The border crossing between Boliva and Argentina was fairly uncomplicated, although time consuming (see previous post for more details). We took a taxi with some other tourists to the bus station and chose the bus based on the fact that it was the next one leaving.
Bus from Border to Salta
It was a double decker, but nothing fancy. It was just like the buses we took all over Ecuador â€“ no foot rest, people standing in the aisle’s etc. The trip took a long time because we kept getting stopped by police and military types for passport control. We would all have to file out of the bus. Line up boys and girls and then have our passports checked. Most of the time there was no problem. Occasionally they would check backpacks. They took a couple suitcases out of the luggage compartment and did a quick check. One time they took a suitcase into their office and dumped the entire contents on the ground. The poor lady’s bras and panties were scattered all over the place and the officers were picking things up and throwing them around. It did not seem very professional to me. Eventually we arrived in Salta 6 1/2 hours, 3 police stops and 2 horrible Argentinian movies later. It cost around $12.
Hostal Condor Pass (See Lonely Planet for details)
Price - $20 for a double with a bath and 1 slice of bread and coffee for breakfast.
Cleanliness â€“ Descent
Comfort â€“ Mattress was okay, but the pillow was lumpy and our 2 pillows were joined together. A little noisy as people were coming and going. Hot water didn’t last long enough for 2 people in a row.
Character â€“ Nothing in particular
Amenities â€“ A rottwiler dog and a very helpful man in the morning (he helped us organize our bus tickets and even payed for them until we could get to the ATM machine later). A big table with a TV at the other end, kitchen
Recommended? - It is in a good location and it is a fine place to crash, but there is nothing about it that was particularly enchanting
We were only in Salta for 24 hours. We did not go on any tours or do much of anything touristy. I wanted to buy some shoes. Salta had shoe store after shoe store full of cute cheap shoes. The problem is that ALL the stores close for â€œsiestaâ€ from lunch to about 4:30-5pm. A lot of the towns we had been in closed until about 3, but I had never seen anything like this before. Our bus left in the late afternoon, so I didn’t have a chance to get anything. So, plan accordingly if you want to shop in Salta.
Bus Salta â€“ Mendoza
We chose to go with AndesMar. It was a 16 hour overnight bus ride for about $40. Every company has different names for their 3 types of seats. I’ll compare them to planes because those are more standardized. Think economy, business and first class (with seats that lay all the way down into a bed). We went on the business class type. This includes dinner with wine, a round of bingo and descent movies that actually go all the way from start to finish. The buses usually only have about 6 first class seats, so they go quickly. If you want one, you will probably need to book it at least 2 days in advance. You can even buy them online. I haven’t ever done it because I think you need access to a printer and not all the Internet cafes have them.
We arranged for our hotel ahead of time. They asked what time we were arriving, so we told them. When I stopped off the bus, a man was standing there holding a sign with my name on it. Apparently we had bus pick up and didn’t know it. The hostel is very close to the bus station, so we just walked with the employee back to his hostel.
Savigliano Hostel (See lonely planet for details)
Price - $22 with a bath and bread for breakfast. Coffee cost extra. That made one of the guests very unhappy.
Cleanliness â€“ Fine
Comfort â€“ Beds were okay. Pillows were joined together again and a little flat.
Character â€“ Nothing much. There were some interesting pieces of furniture like one table made out of a wine barrel, but nothing else went with it, so those kind of things just looked a little out of place.
Amenities â€“ Cheap Internet and one free cable for those with a laptop. TV downstairs in with the computers that the employees spent most of the time watching. There was another TV upstairs, but we couldn’t figure out how to make it work until the last day. Will arrange for tours around the area (Wine tasting, hang gliding, white water rafting etc.) air conditioning and screens for the window that were great for blocking out the early morning sun. self service laundry, small sparsely stocked kitchen and bus pick up.
Recommended? - It was a fine place to stay. There are probably better options. Particularly with regards to location. It is by the bus station, so that is great if you are just passing through, but every day we had to walk into town and back 2 â€“ 3 times. It was doable, but not close, so there were times when we didn’t go back to the hotel when we wanted to, or we didn’t go back out once we got back to the hostel because it was late, or we were tired or lazy or whatever and it just wasn’t convenient.
One of my good friends from school went on a trip through Argentina a year ago and her favorite place that she stayed was in Mendoza and called Quinta Rufino. We tried to get a reservation there from the start, but they were full, so we switched hostels once they had room available.
Price - $26 with a bath, cable and breakfast. They have dorms with shared bath too.
Cleanliness â€“ Clean
Comfort â€“ Comfortable beds and pillows. Descent shower. Futon in the sitting room. I still can’t figure out why Â¾ of the hostels in SA have futons. They aren’t very comfortable for sitting on and no one is going to use it for a bed. Just get a couch.
Character â€“ A charming place. Tastefully decorated, hard wood floors, cheerful dining room.
Amenities â€“ Can book tours through them, they will let you use their only computer for Internet, but getting a chance is a bit competitive. TV with cable in the sitting room and dining room, well stocked kitchen and a games room. Cute cocker spaniel dog. Will call a doctor to the hotel if you are sick.
Recommended? - Yes. It was a lovely place to stay. The owners were very friendly. It was in a nice neighborhood, but still a little out from the very center of things.
Wine Tour â€“ My husband loves wine and wine tasting. We talked to a couple different people who went on the various tours and were most convinced by one of the expensive ones. It is good to splurge every once and a while I guess.
$25 for transportation (we really didn’t go that far out of Mendoza), 2 wineries including tours and one full and one limited tasting, 1 distillery including tour and tasting (fascinating and in a beautiful building) and lunch. It was an all you can eat type of affair. Imagine the fanciest picnic you can and then x it by 5. Then you will get the lunch we had. It included all sorts of things like cheeses and sausages, breads and quail eggs and vegetables and empanadas and tons of other things. After lunch we returned home which was good because I was ready for a nap. The tour was called a full day, but we left at 11 and returned around 4. It was a great day, but I don’t really consider that to be a full day tour.
The 2 other options I am aware of are
The half day tour for $10 including 2 wineries (I don’t think the distillery, but it is possible)
Bike tour. You rent a bike and go where you like. The bike shop gives you a map and you can do as much or as little as you like. They also give you a coupon for a discount at a nice restaurant. You can rent the bikes for a full or half day.
If you have been wine tasting in California, don’t expect this to be the same type of day.Â They do things a little differently here.Â The style of the tasting at the distillery is more like what we are used to in CA.
Mendoza has tons of other outdoor activities and adventures. We didn’t do any of the others, so I can’t comment.
Mendoza is heaven in the Spring. It was warm (24-28 Celsius). There are beautiful green trees shading every street. Almost every restaurant has an outside area where you can sit under an umbrella and just enjoy the beauty of the day. Also, there were ice cream shops all over the place and people were constantly eating ice cream. I am a huge fan, so I considered never leaving (until I found out summer has normal temps of 38-40 degrees)
Seriously though, I looked into teaching English in Mendoza and staying there for 8 months. There were some possibilities, but the school year starts in March and ends in November, so I was offered guaranteed work starting in March, but only remote possibilities during their summer months. I guess everything just completely closes down during the summer. I don’t think you could live in Mendoza on what I was offered. Rent wasn’t super cheap ($300 would probably be the cheapest you could get a studio in down town). The schools seem to have a lot of teachers doing a little work. They said they start people off with 1 or 2 classes. Basically 6 hours a week and then you can work up to about 12 (she said this with such enthusiasm). The pay was about $4 an hour. But, if you only work 12 hours a week the math gets you to $192 per month. It was the worst pay to cost of living ratio of any of the places I have visited. Great if you save up in your home country and just come for the experience. A bad idea if you actually want to make enough to live on. (And I’m a credentialed English teacher in the States with a Masters in Education)