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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Buenos Aires Bus Tour

From the day Jon's parents arrived, they were up for any site seeing we had planned. The only thing that they had on their agenda and wanted to do was tour the city on an open air bus. I've seen the bus drive by our apartment for a few months now and was waiting for some riding companions, so this was a perfect opportunity for me. We waited for three long days of rain before we found a day that was suitable for an open air tour, and on that first nice day we consulted the website for ways to buy tickets for the tour. According to the Buenos Aires Bus site, tickets come in one ($70 pesos) or two ($90 pesos) day passes with multiple ways to purchase tickets:

1) On the bus at any of the stops (Bust!)
2) At the main bus terminal
3) At the FlechaBus window at the Retiro Bus Terminal (Didn't attempt)
4) Online, printing the tickets out at home (Bust! It turns out that this is a "coming soon" feature on their website)

During the "high season" the bus starts at 9:00am during the "low season" they start at 9:30am and ends at 5:30pm throughout the year. It is unclear as to what constitutes that high or low season - but we weren't planning on taking the tour that early anyways. So we waited next to the Buenos Aires Bus sign for the 12:30pm scheduled stop across from the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Recoleta. This stop actually happened at 12:45pm. We boarded the bus only to find an unapologetic on-board tour guide that was fresh out of tickets. She recommended that we either go home and print out tickets, wait for the next bus (which, she mentioned, may also be out of tickets) or go to the main bus terminal at the corner of Av. Roque Saenz Peña & Florida Ave. - this sounded like the best option. The main bus terminal is located in Microcentro near the President's House (Casa Rosa or the Pink House) in an area known for it's frequent protests. We were in luck, we had to exit our taxi and walk to the bus terminal because the streets were closed for a protest (seen here on the left). The protest was complete with a riot line of police and loud fireworks making this trip to the bus terminal much more eventful than we had anticipated.
We were able to work our way through the protest to purchase tickets for the tour around 1:15pm, but as we purchased our tickets, the clerk said that the 1:30pm bus was full and we needed to wait for the 2:00pm bus - and our tickets reflected this change. Along came the 1:30 bus, half-empty, so we boarded with our 2:00pm tickets. No sooner did we think that we were actually going to take the tour when the guide came and kicked us off of the bus, we had been ratted out by one of the other patrons for boarding the earlier bus. So we diligently waited for the 2:00pm bus, completing close to 2 hours since we originally left my house for the tour.

Once we actually got on the bus, with correct tickets, and a tour guide that let us stay, the tour was a nice way to see the entire city. Each seat came with a set of headphones for an audio tour that you can plug into any one of 10 available languages. The audio tour offered some information, but to me it stopped just short of being truly informative. For example, this beautiful statue to the right was described as a monument to a shipwreck off the coast of Argentina. While the ship was sinking, a man gave his lifejacket to a pregnant woman, a gesture that lead to his death. Although a beautiful story, the audio tour stopped short of any details of the wreck, the ship, the passengers or why this statue was erected in Puerto Madero.

The bus had 12 scheduled stops, so you can exit the bus and walk any one area then pick up the next bus to stop by, generally 30 minutes later. We did not exercise this option, and coincidentally, we watched as the driver passed a group of riders that had gotten off in the colorful, and mildly shifty neighborhood of Boca. The tour lasted a total of 2 hours 45 minutes, although we got off one stop early to avoid the protest on our trip home. This tour was a good way of seeing areas of Bs.As. that I would otherwise not have visited, and places that you may only want to spend 5 or 10 minutes driving by. It also helps to give a good layout of the city for anyone who takes the tour during one of their first few days here. All in all, I recommend the walking tour for some better information and history about the city. For as difficult as the bus tour company made it to take their tour, I would not recommend this tour to visitors.

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