Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
I have been in Buenos Aires for almost six weeks now and I am finally starting to get the hang of things. The transportation system is one of the most efficient that I have used in my last two months in Latin America. All the trains, subways, and buses run on a rigid schedule, where every ten to fifteen minutes, some form of public transportation will pass you by.
There is also always transportation at night, a great change from the SEPTA. With clubs and bars open until sunrise, the bus system, called Colectivo is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to travel, at about $1 per trip. There are over 140 different buses that run through the city of Buenos Aires, and most lines are required to run twenty-four hours a day.
However, the confusing part is figuring out which buses go where, which is why the GuÃa T is sold at every corner. This pocket-sized guide tells you where every bus goes, the routes they take to reach the destination and its return, and provides you a 35-page map that details every street in the city. It also includes a chart of the subway lines, and where they intersect on the bus lines.
GuÃa T has been a godsend. It only costs the equivalent of $2, and it does not look like one of those big “I’m a tourist and I’m so lost” maps that are always sold in the airport. You see porteÃ±os, taxi drivers, and even the traffic cops consulting their GuÃas on the corners of streets, or drivers using it at intersections.
Taxi service is the other amazing thing about Buenos Aires. The hundreds of taxis all over this city are extremely affordable. I have traveled from Belgrano to San Telmo, which is across the city, for about $20. Some people say that taxi drivers cheat their customers, but that is true anywhere. You must look for a reputable taxi service; the local phone pages list several registered and well-known services. Radio Taxi is the most popular, and can usually be trusted.
And of course, with every major city, the subway system, called Subte, runs through the most populated barrios, and costs the same as the bus. However, Subte, while the easiest system to learn for travel, opens at 5 am and closes at 10:30pm on weekdays. This presents a problem for a population that eats out at 11 pm and heads to bars at 2 am. Subte lines can be hard to find, and can be blocks out of the way of your destination.
After six weeks in Buenos Aires, I have dropped the excuse of being a tourist, and am learning to love the Colectivo.