Buenos Aires has an AMAZING public transport system (and the bus system in Montevideo is equally awesome, too). It is fast, cheap, and well-connected. However, navigating it is not the easiest for the first timer, so let me try to break it down for you. You have the options of 1) Taking the subway 2) Taking the bus 3) Renting a FREE bike. I will cover subway and bus on this post, and you can find my guide to renting a bike in Buenos Aires on this post.
First of all, get a SUBE card. You can obtain it at most “Locutorios”, Newspaper Kiosks/Convenience stores, and subway stations. They come at the price of 15 pesos at the time of writing, and it is well-worth it as it gives you a discount when you use the system.
Second of all, you need to charge your SUBE card with value. The place that you get your SUBE card can do that for you. Most kiosks and locutorios will charge you 1 peso for the recharging service, but subway stations and some kiosks (that have on the sign saying that there’s no service fee) do it for free. Either way, don’t forget that it’s merely the cost of a dime… You’re free to denominate how many pesos to charge. Charging 10 pesos will give you about 4 rides.
Taking the subway is relatively easy. Just make sure you enter at the station going to right direction. For example, if you’re on the Blue line and want to go from Congreso to Avenida de Mayo, make sure that the entrance says direction Plaza de Mayo. If not, the correct entrance is probably on the other side of the street.
Now, taking the public bus, or “colectivos”, is relatively complicated but super convenient once you master it. Plus, being above ground helps you get a better hang of the city’s relative locations, and is like a free tour bus. Guidelines below:
- You can either use your SUBE card, or pay with cash. You don’t want to pay with cash, because 1) it is more expensive, I believe it is a fixed cost of 3 pesos, whereas with SUBE you pay between 1.50 – 2.75 pesos 2) they take coins only. This is an extreme nuisance because coins are very hard to come across
- When you get on the bus, you have to inform the driver where you’re going. You can either say a general area / “barrio”, like Recoleta, La Boca, or a more specific location like “Congreso”, “Plaza de Mayo”. If you’re feeling adventurous feel free to tell him the cross street you’re headed to. Your SUBE card is charged based on the zone you’re headed to. This requires you to speak, but I personally like it because then if you’re on the wrong bus the driver would be able to tell you.
- Use this site to figure out what bus you need to take. Omnilineas Colectivos, in Spanish, but you can just directly click on the map where you are starting from, and where your destination is, and the map will show you the options of buses and the route the bus takes.
- Each bus stop will have a sign of what buses stop there. Unfortunately at the bus stop there will not be a map of where the bus goes, but a list of streets that the bus runs on. To decipher the route would require pro level knowledge of the city’s geography, so I recommend using the Omnilineas Colectivos site in advance, or else you should ask a pedestrian or the driver.