***originally written in August 2016
You’ve arrived at the Santiago de Chile airport (SCL) for your ski/snowboard trip to Bariloche, Argentina. Now what?
This is a guide to help you through every single step from leaving the airport to arriving in Bariloche, Argentina. This article was updated as of August 7th, 2016 when I did this exact journey.
I’ve also included the key Spanish phrases you’ll need for each step of the journey.
First thing, take a deep breath. It’s all gonna be ok and this voyage can be fun.
Why would you fly into Santiago, Chile rather than Buenos Aires, Argentina?
- It’s a lot cheaper to fly into Santiago
- The bus to Bariloche is much cheaper from Santiago ($45usd vs $115usd)
- Bus ride is 4-6 hours shorter from Santiago (buy tix online here: Andesmar)
- It’s MUCH easier to get to bus station from airport (25 minutes vs 1-2 hours)
If you do end up flying into Buenos Aires, we’ve got your back:
THE “QUICK ‘N’ DIRTY” DETAILS:
- Arrive at Santiago, Chile (SCL) airport
- Take Taxi or Uber to Terminal de Buses Estacion Central (Terminal Sur) for 15,000 pesos ($23usd)
- Take AndesMar bus to Bariloche via Osorno for 30,000 pesos ($46usd – get online here: Andesmar)
- AndesMar bus leaves Santiago at 8pm and Arrives in Bariloche at 2pm the next day – No Transfers
- Border crossing takes over an hour, sometimes two hours – you stop at Chile side and Argentine side
- If you’ve got the money, you can just fly to Bariloche round trip from Santiago for about $475usd
Alepnglow on the huge peaks that loom above Santiago’s packed central train station area. photo: snowbrains
THE “NITTY GRITTY” DETAILS:
1. Getting from Santiago Airport to Central Bus Station:
Immediately after you exit customs with all your bags at the Santiago airport, the first thing you’ll see is a taxi kiosk on your right before you even walk out into the arrivals area of the airport. Order a taxi there, or wave down a taxi on the curb once you walk outside the terminal.
There are ATMs in the terminal. 1 USD = 645 Chilean Pesos and 1 USD = 15 Argentine Pesos as of August 11th, 2016.
You need to get to the Central Bus Station (Terminal de Buses Estacion Central – Terminal Sur). The best way to get there with ski/snowboard bags is via taxi, which should cost you about 15,000 Chilean Pesos (Voy al terminal de buses estacion central, terminal sur. Yo voy a Bariloche via Osorno = I’m going to the terminal de buses estacion central, terminal sur. I’m going to Bariloche via Osorno). If you don’t have a ski/board bag, you can just hop on the bus that goes to the Terminal de Buses Estacion Central for 1,500 pesos.
Trick: a ski/board bag will fit in the front seat of any car. Just have the Taxi driver lower the passenger seat in front all the way back. Then insert your ski/board bag so that the bag is laying on top of the laid back seat.
The Taxi ride from the airport to the Terminal de Buses Estacion Central takes about 25 minutes. The bus takes longer.
2. At The Central Bus Station:
Terminal de Buses Estacion Central Info:
- Address: Avda. Libertador Bernardo O’Higgins 3850, santiago
- Phone Number: 56- 22376-1750
- Website: www.terminaldebusessantiago.cl
When you arrive at the bus station, ask for the AndesMar bus company kiosk (“Donde esta el kiosko de Andesmar? = Where is the AndesMar kiosk?). AndesMar buses leave from the Terminal Central in Santiago for Bariloche at 8pm and tickets cost 30,000 pesos (Un boleto a Bariloche, Argentina, porfavor = One ticket to Bariloche, Argentina, please).
There are ATMs in the bus station.
AndesMar is the best option as there is no transfer in Osorno, Chile. Most trips to Bariloche from Santiago by bus will involve a layover in Osorno. This AndesMar bus goes all the way to Bariloche. You’ll be scheduled to arrive at about 4pm the next next – a journey of about 20 hours.
3. What To Do With Your Layover in Santiago:
More often than not, you’ll have a few hours to kill in Santiago while waiting for your bus. This is actually a great thing. You need some time to stretch, walk around, loosen up, eat, and take in some Chilean culture after your long flight. This region is perfect for that.
If you do have time to kill, drop your bags off at the Guarda equipaje (Custodia) in the bus station. They’ll charge you 3,500 pesos for your ski/board bag and 3,000 for your big roller bag. Well worth it.
Now, you need to eat food, drink beer, and slurp ice cream. There’s tons of food in the bus station and if you’re in a hurry, eat something there. Make sure to eat a bunch of food and grab some snacks for the ride as they DO NOT feed you on the buses in Chile.
If you have a few hours to wait, walk out onto the main street of Agenda Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins and head East (take a right). This street will be packed full of people in the afternoon and the people watching will be world class.
You can eat anywhere, but we recommend the street food or the little pizzas at Don Juan. It’s only a 3 block walk to Don Juan and the pizzas only cost 1,100 pesos ($1.7usd). Get two. Eat one now, take one for the road – or just eat two, like me. There’s nowhere to sit at Don Juan, so just sit on the street benches right outside the restaurant and continue the incredible people watching. Don Juan is located on Avenida Liberator Bernardo O’Higgins between Avenida Obispo Manuel Omana and Hermanos Arellano (see above map) on the south side of the street.
Last time I was in Santiago (August 7th, 2016), I ate two little pizzas (2,200 pesos), a street meat sandwich (1,500 pesos), and 3 ice cream cones in 4 hours. I also saw some incredible street performers and insane alpenglow on the huge peaks (up to 21,000-feet tall) that loom over the city. It was a glorious evening.
Continue past Don Juan to the big outdoor mall (Comunidad Centro Commercial). This place is incredible and serves 3 purposes: 1. Amazing people watching 2. You can buy literally anything you need (phone charger, adaptors, socks, you know you forgot something…) 3. Good, cheap food (San Miguel’s has hotdog & coke or hamburger & coke for under 3,000 pesos)
There is a huge, clean, free bathroom on the 4th floor of the huge Alameda mall in case you need it. The Alameda mall is just before the big outdoor mall (see map above).
Walk another block past the open air mall and you’ll be at the central train station of Santiago. Here is where the street performers shine and you can gaze at 15,000-foot, snow covered peaks in the background. People swarm here in the afternoons and evenings and the show is incredible. All kinds of humans doing and saying and yelling and selling all kinds of things…
3. The Bus Ride To Bariloche:
Once you’ve eaten, drunk, and ice creamed, head back to the bus station at least 30 minutes before you’re departure time. Make sure to buy snacks for the road. Snacks and drinks will make all the difference (there will be opportunities to buy snacks along the way as well). Once you’ve got your snacks, find your bus and hop on.
When getting on the bus, the guy who loads your gear is going to try to charge you 15,000 pesos ($23usd) extra for your bag. Get him down to 5,000 pesos ($8usd). Tell him you just did this trip last month with AndesMar and you paid 5,000 pesos.
There is generally no toilet paper nor soap in the bathrooms on Chilean buses. There is often not even water for the sink. It’s ALWAYS a good idea to carry toilet paper with you wherever you go in South America.
There is often a USB charger at your seat on the bus.
The AndesMar bus goes directly to Bariloche, Argentina via Osorno through the night and arrives in Bariloche at 4pm the next day. Some buses will give you a layover and change of buses in Osorno, Chile. Layovers in Osorno can be up to 5 hours.
There’s not much to do in Osorno. We recommend walking due west (take a right) when you walk out of the bus station and do some people watching and check out the main plaza. There is also a Lider supermarket immediately outside of the bus station to the west (right). It’s the next building to the west and we recommend running in there and grabbing some healthy food and water for the rest of the ride as you’ll be feeling a bit bend after overnighting in a bus.
The buses are comfy enough. Big, wide, lazy boy style chairs that are easy enough to sleep on if you’re tired enough.
4. The Chile/Argentina Border:
The boarder of Argentina and Chile can be pretty tight. Do not bring drugs or whole food across the boarder. They have drug/food sniffing dogs and the always check gringos twice. You don’t want to end up in jail or with a nasty fine. You can bring processed food across. If you’re not sure about the foods you have, ask the steward on the bus. If in doubt, throw it out.
Have patience at the boarder. It’s going to take around 30 minutes at each side of the boarder, if not longer. Make sure to be chill and let it all work itself out. There will be confusing moments when you aren’t sure what is going on nor what you’re supposed to do next. That’s 100% normal here.
5. Arriving in Bariloche, Argentina
Once you arrive at the bus station in Bariloche after 20 hours of bus riding, and 18 hours of flying you’re gonna be tweaked. Do yourself a favor and get a taxi to your hotel or hostel in Bariloche. This should cost less then $20 as long as your hotel/hostel is within 10 kilometers.
There are no ATMs in the bus station but taxi drivers will accept Chilean pesos and/or US Dollars.
You can take the bus, but it’s a major hassle as you have to have a special bus card that you don’t have (so you’ll have to ask someone to let you use theirs and give them the Argentine pesos for your passage, and you likely don’t have any Argentine pesos, either), these local buses can be packed, and they may not even let you get on with all your gear.
Trick: call a remise if you can gain access to a phone. A remise is a set price taxi. You can call, ask for a remise, tell them where you’re going, get a set price, and it’ll be much cheaper than the bus station taxis. Remise Kaiken phone: 0294-452000
The hostels in downtown (el centro) Bariloche are great because they’re close to night life, breweries, and restaurants and culture and it’s easy to get the bus to the ski resort in the morning in town before it gets too packed.
We recommend Hostal Alaska out at kilometer 7.3 (downtown is kilometer 0.0). This place is mellow, they offer great rates if you stay a while and they’re close to where you can hitchhike to the mountain at the “cruce” at kilometer 8.5. Tell them Miles from SnowBrains sent you.
Enjoy Bariloche and if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
SPANISH WORDS TO KNOW:
- porfavor = please
- gracias = thanks
- de nada = you’re welcome
- ayuda = help
- que hora es = what time is it
- bus = bus
- terminal de buses = bust station
- aeropuerto = airport
- taxi = taxi
- cuanto cuesta = how much does it cost