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Many expats take this route between Chile and Argentina to renew their visas.

DON’T VOMIT, keep your eyes on the horizon. This is what I tell myself as I take a doubledecker bus on the windy road from Santiago, Chile to Mendoza, Argentina. There are 28 hairpin turns on the Chile side and most of the six hours of highway driving are enough to make my stomach lurch.

But on the other side of the Andes lies Argentina, Chile’s main país limitrofe (bordering country), and where travelers often go, either before or after Chile. Expats with 90-day visas who live in Santiago will also find themselves making this crossing every three months for a quick weekend trip to Mendoza to start the visa clock running again.

While you can fly to Mendoza, during the spring, summer, and fall, the bus ride is six hours of nonstop rolling mountains, scree, and sky and — at about US $26 one way — is far cheaper than flying. It was the giant skies and neverending peaks — not the subtitled version of “Training Day” blasting away on the bus TVs — that kept me entertained.

Though the driving is only about six hours, the wait at customs and immigration will add at least another hour to your journey, with long waits of up to four hours not unheard of on long weekends or — for the unfortunate — when busmates are trying to smuggle an Argentine ham or pirated DVDs across the border. During the wait you can have a snack, or join a busload of kids I recently saw sledding down the lower slopes of mountains with deep snow. Choose the left side of the bus from Santiago to Mendoza for a glimpse of Aconcagua, the highest peak between the two countries, visible shortly after crossing into Argentina.

Practicalities

Catch the bus from Terminal Alameda (metro stop Universidad de Santiago). Several companies do this route, both during the day and at night, and tickets start at around 13,000 CLP (~US $26) for a semi-cama (cheapest) seat, and 15,000 CLP (~US $30) for a cama seat, one way. The bus drops you at the Mendoza bus station, a 20-30min walk from the main plaza.

Try to get the front seat on the upper level of the bus for the best possible views. Don’t plan on taking the bus during the winter, as Paso Los Libertadores, the border station between the countries, is a high mountain pass and can close due to bad weather. May through August are particularly prone to closures. It’s slightly cheaper to travel from Mendoza to Santiago than vice versa.

About The Author

Eileen Smith

Eileen Smith is the editor of Matador Abroad. She's an ex-Brooklynite who's made a life in Santiago, Chile. She's a fluent Spanish speaker who can be found biking, hiking, writing, photographing and/or seeking good coffee and nibbles at most hours of the day. She blogs here.

  • http://amanofnonation.com/ Kevin Post

    I took a bus in June of 2006 along this route and avalanches kept us near the Argentine boarder for four days. Four days stuck on the side of a mountain sounds like a crappy situation for most but for a Floridian like myself I couldn’t get enough of the snow :)

  • Rodney

    Any idea if its possible to take a pet on any of the busses?  What about arranging for a smaller private shuttle?

  • Ethan Logan

    Do you know which bus companies do this route. All the Argentine Companies I’ve found cost about $50-60US. I know inflation is getting worse and worse every year I go down but the CLP is holding up fine.

    • Joey Lucchesi

      You should call my sister. She is a travel agent for STA. she will know any questions that you have. Text me if you want her contact info.

    • Ethan Logan

      text me her email yeah?

    • Joey Lucchesi

      K.

    • Ethan Logan

      wrote her an email a week ago but no reply as of yet.

    • Juli Jacobson

      Ethan– did you find out any more information on the best bus company? We are headed to Santiago next month and want to go to Mendoza via bus. Just curious as to what you found out! Thank you!

  • http://Jrifter.com/ theJrifter

    Thank you Eileen, for this great article.
    It has giving us a bus ride to look forward to in March.

  • Nacho

    El viaje en micro de Santiago a Mendoza (o viceversa) es muy recomendable. Yo soy de Mendoza y lo que les recomiendo es tratar de hacer el viaje de día. se siente como si fueran una nuez en el océano, un micrito andando en la inmensidad de la cordillera de los Andes, algo que se pierde si viajamos de noche y vamos durmiendo todo el camino. Además se puede apreciar la diferencia entre Argentina y Chile en esa parte, mientras Chile se queda con toda la humedad y es mucho más verde, apenas entramos en Argentina se nota lo seco y desértico del paisaje, con montañas peladas de vegetación. Hay una temporada de “Verano” que va desde setiembre a abril, que mantiene viajes de día y de noche. Y la otra parte de la temporada, sólo se proveen viajes durante el día, por cuestiones de seguridad. Una cuestión a tener en cuenta es si el paso de un país a otro está cerrado o abierto, ya que hay semanas o días, en donde las tormentas en alta montaña, con gran cantidad de nieve que no permite la circulación.

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