Help a n00b get to his final destination – Córdoba/La Falda

Big Swifty

Feb 4, 2021
I’ve done some research and have some ideas on how I’m going to get from EZE to La Falda, but thought I’d run it by here for opinions on my assumptions or suggestions for better ideas. First time in Argentina, but I’ve got experience as an expat in Latin America and before that as a regular snow-bird who’d spend 5-7 months backpacking in Latin America. Apologies up front for the length of the post.

I just purchased airfare to Bs As from Perú. I normally like to travel light, but since this will be a long-term move (I have family there), I’ll be bringing more luggage than usual. Two large (23kg) rolling suitcases, one overhead-compartment sized rolling suitcase, a large backpack, a messenger bag and my inconspicuous camera bag with a lot of lenses. I’ll be able to manage, but have some concerns since all this will make me less flexible as far as ability to move, and perhaps an obvious target. One of my very rare bad experiences when traveling was under similar circumstances, so I’m looking to not repeat.

Not many options as far as flights go and they’re far more expensive than taking a bus directly to La Falda. From what I’ve researched, Terminal Retiro is where I’m gonna catch my bus, most likely with Urquiza because it gives me access to the VIP area. From what I read I’m not expecting much in the way of VIP, but if I can stash my luggage and not have to wait all day (I arrive at EZE at 06:15 on a Sunday morning) in the main part of the terminal it sounds like I’d probably be better off.

From what I’ve read here and elsewhere online, Retiro is your typical large bus terminal. Retiro the district sounds okay, but the terminal area sounds like it can be dodgy. Same with inside the terminal itself – though online opinions are mixed and varied, anywhere from ‘worst experience of my life’ to ‘not as bad as others are saying.’ Of course all opinions are subjective and based on the person’s prior travel experiences, expectations, and tolerance level.

First issue; getting from EZE to Retiro. Does the TiendaLeón shuttle stop between Aeroparque and Terminal Madero? Couldn’t get a straight yes/no answer from TiendaLeón, so I’m assuming no. An option would be to take the shuttle to Madero and then hail a cab from there to Retiro. Good idea or asking for problems? My concern is being out in the open with all my luggage and not knowing the safety of a random cab hailed in that area. My one bad experience (which wasn’t all that bad) was in a similar situation where an hour after the event I realized that the cabbie had a partner on the street and he set me up for his partner to steal my bags. Don’t want a repeat and don’t automatically trust taxis, esp. taxis hailed at terminals.

Are there other shuttle options from EZE > Terminal Retiro? Am I better off just paying more and taking a cab or other service from EZE direct to Retiro?

Next issue; what’s the story once I get to Retiro? Quick and easy entrance from wherever I get dropped off to inside the terminal? Tip the cab driver for a bit of help into the terminal or watch my back if I decide to strap the small suitcase to one of the larger ones so I can move easier? Trust absolutely no one once I step out of the cab? Are there luggage carts like at the airport? I’m always more alert when traveling, esp. in new places and with more luggage than I can move with quickly, but how much more alert do I need to be outside the terminal on a Sunday, late in the morning?

The bus I’m likely to take leaves at 9 p.m., so I’m looking at spending 9-12 hours at the Terminal. As mentioned, a ticket with Urquiza would give me access to the VIP lounge. All I really care about is having a slightly more comfortable space to wait and I’ve read they have a watched luggage service. Or am I kidding myself?

I’m an architectural photographer and considering I’ll have a lot of spare time I’d like to take my smaller, inconspicuous camera bag that like the larger one doesn’t look like a camera bag and take a stroll around with a small lens or two, get a bite to eat, etc. Can I trust leaving my luggage in the VIP lounge with the watched luggage service? Am I good leaving the terminal and the terminal area as quickly as possible (not running, just moving with purpose) to a better part of the city? If so, back before it gets dark? Or better overall to just park myself at the terminal for the whole day, eat there, and bust out the laptop or a paperback?

Thanks for any opinions on my assumptions and/or suggestions.
Do not walk around with a camera, small or not. Especially right outside the bus terminal. Retiro is a weird area that changes from luxury hotels and restaurants to ghetto in less than 5 minutes. In fact if you don’t know the area, I would honestly say don’t walk around retiro at all. The area around the bus station is like 100 yards from one of the biggest ghettos in the city. And they don’t play nice here. I’ve had several friends, Argentines and Gringos, get robbed in the terminal (not violence but running off with their bag when they weren’t looking) I’ve also had 3 friends get robbed at knife point in Retiro in broad daylight. Not sure your situation, but I would not spend that amount of time in the bus station. Fine to take a bus from there, but not the kind of place you want to hang in for a long time, especially with valuables. Others might know somewhere you could hang for the day and keep your bags safe.
An option would be to take the shuttle to Madero and then hail a cab from there to Retiro. Good idea or asking for problems?
In comparison with taking a taxi directly from Ezeiza to the Retiro station, you are saving like 7 dollars. You will not have to walk to TiendaLeon location at the airport, unload and reload your luggage, catch a taxi in an unfamiliar neighborhood etc. Taxi Ezeiza has a booth inside the airport terminal.
The usual rule for bus travel is one piece of luggage in the hold per passenger but I presume you've done your due dilligence over whether they will take your extra bags for a fee. Sometimes it's not the money that is the limitation but the physical space available in the luggage hold. Urquiza, like most bus companies offer an encomienda service so the alternative is that they ship the excess to Cordoba as freight but it might not arrive on the same day that you do. Most bus companies offer a guardar equipaje service so whatever bags will be travelling with you may be locked into the company office at Retiro - often for nothing more than a nice gratuity for the clerk - if you choose to go off and explore. There also used to be left luggage lockers in the bus terminal if you choose to use those. I presume they are still there but I haven't been inside the terminal for more than a year.

As there is so much hanging on your safe arrival in La Falda I'd strongly recommend being very boring and becoming very bored by not going off to explore but just staying in very public areas of the bus terminal this time. From what you said in earlier posts, I think it is very likely you will be bringing your wife back to Buenos Aires from time to time for medical consultations since that's where the top specialists can be found. There's some wonderful traditional and modern architecture to study in Buenos Aires and there are always some exciting construction projects on the go but I'd suggest you plan the logistics for those studies well ahead and fit them into those later visits. Incidentally, there's a weekly publication from Clarín called Arq which will keep you up to date with all aspects of building, construction and architecture. It's sent by mail to subscribers in Buenos Aires and I guess they would mail it to La Falda too - but it might turn up rather late!
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You could consider getting a hotel room for day use somewhere downtown or wherever is interesting for you in the city. This way you can leave you bags, freshen up and have a base for exploring between leg. Take a remise to hotel and when you are ready take a taxi/ cabify/ uber etc to bus terminal.
Thanks for all of the helpful advice.

Think I’ll save my first time exploring Bs As for another time. Better to devote my full concentration on getting to my final destination. Spending most of the day at the airport and then taking a no-hassle pre-paid cab to Terminal Retiro closer to departure time sounds boring, but also the safest and most stress free. The reviews for Taxi Ezeiza are mostly positive and the negative ones seem to focus on getting hit up for a tip by the guy who takes your bags from inside the airport out to the cab or having to wait a bit – neither being problems for me. I’m flying in on Premium Economy, so hopefully I’d still be eligible to pass those hours at LATAM’s VIP lounge – if it’s even open by then. No matter how the day unfolds, sounds like the better option compared to waiting a full day at Retiro, and knowing myself it’d be hard for me to enjoy less than half a day if I’m watching the hour and thinking about the bus trip.

I did ask several bus companies about the number of bags allowed on the bus, but so far haven’t been able to get an answer. Unanswered emails, automated WhatsApp chats that just repeat website FAQs, or if anyone responds the answer has been that I’d have to ask at the terminal because they don’t have that information. Bueno. Pretty much what I expected. My wife asked at the terminal and said they told her it’s something I’d have to arrange with the driver. My father in-law has taken a few bus trips back to Peru and always returns with at least three large bags, and every time I’m at a bus terminal I notice several people bringing more than one piece of checked luggage so I’m not going to worry. At worse I can always send excess as freight and pick them up a day or two after my arrival. I'm assuming most Sunday travel is people returning to Bs As from the provinces.
Note that there is no lounge access on arrival (plus latam lounge us closed currently anyway)
Aeropuertos VIP club offer an arrivals service with lounge and private immigration screening before you go through customs with your bags, but it is expensive and not sure if you can use it if not a member (eg Membership runs at US$2500 pa)
Saw that info on the LATAM lounge but maybe by the end of October it'll be open. Not counting on it. Or even being able to get in considering I won't have a connecting flight that day. Aeropuertos VIP is $50 for a one-time entrance. I'm probably going to go through customs earlier rather than later. Just in case there's some weirdness that needs sorting out. I'm pretty much resigned to expecting a boring day on the landside with my laptop and paperback. Considering covid and restrictions on the amount of people allowed inside, I won't be surprised, or that upset, if I get kicked to the curb. Might look into an inexpensive hotel nearby either Terminal Retiro or even EZE. Still probably cheaper than airfare with all my luggage. Whatever happens - all part of the journey.
I think you are making a good choice. As far as fitting all your bags in the bus: In my experience there is usually 1-2 guys in charge of loading bags in the storage area of the bus. Everyone lines up and they give you a tag with a matching one on your bag. If they give you an issue about too many bags, I would ask them if you can pay the extra bag fee directly to them ;). What they do with that fee afterwards is not your business.