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Local transport

Local Transport

Bus

Local Argentine buses, called colectivos, are notorious for charging down the street and spewing clouds of black smoke while traveling at breakneck speeds. Riding on them is a good way to see the cities and get around, providing you can sort out the often complex bus systems. Buses are clearly numbered and usually carry a placard indicating their final destination. Sometimes, identically numbered buses serve slightly different routes (especially in big cities), so pay attention to the placards. To ask ‘Does this bus go (to the town center)?’ say ‘¿Va este colectivo (al centro)?’

Most city buses operate on coins; you pay as you board. In some cities, such as Mendoza or Mar del Plata, you must buy prepaid bus cards, purchased at many kiosks.

Subway

Buenos Aires is the only Argentine city with a subway system (known as the Subte), and it’s the quickest and cheapest way of getting around the city center.

Taxi & Remise

The people of Buenos Aires make frequent use of taxis, which are digitally metered and cheap by US and European standards. Outside the capital, meters are common but not universal, and you’ll need to agree on a fare in advance.

Where public transportation is scarce it’s possible to hire a taxi or remise with driver for the day. This can be especially convenient and economical for a group, especially for taking an area tour. Always negotiate the fee in advance.

Remises are unmarked radio taxis, usually without meters, that have fixed fares (comparable to taxis) within a given zone. Any business will phone one for you if you ask.

Getting Around

Bicycle

If you dig cycling your way around a country, Argentina has potential. You’ll see the landscape in greater detail, have far more freedom than you would if beholden to public transportation, and likely meet more locals.

Road bikes are suitable for many paved roads, but byways are often narrow and surfaces can be rough. A todo terreno (mountain bike) is often safer and more convenient, allowing you to use the unpaved shoulder and the very extensive network of gravel roads throughout the country. Argentine bicycles are improving in quality, but are still far from equal to their counterparts in Europe or the USA.

There are two major drawbacks to long-distance bicycling in Argentina. One is the wind, which in Patagonia can slow your progress to a crawl. The other is Argentine motorists: on many of the country’s straight, narrow, two-lane highways, they can be a serious hazard to cyclists. Make yourself as visible as possible, and wear a helmet.

Bring an adequate repair kit and extra parts (and the know-how to use them) and stock up on good maps, which is usually easier to do once you’re in Argentina. Always confirm directions and inquire about conditions locally; maps can be unreliable and conditions change regularly. In Patagonia, a windbreaker and warm clothing are essential. Don’t expect much traffic on some back roads.

There are some good places around the country in which to spin your wheels, including Argentina’s quintessential road trip, Ruta Nacional 40.

Rental

Bicycle rentals (mostly mountain bikes) are available in many popular tourist destinations, such as along the Atlantic Coast, Mendoza, Bariloche and other towns throughout the Lake District and Córdoba’s Central Sierras. Prices are by the hour or day, and are affordable.

Purchase

Many towns have bike shops, but high-quality bikes are expensive, and repair parts can be hard to come by. If you do decide to buy while you’re here, you’re best off doing so in Buenos Aires – selection in other major cities can be pretty slim. Prices for an imported bike (which you’ll want if you’re doing serious cycling) are much higher than in their country of origin.

Hitchhiking

Hitchhiking (hacer dedo) is never entirely safe in any country in the world. Travelers who decide to hitch should understand that they are taking a small but potentially serious risk. People who do choose to hitch will be safer if they travel in pairs and let someone know where they are planning to go.

Along with Chile, Argentina is probably the best country for hitching in all of South America. The major drawback is that Argentine vehicles are often stuffed full with families and children, but truckers will sometimes pick up backpackers. A good place to ask is at estaciones de servicio at the outskirts of large Argentine cities, where truckers gas up their vehicles.

Women can and do hitchhike alone, but should exercise caution and especially avoid getting into a car with more than one man. In Patagonia, where distances are great and vehicles few, hitchers should expect long waits and carry warm, windproof clothing and refreshments.

Having a sign will improve your chances for a pickup, especially if it says something like visitando Argentina de Canada (visiting Argentina from Canada), rather than just a destination. Argentines are fascinated by foreigners.

For good information (in Spanish) see www.autostopargentina.com.ar, or try www.wander-argentina.com/hitchhiking-in-argentina.