The great travel writer Paul Theroux – who penned the classic Argentina travelogue The Great Patagonian Express – claims that the best form of travel is overlanding: ‘Stay on the ground. There’s nothing to learn in an airport, no one to talk to on a plane.’
This very much applies to the 1264.9mi journey between Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. There’s so much on the ground to see and do that overlanding is the only option.
But before you set off on your epic expedition, you might first want to explore Buenos Aires, a seductive city of colonial architecture, pretty jacaranda trees and, of course, the sounds of the tango. Check out Buenos Aires Vacation Rentals.
Choose Your Method
There are two overland methods of getting to Rio: by bus or car. While Argentina has begun constructing long-distance rail links to both Venezuela and Brazil, there is not yet a service between Buenos Aires and Rio.
Pluma Internacional lays on buses that depart from Buenos Aires at 18:30 every Mon, Wed and Fri, and arrive in Rio 45hrs 30mins later. You’ll get a comfortable ‘semicama’ (reclining chair).
A plusher alternative is Crucero del Norte’s ‘cama-ejec’ (sleeper cabin with bed) service which is more expensive, though 5hrs quicker than a Pluma bus.
All cars and buses must start out on the BR-116, a federal highway extending 4385km along the eastern coast of South America.
If you’re self-driving you may be stopped at a police checkpoint for a random car inspection – this is just a formality and nothing to worry about.
You’ll then spend 3hrs on the BR-277 before the RN-12 leads you into Rio itself.
Choose Your Itinerary
It’s easy enough to turn a 30-40 hour trip into weeks of exciting activities across three countries. You can take a western detour to Montevideo, capital of Uruguay, and take in a vibrant football match. In Misiones Province, northern Argentina, are the must-see ruins of San Ignacio Mini, an impressive Jesuit mission established by the Spanish conquistadors.
125mi southeast of Rio is Parati, both a quaint historic town and an immaculate beach. It’s a relaxing stopover before you leap into the craziness of Rio.
Many travellers try to coincide their arrival in Rio with Mardi Gras, arguably the world’s most vibrant festival which attracts 4.9 million spectators a year.
To make your stay in this fine city more enjoyable, it’s worth researching Rio de Janeiro accommodation in advance.