Buenos Aires is served by an extensive, cheap and – generally – efficient public transport service. The easiest part of this system to come to grips with is undoubtedly the underground railway or subte which serves most of the city centre and the north of the city. Really to get around, however, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with a few bus routes; buses are the only way to reach the outlying barrios or the south of the city. Taxis are also plentiful and reasonably priced.
The first in Latin America, Buenos Aires’ undergound railway, or subte (short for subterráneo , or underground), was also one of the first in the world to be privatized: the network was taken over by Metrovías in 1994. It’s a reasonably efficient system – you shouldn’t have to wait more than a couple of minutes during peak periods – and certainly the quickest way to get from the centre to points such as Caballito, Plaza Italia or Chacarita. The main flaw in the subte’s design is that it’s shaped like a fork, meaning that journeys across town involve going down one “prong” and changing at least once before heading back up to your final destination.
Using the subte is a pretty straightforward business. There are five lines (A, B, C, D, and E and shortly H line will e also working), plus a so-called “premetro” system which serves the far southwestern corner of the city, linking up with the subte at the Plaza de los Virreyes, at the end of line E. Lines A, B, D and E run from the city centre outwards, whilst line C, which runs between Retiro and Constitución, connects them all. Check the name of the last station on the line you are travelling on in order to make sure you’re heading in the right direction; note also that directions to station platforms are given by this final destination. You need to buy â€œcardsâ€ to use the subte; these cost AR$ 0.70 and are bought from the boleterías or ticket booths at each station – you don’t need to have the right change to buy them. Unfortunately, the only thing you will save by buying these cards in bulk is your time, and there are no special deals for weekly or monthly travel.
Even if you use the subte only once during your stay in Buenos Aires, you really shouldn’t miss the chance to travel on Line A, which runs between Plaza de Mayo and Caballito. It’s the only line to preserve the network’s original carriages and travelling in one of the rickety and elegantly lit wood-framed interiors is like being propelled along in an antique wardrobe
Peak hours excepted, Buenos Aires’ buses are one of the most useful ways of getting round the city – and indeed the only way of reaching many of the outlying barrios. The most daunting thing about them, from a tourist’s point of view, is the sheer number of routes – almost two hundred bus routes wend their way around the capital’s vast grid of streets. Invest in a combined street and bus-route map , however, and you shouldn’t have too much trouble. There’s a AR$ 0.75 fare for very short journeys; all other trips within the city cost $0.80. Tickets are acquired from a machine, which only accepts coins and gives change for coins: as you get on, you need to state your fare to the driver before inserting your money in the ticket machine. Once in Gran Buenos Aires, fares increase slightly – so if you’re travelling beyond the city boundaries (to San Isidro, for example, or Ezeiza) it is easier just to state your destination.
The bus system is a generally safe way of getting around the city – though, as always, keep your eyes on your belongings when buses are crowded. Most services run all night. Argentinians are generally very courteous bus passengers and never hesitate in giving up their seat to someone who looks like they need it more – don’t be shy of doing the same.
If you are spending more than a very short period in the city and you plan to make full use of the extensive bus network a combined street map and bus guide such as Guía Lumi or Guía “T” widely available in the newspapers stores you can find in the streets.
Taxis and remises
The sheer volume of black and yellow taxis touting their business on Buenos Aires’ streets is one of the city’s most notable sights and – other than during sudden downpours, when everyone in the centre of town seems to decide to take one at once – it’s rare that it takes more than a few minutes to flag down a cab. The meter starts at AR$ 1,80 (charges increase at night) and you should calculate on a ride costing around $6 per twenty blocks.
Remises are radio cabs, plain cars booked through an office.