Backpacking in Argentina: Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu By Bus

Backpacking in Argentina: Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu By Bus

Drizzle and skyscrapers. My arrival for the third time in Buenos Aires was through this boat window. I got a Buquebus from Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay back into Argentina, at the port of Buenos Aires. I had first arrived in the Argentinian capital well over a month earlier. I ended up in BA three times by way of moving onto other places two of those times. For this journey, I was back on tour after a few weeks living with Perla and learning Spanish in Montevideo. I booked a bus with the company Crucero Del Norte up to the port of Puerto Iguazu, on the triple border with Brazil and Paraguay.

My arrival into Buenos Aires for the third time.

The Argentinian border control at Buenos Aires ferry port. I passed in and out of Argentina 4 times on my South American jaunt (leaving for Antarctica, Uruguay, Brazil and Paraguay – a different place each time).

Puerto Buenos Aires.

The building where I arrived, at the Buquebus terminal in the port, actually in sunshine now on a hot day in BA!

I like to budget and avoid taxis as much as I can, so I decided just to walk to the bus station. I had read my map well and knew it was less than a half hour walk, to the Terminal de Omnibus Retiro. This was a different bus station from the Manuel Tienda one I had used a month before. I caught a glimpse of the skyscrapers of BA again on my walk to the bus station, through the park above.

I knew I was close to the bus station when suddenly all the traffic were only buses. I asked a local dude if I was going the right way just before this. But I knew I was. The road I walked along was Avenida Antartida Argentina (Antarctica Argentina Avenue). A hint of irony about that too, having just recently returned from Antarctica.

Arrival at the Terminal de Omnibus. The memories are coming reeling back now seeing these photos. This was a fantastic trip.

Anyone who has been to the Retiro Bus Station in BA will know how big it is. You can catch a bus here to basically anywhere in South America. It is the biggest bus station I have ever been in. It took me a while to find the ticket office for my bus. It was at booth number 126 on the first floor and was busy. This was the Crucero Del Norte bus company. That translates as Northern Cross. It had been possible for me to book this ticket on the internet actually, so I had paid for it online (booked it from Perla’s flat – she was so kind letting me use her computer and internet). I paid on card and collected it here at the ticket office. Then I had a 1 hour wait for my bus northwards. I had some snack food with me, which I munched, I updated my diary and I sat and relaxed in the busy bus station – I had been lucky enough to find a seat.

In the bus station in BA, there are lots of these pay per view mini TV screens. You put your coins in and watch TV while waiting on your bus to be called. This guy was a massive football fan and as I was sat behind him, I got to watch a free football match! I was due to leave from Sector D, platforms 39 – 51, but could only get a seat at Sector E so I waited there.

The busy Retiro Station in BA.

The departures timetable includes 2 Cruc. Nor. (Crucero Del Norte) company buses, neither of which were mine, plus the 18.55 pm Tigre bus company was also going to Iguazu, my destination. 

It was so busy and my bus was about 10 – 15 minutes away so I decided to wait outside near the platform. 3 Crucero Del Norte buses came and went, none of them to Iguazu and my bus finally arrived, 10 minutes late. I think I left from platform 51 in the end. My bus was a semi-cama, which basically means no beds, but the seats recline fairly far back. As I was travelling on my own, I hoped the bus wouldn’t be too busy or noisy so I could get some sleep. 

Another shot of the madness at BA’s Retiro Station. Easily one of the biggest and busiest bus stations in the world.

My bus had a few other tourists on it, but I didn’t talk to them or meet them – I think they were in the lower deck and I was the only foreigner on the upper deck. We handed in our big bags to go all the way to Iguazu.

Boarding the bus in Buenos Aires.

I had a window seat and nobody was beside me! That made me happy except that the guy across from me was a very arrogant loud and rude Argentinian. And to be honest he DIDN’T SHUT UP THE WHOLE WAY TO IGUAZU. He was a total dickhead. I met a few characters like that in Argentina, and that is one of the reasons why I’m not a big fan of Argentina – it’s people – and mostly the men. All they talk about it how good Argentina is. Well I’ve news for you – “it’s a shite arrogant country!” Move to Paraguay, Uruguay or Brazil. Much better places! Just before we were leaving BA loads of random people got on our bus asking for money or trying to sell stuff. This happened a lot on South American buses and this time because there were so many of them, I spared 2 Pesos to an old lady beggar just to get rid of her. We finally pulled out of the Retiro station at 7.30 pm. I think that was about an hour later than scheduled.

I had a fairly decent seat. This was my view.

I got another glimpse of the colourful barrio of La Boca on the way out.

The traffic on the way out of BA was heavy. I think it was a Thursday night, and in rush hour.

Sunset had been immense in Uruguay, especially at Punta Ballena and Montevideo, here the silhouetted city of BA gave the eye a decent view on your way out of the city. I kind of knew my love affair with Buenos Aires was over at this point. I enjoyed the city for what I got out of it, particularly the immense pub crawl, the eclectic range of buildings and the foreign people I met there. As for the cleanliness of it all, the arrogance and the rude Argentinians, it was good to be getting the hell out of BA!

I had seen the stadium of Boca Juniors, La Bombonera already, so on the way out, it was nice that I got a glimpse of their rivals stadium, that of River Plate. The stadium is known as El Monumental, and River Plate is derived from Rio De La Plata. God knows why an Argentinian team has such an obvious English name! Sadly River Plate were relegated from the top division at the time for the first time in the club’s history, however they fought their way back up. The derby between River Plate and Boca Juniors is one of the fiercest in the world and is known as “Super Classico”.

There was another bus stop we made on the edge of BA somewhere to pick up more passengers and I still had an empty seat next to me for extra leg room. And with that we were out of Buenos Aires and dare I say it, I felt like a real traveller again. Certainly I was the only foreigner on the top level of this bus. The loud Argentinian tried to talk to me, both in English and Spanish but I claimed only to know a bit of Spanish and wasn’t English I told him, so he stopped asking me questions. I also started doing my notes and listening to music to drown out his ugly arrogant Argentinian voice. We seemed to make a lot of random pick up stops after this, a guy got on selling water, a guy got on selling pillows, a guy got on selling magazines. There was countryside before that so I assumed we had reached the edge of Tigre, but it was dark and to be honest I was glad to see the back of BA.

Two films came on between Buenos Aires and our first food stop. The first one was in Spanish, the second one was in Ingles with Spanish subtitles. I watched a bit of both and understood some of it, but also got easily bored of them! We hit our first food stop before midnight, on the edge of Buenos Aires. Buses in Argentina normally include food, especially on long journeys. At this food stop, one of the staff got off, collected our food then distributed it. He was dressed in a posh yellow shirt.

The starter was olive, ham, cheese, mayonnaise and salt roll (DIY style). Plus a raspberry sponge roll, which I saved for dessert.

The main course was beef, pasta, sauce and peppers and went down well. They also brought us Pepsi in a cup. It was gone midnight and time for some sleep.

It awoke at sunrise, probably around 5 – 6 am and just north of the city of Mercedes. No breakfast was served however I was a bit peckish so munched my biscuits.

Morning in Argentinian countryside somewhere near Colonia Pellegrini.

It’s a sunny, bright, shiny day in Corrientes province of Argentina, and this is real rural Argentina. I like it. Much more raw and real than the over hyped madness of BA. The proud Argentine flags on the lamposts remind me of Northern Ireland, the kids on the streets remind me of Uruguay and the muddy roads just look so dirty, I could once have worked near here while living in Tasmania.

This part of the bus journey was immensely enjoyable. Wee roadside shacks selling eggs, vegetables and fruit were common.

More vegetable vendors.

At 9am we made our first stop of the morning, at Posadas.

There was a circus on at Posadas (above) and I suddenly realised how close we were to Paraguay. The city of Encarnacion is right across from us, and indeed for the remainder of the journey we were driving parallel to Paraguay’s border.

A Homer Simpson inspired barbecue restaurant in Posadas.

We actually made a stop at 10 am as well, possibly also in Posadas. This stop was a little longer and you could have got off the bus. I just stood up and stretched my legs. I had decided I didn’t want to eat anything until I arrived in Iguazu, which I knew was not too far now having followed it on the map. My water and biscuits would be enough for me anyhow.

A photo of me at Posadas. This was a 15 minute stop. I think the bus was serviced or filled up with fuel here. This was just east on the RN 12.

The Bus Station at Posadas. Pretty sure I took this photo from the bus as I don’t recall getting off the bus here.

There was a police check somewhere next and I think it was somewhere near the border with Paraguay.

I couldn’t quite capture this pretty church, which I reckoned was in the town of San Ignacio.

Jesus on the cross at San Ignacio, probably.

We stopped here around 11 am and I realised it was 2 weeks to Christmas Eve. I was convinced this stop was San Ignacio. The bus was actually getting emptier at each stop rather than more full. But the arrogant Argentine was still on board and yapping away. The good news was he had moved seats!

At 12 noon we pass “Jardin America” and stopped at yet another murky drab station in another town. There was a casino in a dirty shanty town. The sunshine had gone and we were now in the province of Misiones. I think this was Puerto Rico, about 150 kilometres south of Puerto Iguazu so I knew we were getting close.

View from my bus window at Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico Terminal de Omnibus. It looked poor, dirty, shabby and run down. But it had some charm. It was all families and the people looked happy. We didn’t linger long there and soon passed forests and rivers on route to Eldorado, the next big town along.

Eldorado. We got there around 1 pm.

Muddy streets from the bus at Eldorado.

And the final stretch of road prepared me for the sheer brilliance that Puerto Iguazu would bring. A total lack of commercial appeal here, beautiful countryside, dirty roads and torrential rain. The last part of the journey got me psyched up for seeing the waterfalls.

As we swerved round hilly corners in Eldorado, I captured this photo above.

The bus station at Eldorado, this was our penultimate stop before arrival in wet Puerto Iguazu.

What’s the point in seeing a waterfall if you’re not prepared to get wet?! This was my rain drenched excellent arrival in Puerto Iguazu. I had booked my hostel a few days before and knew it was miles out of town (yet closer to the waterfalls) so my journey wasn’t yet over. It was now 2pm. 24 hours earlier I had been in Uruguay.

The bus station at Puerto Iguazu. I had a quick look around then realised I’d be better off just getting a bus straight up to my hostel. It was too far to walk and I was trying to avoid taxis. Oddly, there were no other foreigners about. That sort of thing always confuses me at well known tourist spots. But this was the town of Puerto Iguazu, not the waterfalls part.

The main bus station at Puerto Iguazu.

It was now thunder and lightning and hailstorms, which I rather enjoyed. I found the bus queue was busy for the El Practico bus. “Es amarillo” said one of the local lads to me when I was asking where the bus is. “It’s yellow” is the meaning and he was right. However the first bus I saw was also yellow and as I jumped on the guy shouts “Paraguay!”, and although Paraguay was my next destination, I wasn’t yet ready to head there without seeing the waterfalls! Next bus was the right one, I boarded, told the driver about my hostel and he said he’d stop for me. It cost just 1.5 Pesos to the hostel on the edge of town. Along Ruta 12, km 5.

My journey was almost complete – my view from the bus.

I was dropped off here in the pouring rain and I remember it well. The hostel was easy to find and was massive. You could just sort of tell this was a magical place.

My hostel was the Hostel Inn Iguazu. It was not listed in my Lonely Planet book nor had it been recommended to me by anyone. The reason I chose it was because it was once voted the best hostel in South America. Plus the fact that it was out of the town and closer to the waterfalls appealed to me.

I stayed in an outdoor chalet – Room 2C. There was massive thunderstorms, lightning and torrential rain when I arrived so all electricity was off. For that reason I also decided against seeing the waterfalls in a rush that afternoon in case something went wrong on my trip out there. I met Patrick and Jane in my room – they were from Sydney! A nice couple and they told me about a bird park.

I went up to the bird park to have a look around but it was actually closed for the day. I just walked round the local area.

The entrance to the national park was just up the road from the hostel. I decided I would get up very early the next morning and get in there early. In the meantime I went back to the hostel to rest. 

The road to Iguazu Falls from the hostel.

Hostel front garden.

Hostel swimming pool.

A preview of tomorrow – the waterfalls at Iguazu.

Relaxation at the cosy hostel in Puerto Iguazu. It had been a long bus journey from Buenos Aires – about 18 hours in total and I was seriously ready to relax before doing the waterfalls the next day!

Finally here’s an image of the rough route I took!

From – Retiro Terminal de Omnibus, Buenos Aires

To – Hostel Inn Iguazu, Puerto Iguazu

Via – Mercedes, Posadas, San Ignacio, Puerto Rico, Eldorado

Transport Used – Crucero del Norte Bus, El Practico Bus

Nationalities Met – Argentinian, Australian

Time of Journey – 18 hours

Distance of Journey – 1,343 kilometres

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