to come back the next morning an hour before our bus and collect the tickets – basically the bloke who sold us the tickets was moonlighting for another company and gave us tickets for this other, cheaper bus company (to be fair it was to the correct destination). It was all very dodgy and we were not impressed with the company he put us on. So always check this.
Bolivia was by far the worst country for buses. As a rule they do not have functioning toilets and even on 10-12 hour journeys they do not stop for the toilet. We saw men peeing in plastic bottles and dirty nappies being thrown out the window. Pretty much the only thing missing from Bolivian buses was livestock. We learnt to dehydrate ourselves for several hours (longer on longer journeys) so we did not need the toilet.
In Bolivia you can only purchase bus tickets on the day of travel, not in advance like you can in Peru, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. None of the buses we travelled on in Bolivia were clean or comfortable, but if you are prepared for this you will be fine.
Chile is like Peru with regards to it’s buses. They are very efficient and clean and comfortable. We used Tur-Bus and Pullman, both were great.