Getting Around Buenos Aires

Buesnos AiresBuenos Aires’ public transport system is very commendable except for the usual surge of crowds come rush hour. Although its metro railway system is not large, it does cover most tourist attractions of this charming city. It also has a multitude of bus routes and suburban railways that commuters often use.

If you are planning to spend a day traveling around Buenos Aires, here are some things you need to know.

The zoning is easy to navigate – Most of the city streets intersect into equal squares, with blocks number in the hundreds.

Most streets are one-way – This means that its parallel streets are most likely driving in the other direction, so be aware that the bus or taxi would not follow the same route back.

Taxis are inexpensive but slow – If you are in a hurry, the cab may not be your best option when moving around in the most congested areas especially during rush hours. However, taxis are usually inexpensive and convenient. When riding a taxi, simply tell the driver the street and the block number (like "Santa Fe 2200"), or two intersecting streets (like "Corrientes y Callao").

Better to call for a cab – Let your hotel call for a cab instead of doing it on your own, so you might not end up with a private operator disguised as a commercial taxi that would ask for a rather higher fare.

Pay in exact change – Avoid paying the cab in large bills as there have been cases of counterfeit change.

There are "bad" cab drivers – And we are not just talking about bad drivers, but those who would actually try to rob you. If a driver says that your money is counterfeit and would take you to an ATM, don’t. If you headed to the hotel, tell the receptionist about your situation and if you do have counterfeit money he’ll lend you money to pay the cab. You could also alert the police, which would usually scare the would-be robbers. Also, if the taxi "breaks down", get off and look for another cab Just remember that you bring your luggage beside you instead of putting it in the trunk so the cabbie won’t "drive off" with your belongings.

Use a map when taking a bus – City maps are readily available in the city. These are indispensable for those wanting to use public transport since they include all bus routes.

Buses are the way – The main vehicles for public transportation in Buenos Aires are the buses (or "colectivos"), with over one hundred lines covering the whole city for 24 hours a day, even on holidays (although fewer units run). Fares have a maximum fixed price as long as the buses move inside the city borders, and it gets higher up to 2 pesos once you venture into the suburbs. Be aware that bus tickets are only bought on the bus through a machine that only accepts coins.

Bus routes are easily-distinguished – The buses are painted according to its route. City buses also have route numbers up to 200, while buses numbered over 200 are suburb-only lines. You could refer the street directory called Guía "T" (available in many kiosks around the city) for detailed notes about all the bus routes. You could also call the toll-free infoline 131 if you know a bit of Spanish. Just tell the corner where you are and the one you want to get to.

How to pay bus fares – As you step on the bus, simply do what Argentines do by saying "Ochenta, por favor," which means you would be traveling within city limits and would pay 80 centavos. The driver would then press a button instructing the coin machine to take a certain amount of money from you. Insert coins (and only coins) into the machine and get your ticket plus change (if applicable) at the bottom of the machine. Keep in mind not to turn any knob on the machine.

The "Subte" – Buenos Aires has its own metro network called the "Subte", short for "subterráneo" (underground). It saves you a lot of time and very cheap too, with fares of up to 70 centavos. However, expect crowds packing the coaches during the 9:00 a.m. rush hour, and you may even have to miss several trains before getting into one that has enough space for you. The Subte works between around 5:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. except on Sundays when it starts at 8:00 a.m.

Stored-value tickets – Subte provides magnetic stripe tickets encoded with a stored amount of fare, which means you could use the ticket for more than one travel (even for more than one traveler) as long as it has the required amount of fares.

Getting nostalgic – The Subte’s A-line is a destination on its own because of the old wooden carriages, as it was the first subway built in Latin America (at around 1913).

Getting too far – The southeast branch of the Subte leads to an extended railway known are "Premetro", be aware that it goes to some of the least secure places in the city.

Be careful about choosing trains – There are a good deal of ground-level trains connecting the suburban area, but the quality of service ranges from excellent to down right awful. Also, you need to ask if the line is available at nighttime.

Renting a car – There are several things to keep in mind before renting a car in Buenos Aires. Firstly, the city is one of the walk-friendly ones around, where people would often go for the extra effort to go on foot (if travel is within 30 blocks) and get to know the city on a more intimate level. Secondly, the public transportation system is cheap and efficient. Thirdly, traffic in the city is horrible and really chaotic, as stoplights, signs, and traffic laws are mere "suggestions" in the eyes of the average driver. And lastly, Argentina has one of the highest motor vehicle accident mortality rates in the world.

 
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