Bus, flight or train?
When comparing the basic means of public transport in Argentina it soon becomes clear that trains are rarely an option. Railways are mainly used by freight services, while passenger service is focused on the Buenos Aires area with its commuter trains. In terms of speed and comfort the rare long-distance connections are normally not competitive compared to the bus lines. Therefore the two main options for public transport in Argentina are clearly travelling by plane or omnibus.
Air travelMost travellers arrive by plane at the international airport outside of Buenos Aires in Ezeiza, while national flights are handled at a different airport named Aeroparque close to the city center. From there, frequent flights to all important points of interest in Argentina are available. For a map with destinations and flight durations, visit the informative site of Argentina Turistica. Flying is clearly the fastest way to bridge the vast geography of Argentina, and is the method of choice for travellers and business people who are pressed for time.
The favorable exchange rate makes national airfare affordable for most travellers, although it is by far the most expensive way of travelling. It should also be noted that some airlines charge higher prices for foreign tourists than for residents. While this practice is legal in Argentina, many foreigners understandably feel overcharged and discriminated against.
Bus travelNewcomers are often surprised by the level of comfort offered by long-distance buses in Argentina, which are normally called 'micro' or 'ómnibus'. Don't confuse these buses with the loud and out-of-date city buses, which are generally called 'colectivo', although regional terminology may vary. A long-distance trip of 14 hours or so might appear threatening at first glance, but is in fact often an enjoyable experience. For example you may start in the evening, get a dinner served by your attendant, watch a video, have a good night's sleep in your fully reclinable seat and then arrive at your destination after breakfast, ready for the day.
Buses are available with different levels of comfort, but most tourists choose the top categories cama suite or cama-ejecutivo for longer trips, which ensure a comfortable night at still very affordable prices. However, when you are on a really tight budget or would like to travel as most locals do, you can choose the basic semi-cama or común categories. For more details on what level of comfort to expect see our summary about comfort classes.
For the cheaper buses in Argentina it is a good idea to bring food, drinks, toilet paper and also ear plugs, in case you are annoyed by loud videos. Note that you may well be the only english-speaking person on board. The more luxurious buses will offer anything you need, but air conditioning can be strong, so take a sweater with you. Buses are quite reliable and leave on time, so don't be late assuming south-american carelessness.
When choosing your travel time, make sure you will have daylight while passing through interesting landscapes. One of the key advantages of travelling by bus is the possibility to enjoy the varying views and to get a feeling for the landscapes and their vast expanses. This is especially true for Argentina, where the endless pampas and the mystic fascination of Patagonia will not be accessible to travellers hopping from airport to airport.