What to Expect when Riding the Bus from Santiago to Mendoza
By Sydney Tong on May 23, 2017. Read time: 5 mins.
Mendoza is a bus ride over the Andes Mountains from Santiago. We made the journey for a weekend of wine tasting and delicious barbecue. This article will give you an idea of what to expect when taking the bus from Santiago Chile to Mendoza Argentina.
We rode with Turbus on the way to Mendoza and Andesmar on the way back. After riding with both bus companies, we recommend Turbus over Andesmar for several reasons. They had superior service, quick departure times, cleaner buses and their workers weren't on strike. Andesmar is known to have a bad reputation, we took Turbus for the rest of our long distance trips, and we never had a problem with them.
Turbus does not allow the purchase of tickets from Santiago to Mendoza if you are outside of the country or if you are a foreigner. Chilean citizens use RUT numbers which are needed when making a credit card purchase. This requirement makes it difficult for foreigners to make online purchases. In which case, locate a Turbus office near you and buy tickets directly from them.
Check out those hairpin turns
Buy tickets online through omnilineas.com, who accept foreign credit cards. Omnilineas is an Argentine company and only features Argentine bus operators. It is always best to reserve in advance, especially if you want good seats during the busy season.
Consider a reputable company, this route is dangerous.
The ride through the Andes Mountains is spectacular and the windows are the best seats in the house. If you can, reserve the front seats on the upper deck to get panoramic views. It will be worth it! Try to avoid sitting next to the bathrooms. When making a booking online or in person, you should be able to see the layout of the bus.
Ticket prices are determined by the type of seat you choose. Most companies have similar pricing structures. There are five different varieties of class comfort; Class 5 provides the most basic of amenities, and class 1 is the most comfortable. The classes are regulated by the government and must comply with the set standards.
- Class 5- Comun- This the lowest category and does not have any additional requirements other than the basic standards for transportation.
- Class 4- Común con aire- This category offers heating and cooling, also the number of passengers is limited by the number of seats on the bus. Standing room is not allowed.
- Class 3- Semicama- The buses are more comfortable and are equipped with armrests, footrests, and reclining backrests. There are 4 seats per row and seats can recline 40 degrees. They also include food and drink service. There is also a minibar where you can get juice, coffee or tea. There is an adjustable air-conditioning system for every seat.
- Class 2- Cama Ejecutivo- This class is even more comfortable and the seats are even bigger, allowing only 3 seats per row. Every row has a single seat on one side. Seats recline 55 degrees and are better for overnight trips. It has the same requirements in regards to air conditioning, bathrooms, minibar, and catering. There is usually some form of movie entertainment.
- Class 1- Cama Suite- The only additional requirement is the seats recline to 85 degrees. This means the seat can recline to be completely flat like a bed.
View from our window.
Get to bus station "Terminal Alameda Santiago de Chile" an hour to thirty minutes before departure. Buses arrive at the station thirty minutes before departure, during which you can begin to load luggage into the bottom of the bus.
Buses are continuously coming and going, and it can get pretty hectic. Buses change departure gates frequently so don't be afraid to ask drivers or staff for help. In most cases, a range of gates in which your bus could possible leave from will be printed on the ticket.
The buses come and go quickly and will not wait for you. Be alert and on your toes while waiting for departure.
The drive takes about six hours but crossing the border takes a lot of extra time. Anticipate being at the border for at LEAST an hour. If there are buses in front of you then it will take longer, it is a time-consuming process.
Before reaching the border, drivers will pass out immigration and customs forms which need to be completed before reaching the border. Crossing the border is chaotic, and there is a lot of standing in line. Bus drivers will direct your group to where they need to go, which was a great help. Once you reach the border and get out of the bus make sure to have your passport, immigration form, custom form, and if applicable, visa/reciprocity paperwork.
You will first stand in line to get your passport stamped for leaving Chile. Then you will walk to the next counter to enter Argentina. They will check your immigration form and that you have paid your reciprocity fee.
As of 2016, United States citizens are not required to pay the reciprocity fee to enter.
After going through immigration, you will still need to go through customs. Luggage will be screened and checked. Agents also inspect all sections of the bus and have been known to unscrew parts of the bus. Agents also bring dogs onto the bus to sniff and inspect.
Border bus stop shops and restaurants
Border bus stop shops and restaurants
Hot food for the road
Have some snacks outside border control
The bus station in Mendoza is close to downtown and popular hotels. Hail a cab outside of the station. Our hostel was four blocks away from the station, so we walked.
We did not leave with a good impression of Andesmar. On the way back from Mendoza we got stuck in bus workers strike and had to wait at the terminal for an extra four hours. Andesmar would not answer any of our questions, requests, or give us a refund on our tickets so we could ride with another bus company.
Turbus is a Chilean company, and Andesmar is an Argentine company. Politics and the economy are more stable in Chile than Argentina. While a strike could happen within any company, in any country, at any time, it is important to keep in mind the economic stability of the country you are visiting. It was a good lesson; now we pay more attention to the economic condition of the country we are in so we can be better equipped to handle unfortunate situations.
Before leaving to Argentina, check to see if citizens or your country are required to pay the reciprocity fee. The reciprocity fee must be paid online beforehand. Print out the appropriate paperwork verifying that you have paid the fee. As of 2016, the Argentine government has suspended the reciprocity fee for US citizens. Unfortunately, Canadians and Aussies still need to pay the fee. Check before leaving to see what regulations apply to you.
Crossing the border adds a lot of time, and the process is a pain in the butt. Ask your bus driver any questions you may have; they were happy to help. Be prepared to be stuck on the border for several hours. There are small restaurants available at the border for longer waits.
Argentina leg of the bus ride.
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