Buses along the main longitudinal highways, and those connecting other main cities and resorts, are frequent, spacious, and comfortable, sometimes luxurious. On backroads routes, some are infrequent and only slightly better than Central American “chicken buses,” but distances are short.
“Pullman” buses have reclining seats, and for short to medium runs, up to six or seven hours, they’re adequate. Seats are guaranteed. For the longest trips, semi-cama or salón cama service provides greater legroom in seats that recline almost horizontally. Fares are moderate—the 26-hour Santiago–Arica marathon costs about US$60 in salón cama, including onboard or roadside meal service.
Most cities have a central terminal de buses (bus terminal) or terminal rodoviario, but some towns have multiple terminals for long-distance, regional, and rural services, or for individual companies. Some companies have separate ticket offices in more central locations than the terminals themselves—in Santiago, for instance, some Metro stations have ticket outlets.
Reservations are rarely necessary except for infrequently traveled routes and some international services, or during holiday periods such as mid-September’s independence celebrations, the Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Christmas–New Year’s periods, and occasionally during the January–February summer vacation season.
According to transport regulations, bus tickets may be returned for 85 percent of face value up to four hours before departure. Exchanges are free of charge.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition