Travel struggle getting from Santiago to San Pedro de Atacama
We did the smart thing is booked a 2 hour flight from Santiago to Calama early so it was pretty cheap instead of taking the 24 hour bus. Everyone we met praised us for doing this and we were pretty stoked for ourselves in making this smart move. But maybe we were too full of ourselves...
Our flight was scheduled to leave at 4:20pm so the day of, we just took our time, ran some errands, hung out at the hostel, and wasn't in any hurry to get to the airport. We were told that it took less than an hour to get there so we left around 2:30pm to take the bus and and shuttle to the airport but it ended up taking us about 1 hour and 25 minutes... and we arrived at the airport at 3:55, leaving us 25 minutes until the plane left. However, we didn't realize that this was a big deal so when we walked up to the counter to check in our bags they told us the system was closed 5 minutes ago, 30 minutes before the plane took off, so we weren't able to get on the flight anymore. I was in actual shock... I didn't think they were going to be that strict about it. We tried talking to them and to different agents to see if there were anything we could do but we couldn't. Flights for that night or the next few days were around $200 so flying was now out of the picture.
Also this was the FIRST FLIGHT I HAVE EVER MISSED!! I broke my streak );
Our next hope was to catch a bus heading out that night so we got back on the airport shuttle back into town. We walked around to a number of different booths until they told us that we needed to head to the Central Station about 5 blocks down. We got a bus from Santiago to Calama, heading out that night at 10:30pm and getting there 24 hours later for about $55. This was our best option. We had a few hours to kill until then and the area we were in wasn't the best... felt a bit dodgie in some areas even during the day. So we went to the lively touristy area and got happy hour mojitos to drown out our sorrows and food.
Sitting on a bus for 24 hours isn't at all glamorous and this bus didn't give us any hot food, only some wafers and juice. We did bring snacks with us on the bus but we were craving real food. We had a 20 minutes stop in Antofagasta, Chile so we rushed to the only fast food place in the station and got some poorly made fast food. Doug tried a completo (Chilean hot dog with guacamole) and he was disgusted by it. Haha I warned him... but I guess you have to give it a try when in Chile. Then we hopped back on the bus for another 2 hours to Calama. We arrived in Calama around 10:35pm, just 5 minutes shy of the last bus to San Pedro de Atacama.
The next bus head out to San Pedro de Atacama was at 6:15am. We had a few options to consider, (1) get a hostel in Atacama for the night (which turned out to be ridiculously expensive - $40/night), (2) stay at the station until the morning (but they closed at 1am and wouldn't let us), (3) take a taxi (costing $45,000 or $65). Looking at our options, it was the cheapest to take a taxi and get to San Pedro that night since we already had a hostel booked.
Let me do a quick rant, I hate hate hate taking taxis while traveling. I'll do the occasional Uber but I absolutely despise taxis. They are expensive, always trying to rip you off, and it's meant for lazy travelers who can't figure out how to get around on public transportation or the cheaper way. But in this instance, it was our only option unfortunately.
We got to our hostel about 2 hours later, making our entire trip 26 hours... but at least this wasn't my first time on a long overnight bus. It now feels pretty second nature haha. When we got to the hostel, a lot of the workers were heading out the the "beach" or just an area to hangout at night since everything closed at midnight and the cops crack down on any type of noise, drinking, dancing, etc. So the ending of our night was pretty fun! And we made it!! Like finally, it was a damn struggle but things happen for a reason. We'll probably be here for a couple days then head up to Bolivia.