Getting Around in Buenos Aires
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Expats will find that getting around Buenos Aires and navigating the city is incredibly simple. Public transport in Buenos Aires is excellent and inexpensive. The city boasts the oldest subway system in South America. Although the buses and the subway (subte) are efficient, they can be overcrowded during rush hour.
Buenos Aires uses a grid system. This means the city is divided into blocks which are numbered, and most streets are one-way with a parallel street going in the opposite direction. This makes giving a taxi driver instructions quite easy. Expats just have to provide the names of the two intersecting streets closest to their desired destination.
Public transport in Buenos Aires
Though it is possible in most cases to pay in cash when using public transport, the city also has a smart-card system that simplifies payment. A prepaid card called a SUBE can be bought at subway stations, Tourist Assistance Centers and at many kioskos (corner stores). This card can be charged with credit and swiped when getting onto a bus, train or the subway. The card is able to run a limited deficit before it absolutely must be recharged. This comes in handy at night or on Sundays when most kioskos are closed.
Buenos Aires has an extensive system of bus routes that go anywhere in the city. Buses are known locally as colectivos and run throughout the city and into the suburbs. The Metrobus is a rapid-transit bus that uses dedicated bus lanes on several of the city's main arteries to cut journey times. Several Metrobus stops have free WiFi access.
Buses run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This makes the bus one of the best options for travellers, especially late at night. If paying in cash, expats should note the machine on the bus only accepts coins.
When expats board buses in Buenos Aires, they should tell the driver their destination and the driver will work out the fare. Expats who know the correct fare can just tell the bus driver how much they are going to pay as they board the bus. After the driver punches the amount into the machine, they can then insert coins or swipe their SUBE card.
There are buses that travel into the suburbs surrounding Buenos Aires, but the fares are slightly higher and they don’t run as often as the city buses.
The train is a good option when it comes to reaching neighbourhoods further from the centre, or to visit destinations in Buenos Aires Province. There are several suburban commuter train lines that run from the city centre to the suburbs and nearby provinces.
The primary railway stations in Buenos Aires are Retiro, Constitucion, Once and Frederico Lacroze. Trains are an economical option when travelling. Tickets can be purchased at the stations with cash or by using the SUBE card. Expats can take the subway or a bus into the city centre from any of these stations.
The subway (subte) is an efficient and inexpensive way to get around Buenos Aires. It does, however, get very crowded and chaotic during peak traffic hours. It has five lines, which are labelled ‘A’ to ‘E’, and the sixth line is ‘H’.
Trains run frequently so commuters don't have to wait very long. Operational hours vary with the subway running for shorter hours on Sundays and public holidays. Expats can buy reusable tickets onto which they can load credit from a cashier at the subway station, or they can use the SUBE card.
The subte website has a detailed map of the network. A copy of the map can also be downloaded at the bottom of this page. Stations have free WiFi access.
Taxis in Buenos Aires
There are thousands of taxis in Buenos Aires. The most common taxis are black with yellow roofs. They can be flagged down directly when standing on the right-hand side of the street. When the libre (free) sign is lit up in the windscreen, it means the taxi is available.
It's possible to hail a taxi off the street or ask someone at a hotel or restaurant to call one. BA Taxi, an app rolled out by the government, can also be used to order a regular taxi. Expats should always insist that the driver turn on the meter to avoid being overcharged. The driver’s information should be clearly displayed in the back of the taxi. Expats should also try and have the exact change with them when travelling in a taxi, as drivers often don’t have change or may be tempted to short-change when handed a large bill.
Private-hire taxis called remises can be booked in advance through agencies. They are slightly more expensive than taxis but are usually safer.
Ride-sharing services such as Uber are also readily available in Buenos Aires. Expats who cannot speak Spanish will likely find that this is the easiest way to get around the city. With this option, there is limited room for miscommunication with drivers and no need to read Spanish street signs or maps.
Driving in Buenos Aires
Driving in Buenos Aires can be chaotic. The traffic is heavy and frustrating for inexperienced expats. Those living in the city with access to the public transport network are advised to avoid driving altogether. Expats who can’t avoid driving should do so defensively as local driving behaviour can be quite erratic and aggressive.
Large expressways extend from Buenos Aires out to most of the country and tend to be in good condition. However, many of the roads beyond these are two-lane roads that are in poorer condition and not paved. Many of the major highways out of Buenos Aires have been extended and now link to most of Argentina’s major cities.
To drive in Argentina, expats must possess an International Driving Permit in addition to a national driver's license from their home country. Expats should also ensure that they have their vehicle’s registration, green card (tarjeta verde), and tax and insurance documents in the car, as traffic police will request to see these if they pull anyone over.
Cycling in Buenos Aires
For years, the government has been investing in making Buenos Aires a cycle-friendly city. This has lead to bicycles becoming a frequent sight in the capital. Buenos Aires now has a great network of bike lanes and a completely free public-bicycle system.
The city has more than 124 miles (200km) of cycle lanes covering 30 neighbourhoods. There are more than 3,000 bicycles available through the city bike-share scheme, known as BA Ecobici. This system is available to residents and visitors alike.
Walking in Buenos Aires
Walking is a good way to get around in Buenos Aires during the day. However, it might be better to avoid walking in certain areas of the city after dark. Expats who walk around Buenos Aires will find it difficult to get lost because of the grid-like layout of the streets. Walking is also an excellent way to avoid the frustrations of traffic and public transport during peak hours.
There is plenty to see and do while walking around Buenos Aires, as many of the streets are lined with shops and cafes. There are also pedestrian walkways such as Calle Florida, which runs from Plaza San Martín to Plaza de Mayo. Expats walking along here will cross another pedestrian walkway called Lavalle, which will take them to Plaza de la República and the Obelisk.