Buenos Aires Travel Planet

Buenos Aires visitor’s guide

Bus system in Buenos Aires

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As every big city, Buenos Aires provides many different public transportation options for its citizens and visitors to travel. And, like every big city, it has unique idiosyncrasies that one must figure out before attempting to use said public transportation.

The buses, or colectivos, as they are called locally, are in fact not public at all; rather, they are a collection of independently owned companies, all working together to provide movement around the city. For this reason, some routes are extremely long, while others are short and sweet, and there seems to be no order to the routes at all, as they all wind their way through the busy streets of the country’s capital.

How to use the bus system in Buenos Aires

Fortunately, however, they are all uniform in their pricing. Different tariffs are charged for different distances, but prices generally range from AR$1.10 to over AR$2.00, as of early 2010. But before you even start to think about collecting those monedas, you must first figure out which colectivo to take. And for that, you need the invaluable Guia “T”, which will cost under $5 for the bosillo, or pocket, version.

The Guia “T” (when pronounced, it literally means “guide yourself”) is a small book that can be purchased at the majority of newsstands, and it effectively provides some sort of rhyme and reason to the immense bus system. It consists of three main sections: A directory of street names and address in the front, dozens of pages of detailed city maps with corresponding bus lines, and finally, a thorough rundown of the streets included in each bus number’s route.

So how do you use all of this information to choose a bus? First, look up the street name of your starting point in the directory, and turn to the corresponding map page (as indicated) to find where you are. Note what grid number you’re in, and now look at the left-hand facing page of the book. The grid has been replicated exactly, but instead of a map, it has a list of each bus that runs through that grid square.

Now mark that page, and repeat the process with your destination address. Once you’ve located both addresses, and the corresponding buses, you can determine which busses pass by both locations. Let’s say, for example, the 60 runs in both grid squares. Now comes the fun part.

Turn to the back of the Guia “T”, and locate the 60. There, you will not only see an image of what the bus looks like — they are all different colors — but you will see it’s route, street by street. At this point, you have to figure out where it passes by closest to you, which can be done by tracing its route on the map, figuring out where it turns, et cetera.

So you have located the closest street, now how do you find the actual bus stop? For that, you simply have to walk up and down the street (be sure you’re on the correct side of the road!) until you find the stop. Don’t worry; they are usually about 2 blocks apart. And if all else fails, you can always ask at the nearest kiosko or newsstand.

Once you get on the bus, simply tell the driver the street you’re headed to, and he will charge you the appropriate fare. Busses only take coins, which tend to be in short supply in Buenos Aires, so be sure to have some saved. They do, however, give change. And be sure to hang on to the little paper receipt it prints, just in case an inspector decides to board the bus.

Now, all you have to do is sit back and enjoy watching the city pass by. Of course, you will need to be aware of where you are, so when you near your destination you can press the buzzer, located by the doors, to let the bus driver you want to get off. Don’t be surprised if the doors go swinging open well before the bus has come to a complete stop, and be careful when stepping off. You can also check for other ways of transportation in this Buenos Aires travel guide.

As confusing as it sounds, once you get the hang of the Guia “T”, it will be your best friend when traveling around the city. It is also a great way to get to know the city; one could say it’s a crash course in the orientation of Buenos Aires.

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