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I just booked my flight from Asunción to Santiago, but it occurred to me that given how short of a trip it is (based on the flight time, anyway), I started wondering if I might have been able to make the journey less expensively (and with more time to enjoy the scenery) had I gone by bus.

Too late now... but there's always the return trip to consider (:

What options are available to travel by land from Santiago to Asunción?

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Just to be clear, it's NOT a short trip. It might be cheaper, but it'll take you a while. Look at Mendoza to Santiago on a map - that alone is 8 hours by bus, to give you an idea (Although it's winding over mountains, to be fair, whereas the rest of Argentina is fairly flat.) –  Mark Mayo Oct 16 '12 at 17:18

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I don't really consider this a short trip, not compared to the flight. The only real ground transport option in South America is the bus (coach). There are some domestic trains around the big cities on the eastern coast, but for most rides you have to take a bus.

I took a bus from Salta in Northern Argentina to Asunción and that took about 24 hours (including some bus changes).

I don't think there is a direct bus from Santiago to Asunción, most likely you have to change in Mendoza and/or Cordoba.

There are several different bus stations in Santiago, make sure you go to the right one. All the big ones are close together next to the train station.

Also my bus took me as far as the Argentinian border town with Paraguay 'Clorinda'. From therr you can take a cab, or like me walk to the border and take a local bus to Asunción which took another few hours.

If you do that, don't go into town and try to use the foot bridge over the river into Paraguay, that crossing is for locals only. You have to go through the big border crossing out of town.

Anyways, remember you are crossing the Andes on the way which is spectacular. Some of the landscape in Northern Argentina is also nice, but if you go via Cordoba you may miss some of it.

I would say the ride takes at least two days, but you should stop in Mendoza which is really nice.

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@todofixthis: if you do take the bus, Plataforma 10 will be useful for timetable/price info (along with Busbud which Mark mentioned). (It doesn't show direct routes but see e.g. Asunción - Córdoba - Mendoza - Santiago.) –  Jonik Oct 16 '12 at 20:49
    
"locals only" = citizens only, or can permanent residents use it, too? –  todofixthis Oct 29 '12 at 17:27
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@todofixthis - locals in this case meant Argentinians and Paraguayans, but not people from third countries. I'm not sure if a local residency would have helped. –  Peter Hahndorf Oct 29 '12 at 17:48

According to Busbud there are three companies that offer routes from Asuncion to Santiago. NSA, Pullman Del Sur (can recommend), and Brujula.

What I'd suggest instead is if you have time, stopping in Foz de Iguazu (for the Iguazu Falls), and in either Buenos Aires if you're detouring, or Mendoza, just before the mountains. I highly recommend Mendoza - steak, sun, and the best wine you'll ever drink (I wasn't even a wine drinker before I got there).

Whatever you do, make sure to do the crossing of the Andes (Mendoza to Santiago) during the day. It's STUNNING.

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Awesome, thanks for the info! I found a route with Pullman Del Sur, but it looks like they don't sell tickets via their website. Can I buy the ticket online through a broker so that I can arrive at SCL with proof of onward travel, or should I not worry about it? –  todofixthis Oct 29 '12 at 17:25
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Not that I'm aware of. What I'd do is book a hostel in your next location. Both Canada and US have accepted that as proof for people in the past; they may ask HOW you are getting there. My friend flew into SCL and came to meet me in Mendoza, so same situation as you (no onward flight) and had no problems. –  Mark Mayo Oct 29 '12 at 23:37
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Looks like I was getting worried about nothing. The immigrations officer didn't ask me a single question, actually didn't even look at me after I handed him my passport. I've never seen an immigrations officer so disinterested before. Not that I'm complaining, of course :P –  todofixthis Nov 1 '12 at 0:01
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Trip back to Asunción in about a week. Looking forward to visiting Argentina on the way (: –  todofixthis Jan 19 '13 at 21:06
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Make sure to do that bus trip over the Andes in the day time ;) –  Mark Mayo Jan 20 '13 at 1:39

I recently completed my bus trip from Santiago to Asunción*. Not only is it not a short trip, it is unlikely to be a direct one either!

Taking Mark Mayo's advice, I booked my first leg from Santiago to Mendoza to make sure I got to take the route through the mountains (make sure you sit on the right side of the bus; the view is much better!).

From Mendoza, there is no direct bus route to Asunción that I could find. Instead, I had to go to Córdoba.

Now, there are direct routes from Córdoba to Asunción. However, they do not run every day. In my case, I would have had to wait for several days for the next bus. Instead, I opted for a night bus to Resistencia.

The next morning, I arrived and located a bus leaving in a couple of hours for Asunción. Mission accomplished.

So the entire trip looked like this:
Santiago → Mendoza → Córdoba → Resistencia → Asunción

Conservatively, I'd estimate that I spent about 30 hours on buses, and another 12 hours waiting in terminals. Next time, I'm flying!

* (which turned out to be quite an adventure)

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Awesome that you did do it :) Btw if you sit on the left side of that bus, for about 20 seconds you get a view of Aconcagua - but you have to know where and when to look :/ –  Mark Mayo Feb 28 '13 at 6:42

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