- The national carrier, Aerolíneas Argentinas, offers the most domestic flights, but it’s not necessarily better than its competitors.
- Other airlines with domestic flights include LATAM, Andes (www.andesonline.com) and Líneas Aéreas del Estado (LADE; www.lade.com.ar), the air force’s passenger service. Norwegian Air (www.norwegian.com/ar) was also planing to add regional flights at the time of research.
- At the time of research, a spate of new low-cost airlines were in the process of implementing regional flights between provinces, a service that is changing travel patterns throughout Argentina. For listings, see individual cities.
- Demand for flights around the country can be heavy, especially during some holidays (such as Christmas or Easter) and the vacation months of January, February and July. Seats are often booked out well in advance, so reserve as far ahead as possible.
- Nearly all domestic flights land at Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery, a short distance north of downtown Buenos Aires. It's worth noting that Argentina's domestic flight system can be very unreliable – flights are often cancelled or delayed, and there can be frequent labor strikes. It might be a good idea to avoid tight itineraries; for example, leave a day's cushion in between your domestic and international flights.
- 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 several drawbacks to long-distance bicycling in Argentina. One is the wind, which in Patagonia can slow your progress to a crawl. Finding water sources in some areas can also be an issue. Finally, Argentine motorists can be a serious hazard to cyclists, particularly on many of the country’s straight, narrow, two-lane highways. Make yourself as visible as possible, and wear a helmet.
- Bring an adequate repair kit and extra parts 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. In Patagonia, a windbreaker, shelter and warm clothing are essential. Don’t expect much traffic on some back roads.
- 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, Patagonia and Córdoba’s Central Sierras. Prices are by the hour or day, and are affordable.
- 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.
- Opportunities for boat or river travel in and around Argentina are limited, though there are regular international services to/from Uruguay and to/from Chile via the Lake District. Further south, from Ushuaia, operators offer boat trips on the Beagle Channel in Tierra del Fuego.
- The Buenos Aires suburb of Tigre has numerous boat excursions around the delta of the Río de la Plata.
- If you’re doing any serious traveling around Argentina, you’ll become very familiar with the country’s excellent bus network. Long-distance buses (known as micros) are fast and surprisingly comfortable and can be a rather luxurious experience. It’s the way most Argentines get around. Larger luggage is stowed in the hold below, security is generally good (especially on the 1st-class buses) and attendants tag your bags. If you have a long trip – say, Buenos Aires to Mendoza – overnight buses are the way to go, saving you a night’s accommodations.
- Most cities and towns have a central bus terminal where each company has its own ticket window. Some companies post schedules prominently, and the ticket price and departure time are always on the ticket you buy. Expect restrooms, left luggage, fast-food stalls, kiosks and newspaper vendors inside or near almost every large terminal. In tourist-destination cities they’ll often have a tourist information office. There are generally few if any hotel touts or other traveler-hassling types at terminals; El Calafate is one notable exception.
- Websites that sell long-distance bus tickets online (and without commission) are www.plataforma10.com.ar, centraldepasajes.com.ar and www.omnilineas.com.
- Some long-distance bus services face reduced services as low-cost airlines offer stiff competition.
Classes & Costs
- Most bus lines have modern coaches with spacious, comfortable seats, large windows, air-conditioning, TVs, toilets (bring toilet paper) and sometimes an attendant serving coffee and snacks.
- On overnight trips it’s well worth the extra pesos to go coche cama (sleeper class); seats are wide, recline almost flat and are very comfortable. For even more luxury there’s ejecutivo (executive), which is available on a few popular runs. For less luxury, semi-cama (semisleeper) seats are manageable. If pinching pesos, común (common) is the cheapest class. For trips less than about five hours, there’s usually no choice and buses are común or semi-cama, which are both usually just fine.
- Bus fares vary widely depending on the season, class and company. Patagonia runs tend to be the most expensive. Many companies accept credit cards.
- Often you don’t need to buy bus tickets beforehand unless you’re traveling on a Friday between major cities, when overnight coche cama services sell out fast. During holiday stretches, such as late December through February, July, and August, tickets sell quickly. As soon as you arrive somewhere, especially if it’s a town with limited services, find out which companies go to your next destination and when, and plan your trip.
- When the bus terminal is on the outskirts of a big town or city, there are often downtown agencies selling tickets without commission.
- In the Lake District and northern Patagonia, bus services are good during summer (November through March), when there are many microbus routes to campgrounds, along lake circuits, to trailheads and to other destinations popular with tourists. Outside summer, however, these services slow way down.
- In Patagonia the famed stretch of RN 40, or Ruta Nacional Cuarenta (Rte 40), was once infrequently traveled and rough – though most of it is now paved (it's still good to have a 4WD for side roads, however). But there’s still little public transportation despite the road improvements, and it’s mostly via expensive, summertime microbus ‘tours.’
Car & Motorcycle
- Because Argentina is so large, many parts are accessible only by private vehicle, despite the country’s extensive public-transportation system. This is especially true in Patagonia, where distances are great and buses can be infrequent.
- Whenever driving in Argentina, it’s worth being a member of the Automóvil Club Argentino, which has offices, gas stations and garages throughout the country and offers road service and towing in and around major destinations. ACA recognizes members of most overseas auto clubs and grants them privileges including road service and discounts on maps and accommodations. Bring your card.
Bring Your Own Vehicle
- Chile is probably the best country on the continent for shipping a vehicle from overseas, though Argentina is feasible. Getting the vehicle out of customs typically involves routine but time-consuming paperwork.
Driver’s License & Documents
- An International Driving Permit can supplement your national or state driver’s license, though car-rental agencies are unlikely to ask you for one. If you are stopped, police will inspect your automobile registration and insurance and tax documents, all of which must be up to date.
- Drivers of Argentine vehicles must carry their title document (tarjeta verde or ‘green card’); if it’s a rental, make sure it’s in the glove box. For foreign vehicles, customs permission is the acceptable substitute.
- Liability insurance is obligatory, and police often ask to see proof of insurance at checkpoints.
- Nafta (gas) prices are more expensive than in the US. Avoid común (regular) as it’s usually low quality. Super and premium are better choices. In Patagonia gas prices are about a third less than elsewhere.
- Estaciones de servicio (gas stations) are fairly common, but outside the cities keep an eye on your gas gauge. In Patagonia it’s a good idea to carry extra fuel.
- Liability insurance is obligatory in Argentina, and police ask to see proof of insurance at checkpoints.
- If you plan on taking the car to neighboring countries, make sure it will remain covered (you’ll have to pay extra).
- Among reputable insurers in Argentina are Mapfre (www.mapfre.com.ar) and ACA (www.aca.org.ar).
- Purchasing a vehicle in Argentina can be complicated for foreigners. This usually involves having a permanent local address, obtaining a CDI (a tax ID number) and paying for the vehicle in cash. To buy a used vehicle, you must transfer the title at a title-transfer office, with the current owner and all their proper papers present. Make sure all licenses, tickets and taxes have been paid.
- Speaking Spanish helps. Getting insurance without a DNI (national document) can be difficult but not impossible. As a foreigner without a DNI you may own a vehicle in Argentina; however, you theoretically cannot take it out of the country without a notarized authorization, which can be difficult to obtain.
- It’s wise to supplement this information with your own current research.
- To rent a car, you must be at least 21 years of age and have a credit card and valid driver’s license from your country. Agencies rarely ask for an International Driving Permit.
- When you rent a vehicle find out how many kilometers are included. Unlimited-kilometer deals exist but can be much more expensive, depending on the destination.
- Reserving a car with one of the major international agencies in your home country often gets you lower rates; you can also try online sites such as www.despegar.com.
- One of the cheapest places to rent a car is Bariloche; if you’re heading to Patagonia, for example, this is a good place to rent. Taking a rental car into Chile might be allowed for an extra fee.
- For motorcycle rentals, you must be at least 25 years of age; head to Motocare located in Buenos Aires (or Neuquén). Honda Transalp 700s are available; bring your own helmet and riding gear. For driving outside big cities only.
- If renting a car in Argentina and crossing into Chile, or vice versa, most rental-car companies require you to return the car to the country of origin.
A very handy website for those driving around Argentina is www.ruta0.com. Among other things, you can punch in two destinations and get the recommended routes (and whether they’re paved or not), distances in kilometers, driving times and even how much it will cost in gas consumption.
Road Rules & Hazards
- Anyone considering driving in Argentina should know that Argentine drivers are aggressive and commonly ignore speed limits, road signs and even traffic signals.
- Night driving is not recommended; in many regions animals hang out on the road for warmth.
- Have on hand some emergency reflectors (balizas) and a fire extinguisher (matafuego).
- Headrests are required for the driver and passengers, and seatbelts are obligatory (though few wear them).
- Motorcycle helmets are also obligatory, although this law is rarely enforced.
- You won’t often see police patrolling the highways, but you might meet them at major intersections and roadside checkpoints where they conduct meticulous document and equipment checks. Sometimes these checks are pretexts for graft. If you are uncertain about your rights, politely state your intention to contact your embassy or consulate. If you do want to pay a bribe for the sake of expediency, ask ‘¿Puedo pagar la multa ahora?’ (‘Can I pay the fine now?’).
- Along with Chile, Argentina is probably the best country for hitchhiking (hacer dedo) 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 (service stations) on the outskirts of large Argentine cities, where truckers gas up their vehicles.
- 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.
- Be aware that hitchhiking is never entirely safe in any country, and we don’t recommend it. 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. Always let someone know where you are planning to go.
- 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)?’
- Some city buses operate on coins; pay as you board.
- In big cities, such as Buenos Aires, Mendoza or Mar del Plata, you must buy transportation cards, purchased at many kiosks. Sube cards can be credited once and used in any of the cities where they are valid. Some cities use other card systems that are not connected.
- If you are in a city for a short time, most Argentine commuters will cheerfully swipe their card for you if you offer to pay them the fare.
- 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.
- Remises are unmarked radio taxis, usually without meters, that have fixed fares (comparable to those of taxis) within a given zone. Any business will phone one for you if you ask.
- Where public transportation is scarce it’s possible to hire a taxi or remise with a 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.
For many years there were major reductions in long-distance train services in Argentina, but recent years have seen some rail lines progressively reopened. Good sources for information are www.seat61.com/southamerica.htm and www.sofse.gob.ar.
Trains serve most of Buenos Aires and some surrounding provinces. During the holiday periods, such as Christmas or national holidays, buy tickets in advance. Train fares tend to be lower than comparable bus fares, but trains are slower and there are fewer departure times and destinations. Long-distance trains have sleepers.
Train buffs will want to take the narrow-gauge La Trochita, which runs 20km between Esquel and Nahuel Pan. Another legendary ride is Salta’s touristy but spectacular Tren a las Nubes, which at one point spans a desert canyon at an altitude of 4220m – though it's famously unreliable. And finally, the scenic Tren Patagónico connects Bariloche to Viedma.