Other Pages of Interest

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Getting Around

Jon and I have never been the type of people that specifically wanted to live downtown in a city. We never even entertained the "what if" scenarios to know what would happen if we were ever to live in a city so when we decided to get an apartment in Capital Federal Buenos Aires, we had a lot of decisions to make. One of the easiest decisions we came to was that after we sold our cars in the US, we would not look to buy a car in Argentina. The only tough part of this decision was made for us, we had no choice but to sell our cars as we left Virginia. An ode to my car, I loved my beautiful 2007 Honda Accord, and I'd be willing to say that my love was shared by most people who rode in it. That car was the preferred ride to many a football game, with it's roomy 4-person seating area and satellite radio, and the trunk fit the absurd amount of luggage that we inevitably pack for every trip we took. I take comfort in knowing that she went to a good home.

Now that we are car-less, we have become reliant on the public transportation system to get around the city. Lucky for us, there are quite a few options and they are all pretty easy to navigate.
  • The Bus (aka - El Colectivo) - This is Jon's ride to and from work each day. It works like a charm and picks up directly in front of our building. The key to the buses is this little book called a Guia"T", don't leave home without it. The book has two sections, one with maps where you look up where you are and where you're going and see which buses overlap and a second part that lists all of the buses and their routes. The other tip is that if you're planning on taking the bus, be sure to have coin change in your pockets - the buses only take coins. The cost ranges from $1.10 - $1.25 pesos per trip.
  • The Subway (aka - El Subte) - There are six subway lines in the city, each line having it's own color and letter that you can clearly see from this little map. The lines are referred to by their letters, but having ridden the Metro for so long, it's hard for me to break the habit of referring to the lines by color. Each stop is very clearly marked from the street and a 1-trip ticket will cost you $1.10 pesos. The closest subway stop to us is about a 15 minute walk, so we tend to use other forms of transportation, but it is a really convenient way to get around the city quickly if you have a stop nearby. The trains themselves are pretty different depending on what line you're using, back in December we were touring around the city with Juan and Sole and we got on an antique A-line train where you have to open and close the doors yourself. A little nerve-wracking for me since people tend to open the doors before the train stops. Security is a bit of an issue here so you want to be extra careful in crowded places like the subway. I would also advise that you should not ride alone at night - just to be on the safe side.
Here are Jon, Juan and Sole going into the subte station. They're laughing at the number of photos I'm taking.
  • The Train (aka - El Tren) - The train is best used when going longer distances in and around the city. The cost is roughly the same, $1.10 - $1.35 pesos per ride, and it's best to buy your return ticket at the departing station, there is no assurance that the ticket windows will be open at the smaller stations that you're traveling to. The trains leave much less frequently than other forms of transportation and you need to be a bit cautious about which lines you ride. This map shows all of the city's train stops, but you want to do a little research before you just hop on. The Linea Mitre (light blue on the map) and Tren de la Costa (in green) are the only two lines that it has been recommended that we ride. Many of the other lines go through a large shantytown (with approx 1 million inhabitants) and there is a significant amount of crime on and around the train stations there. That is not to deter you though, as with most large cities you travel to, there are regions to steer clear of. We have used the Linea Mitre many times, to go to Tigre, to visit friends in the northern suburbs of the city and to take a more scenic route to areas north of us within the city. I feel comfortable riding this train alone, but only during daylight hours. The starting train station for this line is Retiro Station, and though the station itself is fine, don't wander the areas around the station, there is a shanty town that starts pretty close behind the station building.
  • Taxis (aka - Taxis) - This is the easiest, but most expensive public transportation option. We feel comfortable hailing a taxi off of the street, just use discretion before getting into a car. If the driver or the car look especially dirty or unkempt, or if you get a bad feeling from a driver, let the car go by and hail the next one. Generally, taxi drivers do not speak English so you want to know where you're going (in Spanish) or have the streets or address written down when you get into the car. We typically look at the general route before getting into a cab, just to make sure the driver is headed in the right direction. If you feel like they're running up your fare, or taking a roundabout route, you can certainly call them out on it. Also, by law, all taxis are non-smoking but some drivers have a tendency to forget this. It is your right to ask them to stop if they're smoking, but I have yet to exercise this right. It doesn't happen all that often, and if I get into a really smoky car, I can always just get out. Currently (as of 4/8/2010) the taxi fares are $4.60 to start and $0.46 per 1/8 mile (approx). A 10-15 minute ride will cost you between $15 - $20 pesos (~US$4.00 - $6.00) depending on the distance, and all taxis use meters. In general, drivers to not expect a tip, if you choose to leave a tip you can just round up to the next peso to leave the change. Radio Taxis are regarded as the safest, most reliable cabs out there, but we have only had one issue here (written about in my Concert post) and we've use a LOT of taxis. If you are using a taxi, be sure to have small bills. Taxis have been known to not have change for a $100 note and that leaves you in a very uncomfortable situation.
**Update 4/15/10- We have now had a couple of run-ins with dishonest taxi drivers. The general scheme is that the meters in these taxis run faster than in normal, honest cars. This was especially obvious when we took 2 cabs from the local airport and one ride was double the cost of the other. Grrrrr.
  • Private Cars (aka - Remis) - Many people hire unmarked, private cars for getting around the city. In general, we only use a Remis if we need to go to the airport, or a longer distance outside of the city where a taxi would be impractical. There are plenty of Remis companies, we tend to use Universal Remis, the company that Jon's work recommends. To use a remis, you call ahead and reserve a car for a specific date and time (this can be done same day if necessary). You can also reserve a specific sized car, which we do for trips to the airport. This is by far the most expensive option, but the most reliable. The round trip fee from our place to the international airport (EZE) with waiting time is approx $270 pesos (US $65) plus tip if they assist with luggage.
A great resource that was recommended to me is this website that allows you to input your starting and ending destinations and the site recommends the buses and subways that best fit your route. You can also specify the type of transportation you prefer. All in all, we have not missed our cars much. I have logged a LOT of miles on my feet too, since there are so many places within walking distance.

No comments:

Post a Comment