Thursday, August 20, 2009

Getting around Buenos Aires and beyond

So you’ve decided to marry a girl from Argentina, or just want to visit Buenos Aires and the rest of the country. How do you get around town? I thought I write down some of my experiences.

  1. To/From the international airport of Ezeiza. The internal airport of Buenos Aires is about an hour from the center of town. (Jorge Newbery airport near the center is for domestic flights only.) I recommend to pay extra and use a car from Manuel Tienda Leon to get to your hotel. It is safe and direct. No need to hop onto a shared shuttle. If you have a lot of luggage, ask for a “Peugeot Partner” small van. Or at a minimum ask for a car without natural gas (un auto sin gas). The gas container in the trunk takes away of lot of space. You don’t want to be split up in different cars.
  2. Taxi – There is a golden rule in Buenos Aires: you pick the taxi. Don’t let the taxi pick you. Often taxis will be driving slowly by the curb. Let them pass. If you found a good taxi or taxi company, ask for a card and call them from your hotel room. The front desk might have some recommended companies as well. It will not be the first time you get robbed within the taxi or you have to surrender your shopping bags or suitcases. It happens even to portenos, the people from Buenos Aires. Overall taxi drivers are courteous and friendly.
  3. Colectivo en Buenos Aires, citybus: bus drivers are notorious assholes. They’ll take of when you’re boarding, or cut of pedestrians. Be ready for a rough and tumble ride. And watch for pick-pockets. And one trick: if you have to take bus #59, note that there are several #59 with different stops and even end destinations. You would think they would label them #59, #60 and #61, but no, that would be too easy. I am sure there must be a reasonable explanation, but it’s definitely not obvious.
  4. Subte, the subway : is an easy to bypass the traffic of the city streets. $1.10
  5. Caminando, walking is my favorite way around town. Just learn a couple of big streets: Cordoba, Belgrano, Callao, Santa Fe, Corrientes, 9de Julio, Pueyrredon for easy orientation.
  6. Tren, the train is not something I recommend. Argentina stopped investing in trains many years ago. The infrastructure reflects this. Tren de la costa is a special train which will take you along the river to areas such as San Isidro, an upscale outskirt of Buenos Aires.
  7. Avion, by plane across the country is fast but can be expensive. They often have different rates for citizens than for tourists. An alternative, yet slower, are the long distance busses.
  8. Omnibus, Long distance busses from Retiro bus station. The bus and train station in Retiro can be a dangerous area: watch out not to be taken for a fool. Retiro is where the trains arrive but also where you find the bus station for the long distance busses. The busses are great. You get a big comfortable seat which recline 45 degrees (ejecutivo) or get one which converts into a bed (con cama entero). Sometimes cama entero means a different bus and a different departure time. So check the different options. Also check various companies. For any given destination there are several companies: Chevalier, Mar Del Plata, Andesmar, Autotransporte San Juan, etc. I do recommend to eat before getting on the bus, as your mileage may vary from bus to bus. I often take the Buenos Aires – San Luis bus: 11 hours drive at night. This is cheaper alternative to a plane ride (1hr + 1-2hr waiting) mid day.

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