Survival Guide to Public Transport in Buenos Aires

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When you come to a new city, it can feel really overwhelming to try and figure out how to move around. Especially when you don’t speak the language, or know the layout of the city. In this blog post, I hope I can ease some of those fears, and make you feel a little less anxious getting from punto A to punto B using public transportation in Buenos Aires. You might also want to check out this blog post about what to know before coming to Argentina, and what to know before coming to Buenos Aires.

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4 Main Modes of Transportation in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires has 4 main modes of transportation: Colectivo (public city bus), subte (subway), trains, and remis (taxis). The transportation type you pick might differ on price points, preference and proximity.

SUBE CARD

First things first, you need to get a Sube card. This is a reloadable blue transportation card that can be used on all public buses, subte, and trains. The card is an absolute must for transportation in Buenos Aires. For a while, there was definitely a scarcity of Sube cards, and they were hard to come by. However, that seems to have worked itself out, and shouldn’t cause you such a hassle.

You can’t pay cash to get on any public transportation, so having this card is a must. You’ll need to have it in order to move anywhere in the city.

WHERE TO GET A SUBE CARD

You can get a sube card from almost any kiosko or corner store around the city. If they have them available, they will usually have a blue “Sube” sign in the window. However, you can also purchase one of these cards in most sube stations. Just look for the blue or yellow boxes off to the side.

The cost of the sube card is 120 pesos, though with inflation, it may be a bit higher than that by the time you read this. Generally though, the cost is equivalent to $0.60 USD.

Once you purchase your card, you’ll need to add some cash to it, and you should be able to do that in the same place you buy it.

RELOAD THE SUBE CARD

If the card runs out of money, you’ll need to reload. So where and how to do that?

You can reload your card at most kioskos. Look for that blue Sube sign in the window. They often have a small blue or yellow machine that is self-automated and easy to use. You can also reload in the subte stations where you see those same yellow machines.

Simply tap the screen and follow the instructions. There is also the option for English.

THE SUBTE

Layout of the Buenos Aires Subte

Many people waiting on the platform for the subway to arrive
Many people wait on the platform for the subte to arrive

The Subte has just 6 lines: A (light blue), B (red), C (dark blue), D (green), E (purple), and H (yellow). Lines A, B, D, and E all start from their respective corners and converge in the micro-centro, mostly around Plaza de Mayo. Lines H & C go north to south, criss-crossing the west-east lines.

Transportation in Buenos Aires and Buenos Aires subte system definitely has its downfalls. For example, the inconvenience of making a V shape when you want to get somewhere that is physically not so far.

Taking the subte from Almagro to Palermo would require you to use 3 separate train lines, as there is not a line that connects them directly. However, there have been some major improvements since I was here last in 2005. For example, the newer E & H lines have drastically improved coverage across the city.

Overall though, the subte system is quick & effective. They have also updated several of the subte cars, making them feel quite safe.

Subtleties of Line A

For the most part, the stations are where you expect them to be and go in the direction you would expect. Many of the stations allow you to enter from any entrance, and then choose the direction you want to go once underground.

Line A, however, is something special. Underground, the platforms do not connect. So you need to know in advance which direction you’re going, and in turn which side of the street to enter the station on. Line A goes against traffic.

For example, if you’re at the Loria Station wanting to get to Plaza de Mayo, you would NOT enter the subte on the same side of the street that has traffic going in the direction towards Plaza de Mayo. Cross the street, as if you were headed to Caballito instead.

Line A also doesn’t stop at every stop. The stations Alberti and Pasco should almost be considered as one station, rather than two distinct stops. The train ONLY stops at Alberti when it’s going away from Plaza de Mayo. Don’t expect to get off there when you’re going towards Plaza de Mayo. Same goes for the Pasco station. The train ONLY stops at Pasco when it’s going towards Plaza de Mayo and not the other way.

Several people stare at their phones will sitting and standing on the subway, line D in Buenos Aires
People inside the subte along line D

Buenos Aires Subte Map App

There is a subte map app which can be (somewhat) helpful, called BA subte. Just note that the app doesn’t seem to have updated since additional stops were added to the yellow line H and purple line E. The app shows the two end stations of line H as Las Heras, but it should actually be Facultad de Derechos. For line E, the app shows the last stop as Bolivar, but should actually be Retiro.

Getting On and Off the Subte

The process for getting on and off of the subte is incredibly easy. Figure out which direction you want to go, then scan your Sube card on the scanner on top (there is weirdly another one on the front side) of the turn style. Once it turns green, pass through. You do not need to scan your Sube card to exit. The price of one subte ride is about 30 pesos (15 cents).

Each exit has a number, but it is never very clear what that number corresponds to. If you’re unsure of the exit, your best bet is to just use any exit, and orient yourself above ground.

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COLECTIVOS

A city bus in Argentina is called a ‘colectivo’ or a ‘bondi.’ Bus transportation in Buenos Aires has an extensive system of colectivos, and you can generally expect a bus to come every few minutes. It’s very rare to wait for a city bus longer than 5 minutes. The bus system picks up the slack of the subte as far as A to B navigation. Buses can oftentimes get you to your location faster and more accurately.

Getting On and Off the Colectivo

Use the Sube Card on public transportation in Buenos Aires
Scan the Sube Card on a Buenos Aires colectivo

Bus transportation in Buenos Aires is also super easy, thanks to the Sube card. When you get on the bus, hold your Sube card to the scanner. The only slightly intimidating thing about taking the bus is that you need to inform the driver where you’re going. That will inform the price (usually between 18-30 pesos).

The best thing to do is just check Google Maps before getting on the bus. Look at the name of the street where you plan to get off the bus. Tell the driver the name of that street. He will then push a button, the Sube Card scanner will beep, and you can then move to a seat on the bus.

Enter the bus at the front, and exit the bus using the center and back exit doors. Each pole has an orange and black button. Press that a block or two before your stop, to alert the driver someone would like to get off.

Buenos Aires has several main bus streets throughout the city. Most of the major avenues have bus lanes that run through the center of the avenue, with their stops clearly marked. They are building several more of these styles of stops throughout the rest of the city. I actually find them very convenient, as it is much easier to find bus stops when they are not camouflaged along the sides of the streets.

TRAIN LINES

Mitre Line, Colegiales station. It is dark, early morning looking down on train tracks.
Early morning at the Colegiales Train station, Mitre Line

Train transportation in Buenos Aires is less used if you are just moving within the city. However, they definitely have their advantages when you’re trying to get out of the city for a weekend or a day trip.

The train lines in Buenos Aires generally begin from one of its main train stations: Retiro, Once, and Constitución, and pass through the city on the way to the outskirts and other cities beyond.

  • Belgrano Sur: Trains from this line leave from the Dr Saenz Nueva train station in Nueva Pompeya. They head west, ending at Marinos C. G. Belgrano, and Veinte de Julio.
  • Belgrano Norte: Trains from this line leave from Retiro and end at Villa Rosa.
  • Mitre: Trains on this line start at Retiro and head to San Isidro and Tigre. There is another Mitre train that ends at Zarate. There is also a point at Bartolomé Mitre along the Mitre line, that the train turns into Tren de la Costa, and goes along the coast, ending also in Tigre. There is another Mitre train that ends at Capilla del Señor.
  • Roca: The Roca train line leaves from Plaza Constitución. This is where you can catch a train to La Plata.
  • Sarmiento: Sarmiento trains leave from the Once Station and head west, ending in the towns of Mercedes, and Lobos.
  • Urquiza: This train line begins at the Federico Lacroze station in Chacarita. It’s last stop is General Lemos.

TAXIS IN BUENOS AIRES

The last option for transportation in Buenos Aires are taxis, also known as ‘remis.’

The standard yellow (and black) taxi exists in Buenos Aires. It is usually fairly easy to stand on a main street corner and hail a taxi like in other big cities. Buenos Aires also has its fair share of taxi apps as well. When using a taxi app in Argentina, always select the cash pay option. Taking a taxi in Buenos Aires is a pretty affordable endeavor. For example, a taxi from San Telmo to the Jorge Newberry Aeroparque in the middle of the day will cost around 1200 pesos ($6 usd). Always pay with exact change. Drivers don’t often have the correct change to give you. I suggest taking taxis after sunset rather than trying to navigate public transport.

Taxi Apps in Buenos Aires

  • BA Taxi is an app that connects with the official taxi drivers of the city. The ones who drive the obvious looking taxis.
  • Uber is also used fairly commonly in Buenos Aires as well. It is not used in Cordoba, or anywhere in the north. I’m not sure about the south.
  • Other commonly used taxi apps are: Didi and Cabify.
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