The subway in Buenos Aires is quite limited, so it is necessary to learn how to take the city bus, which is known as the “colectivo” in Argentina. It is an excellent way to get around the city and for a very low cost. They go everywhere you could imagine within Buenos Aires, and the most you will ever pay is $1.25 if you stay within the city limits (meaning you don’t go into provincia).
One of the best things about the colectivos is their frequency. Throughout the day and evening, they come by every 5-10 minutes, meaning you rarely have to wait. They run 24 hours, but after midnight, the frequency starts to decrease. There is never a specific schedule, meaning you just show up at the bus stop and wait for the next one to come by.
The colectivos are not always the most comfortable, and some are extremely old and noisy. They are supposed to follow certain regulations regarding the noise output, but these regulations are not well enforced, and most buses surpass these levels. Drivers tend to be crazy and love to drive fast, and turn corners quickly. Be very careful when riding the bus, and make sure that if you are standing, you are holding on to something.
The colectivos are safe to take, though one should be careful when taking them through the rougher neighbourhoods. There have been a few instances recently where the buses have been highjacked, and the pedestrians robbed. This is rare though, and should not be worried about. The most dangerous part is waiting for the bus, if its night time, and in a shady area. Make sure you wait with someone.
Waiting for the bus
To catch the bus, find the street that it goes down, and look for a post with its number on it. Each stop by each bus lines is marked by the number of the colectivo placed on a post. To ensure the bus stops for you, you have to flag it down. When you see your bus coming, make sure to stick your arm up which indicates you want to get on. You will also notice here that the argentines line-up nicely for the buses. Make sure to respect these lines, as people get upset if you try to don´t.
Once on the bus, you will have to tell the driver what fare you need. You then enter your change into a machine behind the driver, and will receive a ticket once you have paid the correct amount. You must pay with coins, although you do not need to have the exact amount. The machine will give you change.
Note that if you are sitting down on the bus and an elderly, pregnant, or handicapped person gets on the bus, you are expected to give up your seat for them.
The routes of the colectivos are broken down into sections, but it is imposible to know and keep track of the sections. It is easiest to just tell the driver where you are getting off, and they will tell you the amount you need to pay. However, here is an approximate breakdown of the costs.
$1.10 – less than 6KM. When you travel withing one zone.
$1.25 – Between 6KM-9KM. When you get on in one zone, and cross to another. Staying within Capital Federal (before going into Gran Buenos Aires).
$1.40 – Between 9KM-12KM, going from La Capital into Gran Buenos Aires
$1.75 – Between 12KM-15KM, going from La Capital into Gran Buenos Aires
How to use the colectivos
There are various ways to find your way around the bus system of Buenos Aires. There are three excellent options that we recommend:
1. Mapa Interactivo de Buenos Aires – the BA goverment has done a fantastic job with this new version of their interactive map. Before, it was slow, difficult to use, and not particularly useful. Now, it is the opposite. Fast, easy to use, and gives you lots of extra useful information. Plus it is easy to compare all kinds of different routes, all at the same time. The only downside is you will need an internet connection to use it.
2. CompuMap Urbano de Buenos Aires – This is by far the best option, a real life saver! It is a computerized map of Gran Buenos Aires, meaning it includes all of the suburbs. You can easily find streets, addresses, but most important of all, bus routs. You can enter two addresses, and it will show you the buses you can take, and the route that the bus takes. The program takes a few minutes to learn, but is very basic and simple to use. It is also much faster than any online map of Buenos Aires available.
2. Guia T – this is a small book that comes in two sizes, with the whole book being a map of Buenos Aires. The bigger one includes all of Gran Buenos Aires, whereas the smaller one only includes La Capital Federal. It is just like any map book, with an index to help you find streets. It also has all of the bus routes, so you can find your way around the city. It lists all of the buses, and shows which streets they take. It then uses a grid system to help you figure out what bus you need to take to get to where you want to go.
The Guia T can be a bit complicated to use, because you are always flipping pages, which makes it confusing to try to figure out where in the city you are and where you are going. Furthermore, it only tells you the streets of where the buses go, so it can be really difficult to figure out where the bus is going to go, and where you should get off. The main advantage of the Guia T is that you can bring it with you. It can be purchased at any Kiosk in Buenos Aires. For more info, read our useful post: http://exposebuenosaires.com/guia-t-colectivos/
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