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I'm planning to travel by bus between Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile. I don't have a head for heights, hence my question:

Are there any terrible precipitous drop-offs on the edge of the road whilst crossing the Andes by bus?

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From what I've understood, it's safe and there are beautiful views. But whether it might look scary, Mark will surely be able to answer that. –  Jonik Jan 10 '13 at 10:08
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2 Answers

This is one of my favourite bus trips in the world, having done Mendoza->Santiago twice and Santiago->Mendoza once. Please, please, travel it during the day, for two reasons:

1) I've done this once at night. At the top of the Andes is the border crossing. There's snow a good portion of the year on the hills around you. It's FREEZING in the middle of the night standing in this big warehouse waiting for your turn to get a stamp.

Chilean side of the border crossing (from marksmayo.com)

2) It's spectacular. On the way up you can actually see the Inca Bridge from the bus - keep a look out for road signs. Just before the Argentinian border, if you know where to look on the right side of the bus, you have a 20-30 second window where you can see Aconcagua. The mountains are fantastic, and the roads are actually really good.

Now, in terms of drop offs. The final time I did this trip was with a friend who does NOT have a good head for heights. Heights freak him out something chronic. He was fine the entire bus ride. The roads are good, they have tunnels at key points rather than make a risky road or risk avalanche.

Checking my blog, I didn't provide much description, but...

Now, there is ONE key point that might freak you out a little bit. I actually mention it in the first post above, as:

Just before that is a massive series of switch-backs going up nearly vertically, part of which travels UNDER a ski-lift!

This is through the pass called Paso Internacional Los Libertadores and is a series of 27 switchbacks on the Chilean side. It becomes almost monotonous going up, but the view going towards Chile (down) is spectacular. But even my friend with a fear for heights marvelled at it (and he did the trip twice).

The switchbacks! (from Wikipedia)

But the road has lots of traffic, the buses are very good quality, and the trip takes about 8 hours. It's a fantastic way to spend a day.

(EDIT) If you really want to see what it looks like, there's a video of some of the switchbacks showing the drops, but also the inside of the bus and how slowly the bus goes to make sure it's safe. You'll be fine :)

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I came across another video showing more of the spot with many switchbacks. Slightly more precipitous drop-offs visible in this one ;) –  Jonik Jan 13 '13 at 3:18
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The photos and descriptions on this website might give an idea of how it's like:
Crossing the Andes: Mendoza to Santiago by Bus

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