Even as cars clog the streets of Buenos Aires and other cities, most Argentines still rely on public transport to get around. Services in the capital, Gran Buenos Aires, and even relatively small provincial cities are frequent and reasonably well integrated.
Buenos Aires has the country’s only subway system, popularly known as the Subte (www.metrovias.com.ar). Though it dates from 1913, it moves city residents efficiently and is expanding to underserved neighborhoods.
Even small cities and towns are well-served by local buses, which often run 24/7. Fares are mostly in the US$0.35 range, but vary according to distance. In Buenos Aires colectivos are due to change to a magnetic card system in lieu of fare boxes; in some cities, they accept coins (though the may not make change), fichas (tokens), or magnetic cards.
With a few exceptions, suburban trains are less useful to short-term visitors than they are to commuters from Buenos Aires Province. They are cheap, and while they may be improving, most are not improving nearly so fast as the Subte.
Taxis and Remises
Buenos Aires and other cities have abundant taxis, painted black with yellow roofs. Since a spate of robberies that began some years ago, nearly all of them are now radio taxis, and some people prefer the security of phoning for a cab, but many if not most porteños still flag them down in the street. If in doubt, lock the back doors so that no one can enter the cab by surprise.
All regular cabs have digital meters. In Buenos Aires, it costs about US$1.20 to bajar la bandera (“drop the flag,” meaning switch on the meter) and another US$0.12 per 200 meters; provincial cities tend to be cheaper. Verify that the meter is set at zero.
Drivers do not expect tips; sometimes, to avoid making change, they will even round the fare down. Carry small bills instead of relying on the driver making change, especially if he has just come on shift; to deter a potentially dishonest driver when paying with a large note, ask whether he has the proper change for that amount.
Remises are radio taxis that charge an agreed-upon rate based on distance; the dispatcher will let you know the fare when you call, based on the pickup and drop-off points.
Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses will gladly ring radio taxis and remises for customers and clients, especially when the hour is late.
Cycling may not be the safest way to navigate Argentina’s chaotic traffic, but the number of cyclists is growing. If riding around Buenos Aires or other Argentine cities, side streets may be safer than fast-moving avenues, but they are also narrower, with less room to maneuver. Weekend traffic is not as wild as on weekdays, and parts of downtown are virtually deserted on Sunday. There are a few dedicated bike paths, most of which go through city parklands, and some bike lanes (that motor vehicles tend to ignore).
Most Argentine cities are compact enough that walking suffices for sightseeing and other activities, but the first rule of pedestrian safety is that you are invisible—for many Argentine drivers, crosswalks appear merely decorative. While making turns, drivers weave among pedestrians rather than slowing or stopping to let them pass. Jaywalking is endemic, perhaps because it’s not much more hazardous than crossing at the corner with the light.
Despite the hazards, pedestrians in congested areas can often move faster than automobiles. Much of the country has hot, humid summers, so carry and consume plenty of fluids. Frequent thunderstorms in the humid pampas and Mesopotamia make an umbrella advisable.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Argentina, 3rd edition