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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.

Automobile Associations

  • 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.

Fuel

  • 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.

Insurance

  • 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).

Purchase

  • 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.

Rental

  • 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.

Resources

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?’).