Road Trip (almost) without a car
Argentina is large! My initial plan was to rent a car and do a proper road trip around the country but the price and distances gave me a heart attack. If I wanted to see things and chill, I had to mix.
For big distances there was the plane of course. And Aerolineas Argentinas, although very basic, have decent prices. Then there were buses, very nice, as long as you stick to the main roads like the Panamericana, Route 40, which goes alongside the Andes.
I did also rent a car in Bariloche for few days and it was a perfect solution there as you couldn’t rely on public transportation. Bus stops along the road outside of towns are not marked at all and the time table is more of a guideline rather than a schedule anyone keeps. Only downside would be the quality of the roads. A small VW might not be ideal for some places off the beaten track.
Other than that, everywhere outside of bigger cities hitch hiking is a way to go. I probably shouldn’t recommend it, but for me the few times I did it – including on my own – it worked. Maybe I’m just lucky that way. In places like Patagonia or in the mountains around Bariloche I think people are more inclined to help one another because they know how dangerous it can get in those desolate places. Without each other’s help people wouldn’t survive. Even the couple that was with me, from Buenos Aires, was surprised how normal this practice was around there. We hitch-hiked once together and it turned out the guy who picked us up already had a passenger in his car, a ten-year-old boy on his way back from school. So even kids do it there. The driver was used to long journeys on his own between Argentina and Chile and he would pick people up mainly for the company and conversation. The couple of times I hitch-hiked by myself was between the resort I was staying at, Casa del Lago, and San Carlos de Bariloche. It was about 20km and you never knew when a bus was coming, or if at all. And again the drivers were used to picking people up, especially tourists who didn’t have a car.
The last and weirdest mode of transport in Argentina that I used was few years after my initial trip. It was a modified truck operated by a company called Dragoman. So the back of the truck has been changed into sort of a bus with capacity to have enough space for 20 people, their luggage, tents, kitchen and food supplies. Completely uncomfortable seats, if you compare them to a normal bus, but very practical if you have to spend more than 3 weeks on that truck. The experience with Dragoman itself wasn’t the best due to our sort of guide, who was useless – how can a company send someone to Latin America for over a year if they don’t speak Spanish and as soon as they get drunk they start offending the locals????? But that’s just me and my issues I guess. The truck was cool and I was tempted to try them again. Haven’t done it yet.
So apart from a train ride I’ve checked off the list all the major transportation modes. Including boats in Iguazu, El Calafate, Tigre, kayaking in Bariloche, and some rafting near Mendoza. And let’s not forget horseback riding – twice. That’s always fun.