I was chatting with a friend today about long-distance travel. I mentioned how I’ve taken a number of overnight bus, train and ferry trips, and he told me about bus travel in his home country of Argentina. Turns out that there are several classes of bus travel there, and the highest class, “cama suite,” is pretty swanky. (Cama is Spanish for bed.) The overnight buses have seats that fold down completely horizontal, with lots of room (three across), attendants, full meals and “lots of alcohol.”
I went home and researched it, and everything I’ve found confirms Antonio’s account. There are lots of reports from English-speaking travelers in Argentina, complete with photos, like the one by American tourist Craig James, who took the photo of “full cama” service above. Craig’s daughter Caroline was less impressed by the “semi-cama” service on a subsequent leg of their trip.
More details can be found on the websites of the several for-profit bus companies, such as Expreso Alberino. That’s right, several for-profit bus companies: according to the handy Omnilineas website, the popular Buenos Aires-Bariloche route is handled by at least five different companies, with prices ranging from about $60 to $90 US.
I’m seriously wondering about the economic factors that allow companies to profitably run such luxurious bus service, but somehow prevent planes, trains and private cars from taking all the business. And how this fits in with the results of the National Geographic Greendex survey that ranked Argentines as some of the greenest people in the world (PDF), except for the amount of beef they consume.
Could we ever see something like that here in the US? Well, we do have the LimoLiner between New York and Boston. That has seen mixed reviews, but seems to be doing well, having recently added service to Hartford. However, it’s only a five-hour trip (max); as far as I know there’s nothing similar for overnight trips. Maybe someone should try a NYC-Chicago or NYC-Atlanta run?