Buenos Aires: Bus, Taxis, or Subway?
22 March 2016
Tourists and newcomers often wonder, “Should I take taxis everywhere in Buenos Aires?” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, well, depending on the exchange rate that day…I’d have more than that in pesos.
Finding your bearings in a big city is rarely easy. It’s more challenging when you don’t know the language, but even if you do speak Spanish, you’ll find that Buenos Aires has a special dialect and accent.
“Como te llama?” into “Como te shama”
“Donde es tu?” into “Donde es vos?”
“Yoga es incredible” into “Shoga es incredible”
Buenos Aires is built on a grid. Many streets are named after countries. And there are some big landmarks which most everyone could point you towards.
That being said, keeping a map available is important, but don’t walk around looking at it. If you do take a taxi, know where you are going before you get in and have pesos to pay with. Taxis do not take credit cards.
As you will discover, while Buenos Aires is a bustling metropolis, there is significant resistance to certain technological advances. In no small part due to the country’s rigid restrictions on online shopping, websites of well-reputed businesses are often reminiscent of GeoCities circa 1999.
I have heard that Uber is trying to gain a foothold in Buenos Aires, but as of writing this post, the website only has a video and a broken link to “Sign Up.” There is also a service called Easy Taxi that supposedly matches taxi drivers with people looking for a ride. Easy taxi is illegal and there is an ongoing dispute about the program which has apparently been banned in the city until 2021.
For the phone-phobic millennials, you’ll either have to hail a cab or bite the bullet and call someone.
Do not expect New York City taxi safety here. Sometimes a taxi is a safe choice, but not just any taxi. There are multiple kinds and not all of them are the same.
The safest choice is a Remis, which is a car and driver for hire. You can get a Remis anytime day or night. Beware, you have to call a Remis, and yes, speak to a person on the phone.
Radio Taxis are common and legitimate, but I would not suggest one for a longer trip. Pay in small bills (good advice in any situation, it’s a rare occurrence to not be asked if you have change when paying for something with a large bill). If you don’t have anything close to the correct change, pay attention when the driver is giving you money back so that they don’t slip in a counterfeit bill. Mike Rizzo has a great article here highlighting possible taxi scams and how to avoid them.
There are also taxis that look nearly identical to Radio Taxis. These ones are rented hourly by the driver and are exponentially sketchier. If you’re going to get robbed by a taxi driver, it’ll probably be in one of these hourly rentals.
Be very careful if getting a ride from the airport, only take official taxis from a taxi stand and arrange a price ahead of time. I recommend taking the TiendaLeon bus, you can buy a ticket at the airport or online and it will take you right downtown to their bus station in Madero. They also have Remis. My last visitor took that to and from the EZE airport and it was a breeze. It runs all day and night, at different intervals depending on estimated demand.
If you know a little Spanish (just enough to pronounce neighborhoods and street names), I suggest taking public transport. There are a lot of people from all walks of life who take public transport, and is generally pretty safe because of that. Although, don’t take it personally if you encounter a driver with an attitude problem.
Everyone who has ever waved for a bus to stop has had at least one driver refuse to stop. If you are a second after a driver has already closed the bus doors, there are no promises. It’s a tossup whether or not they’ll open the door for you, even if it’s pouring rain, you’re crying, pounding on the door, limping, and have a cast on your hand, so you might flip off the driver as he takes off and splashes you with dirty runoff water. Ok, that may or may not have happened to me…
I take public transport all the time. On the bus, you need to be able to tell the bus driver something about where you are going. The neighborhood, major landmark, or intersection are all acceptable. You get charged less for a shorter ride.
If you see a store that has “Sube” on the storefront, they probably sell refillable cards for the subway and busses. If you just ask “tiene tarjeta de sube?” They’ll understand you’re asking for a sube card. Many of these stores will ask you if you want to put money on the card right then, so go ahead if you have it on you.
Bus and subway rides can also be paid for one trip at a time. Busses require the correct change in coins. The subway can be paid with paper bills or coins at the ticket counter, purchase “para dos” if you want a return ticket It’s cheaper to pay with that sube card than to buy individual rides.
The website (and app) comollego.ba.gob.ar will tell you exactly how to get from one place to another within the city limits. In Buenos Aires that’s pronounced, “ComoSHego.” You can use an address, major landmark, or intersection to describe where you are or where you want to go (ie; Corrientes y Florida). It’s really straightforward and will give you door to door directions with estimated travel times. Check out the accompanying map for a visual.
Zoom in on the map and you should see numbers along the street. These go up by 100 every block. If you pay attention to the street numbers while on the bus, you’ll know when you need to hit that red button and be let off at the next stop.
The subway is even easier. If you end up going in the wrong direction, the end of the line just turns around and goes back in the other direction. All you need to know is the last stop to know which train to hop on.
The trains are where you will be able to hear free life music, acting performances, and encounter people peddling cheap goods.
Plus, public transportation is very affordable. Today is March 22, 2016 and the exchange rate is 1 US Dollar to 14.39 Argentine Pesos. That means you’re paying $0.31, that’s so cheap and will leave you more money for asados and media lunas.
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