Saturday, 16 January 2010

BACKPACKING Chile using public transport

Travel Trivia Question  - Which river has the most islands?

 We arrived in Northern Chile from Argentina.  This is an account of the public transport we used in Chile but for information on accommodation and other things check out my travel log.

SAN PEDRO DE ATACAMA TO CALAMA San Pedro de Atacama is small enough for you to be able to visit all the bus companies to get information for onward travel.  We book the 16,15hrs Frontera bus to Calama, CH$2500 (2.80).  It is a fairly comfortable but obviously old coach and the journey takes about 1 1/2 hours.  Most of the bus depots are close to the city centre in Calama with the exception of some of the long haul ones.

Roadside shrines between Calama and Caldera 

CALAMA TO CALDERA   You can get a shared taxi from the centre of Caldera to the bus station, CS$500 (65p) pp. We take the Pullman bus to Caldera CH$14,000 (£17.50), but when it arrives it is
actually the Elqui Bus.   The bus calls in to Antofagasta before heading down the coast.  Lunch is included in the price and comprises a carton of juice, packet of nuts, packet of crackers and a sweet.  On the outskirts of Caldera the bus is pulled over for inspection and sniffer dogs come on board.  Arrive in Caldera after a 12-hour journey.  The bus station is on the edge of town and everywhere is within walking distance.

CALDERA TO LA SERENA Tur Bus is our choice for the next journey to La Serena because of the timings.  It is a single deck bus with plenty of leg room and comfortable seats.  They even put on a movie in English with Spanish subtitles.  Each pair of seats have a seperate control for the speakers above them which is a real bonus.  Barren desert scenery most of the way with little of interest.  La Serena has a large modern bus station right next to the shopping mall.  It would be possible to walk to the historical part of the city from the bus station but the beach is about 3km away.  Taxi's seem more expensive in La Serena than elsewhere, a shortish journey from the houses in the hills behind the city to the beach cost CP$6000 (£7.50).  The cheap local buses run along the main Pan American highway but not along the beach road.

Escuela Militar metro station fountain

LA SERENA TO SANTIAGO There are many bus companies doing the run to Santiago and a bit of a price war as many tickets are sold for less than the advertiesed price.  We took the Norte bus to Santiago, CP7, 000 (£9) leaving at 12.15pm. We stopped to take on board passengers from another coach that had broken down so didn't arrive until around 6pm.  The bus station is huge and quite confusing as you have to drop down a level and walk through a shopping centre to get out.  Buses are good but you first have to buy a card to put credit on.  The metro is easier as you just buy tickets as you go along, CP$400 (50p) a tjourney during off peak hours including transfers between lines.

EL QUISCO AND COASTAL AREA A friend took us by car to El Quisco where we stayed for 4 days taking local buses up and down the coast.  In El Quisco the main Pullman and Tur Bus stations are just a couple of blocks from lots of budget accommodation. Tur Bus back to Santiago costs CP$2800 ($3.50) if you return on the southern road and a little more via Algarrobo.  

SANTIAGO TO VINAS DEL MAR We chose Tur Bus for this journey as their Almada bus station is directly above the Santiago University metro statioin.  Buses leave every 20 minutes so no real need to book ahead. CP$3200 (£4) for the journey which takes about 1 /12 hours.  The bus station at Vinas del Mar is just a few blocks from the city centre.  There is a very good tourist office in the bus station with information on accommodation including prices, also many touts waiting to offer you rooms.   

Trivia answer - The St Lawrence in Canada


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