It’s safe to assume that most travelers in Buenos Aires default to taking cabs for the duration of their stay, or for the more intrepid few, take a ride on the city’s subway system. But if you’re in Buenos Aires for any length of time — from a few days to a few weeks or months — learning to ride the city’s extensive bus network makes sense.
The bus is WAY cheap. It’s easy (once you’ve gotten up the balls to take the leap and hop on board). Plus, you get to see a good deal more of the city than you would underground in a tunnel. Oh, and sometimes, your bus is decorated with beveled mirrors, fringe curtains and disco lights. Bonus!
And there’s always a “but” with these sorts of things, isn’t there? For first-time riders, it can be intimidating. Which line do I take? How do I know where to go once I’m on board? What do I tell the driver? How do I pay? Blah blah. It’s all very nerve-wracking and valid.
In fact, riding the bus was one of my greatest sources of stress in my first few weeks in BsAs, so if I can alleviate that for but one traveler, well, hallelujah!
What Bus do I Take?
Buses are marked with their destinations both in the front window and above the window, and bus stops have signs for which buses stop there, and their destinations. Of course, you need to know which number is going in your direction. Luckily, Buenos Aires has an uber-useful website, Omnilineas that allows you to put in your current destination and your ultimate destination, and it will list the bus numbers you can take and map those routes for you. Check the route map to see where, approximately, you’ll want to get off the bus in relation to where it is you’re going.
For mobile users, there is also an app, Buenos Aires Ciudad that does the same thing, but is painfully slow, and occasionally less accurate. Still, it’s saved my rear on more than a few occasions when I was on the go.
Ok. You’ve figured out where you’re going and on what bus. Now what?
How to Pay for My Ride?
You can certainly pay with coins, but bus drivers don’t give change, and it’s far cheaper to purchase a Sube card — riders can put money on these cards and swipe them like a credit card when they board the bus. Buy these cards at pharmacies, kioscos (that’s kiosks — come on, you could’ve figured that out!), or subway stations. The key here is that you can only put additional money on these cards at certain shops (typically kioscos or pharmacies) and some — not all — subway stations.
Because not all kioscos or pharmacies will fill Sube cards, look for the “Sube” sign in the window or outside the door before trying to fill your card when pesos run low.
I Bought the Card. What Do I Do With It?
Board your bus like a champ. When you approach the driver tell him your destination by saying, “Hasta _____.” For example, you’re going to San Telmo. “Hasta San Telmo.” That’s good.
The trick here is that most drivers are accustomed to being told a street name, NOT a neighborhood or attraction. So, try to look at the online map and figure out what street you’ll have to hop off at and tell him this.
“Hasta Avenida Santa Fe.” That’s better.
Touch to Pay
Your driver will punch in how much you owe, and it will flash on the screen of a red box with a bulls eye next to the driver. [Note: try to let some locals board the bus ahead of you and follow their lead] Hold the card to the bulls eye until a green light goes off. Voila! You’ve paid.
It’s My Stop!
Ride that sucker until your stop approaches, and press the button near the bus’s middle doors to alert the driver to stop at the next bus stop. He stops. You depart.
Booyah! You’ve ridden the bus, you intrepid traveler, you!