Long-distance buses are safe and affordable. Luxury bus travel between cities costs about one-third that of plane travel and is more comfortable, with wide reclining seats, movies, drinks, and snacks. The most expensive service offered by most bus companies is called cama premium or simply premium, which indicates that the seats fold down into an almost horizontal bed. Service billed as semi-cama, ejectivo, and cama are other comfortable alternatives.
Without a doubt, the low cost of bus travel is its greatest advantage; its greatest drawback is the time you need to cover the distances involved. A trip from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama, for example, takes about 23 hours. Be sure to get a receipt for any luggage you check beneath the bus and keep a close watch on belongings you take on the bus.
Tickets are sold online, at bus company offices, and at city bus terminals. Note that in larger cities there may be several bus terminals (Santiago has three major terminals, for example), and some small towns may not have a terminal at all: pick-ups and drop-offs are at the bus line's office, invariably in a central location. Expect to pay with cash, as only the large bus companies such as Pullman Bus and Tur-Bus accept credit cards.
Reservations are recommended all year round, but are essential for holidays and travel during high season. You should arrive at terminals extra early for travel during peak seasons when the terminals can be packed with travelers.
Pullman Bus and Tur-Bus are two of the best-known companies in Chile. Their websites are Spanish-only.
Pullman Bus. 600/320–3200; www.ventapasajes.cl.
Tur-Bus. 600/660–6600; www.turbus.cl.