Buenos Aires is huge. Plain and simple. The city spreads out from the banks of the Rio de la Plata deep into the swaying grasses of the rolling Argentine Pampa. First time visitors often look at a map and wonder how the hell to get around this giant, if well organized city.
Of course, you can cheat and take a taxi, or Uber, or Cabify, all of which are available, affordable, and accessible at all hours of the day. The public transport network, though, is an attraction in itself. With a little patience and tolerance for crowds, the city can be explored, understood, and appreciated in all its glory by public transport.
The first thing you’ll need is a Sube card. It is the ticket for all transport in the city. They’re available in every subway station and at a good number of Kioskos (Convenience stores) around the city. Everywhere it is sold it can be recharged, just look for a sign in the window that says “Sube.”
Card in hand, it’s time to hit the easiest to use part of the system- the Subte. The Subte, short for Subterraneo, is the subway/underground of Bs As. The system is the oldest in Latin America and the second oldest in the Spanish-speaking world. Linea A opened in 1912 and the stations have been beautifully restored to their original glory. Lineas B, C, and D followed in the ‘30s with a different architectural style. Linea E followed decades later and Linea H is the newest of the bunch.
All are beautiful, all have style, and all reflect the era of the city’s history in which they were built. The prosperity of the early 20th century, to the boom of the ‘20s and ‘30s to stations, slowly being added as the country’s finances were strained in the last few decades.
Keep an eye on the station names too. They are a who’s who and where’s where of Argentina, and an interesting way to learn about the place you are visiting.
Lineas A, B, D, and E connect the center of the city to neighborhoods further out, and Lineas C and H connect the other lines together and connect major railway stations.
If you need to go even further out, commuter trains leave from the major termini of Retro, Constitution, Once, and F. Lacroze. They connect the city to destinations further afield like La Plata and Tigre. You pay by the distance with the Sube card, and it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to travel around the city.
The downtown terminal stations the commuter trains use are gorgeous, worth a visit by themselves. Linea C of the Subte connects Retrio Mitre and Constitution, two stations that rival any around the world.
24 hours buses
For those looking to go anywhere in Bs As, and I mean anywhere, the city bus is there to help out. The buses ply almost every street and pass almost any corner of the city. They run 24 hours a day, most lines are fairly frequent, and even long distances are nice on the wallet.
The first thing most people notice about the buses is that every line looks different. Almost every line has a unique style of paint and design that sets it apart from the others. A lot of tourists worry that this will mean a different payment method or something complicated. It is, however, just to look cool. All buses take the Sube for payment.
One hiccup is that when you board a bus you need to tell the driver where you are getting off. This is so the driver can calculate the price. You’ll hear some locals just say a price, but the prices often change and the drivers prefer you just say your destination. This can be a challenge if your Spanish is rusty or if the name is tough to pronounce. If you get it close, though, the drivers will help you. All you need to do is know where your stop is and the driver will help with the rest.
The city has an app called ‘Como llego” that is the king of bus apps. If you put in where you are going it will give you everything you need from there, and if all else fails you can show it to a bus driver and they will be able to help you further. Google maps work too, but not quite as well.
Traveling by public transit is the cheapest, best, and often the easiest way to get around Bs As. More than the obvious factors, the buses and trains are where real Portenos are found. You’ll hear arguments, laughter, see people on dates, and witness countless cups of mate being drunk.
When you come to Buenos Aires you come for the city, the life, the vibe of the place. Transit is the heartbeat of this wild city, and to experience it is to experience the real BAires.
Thank you for reading.