At first glance, the widespread metropolis of Buenos Aires might come across as an impossible feat to tackle. However, with its mainly grid layout of avenidas and calles and with many of the main historic sites a short walking distance apart, the fret of this geographical challenge lessens. Nevertheless, you’ll find many of the city’s best museums and fascinating neighborhoods such as Palermo and La Boca located outside the city’s core, therefore, you will surely need to use another mode of transportation other than walking during your stay. With this in mind, we’ve pulled together some tried and tested tips to help you navigate the city like a local.
Taxis are the easiest way to get around the city, however, due to intense traffic jams during rush hour and on weekend evenings, it is not always the fastest means of transportation. Luckily, the black and yellow vehicles are in great abundance, so it’s easy to hail one on virtually any street, though if you’re on a very quiet side street, you may want to make your way to the nearest larger street where they will be zooming by at any time of day.
Though while these vehicles may look visible the same, they are actually not. Look out for RADIO TAXIS, these are linked to a taxi company chain and thus the vehicles are tracked by radio and every driver has to display his ID and licensure. This is not always the case with none “Radio Taxis,” which are independently owned. You’ll spot the words Radio Taxi either on the windshield, on the door or on the roof light. Don’t necessarily be completely afraid of the other taxis, by taking one there are just higher chances you might be “taken for a ride.” Some good radio taxi companies are Premier Radio Taxi (+220.127.116.11.08.88), Radio Taxi 24 (+18.104.22.168.22.22) and Radio Taxi Portenio (+22.214.171.124.57.77).
Taxi rates are rather reasonable compared to other cities, ranging from 40 pesos (approx. 5 USD at official rate) from the center to Recoleta or 80-100 pesos (9-12 USD) from the center to La Boca or Palermo. At night be careful when paying your driver, if you can, say out the amount you are giving him or show him under the light. There are some, though not too many, who have an unsavory trick of saying you’ve only given them a 10 instead of the 100 pesos. It isn’t common practice to tip taxi drivers, though local passengers might leave the change of a peso or two to round up the fare.
Public transportation (buses and the subway) is an efficient and very economical way of getting around the city. The one-way fare is around 3.35 pesos (40 cents). There best tool to help you figure out how to get from point A to point B is the wonderful app and website Como Llego, meaning how to arrive in Spanish, though very easy to use with limited or no knowledge of the local language. It can find your location or you can put a departure and destination and in seconds it will tell you the nest way to get there by bus or subway or both.
There is a handy refillable transit card you can acquire, the SUBE, much like an Oyster card in London. You can purchase one for 10 pesos in a metro station or a “Kiosco” (convenience store), note that you may need to present ID when buying it. Once you have the card you can add however much credit you wish from 10 pesos. Some Kioscos have a machine where you can top up your credit directly yourself.
While the subway is often the fastest way to travel to some parts of the city, there is a impressive network of buses and thus this has the widest reach, therefore it’s useful to get to know at least one or two bus lines.
By Subway (Subte)
The Buenos Aires subway system, called Subte, was the first built in South America, dating back to 1913. It consists of six lettered lines which service Palermo to downtown and Retiro train station quite well. They lines run roughly from 5am to 10pm (from 8am on Sunday), though on weekends line B is sometimes closed so it’s useful to consult the above-mentioned Como Llego site first. If you don’t have a SUBE card, you can purchase one-way tickets in a station from a ticket window. Like any major city subway, pay attention to your belongings, as there may be pickpockets operating in the cars, even young children. You may also be entertained by some musicians along the way to whom you can give a few coins or 2 pesos note if you enjoy their tune.
There are over a hundred bus lines in Buenos Aires which can practically take your from your doorstep to your destination. These colorful vehicles run 24/7 and some lines have their own personality with their own Facebook page and Twitter account. To take the bus, you’ll need a SUBE card … or a large pocket of change, as without the card, you’ll have to pay 10 pesos in coins through a ticket box once aboard (instead of the 3.35 peso tariff when using the card). When you get onboard, you’ll see the SUBE swipe box usually next to the driver. Before you can tap your card, the driver may first ask you “destino?,” where you are going, to which you can reply the site or monument and and then he will nod his head that you can hold your card to the SUBE machine, keeping in place until the rate comes up and a green light. Don’t worry if you are a little confused, fellow passengers are usually friendly and willing to help. The buses go fast, so be sure to watch for your stop and get up to the door ready to descend.