Santiago to Mendoza and back: A bus across the Andes
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When I started to think ahead to our time in Chile, I realised that it would be great to nip over the border into Argentina.
I did some research and found that the closest city to Santiago on the other side of the border is Mendoza. AND it is actually a really nice place.
Therefore, we made plans to go. This meant booking a 7 hour bus ride over the Andean mountains. And also another one back.
We have done bus trips in Peru and found them pretty good, so we weren’t worried about taking two more even if they were long.
Where to buy tickets for your Santiago to Mendoza trip?
I used Busbud. This is a website that I came across when booking our tickets for our bus trips in Peru.
It is a really simple to use website that gives you all the prices of different companies. We used one company on the way there and another on the way back and found both to be fantastic.
Make sure that you check what is included in your ticket price though as there are different options. When travelling with the kids (which is always), we always make sure that we get seats with entertainment and a meal/snack.
Be sure to check that your departure and arrival sites are convenient for you too. Most will go too and from the same locations, but some will be different. You don’t want to book a bus that leave you a long way from where you need to go.
Where do you depart from/arrive in Santiago?
Most bus trips will depart from Terminal Sur in Santiago. It is a large bus station with kiosks for each of the different bus companies.
Make sure you arrive in plenty of time to get to the kiosk and find which bay your bus will be departing from.
There are also plenty of food stalls and shops in the area, so if you want a quick snack before you go there will be plenty of choice for you.
Where do you arrive/depart from in Mendoza?
The Mendoza bus station is called Terminal Del Sol. It is another big station with lots of shops and food outlets around it.
There are also ATMs to withdraw cash as soon as you arrive, so you don’t need to worry about that.
Next to the station is a taxi rank with affordable taxis. They are all metered but we travelled a fair way and still found it to be reasonably priced.
What is it like on the bus?
As I said we travelled with two different companies. Both were great but varied in terms of facilities and services.
One bus had lovely comfy seats and curtains you could pull round for privacy. They also brought round pillows and fresh blankets for us to use.
The downside to this company was that there was no individual entertainment systems. This meant that we all had to watch the same films. Not sure how I felt about the kids watching some of them.
The bus on the ways back had smaller but still comfortable seats. The plus side to these was that they had personal entertainment so the kids could pick their own films.
Both companies brought around so tea and biscuits, and then later a round of sandwiches and more snacks.
The border crossing
This is probably the worse bit, particularly with kids. I had read a few worrisome stories about it but found on the whole that it was fine.
There is a lot of queuing, but luckily it is all in the shade/indoors. You do have to queue twice though.
There first time you queue, you are queuing to get through immigration. This is where you get your passport stamped and your welcome into the country.
The next queue is for customs. Here we had to carry our hand luggage and pick up our bags. Going from Chile to Argentina, we had a random selection of bags physically check by a man. Going the other way, we had to put our bags through a scanning system.
All luggage is then put back on the bus and you are off. From start to finish, the whole thing took around 2 hours each time. It didn’t actually feel too bad, as you were doing a few things.
A bus ride through the mountains
It is spectacular and the only way I would recommend travelling between these two cities. Leaving Santiago, you head through some of the highlights of the city.
You drive right by Cerro San Cristobel as you head into the mountains. We were there when the protests were still going strong and were able to see some of the main sites of the demonstrations.
Once you arrive in the mountains, the scenery is incredible. We drove past waterfalls and snow-capped peaks. As well as small villages of people that call the area their home.
There was one brilliant road in the middle which was very wiggly and exactly how you want a ride through the mountains to be.
How was the bus ride with kids?
Absolutely fine! After trains, buses are our second favourite way to travel. You get better seat than on planes, there are plenty of facilities and you get food.
Our kids either watched TV, ate food or slept. Sometimes they did two at a time. We had no complaints from them as it was basically unlimited television and snacks. The dream!
Planning your bus ride from Santiago to Mendoza
If you are planning a trip around South America then I definitely recommend you make this journey part of your plans. It is easy, enjoyable and totally memorable.
And whatever direction you are travelling in, you’ll end up with a fantastic city to explore at the other end.
Disclaimer: Remember the information you read here does not represent advice. Any ideas or suggestions are just that and may not work for you. Read the full disclaimer here.