Four companies service the Pt. Madryn to Rio Gallegos route daily with Andesmar three times per day (13:30, 18:00, 19:00), El Pinguino (17:00), Tramat (10:40), and Don Otto (13:30).
Decided to go with a different bus company (El Pinghuino – AR$324 Semi Cama) as the ticket “seemed” better value-for-money; comfier seat but Sin Servicio (without food).
The bus arrived 25 minutes late; it was well worn and shabbier than Condor Estrellas bus. After an hour’s drive, we stopped at Trelew for a 20-minute break and a passenger pick-up. We then drove around the industrial streets of Trelew to the bus Depot and waited on the bus for 30 minutes for something to happen. We were then told to pile out as our bus was “broken”. We collected our luggage and boarded another bus and off again after about 45 minutes! Not a good start. At least I had a proper seat belt on this bus; only had half a seat belt on the first bus…hanging off half a seat belt is not much use during an accident!
We had the pleasure of 2 movies in succession on this trip but as expected, both were dubbed over in Spanish with Spanish sub-titles.
This company is definitely not as organised or customer focused, in fact, more cowboy-style. Used the toilet only once during the whole 19+ hours as it lacked toilet paper, soap, water to wash hands, and cleanliness; urine all over the floor and just preferred to try my luck with the station toilets when we stopped. At the Rivadavia bus terminal, the toilets were worse than on the bus with a homeless person living in one of the men’s cubicles I’m told. The terminal was also seedy.
During the darkness of early morning, the bus slowed down to a snail crawl. I peered out of the curtain to see another El Pinghuino bus parked on the opposite side of the road. Slowly we backed up within a foot of the parked bus and the driver proceeded to take out a piece of garden hose, a 5litre water container, and then sucked out petrol and started syphoning, ‘you’ve gotta be f…… kidding me’ were my words! How useful was 5 litres of fuel hours away from anywhere? The best was yet to come when the people from the parked bus started piling onto our bus! They were freezing cold so not sure how long they were waiting on the side of the road…probably without heating; won’t be using this bus company again.
Only went through one police checkpoint where everyone’s passport or ID details were recorded. On arriving to Rio Gallegos, our scheduled 18-hour trip actually lasted 20 hours; thought we’d be much later so our driver made up time by stopping less.
Booked the next leg’s bus tickets to Ushuaia as soon as we arrived as only 1 bus runs daily (8:30am – Techni Austral) otherwise, 9am – Marga (Mon/Wed/Fri). Tickets cost AR$270 each one-way; a return ticket was AR$500 (special price!). The taxi from the bus station to the hotel was AR$22. Hotel Sehuen (AR$258 dbl) was clean but small and included breakfast, which commenced at 8a.m. so if you’re taking any early buses, you’ll forfeit breakfast (they won’t make it earlier for you…I asked); the hotel was clean but overpriced.
If you’re catching a bus from Rio Gallegos to El Calafate, companies servicing this route are Taqsa (every other day at 12:00), Sportman (13:00 Mon & Sat), and Marga (daily at 20:30; every other day at 09:15; and Mon & Fri at 18:00). Note, “Every other day” is quoted by the bus companies!