Getting Around in Buenos Aires
Expats will find that getting around in 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 similar to that of Manhattan in New York; 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, as expats just have to provide the names of the two intersecting streets closest to the desired destination.
Public transport in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has an extensive system of bus routes that expats can use to get anywhere in the city. Buses are known locally as colectivos and run throughout the city and into the suburbs.
Expats can buy tickets on the bus, but the machine only accepts coins. A prepaid card called a SUBE is available and it can be charged with credit and swiped when getting onto a bus.
When expats board buses in Buenos Aires they should tell the driver their destination and he or she 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. They can then insert coins or swipe their SUBE card after the driver punches the amount into the machine.
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.
Buenos Aires has 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. Expats can take the metro or a bus into the city centre from any of these stations.
The metro (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 every day from 5am to 10pm six days a week and from 8am to 10pm on Sundays. Expats can buy reusable tickets onto which they can load credit from a cashier at the metro station. It's possible to use the same ticket for multiple travellers as long as there is enough credit on it.
Taxis in Buenos Aires
There are thousands of taxis in Buenos Aires, so expats will not be stranded without a lift when out and about in the city. The most common taxis in Buenos Aires are black with their roofs painted yellow. Unfortunately, because of the traffic in the city, taxis are often not the quickest way to get around. However, they are inexpensive and convenient for those who have patience.
It's possible to hail a taxi off the street or ask someone at a hotel or restaurant to call one. Expats should always insist that the driver turns on the meter to avoid being overcharged. The driver’s information should be clearly displayed in the back of the taxi and there is a number one can call with any complaints. 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.
An alternative option to taking a taxi is to call a remis. These look like normal cars and don’t have meters. They are slightly more expensive than taxis but are usually safer and are sent out by an established company.
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, as 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 drive carefully and follow the rules of the road, even if those around them do not.
Large expressways extend from Buenos Aires out to most of the country, but many of the roads beyond this are two-lane roads and most of them are in poor condition and not paved. That said, many of the major highways out of Buenos Aires have recently 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
It is not advisable to cycle in Buenos Aires city centre. The traffic can be dangerous and there aren’t sufficient bicycle lanes. Drivers tend to disregard cyclists, making cycling in Buenos Aires a largely unpleasant experience. There are, however, some areas that are more suitable for cycling for those who just want to go on a leisurely bike ride. The parks in Palermo and the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur are both such places.
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 cafés. 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.