Driving to Argentina?
February 20, 2005 3:13 PM   Subscribe

My friend and I had sweet-deal buddy passes on Delta from Atlanta to Buenos Aires. Desafortunadamente, these passes have fallen through. We live in Utah (god help us) and have been toying with the idea of driving a truck (which we're willing to kill in the process) to Argentina. [More...More...More]

I know it can be done. There are sticky areas like the infamous Darien Gap and then the issue of driving through Colombia. It will be expensive (gas, visas etc.). I've spent time in South America before and I speak Spanish. So, basically, should I do this? What else should I consider?

As a back-up, does anybody know a way to get buddy passes (or way cheap tickets) other than simply having a connection? I will be in Argentina (or traveling there) for 6 months.
posted by punkbitch to Travel & Transportation around Argentina (9 answers total)
Priceline says that a ticket to Buenos Aires, and back again six months later, will cost you about $2,300 from Atlanta or under $1,000 from Los Angeles. Compared to the alternative you describe, I'd consider that money well spent. But this would depend on whether you prefer to miminize hassle or increase adventure.
posted by naomi at 3:45 PM on February 20, 2005

I'd read Road Fever by Tim Cahill in which he and a companion drive from Tierra del Fuego to Prudhoe Bay, AK. Even if it talks you out of the idea, it's a fun read. If the book talks you into the idea, so much the better. Good luck and please blog the trip.
posted by stet at 3:48 PM on February 20, 2005

You might want to read Road Fever to get an idea of what the Mexico-Argentina route looked like, driving-wise, a few years back. It's a fun and funny read but gives you and idea of what they went through driving a similar route.
posted by jessamyn at 3:48 PM on February 20, 2005

Driving through areas that may be remote and dangerous (for natural and manmade reasons), in a truck that could break down somewhere in the process is more adventurous than I would go for. But I'm a bit of a coward/homebody.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 3:53 PM on February 20, 2005

Response by poster: Well, hmmm. $894 is pretty cheap from LA and closer to where I live. I think that if we start driving we might just have to keep going. God I'm insane! Yeeeeahh! Now about those buddy passes. Anybody know the ins and outs of the airlines????????
posted by punkbitch at 4:44 PM on February 20, 2005

You might want to re think the practicalities of the Darien gap linking Panama and Colombia.
This road is still unfinished i.e mud; and runs through territory known to be inhabited by armed forces such as FARC and AUC as well as non allied bandits for whom a couple of gringos could look like a good meal ticket i.e. hostage and ransom or just "sport".
posted by adamvasco at 7:17 PM on February 20, 2005

Crossing Darien Gap by Motorcycle covers that one: basically, they couldn't, although others have gotten through e.g. with Range Rovers. Also, recently, in the same area gung-ho adventurer Robert Young Pelton was himself kidnapped along with a couple of hapless backpackers. Though you seem to have basic preparation, you could be getting over your head in Into the Wild fashion if you don't do your homework. How good, for instance, are you and your pal at field repairs?
posted by dhartung at 11:29 PM on February 20, 2005

Driving there sounds like a fun adventure. More daring than my recent solo m/c trip through Eastern Europe: Yugoslavia, Serbia, Macedonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania are a few of the countries I visited.

The only advice I have is from my own trip, a few continents apart from the one you'll be visiting, but maybe useful nonetheless. Make sure your paperwork is in order and there are no ambiguities; ie, on your vehicle insurance papers, make sure the VIN and plate numbers match exactly. Make sure nothing has expired or will expire during your trip, and that you have at least two copies of everything, kept in separate locations. I never let people wander off with my passport - if they need to show it to someone else, they can take a copy or bring that person to the passport, which doesn't leave my sight. Have the phone numbers and addresses for embassies in each country you'll be visiting. Make sure you always have water on you, and containers for more. Make sure you don't run too low on gas, and have containers to get more should you run out. If you have the money, you could take a sat phone.

If you do drive there, I'd love for you to post it to your blog. I'd be curious to hear your experiences, since I'm planning on riding from California to Tierra del Fuego and back again late next year. Best of luck on your trip!
posted by cactus at 4:13 AM on February 21, 2005

Now about those buddy passes. Anybody know the ins and outs of the airlines????????

re: buddy passes -- they are obviously hard to procure if you don't have a connection, since it's against the rules of probably all airlines for employees to sell them, even though people often do anyway. and because of their inherent value, nobody really gives them away to strangers (especially since they already have 50 gazillion "lost" family members saying, "oh, you work for the airline? can you get me a free ticket for when I go to... ").

with that being said, i don't know exactly how easy it would be to find one for sale, since i was always ethical and wanted to keep my job when i worked for an airline. the employee who got caught selling a pass would have his flight privileges revoked, at the least, or possibly get fired (this happened to someone I worked with). i have seen "buddy pass for sale" ads on craigslist here and there, but you'd be getting stiffed, since the prices i've seen for many of these over the years could easily get you a discount ticket if you plan well.

also, you do know that "buddy" passes don't really guarantee that you'll make it to Buenos Aires and back, right? all of the buddy passes i've ever seen are for space-available travel, meaning that you won't get on or you might get bumped off the plane somewhere in the middle of your trip -- as in failing to catch connecting flights, not actually thrown out of the plane -- if the flight is full. so back to getting stiffed, your money may be better spent on a guaranteed ticket instead of a buddy pass, especially since there's no recourse if you do get bumped other than waiting for who knows how long for the next flight to your destination. part of playing the free-travel game is accepting your fate if your plans change, and complaining would only result in everyone involved getting in trouble. the airlines would know who your buddy pass ticket comes from (by encoded employee numbers, etc), even if you don't know. this is another part of the reason why buddy passes are difficult to come by: most employees want to pass them on to people who they know and trust not to act like troublemaking idiots at the gate.

your best bet, in my opinion, is to load up on a bunch of travel vouchers. not the same as a buddy pass -- and they may have different names, depending on the airline (Delta's are called Delta Dollars... how creative). they're basically coupons for future ticket purchases, and they have a dollar value assigned to them. Delta gives them out as incentives to get people to relinquish their seats on oversold flights. i've seen them offered for sale or trade -- many times for less than face value -- on craigslist or sometimes even in the travel/tickets section in newspaper classifieds. people often to sell them to get cash (since you can't "cash" it in at the airline... you can only use it to buy a ticket), or they try to unload them right before they're due to expire and haven't been used (Delta Dollars expire a year from issue). you might find some last-minute vouchers on the cheap. the ticket you buy with a voucher is valid for a year after the ticket is issued.

hope this helps, and i hope you find another travel option, because i shudder at the thought of your truck dying and abandoning you in the middle of nowhere.
posted by lnicole at 3:11 PM on February 21, 2005

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