Getting Around In Buenos Aires

By Charlie Higgins

Transportation can be a real headache in Buenos Aires, but most people are willing to help you find your way.

For recent arrivals, Buenos Aires can seem like an impenetrable mess of blaring horns, morphing street names and surly bus drivers. Getting around the city is not for the faint of heart and can frustrate even the most intrepid, savvy travelers. Don’t be surprised to find longtime residents throw their hands up on occasion and opt for the more expensive yet easier taxi ride that tourists rely on.

Despite its many faults – frequent union strikes to name one – Buenos Aires has a cheap and relatively efficient public transportation system that can be tamed. The subway, though limited in its reach, is safe, punctual and convenient by most accounts, especially if you move about the cities main arteries. $2.50 pesos will pretty much get you wherever you need to go within Recoleta, Palermo, Microcentro, Almagro, Villa Crespo and Belgrano. The subway map is easy to follow, and most Porteños are quick to help you to navigate.

The city’s infamous bus system is a lot trickier to manage. Unlike the subway, which is run by the government, bus lines are privately owned and therefore play by their own rules despite being heavily subsidized. Some buses seem to pass by constantly, while others will make you wait 30 minutes on a weekday afternoon. Aesthetically these vessels are a diverse bunch: some look like they haven’t been updated since the last dictadura, others boast multicolored body paint and flashing neon lights.

The bus fare system, which may seem like it’s purposely designed to confuse tourists, is actually pretty straight forward. The key is to remember your monedas (small change). Buses don’t except paper bills, so unless you want to find yourself in a sticky situation with a cranky bus driver, always carry a few pesos in coins if you plan to ride the bus. For most distances, just say uno viente cinco ($1.25); if you know you’re riding for just a few blocks, say uno diez ($1.10). Hold on to the little ticket, as occasionally an official will step on to check that everyone has paid.

Cabs are the go-to mode of transportation for tourists, and though fares have gone up in recent years, they’re still a bargain compared to many international cities. The most important thing to remember about taking cabs in Buenos Aires is that drivers rarely care a lot of change. If you know you’re only going 15 blocks, don’t even think about paying with a 100 peso bill. Cabs are generally safe, but women should avoid taking a cab alone late at night.

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