After haggling for a taxi (AR$30) from Centro in Buenos Aires, arrived at the Retiro Omnibus station for the 18-hour bus trip to Puerto Madryn, 2 hours earlier; told to be there an hour before departure – not sure why.
Our first taxi ride during the 9 days in BA, with the barely out-of-nappy wild-eyed driver with a Formula 1 attitude proved an exhilarating ride! Argentinians drive like they play football; with unrivalled passion and no rules! An excellent driver though and even returned my change after speeding off in the distance!
As Argentina has barely any trains, a bus is your main form of transport, especially for long distances. Roughly, flying costs double the bus fare, so if you’re away for any length of time, then zigzagging your way across Argentina through flight is best left for the rich or emergencies!
The Retiro is more like an overcrowded well-oiled airport. Buses come and go every few minutes; 75 platforms, loads of travellers with oversized luggage, and enough cafes/shops to keep you occupied during a long wait.
Relieved to see our bus arrive on time as the Arrival/Departure board displayed the time only 20 minutes before departure, our bags got loaded, and we boarded. Oh, the guy loading bags expects a tip; however, after he hurled our first pack upside down into the luggage compartment, there’s was no tip! Very impressed with the Class 2 ticket (AR$352) on the “Condor Estrellas” company; big comfy seats that recline 140 degrees and a small pillow provided! We were handed a cold dinner comparable to a plane meal and on our way. Worth mentioning is the Class structure on buses. Each company has its “version” of Classes 1 to 5, although the company needs to abide by Argentinian law; my understanding:
Class 1 – allocated seat reclining to bed
Class 2 – allocated seat reclining 140 degrees
Class 3 – allocated seat reclining 40 degrees
Class 4 – allocated upright seat (number of passengers for number of seats)
Class 5 – free for all bus transport, no passenger limit!
For more detail, check the Omnilineas times.
After a quick stop an hour later (passenger pick-up), stopped for a 20 minute coffee break at Bahia Blanca round 5am, then kept driving! It’s amazing how these drivers go for 8+ hours straight without a break and do an 18-hour run!
The landscape is unremarkable; golden pancake-flat plains, scattered patchy scrubs, with the occasional rising hill in the distance. So, if you can’t sleep on long bus trips, take plenty to read, play, listen to, or otherwise.
Only one movie for the duration of the trip but if you’re not good at lip reading, then you can simply plug your headphones in to listen…if it’s in English.
This trip provided a breakfast stop, which is paid for by the bus company. However, unless you understand Spanish you won’t partake in breakfast (a minor or major point, depending on how hungry you are); unlike us, make sure you take up the offer!
There’s also about 4 checkpoint stops or drive-throughs. If the bus stops, the armed Guardia Nationaciales walk through the bus looking for something, not sure what, just exercising their right to bare uniforms or justify their job perhaps?
Arrived at Puerto Madryn an hour late but found our Hostal Sentir relatively easy. Very clean and the ladies running it are very accommodating. A very well-equipped kitchen (refreshing change from BA’s Hostel), Wi-Fi in room, common room with PC, and loads of glorious hot water! At AR$160 (Dbl) a night, which was the cheapest available hostel at the time, I definitely recommend this place.
Only spent a couple of nights at Pt. Madryn as it’s out of season and we were pushing south before the winter. So, didn’t take up any tours, but spent a lot of time searching for accommodation and bus details for Rio Gallegos and Ushuaia.
Although, everyone advises it’s out of season, the price of food, accommodation, and transport is expensive – I imagine high season must be horrendous!