S. American Buses

So I thought I would give the intricate details on how to navigate the transport systems available to you in the souther continent. Coming to South America with very little information as to how to really get about, I'm going to help you avoid some of the mistakes I made. Pay mind, the transport systems in place differ from country to country, so I am going to give a breakdown based on that. So let's start!


Essentials:

1) Snacks: it's the worst to be ravenous on a
 very long bus ride! 2) Water: self explanatory 
3) Passport: almost all bus companies will ask for your passport and put your credentials on your ticket. 
4) IPOD: do NOT let your friends scare you by saying it will be stolen! Your iPod is your absolute best friend for these long journeys. Don't leave your best friend behind!
5) Entertainment: if you have an ipad, or laptop, make sure to download lots of movies and that you have a full battery. For those of you who don't get carsick (unlike me) bring a good book or two!
6) for those that do get carsick, DRAMAMINE!
7) Appropriate clothing: buses can range from freezing cold to uncomfortably warm, so wear removable layers or bring a nice fluffy jacket. 


Attention Americans, Canadians, and Australians
For the countries Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil their is this pesky little thing called a reciprocity tax! Before you complain, realize the reason you are being taxed is because your country charges the exact same amount to their citizens on entering your country.  Read more here!

Ecuador
Ugh. I hate the public transportation in Ecuador. The entire bus system is wacky, drivers only stop when you make it clear you want to get off, and they are almost always overcrowded. If you are looking for amenities, forget about it. But if you are looking for cheap (although rather hassling) travel then this is your stop. Don't EVER purchase tickets online! There is no garuntee you will be able to make it to the terminal in time for your bus, or find it for that matter! Sorry, but the nice electronic system and e-tickets back home just don't work practically here! Once you arrive at the bus terminal, there are usually multiple bus companies leaving on the hour to wherever you want to go, so definitely buy your ticket at the station from a teller. It's cheaper, and your garunteed to not miss your bus. Ya know, unless something crazy happens. Depending on how remote the area is you are traveling to, you might be riding next to a man holding a chicken. Get over it. Also, once you get into seriously out of the way places, the nice shiny bus terminals disappear. The only way to really find a bus to where you are going is to ask a local, and they will tell you what time it comes and where to sit and wait.  I actually really like the small town buses because they usually are open air rancheros! Which are really nice for nice afternoon rides as you can feel the landscape passing by! Other public transport in Ecuador is cheap and simple. Public bus systems in Quito cost only $0.25, but are terribly crowded so keep your valuables close at hand! Taxis are also usually fairly cheap within the city. 

Ecuador ---> Peru Boarder Crossing
 Okay, we have all heard horror stories of tourists getting totally ripped off at boarder crossings, or worse being threatened with physical harm. Thus when I was on a bus from Cuenca to Mancora about to cross the boarder around 1:00 am, it was fairly nerve racking. I was needlessly worried! Peru has recently built a new boarder facility. It's big, and has official looking guys with guns. The process was pretty painless as Americans don't need a visa to get into the country, so within twenty minutes I was back on the bus and fast asleep. 

Peru
 Peru's buses are fantastic! And you can take them anywhere. For instance instead of paying upwards of US$300 for a flight from Lima to Cusco, you can instead take a comfy overnight sleeper bus that arrives the next morning. But there is a trick to it. First, I reccommend one of two bus lines: either Cruz Del Sur or Civa. Next you will be faced with a choice, you either take the semi-cama seat or the Cama seat. TAKE THE CAMA! It usually comes out to be about an extra ten dollars, but in return you get a huge seat that nearly reclines all the way down! On these lines you also get special amenities, like power plugs for mobile devices, wifi powered by cell reception, and usually a tasty dinner and breakfast! Not bad for less than US$80 (depends on your trip!). 

Argentina and Brasil
I'm doing these togeather because the systems are about the same. Pricy. Make sure to check both flights and buses, because sometimes they equal out to being about the same, which in that case just take the two hour plane ride! As for taxis, both countries are fond users of the meter, so make sure it is on once the driver starts going! Otherwise a very ugly argument may ensue. The public bus systems and metros are also quite straightforward, and if you are not sure which to take get advice from your hostel! For good buses, use Cruz del Norte, as they are pretty reliable! 

So here are some good websites for finding buses and the like! Realize international plain fare is ridiculously expensive, so try to cross boarders using a  bus!


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