How to get to Patagonia from Buenos Aires?
I'm heading to Buenos Aires in a week and would like to get to Patagonia and back in 12 days.
I assume I've got to get down to El Calafate and from there we can organize trekking and visit the Perito Moreno glacier.
I'm on a budget, and it seems like flying and taking the bus is going to be around the same price, and both are pretty expensive ($200/person round trip). Would there be an advantage to taking the bus besides getting there quicker? (Nice scenery I'd miss from a plane maybe?)
Well firstly most buses won't go directly to El Calafate. You'll likely have to change buses, and likely will want to - it's a long way!
However, a convenient stopping point could be Puerto Madryn (Chubut). It's a great little beach town, with the Valdez Peninsula - and I kid you not - you can sit on the hostel balcony and point at the whales as they come near the shore! Some great seafood restaurants too.
If you're going to consider the bus, consider upgrading from Semi-cama to full-cama or cama-suite or whatever the bus company you choose calls it. Semi-cama is seats that partially recline. However for about $5 more from Puerto Madryn to Buenos Aires (that's the price difference it was for me) you can upgrade to full-cama, which gives you a seat that folds down into a BED, as well as good food, and tv. If you're on a strict budget don't bother, but once I discovered that, wow, it's so much better for the huge trips.
In El Calafate, I also highly recommend the America Del Sur Hostel - it had a spectacular view over the town and Lago Argentina, and you can organise trips to the glacier from their reception (we did a day tour to the glacier - it's spectacular).
Much of the flat part of Argentina is fairly boring scenery, but I liked the coastal route, and once you get into the mountains it's great. You'll spot guanacoes (like llamas) and rhea (like ostrich) and other animals. But I guess it depends on your preference, how you handle seriously-long bus trips, and how much time you have as well.
Look into Andesmar (my favourite), El Rapido (sometimes cheaper), Omnilineas and Plusmar.
Thanks, we'd definitely spring for the full-cama as we've had our fill of all-night sit up straight buses this year! Is US$160-200 a reasonable price? Would I be able to find a cheaper bus once I'm in BA, or better to book online prior to arrival?
When we went (2010) it was nearly impossible to find bus companies from outside of Argentina. Once we got there, it was trivial, google seems to change results based on your country. But if you're in BA, go to Retiro bus station (next door to the metro station of the same name). There is a building full of companies, all competing with each other, so just wander around asking how much, until you hear a price you like. I honestly can't remember how much good was - I did it in smaller segments, but if you have more questions I'll be in [chat] for a bit.