To and from Buenos Aires
A range of frequent, comfortable, and dependable long-distance buses connect Buenos Aires with cities all over Argentina as well as neighboring countries. Because traveling by road is substantially cheaper than traveling by air, both locals and visitors often choose overnight sleeper buses for longer trips.
All long-distance buses have toilets, air-conditioning, videos, and snacks like sandwiches or cookies. The most basic service is semi-cama, which has minimally reclinable seats and often takes a little longer than more luxurious services. It's worth paying the little extra for coche cama, sometimes called ejecutivo, where you get large, business-class-style seats and, sometimes, pillows and blankets.
The best rides of all are on the fully reclinable seats of cama suite or suite premium services, which are often contained in their own little booth. Bus attendants and free drinks are other perks. The more expensive the service, the cleaner and newer the bus.
Most long-distance buses depart from the Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro, which is often referred to as the Terminal de Retiro or simply Retiro. Ramps and stairs from the street lead to a huge concourse where buses leave from more than 60 numbered platforms. There are restrooms, restaurants, phone and Internet centers, lockers, news kiosks, and a tourism office on this floor.
You buy tickets from the boleterías (ticket offices) on the upper level, where there are two ATMs. Each company has its own booth; they're arranged in zones according to the destinations served, which makes price comparisons easy.
The bus terminal's comprehensive website (in Spanish) lists bus companies by destination, including their telephone number and ticket-booth location.
Most major companies have online timetables; some allow you to buy tickets online or over the phone. Websites also list alternative puntos de venta (sales offices)—in many cases you can buy tickets from booths in shopping malls or subway stations, though outside peak season you can usually buy them at the terminal right up until departure time.
Arrive early to get a ticket, and be prepared to pay cash. During January, February, and July, buy your ticket as far in advance as possible—a week or more, at least—and arrive at the terminal extra early.
Terminal de Ómnibus Retiro (Av. Antártida Argentina at Av. Ramos Mejía, Retiro, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, C1104AJQ. 11/4310–0700. www.tebasa.com.ar.)
Within Buenos Aires
City buses, called colectivos, connect the barrios and greater Buenos Aires. Stops are roughly every two to three blocks (approximately 650–1,000 feet apart). Some are at proper shelters with large numbered signposts; others are marked by small, easy-to-miss metal disks or stickers stuck on nearby walls, posts, or even trees. Buses are generally safe and run 24 hours a day, although service is less frequent at night.
A few routes have smaller, faster diferencial buses (indicated by a sign on the front) as well as regular ones; they run less frequently, but you usually get a seat on them.
An incipient rapid transit system called Metrobus is being set up in busy parts of town. On Avenida 9 de Julio between avenidas Santa Fe and Independencia, for example, both regular buses and special bi-articulated ones run in lanes down the center of the street, stopping only at intersections with avenidas (every four or five blocks). The clean, well-lighted Metrobus shelters have free Wi-Fi and displays announcing incoming services.
Standard fare prices are available only if you pay using SUBE (Sistema Único de Boleto Electrónico), a rechargeable swipe-card system that works on both buses and the subway. Cards are available for 15 pesos from branches of Correo Argentino (the post office) as well as from many convenience stores and telephone centers. Bus fares are double if you pay cash—exact change isn't necessary, but coins are. This can be a problem because Buenos Aires suffers from a severe coin shortage. Fares within the city are 2.50 pesos with SUBE (5 pesos with cash) for up to 3 km (2 miles), or 2.70 pesos (5.40 pesos with cash) for up to 6 km (4 miles). Hail your bus and tell the driver the value of the ticket you want as you board. Fares outside the city are 3.90 pesos to 4.50 pesos (8 or 9 pesos with cash). There are no daily or weekly discount passes.
Once on board, head for the back, which is where you exit. A small button on the grab bar lets you signal for a stop. Don't depend on drivers for much assistance; they're busy navigating traffic. Note that routes follow different streets in each direction—these are detailed in the Guía T, an essential route guide that you can purchase at any news kiosk.
If you have even a rudimentary grasp of Spanish, you can also rely on the city’s Cómo Llego website: it has route and timetable information for all forms of public transportation.
Buenos Aires Bus (11/5238–4600. www.buenosairesbus.com. Nov.–Apr. 8:40 am–7 pm; May–Oct. 9–5.)
Cómo Llego (comollego.ba.gob.ar.)
SUBE (Sistema Único de Boleto Electrónico) (800/777–7823. www.sube.gob.ar.)
Buenos Aires Bus
Buenos Aires Bus, a hop-on, hop-off service run by the city’s official tourism body, is an efficient way to tick off all the main tourist spots in the city. The colorful double-decker vehicles leave two to three times per hour and have bilingual guides aboard who point out landmarks. The three- to four-hour circuit takes you from El Centro through San Telmo and La Boca, then through Puerto Madero and on to Retiro, Palermo Chico, Las Cañitas, and Belgrano, before returning through Palermo and Recoleta to Tribunales. Your 170-peso ticket entitles you to get on and off as many times as you like during the day.