Getting there & around
Argentina is a big country, and most people fly into Buenos Aires to get there. You can bus into the capital from neighboring countries, but this nearly always involves overnight trips. Uruguay is the exception, as it’s just across the Río de la Plata (a huge river estuary) and a relatively short boat or plane ride away.
BA is a large, modern city with good public transportation options, but walking is really the best way to see the sights. The main downtown area is small enough that you could walk from one end to the other in about a half-hour. For longer distances, most people get around by bus, Subte (BA’s subway system) or taxi. Driving is recommended for the suicidal only.
Tickets for flights, tours and rail can be booked online at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel_services.
In July 2007 Buenos Aires inaugurated a new light-rail system in Puerto Madero, called the Tranvía del Este. It’s currently 2km long and has only four stops, with plans extend the line from Retiro to Constitución. It only costs AR$1 to ride, but consider skipping it – stroll on Puerto Madero’s lovely cobbled lanes instead.
Buenos Aires’ very numerous (about 38,000) and cheap taxis are conspicuous by their black-and-yellow paint jobs. The meter should always be used and the fare ticks upwards about every two blocks when the vehicle is moving (you’ll pay for waiting times in stuck traffic too). Drivers do not expect a big tip, but it’s customary to let them keep small change. Taxis looking for passengers will have a red light lit on the upper right corner of their windshield.
Almost all cab drivers are honest workers making a living, but there are a few bad apples in the bunch. Do not to give them large bills; not only will they usually not have change, but there have been cases where the driver quickly and deftly replaces a larger bill with a smaller (or fake) one. One solution is to state how much you are giving them and ask if they have change for it (‘¿Tiene usted cambio de un veinte?’ – Do you have any change for a 20?).
Be especially wary of receiving counterfeit bills; at night have the driver prender la luz (turn on the light) so you can care-fully count and check your change (look for a watermark on bills).
Pretend to have an idea of where you’re going; a few taxis offer the ‘scenic’ route (though also be aware there are many one-way streets in BA). A good way to do this is to give the taxi driver an intersection rather than a specific address. Also, if you are obviously a tourist going to or from a touristy spot, don’t ask how much the fare is beforehand; this makes quoting an upped price, rather than using the meter, tempting.
Finally, make an attempt to snag an ‘official’ taxi. These are usually marked by a roof light and license number printed on the doors. Official drivers must display their license on the back of their seat or dashboard; you can write down the taxi’s number and agency telephone in case of problems or forgotten items.
Most porteños recommend you call a remise instead of hailing street cabs. Remises look like regular cars and don’t have meters. They cost a bit more than street taxis but are more secure, since an established company sends them out. Most hotels and restaurants will call a remise for you.
If you’re alone, the best way to and from Ezeiza is to take a shuttle with transfer companies like Manuel Tienda León (MTL; Central Buenos Aires; 4315-5115; www.tiendaleon.com; cnr Av Eduardo Madero & San Martín). You’ll see its stand immediately as you exit customs. Shuttles cost AR$40-45 one way, run every half hour from 6am to midnight and take about 40 minutes, depending on traffic (for two people the price is AR$70). It’ll deposit you either at its office (from where you can take a taxi) or at some central hotels. Avoid its taxi service, which is overpriced at AR$146; if you want to take a taxi just go past the transport ‘lobby’ area, through the doors to the reception area and – avoiding ALL touts – find the freestanding city taxi stand (blue sign that says ‘Taxi Ezeiza’), which charges AR$98 to the center (or save AR$3 and head outside the airport doors to another taxi stand called GCBA, with yellow sign). For tips on how to avoid getting ripped off in a taxi.
If you’re heading straight to Aeroparque (the domestic airport), taxis from Ezeiza cost about AR$115; MTL’s shuttles are AR$45. Real shoestringers can take public bus No 8, which costs AR$2 and can take up to two hours to reach the Plaza de Mayo area. Catch it outside the Aerolíneas Argentinas terminal, a short walk (150m) from the international terminal. You’ll need change for the bus; there’s a Banco de la Nación just outside customs.
If you’re living it big, however, contact US expat Fred at Silver Star Transport (214-502-1605 in the USA, 15-6826-8876 in Argentina; www.silverstarcar.com). He’ll pick you up at Ezeiza in his Lincoln town car and deliver to you your hotel for AR$295. Fred also does city tours.
There are also car rental agencies at Ezeiza, but we generally don’t recommend driving in Buenos Aires.
To get from Aeroparque to the center, take public buses 33 or 45 (don’t cross the street; take them going south). MTL has shuttles to the center for AR$15; taxis cost around AR$25.
Anyone considering driving in BA should know that most local drivers are reckless, aggressive and even willfully dangerous. They’ll ignore speed limits, road signs, lines and traffic signals. They’ll tailgate mercilessly and honk even before signals turn green. Buses are a nightmare to reckon with, potholes are everywhere, traffic is a pain and parking can be a bitch. Pedestrians seem to beg to be run over at times.
On the other hand, public transport is great and taxis are cheap and plentiful.
If, after all these tips, you still insist on renting a car, expect to pay around AR$190 per day. You’ll need to be at least 21 years of age and have a valid driver’s license; having an international driver’s license isn’t crucial. You’ll need to present a credit card and your passport, though.Motorcycle
For motorcycle rentals, be at least 25 years of age and head to Motocare (Regional Buenos Aires; 4782-1500; www.motocare.com.ar; Esteban Echeverria 738, Vicente Lopez). Honda Transalps 650 and 700 cost about AR$420 per day with a five-day minimum (it’s cheaper by the month). Bring your own helmet and riding gear. Crossing into Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil is allowed (permissions required for the latter three countries). If you buy a motorcycle here you can negotiate to sell it back, possibly saving money in the long term. English-speaking.
BA’s Subte (4555-1616; www.subte.com.ar) opened in 1913 and is the quickest way to get around the city, though it can get mighty hot and crowded during rush hour. It consists of Líneas (Lines) A, B, C, D, E and H. Four parallel lines run from downtown to the capital’s western and northern outskirts, while Línea C runs north–south and connects the two major train stations of Retiro and Constitución. Línea H runs from Once south to Av Caseros, with future expansion plans.
One-ride magnetic cards for the Subte cost AR$1.10. To save time and hassle buy several rides, since queues can get backed up. If you’re planning on staying in BA for awhile, the Monedero card (www.monedero.com.ar) is a convenient, rechargeable card that you can use to enter the Subte, plus buy some products at the stations and get certain discounts.
At some stations platforms are on opposite sides, so make sure of your direction before passing through the turnstiles. Trains operate from 5am to (around) 10:30pm Monday to Saturday and 8am to (around) 10pm on Sundays and holidays. Service is frequent on weekdays; on weekends you’ll wait longer.
Trains connect Buenos Aires’ center to its suburbs and nearby provinces. They’re best for commuters and not that useful for tourists, however. Several private companies run different train lines; the most central train stations (all served by Subte) and some destinations are listed below:
Ferrovias (Belgrano line; 0800-777-3377; www.ferrovias.com.ar) To Villa Rosa and the northern suburbs.
Transportes Metropolitanos (San Martín line; 4011-5826; www.metropolitano.com.ar) To Pilar and the northern suburbs.
Metropolitano (Roca line; 0800-1-2235-8736) To the southern suburbs and La Plata.
Trenes de Buenos Aires (Sarmiento line; 0800-333-3822; www.tbanet.com.ar) To the southwestern suburbs and Luján.Bus
BA has a huge and complex bus system. If you want to get to know it better, you’ll have to buy a Guia T (bus guide); they’re sold at any newsstand, but try to find the handy pocket version (AR$8). Just look at the grids to find out where you are and where you’re going, and find a matching bus number. If you are familiar with BA, check www.xcolectivo.com.ar. Most routes (but not all) run 24 hours.
Save your change like it’s gold; local buses do not take bills. Bus ticket machines on board will, however, give you small change from your coins. Most rides around town cost AR$1.25, so folks just say uno veinticinco to the bus driver, who cues the ticket machine accordingly. Offer your seat to the elderly, pregnant and women with young children.
BA is not a great city for cycling. Traffic is dangerous and hardly respectful toward bicycles; the biggest vehicle wins the right of way, and bikes are low on the totem pole. Still, some spots call out for two-wheeled exploration, such as Palermo’s parks and the Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur; on weekends and some weekdays you can rent bikes at these places. You can also join city bike tours; these companies sometimes rent bikes.