Super Advanced Colectivo Etiquette for Buenos Aires

Will Betton

By | June 3, 2010 | 13 comments

If the 152 is your favorite colectivo or you can only name two buses that go down Las Heras, the following ain’t for you.

This goes out to everyone who can spit out at least four ”ramales” on the 60. This is for my people who can bus it from Retiro to Belgrano or Flores to Palermo without consulting the Guia ‘T’ . This is for select few who’ve been on a colectivo above 200. Get out your monedas, hop on board and allow me to rock your colectivo world.

Getting On- Part I

Minimizing the Wait

Let’s suppose you’re on Cabildo heading south with Plaza Italia as your final destination. Even a basic bus rider knows that almost any colectivo will take you where you need to go. The real question now becomes, ”what’s the best way to minimize the wait?”

There are two main factors to consider here: the frequency of each colectivo and your current position in relation to this frequency. Do you walk two blocks to get the ever-passing 60 or do you chance it with the close-by 41 stop? Unfortunately, this is a fairly new academic field and much research is yet to be done on the subject. My amateur observations have led me to conclude that first one should find the closest block with bus stops (they’re usually placed in clumps). Typically a glance down the street will suffice. Once you commit to this block, position yourself between two stops, thereby allowing you to quickly maneuver to either. Then we play the waiting game. On a weekday afternoon this should take no more than 3-4 minutes.

(I realize that in this particular case, and perhaps several others, the subway might actually be the best time-saver; but public transportation time-efficiency is not the aim of this article.)

Flagging It Down

There is a subtle art of informing the driver of your desire to board his vehicle. The unaware passenger might falsely assume that if the woman in the front of the line has her arm extended and is flagging down the bus, then it is not necessary to do the same. Amateur. We all must signal the driver. That way he knows how many people wish to board, which in turn allows him to concentrate better on the street in front of him while the passengers get on.

Another good reason for this is to prepare yourself for the ”false flagging” (no pun intended) of the blind old ladies. Countless times do I see senior citizens signaling any 60 that passes by, only to wave them off at the last minute when they realize it’s not the correct ”ramal.” With a city full of false flaggers, one could easily miss the bus if he doesn’t signal as well.

Numbers on the side of a bus

Simply put: always flag down your bus.

However, be careful not to signal too late nor too early. The drivers never won their bout with the city over exclusive bus lanes (with a few exceptions), so the right lane is riddled with taxis. An ill-timed flag down could confuse a taxi driver, and if he turns on the blinkers, this sends the wrong message to the bus driver.


Pregnant women, senior citizens, parents with toddlers, and cheta cougars reserve the right to board before the others for obvious reasons. The idea is to get on as quickly as possible so the driver can close the door and keep moving. Be prepared to cram.

Also have your monedas ready and your iPod paused. If you’re the last one to board a crowded bus, give the driver an affirmative ”dale” so he knows to close the door and continue down the road.

Hopefully some of this extremely geeky information has heightened your colectivo awareness, thereby ever so slightly improving the flow of traffic here in the city.

Stay tuned for next week’s sequel: On Board . Oh it’s on….!!!

Will Betton
LPBA Staff

Part 2 of Super Advanced Colectivo Etiquette

Wow! Don't forget to check the 'Activities you might like' right here


  1. Fede

    04/05/2009 - 8:39 pm

    You are absolutly right! Buses are really an Adventure Tour!

  2. harris

    04/05/2009 - 9:56 pm

    ba buses kick ass, especially compared to the slow moving dinosaurs of nyc and other cities. buses are the veins of this city like the subway in nyc….yeah, part of their charm is directly related to their capricious stoppings and startings and their less than safety-board approved speeds, but safety be damned, enjoy the ride. …

    Actually I miss some of the more customized buses of my first years, the ones that drivers set up like discos, with lights, and music,,and of course, certain bus lines at 4 am are more happenin than the boliche you just left. Also, I love that a driver will open the door for you at stop lights or other less designated spots if you throw him the right look and that buses will often ride in tandem, stopping at every other stop, while their partner stops at the ones they skipped. Bottom line, bus is better because you can see and enjoy this wonderul city as you go…

    …however, i will admit that my initial love of the buses has turned somewhat love-hate across my 9 yrs in BA, mostly because the individual companies refuse(and are not pushed hard enough by city gov't) to deal with their unacceptable levels of exhaust and noise pollution. Imagine if BA took a leading role in the world and became the first city with such an extensive bus service to have all buses running on electric or hybrid motors…Yeah, expensive. Yeah, hard to get all companies on board. , but it would be a progressive example of what a great city could do if it recognized what was great about it and many cities would look to BA for its example to follow.

  3. kvd

    04/05/2009 - 10:16 pm

    As a colectivo novice, I started reading this article thinking that it would be far too advanced for me…but not so! Super-helpful info Will! Thanks for that!

  4. Sean

    04/05/2009 - 10:50 pm

    Harris- I feel ya buddy. There's nothing more satisfying than making eye contact at the right time in an undesignated spot and having the doors open for you.
    If current government trends continue, it's unlikely we'll see a hybrid switch but it would be quite the drastic improvement.
    Colectivos Rule!

  5. Evie

    31/08/2009 - 10:16 pm

    That's awesome, dawg. I just caught the 118 to Belgrano with the Playboy emblems all up in the front like dat. Colectivos rock!

  6. Van Cecconi

    11/09/2009 - 3:12 pm

    I'm argentinian and I couldn't have explained it better.. Will, you just nailed it!

    PLUS, I wasn't aware of the fact that everybody has to flag the bus so that the driver can calculate how many people wish to board! lol
    I always did it cause i'm afraid the driver will not stop 😛

  7. Todd Morrill

    11/09/2009 - 7:40 pm

    "false flaggers" funny

  8. Cynthia

    25/11/2009 - 11:11 pm

    haha, many times I've been a false flagger.
    Remember that usually, in order to let bus and cab drivers which one you wish to stop, you need to make a different signal. When you want to stop a bus you'll extend your arm quite horizontally (or higher), while with cabs you'll do a 45* or 50* angle.

  9. Jorgelina

    10/06/2010 - 9:54 pm

    Sometimes you don't mean to be a false flagger but you can't help it! You extend your arm lower than usual…you look at the big windshield and try to guess how packed the bus is, and then fold your arm quickly back in when you notice it's chock-full! And that's how you become a false flagger! lol Specially for buses like 140, 93 and 60 at certain times of the day!

  10. Stephen

    11/06/2010 - 6:40 pm

    (oops, double-post, sorry)

  11. Stephen

    11/06/2010 - 6:39 pm

    Epa! I think a special mention should be made that you're also expected to do the latter half of the High Jump when it comes to getting off! As someone used to overkill on safety regulations it's something of an unexpected surprise when that delightful moment comes – even when the last step ISN'T missing! XD
    As for Demon Driver of the 19 who enjoys running his hands (yes, both) through his flowing locks whilst cruising at a modest 80kph along a suitably cobbled road, I feel I should own a medal for surviving that journey without a scratch, many times!

  12. Andrea

    13/12/2011 - 5:16 pm

    Cynthia is right: we have diferent signals for cabs and buses. The angle of the arm is the key. Very good point.
    Love the way you write about things that are so “normal” for locals. Absolutely funny.