To and From Buenos Aires
A range of frequent, comfortable, and dependable long-distance bus services connects Buenos Aires with cities all over Argentina as well as neighboring countries. Bus travel is substantially cheaper than flying. Both Argentineans and visitors often choose overnight sleeper services for trips up to 12 hours long.
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 excellent Web site 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. Web sites also list puntos de venta (sales offices)—in many cases you don't need to go all the way to the bus terminal to buy tickets, though 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.
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 reclineable 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 reclineable 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.
Terminal de Ómnibus Retiro (Av. Antártida Argentina at Av. Ramos Mejía, Retiro, Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires. 11/4310–0700. www.tebasa.com.ar.)
Within Buenos Aires
City buses, called colectivos, connect the city's barrios and greater Buenos Aires. Stops are roughly every other block (656 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 and are more expensive, but you usually get a seat on them.
Hail your bus and tell the driver the value of the ticket you want. Fares within the city are 1.10 pesos for up to 3 km (2 mi) or 1.20 pesos for up to 6 km (4 mi), so say "uno diez" or "uno veinte," respectively); then insert your coins in the machine, which will print your ticket. Fares outside the city are 1.75-2 pesos. Diferenciales cost 3 pesos.
There are no daily or weekly discount passes. Exact change isn't necessary, but coins are. This can be a problem, because Buenos Aires suffers from a severe coin shortage. In early 2009 the government announced that a rechargeable swipe card system would soon replace coins in city buses.
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 Guia T, an essential route guide that you can purchase at any news kiosk, or visit the Spanish-language Los Colectivos Web site for info.
Los Colectivos (www.loscolectivos.com.ar.)
SUBE (Sistema Único de Boleto Electrónico) (800/777–7823. www.sube.gob.ar.)
Buenos Aires Bus (11/5239–5160. www.buenosairesbus.com.)