Using the Buenos Aires Bus system
Touring Buenos Aires using local buses (locally called “colectivos”) can be an adventorous way of visiting some of the areas of the city. Adventorous not because it is dangerous (it is not) but because knowing which bus line to take and where to take it can be a very difficult task.
There are more than 150 lines, identified by numbers, and each line is also split in different itineraries (usually identified by letters), so knowing them all is simply impossible. Most people will know which bus line takes them to the important places: work, school, center, girlfriend house, favorite bar, etc. There are small guide books that help you finding the correct bus, but do not try to use them: they are only in Spanish and are written for locals, so it is assumed that the reader already knows details about the colectivos and the guide book will skip some information that locals would find stupid, but that is vital for a first time visitor.
That said, taking the colectivo in Buenos Aires is fun, cheap, and completely safe.
Each line is painted in a different color, and the line number is displayed in the front of the bus. They stop every two blocks, and the stops are identified in the street by a sign with the line number, and sometimes the signs include also the itinerary (or at least part of it) of the bus. When the bus is approaching the stop, you raise your hand to call it and the bus will stop and open the front door.
You enter the bus using that front door, and you get off using the back or center door. Buses are paid with coins, or pre paid cards. The cards are called SUBE and they are quite easy to find. If you prefer coins, each bus carries a machine (located close to the driver) where you have to insert the coins to get your ticket. You need to tell the driver the fare you need, because there are two different prices. Price changes quite often (please see prices in Buenos Aires for the current one). You could also simply name your destination, and the driver will know how much you should pay. So take the dust off your Spanish and tell the driver “palermo” for example. Then insert the coins in the machine and get your ticket.
When the bus is getting close to the stop you are going to, press the button close to the center or back door to let the driver know you need him to stop. The bus will stop and open the door for you. Make it fast, because drivers are quite impatient people.
Some recommended lines:
Line 152: will take you to La Boca, San Telmo, Puerto Madero, Retiro, Palermo and Belgrano. You can visit almost all the highlights of Buenos Aires using the 152 bus.
Line 39: Will take you from the center to Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood area
Line 64: Will take you to La Boca, Plaza de Mayo and National Congress