Introduction to South American Bus Travel

I traveled on a bus from one company from Colonia to Montevideo and on another bus from a different company to get from Montevideo to Punta del Este.

Thus far in my trip I had only traveled via plane, taxi, ferry, car and moto. As these were the first two of my many South American bus journeys, and quite different from one another, and as I would learn, different from the rest, I wanted to share my observations:

Observations that hold true on both buses — Colonia to Montevideo and Montevideo to Punta del Este:

Riders love having assigned seats. They WILL ask you to move if you are sitting in their assigned seat. Even if the bus is half full.

The buses play music. When the bus driver finds a station, he cranks it up.

People talk on their cell phones (nice to know rudeness is universal). They read, they sleep and they chat to their neighbor.

The buses are freezing cold. I made a mental note to pull my fleece and scarf out in preparation for bus rides. I quickly learned that this is a constant except when you get to Bolivia and Ecuador. Then you can only wish they were freezing cold.

The bus doesn’t wait. When someone wants to get on or off, the bus literally stops for as long as it takes for the person to get on or off.

Observations on the Colonia to Montevideo leg of my trip…

Bus had two employees working. There is a driver and a guard/co-pilot. The bus driver drives and the guard/co-pilot walks up and down the aisle to announce stops, collect tickets and helps load luggage underneath the bus.

There is a door. It acts as a partition between the passengers and the driver and guard/co-pilot. I’m not sure if this is a safety thing or if the guard doesn’t want to deal with passengers. The door was only opened when the co-pilot announces the next stop, comes to collect tickets or lets passengers on and off.

Music. I am sure it’s drivers choice and it sounded like traditional music. It provided nice background music.

New bus. I felt very safe and the bus driver was competent.

Observations on the Montevideo to Punta del Este leg…

One employee. I felt spoiled now. We only had the driver and he had to do the work of two because he did not have the co-pilot. As the bus slowed, the driver would scream the name of the next stop.

No partition. Again, spoiled. Why no partition?

Music. Again, drivers choice. He blasted Lady Gaga.

Old bus. The bus had ripped seats. The driver tailgated and continued to slam on his brakes for the duration of the trip.


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