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As in many countries, driving in Argentina's large cities can be stressful, and parking is expensive and hard to come by, which means most people in Argentina's metropolitan areas opt to use public transport almost exclusively. This is made more convenient by the SUBE card, a smartcard that can be loaded with cash and used to pay for bus, train and metro fares in Buenos Aires and other major cities.
Public transport in Argentina's large cities, especially in Buenos Aires, is highly effective and expats will find that getting around is no problem at all. Some areas of Argentina, such as Patagonia, are slightly more limited in terms of public transport. Although expensive, driving may be a more viable mode of transport in these cases.
Public transport in Argentina
With roughly 23,000 miles (37,000 km) of railway, Argentina boasts the seventh-largest railway network in the world and the largest in South America. These days, it's cheaper to travel long distance in Argentina by train than by bus, but train travel in Argentina also takes more time. With that said, trains are generally more punctual than buses.
Argentina's primary train network is a suburban train line that connects Buenos Aires with outlying areas. This is the main form of transport for commuters who work in the capital. Resistencia, the capital of Chaco Province, also has a suburban train line. A tram system is also operational in Mendoza.
There are three kinds of tickets to choose from when taking the train to and from Buenos Aires. Primera (which is the lowest class), Pullman (standard tickets) and Camarote (a private cabin for two persons). The type of ticket and seat/cabin can be selected when buying tickets online. Long-distance trains usually operate between Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Posadas, but there are international services that run to Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay.
Buses are the main form of public transport in Argentina, and the system is excellent. Urban buses are known as colectivos and cover an extensive route around major cities.
The reliability of buses can vary according to area and time of day. Buses are run by a number of different companies, so fares can vary. In some cities, bus fares are fixed for the entire city. Most city buses have coin machines, and travellers can pay as they board. Tickets and coupons are also usually available at kiosks around the cities.
Argentina has a system of long-distance buses as well. This is the primary mode of transport used to travel across the country. Some of these buses have interiors similar to that of an airline's business-class cabin and even offer on-board dining. Similarly to trains, buses also have different seat classes one can choose from.
Buenos Aires is home to the oldest subway system in South America. The six lines of the Buenos Aires subway (subte) can easily be navigated by checking the map which is available online. Expats will have to use a SUBE smartcard, which is available for purchase at subte stations, in one of the city's tourist centres or a kiosk (street-side convenience stores).
Buenos Aires is the only city in Argentina with an underground train network, but plans are in place to build one in Córdoba.
Taxis and ride-sharing services
Expats will find that ride-sharing services such as Uber are readily available in most of Argentina's urban areas. These provide non-Spanish speakers with a hassle-free way to get around the cities without the risk of miscommunication with taxi drivers. Hailing a local taxi in Argentina is also easy, but expats would benefit from having a basic knowledge of Spanish for communicating with their driver.
Most taxis in Buenos Aires only take cash. BA Taxi, an app rolled out by the city, allows users to request a taxi and pay with a credit card.
Trams are making a slow comeback in Argentina after being phased out in the 1960s. There is now a tram line in Buenos Aires that feeds the subte system, as well as a light rail system in the northern suburbs of the city.
Trolleybuses, which are powered by overhead electric wires, operate in Córdoba, Mendoza and Rosario.
Driving in Argentina
Argentina is an extremely large country, but thankfully its comprehensive road network makes travel easier. Despite the high cost associated with buying a car in Argentina, the country has one of the highest car ownership rates in South America, with an estimated 17 million motor vehicles on its roads. There are well-maintained expressways that extend from Buenos Aires to most parts of the country. Expats may find some gravel and dirt roads in Argentina, but most roads are paved and in good condition.
In order to drive in Argentina, expats must hold an international driving licence in addition to a national driving licence from their home country. Expats should also ensure that they have their vehicle's registration, green card (tarjeta verde), tax and insurance documents in the car, as traffic police will request to see these if they pull anyone over. Expats should note that police roadblocks happen frequently.
Car rentals are relatively expensive in Argentina but can be worthwhile for expats wanting to explore the country. Expats can get a better rate at a locally owned agency than they would at an international one. The minimum age to rent a car in Argentina is 21. Expats living in Argentina long term may find buying a car to be more financially viable, but the bureaucracy involved with making the purchase will be frustrating.
Cycling in Argentina
Buenos Aires has been voted one of the top 20 most bike-friendly cities in the world. A recent push to prioritise cycling resulted in miles of bike lanes being created all over the city. Buenos Aires also jumped on the worldwide bike-sharing bandwagon and introduced Ecobici – a scheme where bikes can be borrowed for free 24 hours a day from more than 100 stations across the city.
Air travel in Argentina
Argentina's national air carrier, Aerolíneas Argentinas (Austral), operates most domestic flights, but this airline is notorious for delays, and only Argentinian residents qualify for the cheapest fares. Other airlines that offer domestic flights include LanChile and Líneas Aéreas del Estado.
There are 19 major airports in Argentina, but the largest are the Ministro Pistarini International Airport (usually called Ezeiza and abbreviated EZE) and the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (abbreviated AEP) in Buenos Aires.
►For more about the price of living in Argentina have a look at Cost of Living in Argentina.
"The bus system, although chaotic at first glance, is actually really amazing if the traffic cooperates. The subway system is easy to navigate and quick. It’s improving with newer cars (almost all now with air conditioning FINALLY!). It’s super cheap to get around, less than 50 cents can get you across town." Read more about Amelia, a Canadian expat, and her experience living in Argentina.
Are you an expat living in Argentina?
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