We entered Mendoza completely ignorant to the fact that it was the country’s wine capital. Faint memories of hearing passing backpackers discuss the wonders of the region were lost among the fact that we were in Argentina and our budget was concerned.
Yes, regular readers, it is true. The blog word budget is saturated across this blog but c’mon considering Argentina is one of the most expensive countries in South America surely our tight-ass selves would become more pocket conscious.
Our arrival started on a high, and to be honest, although we did enjoy Mendoza; its wine, its beautiful scenery and its calm and collect nature, we focused on making the most of it without any major costs so maybe this affects our judgement in saying that, well, it was beautiful and a nice intro to Argentina but that is all.
Hitchhiking from Santiago in Chile over 360 km to Mendoza, up the famous Paso Los Libertadores (the winding road with 29 curves), across the border and through the Andes mountain range was most definitely our Mendoza highlight and an awesome entrance.
Made better by Andrés, a Chileano who has spent many years in Mendoza managing his winery. He collected us from the Chile Argentina border, drove and dropped us at a local hostel before inviting us to join a tour of the Bodega Cruzat, famous for its sparkling wine.
Followed were some frugal days of exploring, city viewing and wine tasting all while enjoying the friendly and welcoming atmosphere.
All in all it was a bubbling few days of fun, and that’s not just the wine talking.
Table of Contents
From Santiago to Mendoza:
As mentioned we hitchhiked our way from Santiago in Chile to Mendoza. It was effortless in flagging the three separate lifts, crossing the border by foot and arriving from one to the other in roughly 7 hours.
Hitchhiking Santiago to Mendoza:
For our full detailed guide on how best to hitchhike your way from Chile to Argentina, click on over here (but don’t forget to come back!).
Santiago to Mendoza by Bus:
Before any hitching attempts, we of course popped by the bus terminal in Santiago to find out their rough rates.
The good news is that there are frequent bus services which take approximately 7 hours journey time including the 5 hours driving and 2 hours queuing. This border crossing is one of the busiest we’ve encountered throughout South America.
Bus services start at the reasonable hour of 8am and operate until 10pm. There are companies such as Andes, Turbus, Cata Internacional etc. where you can prebook a seat for around $33,000 (€45) online.
However, when we popped by the terminal at midday, there were cheaper services in both the afternoon and night starting at $22,000 (€30) so if you are adamant on taking a bus for cheap, head down early and haggle.
For more online prices, options and schedules, visit Bookaway.com
Accommodation in Mendoza:
With nothing booked on arrival, we made our hostel rounds and quickly decided to avoid the busy main street and veer off where no lamp posts exist.
A nice hostel with huge potential (if the owners would give it an extra TLC). One of the cheapest around, we used Booking.com to secure a very last minute rate.
At first we did visit Breakpoint Hostel, not too far from Casa Olascoaga, to ask for prices. But at €17 for two beds in a dorm, that was when we quickly (sneakily) connected to their Wi-Fi and searched Booking.com to find Casa Olascoaga had a private twin room for only 30 peso (€13). We booked one night and then agreed to stay for another night at the same price.
A large room, with big open windows, a fan for the hot summer nights, good Wi-Fi and free use of their washing machine, the hostel was decent however not everyone may feel that way due to the infestation of ants, and leakages in the bathroom.
From Avenida Arístides Villanueva, the jam packed gringo street, turn up Calle Olascoaga and it is four blocks up on the right hand side. There is a small sign on the door but it may not be visible due to little street lights.
Five Freebies In Mendoza:
We will admit that we normally find these blogs to be a bit of a cop out. Usually when we see similar headings, we click in to find that the five free things consist of visiting every park in the town, something that is obviously free to do and somewhat boring.
Here, we really do try to include some interesting free things to do. Of course, anything of ultimate fun will cost money, and we just didn’t see the point in splashing out on crazy prices to horse ride, white water raft or cycle. Especially when you can do just that in neighbouring countries for cheaper prices. Also, Mendoza doesn’t have a huge amount to do, especially not for the budget backpacker. As two people from Dublin, an extremely expensive city with a ridiculously high cost of living, yet even on our first stop in Argentina, we find Dublin to be much cheaper. That says a lot.
So we hope you can find some fun in what we suggest, we certainly did.
Enjoy a 360° birds eye view of Mendoza with beautiful city scenes from the Municipalidad de Mendoza, known to us as the town hall.
It is open from 10am-1pm and again from 6pm-9pm. The main entrance is down the flight of stairs next to the main building.
Although our cloudy day view was stunning, we can imagine a clear sunset viewing here would be an ideal way to close the day. Or maybe even start the evening.
Free Wine Tasting:
We’re not exactly what you would call wine people. Not big drinkers and personally ignorant to the process and appreciation, it does seem rude not to be introduced to the local produce, especially with all its fame and glory.
Visit Bodega Carmelo Patti:
So if you’re like us and wanna dip the toe without stretching the funds then be sure to visit one of the highly rated vineyards, Bodega Carmelo Patti. Not only does the owner himself bring you on a grand tour (the catch being that it is Spanish speaking only!) but he does so for free, with some wine tasting included.
One of the nicest, welcoming and most genuine guys, it’s no wonder everyone is raving about such a gentleman.
Bodega Carmelo Patti is located in Luján de Cuyo, about 15 minutes from central Mendoza and there are three possible bus options.
How To Get There:
The #19 bus, which takes over an hour, will drop you on San Martín – about a 2 minute walk from Bodega Carmelo Patti. Ask your host or hostel for the nearest #19 bus stops.
From the Terminal de Óminbus, both companies – Cata Internacional and Buttini – have services running at least every hour. We know for 100% that Buttini has a bus departing at 10.30am. Buttini is the cheaper service with bus costs $32.50 (€1.50).
Visit Bodega Cruzat:
If you are willing to splash out a little, we were extremely happy with our visit to Bodega Cruzat on Calle Costa Flores, a little outside of the main street in Luján de Cuyo (Buttini bus services pass close by).
Completely naive towards the love of wine, we found the tour informative and fun and the company enjoyable and attentive. The wine itself had our taste buds hopping, and their sparkling wine has converted us to total winos.
Check out their website for prices www.bodegacruzat.com. We went for their 1 hour tasting *tour which costs €7 per person. Most definitely one of the cheaper options going (oh, we checked).
We were extremely lucky (and grateful) to be invited on this 1 hour tour by our hitchhiking saviour Andrés who manages Bodega Cruzat.
*This is in no way an affiliation, Andrés genuinely wanted us to experience wine tasting in his home region and we honestly loved every minute. Enough to give it a plug, especially at such a reasonable cost.
Milongas Tango Show:
There is no such thing as ‘too much tango’ so whether you’re coming from the toe tapping capital Buenos Aires or have yet to be introduced to the sexy dance, Mendoza is a good opportunity to dance off.
Milongas are essentially a ‘free for all’ tango session where randoms meet to dance, practice and learn. Passion oozes from these meet ups and participation is encouraged, beginner or not.
Balcón de Tango on Avenida San Martín
Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays 10pm,
La Zona Practilonga at Avenida Perú 1179
Milonga La Pipistrela on Avenida San Juan 165
Free Walking Tour:
Every day from Monday to Saturday, Tours4Tips leads a donation based walking tour from Pelegrini Square at both 11am and 3pm.
The ideal way to discover Mendoza’s history and culture while walking alongside locals who can share all the best tips and suggestions.
The tour lasts roughly 2.5 hours and has an option of visiting either (or both!) the ‘old’ and ‘new’ corners of the city. History buffs will enjoy the old tour more so but there may be a small transport cost involved.
Parque General San Martín:
Yeah, yeah, we know we moan about parks being mentioned in these types of lists but sure look, we can appreciate a little hypocrisy from time to time.
A cute day outdoors, the Parque General San Martín is within walking distance and can be easily accessed from the bottom of Avenida Arístides Villanueva a.k.a gringo street.
Full of gorgeous walkways, beautiful botanical gardens, historical sites and the option to visit the science museum or hand glide. There is also a zoo there but we heard it is in terrible condition so we would avoid skipping this one.
OK so we said five things but take this as a cheap eating tip.
The Mercado Central found on Avenida Las Heras is open until 9pm and has a number of eateries with decent promotional deals such as pizza slice and a drink for €1.50 or drink and three empanadas for €2.50. Our favourite being the super pancho (the longest hotdog in the history of hotdogs) for €1.50. Those who live with a sweet tooth will appreciate the baked goods and sweet stalls.
And that is that!
We wish you a fun filled trip to Mendoza and hope our favourite freebies list is of help.
Any updates or questions, please do get in touch. We love to hear from you guys!