When it comes down to it, there are only two real constraints pertaining to traveling. These constraints are time and money. Both are needed to travel. I can tell you right now, if I had a million dollars and was finished with my degree, I would already be long gone on a trek across the world. But I don't have a million dollars. And I still have 18 credits worth of class to take this semester. So in reality, when I got back from my semester exchange in Melbourne, I had a little bit of cash but quite a bit of time since my semester ended early.
Now, if you're a college student like myself and have hardly any extra money, it may seem a bit difficult, if not impossible, to travel. That trip that sounded perfect in your head may turn out to be $4500 when the absolute maximum you can spend is $3000. That's what happened when I decided to plan my South America trip. I didn't care though, I was going to make it work.
So there I was. I essentially had all the time in the world. I wanted to be back before Christmas, but it wasn't like my life depended on it. I didn't have to worry about being back for work or school. Since that was the case, I sat back and thought about my options. I knew I wanted to go to Puerto Madryn, Puerto Iguazu and Machu Picchu. The flights between all of these places were ridiculously priced though. So I googled buses in Argentina.
Bus v. Plane
Now, it's easy to say "buses are cheaper than planes" and "buses take longer than planes." But let me show you the precise breakdown.
$80 Buenos Aires - Puerto Madryn (20 hours)
$80 Puerto Madryn - Buenos Aires (20 hours)
$80 Buenos Aires - Iguazu Falls (18 hours)
$80 Iguazu Falls - Buenos Aires (18 hours)
$240 Buenos Aires - Lima (72 hours)
Plane - $150 Lima - Cusco (1.5 hours)*
That is what I ended up doing. I spent $560 on bus tickets and spent approximately 150 hours on a bus. I left the last leg of the trip in for the sake of comparison to the next part.
I should've took screenshots of the airplane ticket prices when I originally researched them, so these are the prices if I had decided to go on this trip next month. I believe they were a little bit more expensive when I was planning my trip.
$200 Buenos Aires - Puerto Madryn (2 hours)*
$500 Puerto Madryn - Puerto Iguazu (5 hours)*
$1100 Puerto Iguazu - Cusco (13 hours)*
I would've ended up spending about $1800 just on the flights. And travel time (including waiting at airport for flight) would've been about 25 hours.
*Only includes flight time, not time required to wait at airport
Because I chose to take the buses over the plane, I saved about $1300 and sacrificed about 5 days of my life. Was it the best use of time? Probably not. But since I didn't have any time constraints, I was fine with that. I was able to go to the places I had my heart set on and I saved quite a bit of money. Plus. I had tons of time to read - I read the Casual Vacancy which, in my opinion, was a great book!
Comfort must be sacrificed sometimes.
Would I recommend sitting on a bus for three days straight to everyone? No, of course not. It was a long time. And uncomfortable. But I had the time to do that. And unfortunately, I didn't have the money for the convenience of flying. If I could do the trip all over again, would I have still traveled by bus? Of course. In future posts, you'll find out why taking the bus turned out to be one of the most memorable parts of my trip.
If you're a student and have the time and want to save money, definitely consider traveling by bus. A lot of countries have outstanding bus systems and if you take an overnight bus, you don't have to pay for a hostel or hotel! It's a win - win in those situations!
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