If you’re going to be staying in Buenos Aires for more than a few days, all those taxi rides can get expensive, especially if you want to explore some of the beautiful barrios of the city. Colectivos or bondis (buses) are a cheap way to get around the city, and they run 24-hours-a-day, but before jumping on one, there are a few things you should know.
Acquiring a SUBE Card
The first thing you’ll need to do is acquire a SUBE card, which can be used on all the buses, subway and trains throughout the city. You can pay on the bus with coins, but it’s usually twice as much, so if you don’t want to walk around all day with a pocket full of monedas (change) then the card is ideal. You can purchase a SUBE card in some kioskos (convenient stores), and The Loteria Nacional stores (these have a big blue awning that are quite easy to spot) located throughout the city, so if you’re having trouble finding somewhere that sells the actual card, these are your best bet and here’s a map to find them. You can also charge your card at any place that sell them and in any of the the subway stations. Currently, the cards cost 20 pesos, in addition to whatever money you want to load onto it, so don’t lose it; that’s almost two empanadas!
Here’s a little breakdown of the cost for actual rides, but note that the prices vary based on location, so always be sure to tell your bus driver where you want to go. You can use your SUBE card for subway rides too, and again, it’s cheaper than using change. Also, if you’ve only got one SUBE card between a few people that’s OK, unlike other places, you’re allowed to pay for someone else using your card. You’re also allowed to go -20 pesos on your SUBE before you have to charge it again.
SUBE vs. Coins:
$6-6.25 pesos Short trips (10-15 blocks) $12.50-12.75
$6.50 pesos Medium-length trip (15-45 blocks) $13.00 pesos
$7 pesos Long trip (45-max distance) $14.00 pesos
Settling on a Route
Once you’ve acquired a SUBE card, it’s time to figure out where you want to go. The buses run everywhere in the city some lines go as far as San Isidro so if you want to go somewhere, you can almost always get there by bus. The map I prefer to use to travel is the Mapa Interactivo, developed by the city. It’s user-friendly and can also be downloaded as a smartphone app. Simply type in the address of your location, and destination, and it will map out a route for you using a variety of forms of transportation: bus, walking, train, bike, etc.
Another good website for planning bus routes and which to take is Omnilineas. Simply click on where you are in the city and where you want to go. The site will provide multiple bus options and show the route it takes Indiana Jones style.
A more analogue, old school resource, although some (myself included) may find it a bit confusing, is the Guia T Map which is a book listing all of the city’s buses as well as their routes. These are available at most newspaper stands through out the city. To use the Guia T, you need to first look up the address of your current location in the front of the book. The index will then give you a page number, where you’ll find a tiny map of your location, which is divided into different grids. Accompanying the grids is a list of all the buses that pass by your location. Do the same thing for your destination, and then find the colectivos that match up, and settle on a route.
Once you’ve identified the bus you need to take, find the nearest parada (stop). I’ll mention here that the bus stops, depending on where you are in the city, are not always easy to notice; sometimes, the bus number is spray painted on trees, or written in permanent marker over another stop, so stay sharp! When you get on the bus, always tell your driver what calle (street) you need to go to, or which part of the city, this way you can be sure you’ve taken the right bus. If you’re a bit unsure of whether you’ve chosen the right bus to begin with, simply ask the driver: “Pasas por (do you go by) _____?” with your destination.
Once you’ve made it onto the bus don’t space out. Sometimes, things happen, and buses need to take detours due to traffic or road closings, or the route has changed over time. It’s important that you pay attention to what street you’re on, and the side streets in case the bus driver needs to deviate from the route.
Pay attention to those around you on the bus, because there are a lot of unspoken rules for riding it. The seats in the front of the bus are for old people, pregnant women, people with children, or the handicapped. It’s not uncommon to see people give up their seats to others who fit these categories. It’s also not uncommon for someone to say: “Me daría el asiento?” and ask you for your seat.
While standing on the bus be aware that you’re going to have to move, a lot, to accommodate people getting on and off the bus. If you get onto a packed bus, move to the back to make room so more people can get on. Also, try not to stand in front of the exits if you don’t have to (during rush hour it can be unavoidable). If you are in front of an exit and someone asks: “Bajas?” it means they want to know if you’re getting off at that stop too. If not, be a gentleman and simply move aside to let them pass in front of you.
Riding the bus can be a stressful thing for a traveler, especially if you’re not up to speed on all the cultural nuances. But keep in mind that riding the bus is stressful for everyone sometimes, not just you. These acts of chivalry are just suggestions, you don’t have to follow them, but doing so could mean the difference between getting cursed out by an abuela, or her offering you a chiclet.
Common Colectivo Vocab:
Colectivo: bus (duh, if you’ve read this far you should know that)
La Linea: the line, or number of the bus
Parada: bus stop
Monedas: Coins, or change
¿Pasas por _____?: Do you go to___ )?
¿Me daría el asiento?: May I have that seat
¿Bajas?: Are you getting off here? (Please move if you’re not)
Best Buses for a DIY Bus Tour of BA:
-All of these routes are for the most part reversible route wise
64: Runs from Chinatown to La Boca cutting through Palermo on Santa Fe passing La Casa Rosada and San Telmo
152: From Nunez, passing by Palermo down Sante Fe past the Casa Rosada, San Telmo and ending in La Boca
8: From La Boca passing La Casa Rosada up Avenida de Mayo passing the Congress building to Caballito
24: From Corrientes, through Almagro, to San Telmo
15 From Caballito, through Villa Crespo, Plaza Italia, up Sante Fe passing Chinatown to San Isidro
59 or 60: Cutting through Recoleta near the cemetery to Centro near the Obelisco