Getting Around Argentina

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Getting Around Argentina

By Train

In recent years the government has promoted the re-establishment of long distance passenger trains, although most lines still operate at a low frequency (one or two departures weekly). The rail network is very limited, and intercity buses offer better service and faster rides. Train fares are very cheap - often only a quarter of the bus fare.

Local travel in the Buenos Aires province is both by bus and by local trains, with fast trains being the quickest way to get through the city's traffic. The three largest train terminals in Buenos Aires are Retiro, Constitucion and Once. Retiro is actually three train stations alongside each other with the main long distance bus (or "micro") terminal behind the furthest of the train terminals (from the city center).

One of the major long distance train operators is Ferrobaires  See also Satélite Ferroviario for up-to-date information on trains and services (in Spanish). Ferrocentral departs from Buenos Aires twice weekly to Tucumán and twice per week to Córdoba.

An amazing train ride is the Tren a las nubes (Train to the Clouds) in the northwestern province of Salta, but some people may get altitude sickness. This service, which has experienced suspensions, recommenced in August 2008.

By Plane

Domestic flights are available within Argentina, but tickets are pricey, and most domestic flights pass through Buenos Aires' domestic airport Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. The main carriers are Aerolíneas Argentinas and LAN Chile. Aerolíneas Argentinas' subsidiary Austral, which shares its parents fleet, and tickets of the two can be booked at the same office. The prices for tickets are double for non-residents, so be careful with publicized ticket prices.

An exception to passing through Buenos Aires for domestic flights is Aerolineas Argentinas "Great Circle Route", going both ways Saturdays and Wednesdays BA-Bariloche-Mendoza-Salta-Iguazu-BA (and reverse on another flight both days).

If you fly on your international trip to Argentina with Aerolíneas you sometimes get discounts on domestic flights. Sometimes you even get free flights with your international ticket but keep in mind that you pay it with your international ticket.

Always plan to arrive to your final destination before your flight home 2 or 3 days in advance, as Argentina, like most Latin American countries, experiences more delays and cancellations in travel than most areas of the world.

By Bus

Argentina boasts an outstanding short and long-distance bus network. Since regional train service is limited and plane tickets are more expensive, bus travel is the most common way to travel from city to city within Argentina. Note that it is not as cheap as it was before, with about 4 to 5 dollars for each hour of traveling (Puerto Iguasu to Buenos Aires about 100 US).

In Buenos Aires, a city bus is called a colectivo while a long distance, city-to-city bus is called a micro; usage varies somewhat in provincial areas. The hub of this network is definitely Buenos Aires' Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro; it has up to 2,000 bus arrivals and departures per day, and multiple companies serve most destinations. Buses arrive and depart from a total of 75 platforms, and in order to buy your ticket you will have to choose between about 200 ticket booths situated on the upper level of the terminal.

The more expensive buses generally offer high-quality service, and for distances longer than 200km, it is common to have food served on board. There is generally a good amount of legroom, and many buses have seats that recline horizontally into beds (camas) making them a lot like traveling business class on a plane. The best category with completely reclining seats is normally called cama suite, but other names such as tutto leto, executivo or salon real are also in use. Somewhat cheaper seats only recline partially (semi-camas), or not at all (servicio comun). Every service belongs to one of five official comfort classes with minimum requirements that are prescribed by law in order to facilitate comparisons. The better buses will provide everything you need, while for the lower categories it may be a good idea to take drinks and food with you, as well as toilet paper and ear plugs. If travelling with a large bag or suitcase bring a handful of 25c coins to tip the guys that heaves your pack in and out of the taxi and bus.

Remember that although buses usually arrive to their destination a little late, they almost always leave on time. Do not think that the relaxed approach carries over to bus departure times!

More information on bus companies and schedules is available at the webpage of the Terminal de Retiro and at in Buenos Aires. A second bus terminal in Buenos Aires is situated in the neighborhood Liniers, but it is smaller and less accessible than the one in Retiro.

By Car

Car rental is readily available throughout Argentina, though it is a bit expensive compared with other forms of transportation. Traveling by car allows you to visit locations that are hard to reach by public transportation. Patagonia, in the South of Argentina, is a popular driving location among tourists due to the breathtaking views across many miles of open land.

Argentina generally recognizes valid drivers' licenses from foreign jurisdictions. Drivers must be over 21. The rental companies will charge the renters card $6000 to be used in the event of an accident. They cancel this charge when the car is returned. On the rutas, in the provinces bordering other countries, the police frequently stop cars at controles policiales ("police checkpoints") to check insurance and registration papers and drivers' licenses. They do not stop all cars, though; when you come to a control policial, drive slowly and you will usually be waved through without stopping. Near provincial borders, these controles may also involve inspection of the trunk for contraband and a mandatory two peso fee for "disinfection" or "de-insectifying" the car's underside by driving it over a mechanical sprayer that either sprays water or does nothing. The police have been known to set up roadblocks and demand bribes for passage, particularly around the city of Buenos Aires.

Traffic regulations in Argentina are generally the same as in the U.S. or Europe, but the local often ignore the regulations. On roads and highways it´s mandatory to have car lights on, even during daytime. Be aware that the driving style in Argentina is aggressive and chaotic. Pay attention at night.

Maximum speed: 60 km/h in the city, 40 km/h on side roads and 100 km/h to 130 km/h on roads outside the city as well as on highways. There are frequent speed controls. However speed limits and lane markings are universally ignored, and running red lights is common. Most drivers treat stop signs, octagonal red signs reading PARE, as though they were "yield" signs, though some drivers ignore them completely. Within cities surrounding Buenos Aires it is proper to honk at an impending intersection and the one who honks first has right of way. Right of way is determined somewhat haphazardly by a combination of vehicle size and who arrives first. Make sure you are thoroughly confident in your driving skills before attempting to drive in Argentina.

Highways are limited to the areas around large cities. Most of the country is connected by paved unlit two-lane roads (rutas) shared by buses, cars, and large trucks. Some places are accessible only by gravel or dirt roads - indeed, some main roads in southern Argentina are unsealed, leading to 4WD vehicles being more popular. This is particularly the case in the south. It is important to travel with a good map ( e.g. Argentina Waterproof Road Map from World Mapping Project) and to be well informed about your route distances, road conditions and the estimated travel time. In addition to a good map the website of cochera andina publishes useful information on more than 120 routes in Argentina.

The current cost of gasoline in central and southern Argentina is approximately 6 pesos per liter. In many small towns, particularly in the north, they may ration gasoline to ensure they have enough to sell until the next refuelling truck arrives, in which case you will only be allowed to buy 30 pesos worth of fuel at a time. It's advisable to fill your tank at regular intervals when the opportunity arises. In the Andes, the gasoline consumption of non-turbo charged engines increases due to the altitude.

By Thumb

The hitchhiking club Autostop Argentina began in Argentina in 2002, inspired by clubs in France, Italy and the United States. As a result, hitchhiking has become more acceptable among the younger generation, and raising a thumb at a highway is a symbol most people understand.

Today, nevertheless, the thumb of a woman is gigantically more successful than the thumb of a man. A single man should count on long hours of waiting or just plain luck. If you do get a ride, you will in general be treated with much generosity though.

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