How Chilean Buses Work
Whether you’re living in Chile or just traveling through it, you’ll probably take a bus at some point. Bus transport through Chile is safe, efficient, and generally inexpensive, with routes to almost every major city and many rural areas as well.
These buses are usually clean and well-maintained, and most larger companies offer features such as USB charging ports, family-friendly movies for longer trips, HVAC systems, and online booking so you can reserve your seats in advance. There are three different seat types to choose from. The “pullman” or “clasico”, which is just a basic seat, similar to an economy seat on an airplane; “semi-cama” which can recline more than the “pullman” seat and sometimes comes with a foot-rest, which makes it more comfortable for sleeping in; and “cama” or “salon cama”, which can recline to be almost horizontal, and often comes with drinks and snacks. If you have luggage, it’s very rare to be charged extra, even if you have more than one or two items. Usually it will cost less than $5000 CLP for a 3-4 hour ride, depending on how in-demand the route is.
Some of the biggest bus companies in Chile are Pullman, TurBus, Jac, Andesmar, and Cruz Del Sur. These buses will often have options for both semi-cama and salon cama seats. If you’re going to a more remote destination, you may have to book separate tickets, one to the nearest major city, and then a second to your actual destination. To access websites of major South American bus companies, visit this website. You can purchase tickets from many of these websites, or you can try busbud.com or recorrido.cl (both available in English) to view destinations, and to compare prices and schedules of various buses. Make sure you check whether the ticket is digital or not – in many cases you’ll receive a virtual ticket, but if not, you’ll need to visit the ticket counter in the terminal to get your printed ticket.
Known in Chile as “micros”, bus lines that service intercity routes are common in most cities with significant populations. The cost to take a micro is generally between $400- $600 CLP and can be paid in cash on the bus. The exception to this is in Santiago, where you have to buy a “Bip!” card. Bip! cards can be purchased cheaply at any metro station in Santiago, where you can put a balance on your card and use it to pay for any city bus or metro.
If you ever have a question about where you’re going, where you need to get off the bus, or how long the trip will take, don’t hesitate to ask the driver or bus attendant. They are usually very friendly and accommodating, and will make sure that you’re dropped off at the right stop.
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