In recent years, the government has encouraged the reintroduction of long-distance passenger trains, although most lines still operate at low frequency (one or two departures per week). The rail network is very limited, and intercity buses offer better service and faster journeys. Train tickets are very cheap – often only a quarter of the price of a bus ticket.
Local transport in the province of Buenos Aires is provided by buses and commuter trains, with express trains being the fastest way to get through the city’s traffic. The three largest train stations in Buenos Aires are Retiro, Constitucion and Once. Retiro is actually three stations side by side, with the main long-distance (or “micro”) bus terminal behind the furthest rail terminal (from the city centre).
One of the main long-distance train operators is Trenes Argentinos, which operates between Retiro (Buenos Aires) and Rosario, Córdoba and Tucumán, and between Constitución (Buenos Aires) and Bahía Blanca. See also Satélite Ferroviario for updated information on trains and services (in Spanish).
The Tren a las nubes (train to the clouds), in the northwestern province of Salta, is an amazing train ride, but some people can get altitude sickness. The service, which was discontinued for some time, resumed in August 2008.
Domestic flights are available within Argentina, but tickets are expensive and most domestic flights are via the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery domestic airport in Buenos Aires. The main airlines are Aerolíneas Argentinas and LATAM Argentina. Austral, the subsidiary of Aerolíneas Argentinas, shares the parent company’s fleet, and tickets for both can be booked at the same office. The price of tickets is doubled for non-residents, so beware of published prices.
An exception to the requirement to fly via Buenos Aires for domestic flights is Aerolineas Argentinas’ ‘great circle route’, which offers BA-Bariloche-Mendoza-Salta-Iguazu-BA flights in both directions on Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays (and in the opposite direction on both days).
When you fly Aerolíneas for your international trip to Argentina, you sometimes get discounts on domestic flights. Sometimes you even get free flights with your international ticket, but remember that you’ve probably already paid for this with the inflated price of your international ticket.
Always plan to arrive at your destination 2 or 3 days before your return flight, as Argentina, like most Latin American countries, experiences more travel delays and cancellations than most other parts of the world.
Argentina has an excellent network of short and long distance buses. With limited regional train service and more expensive airfares, the bus is the most common way to get from one city to another in Argentina. Note that this mode of transport is not as cheap as it used to be, costing around US$4-5 per hour of travel (Puerto Iguazú to Buenos Aires: around US$100).
In Buenos Aires, an urban bus is called a “colectivo” or “bondi”, while a long-distance intercity bus is called a “micro” or “omnibus”; however, this is not always true, as usage varies somewhat in provincial areas. The hub of this network is certainly the Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro in Buenos Aires; it has up to 2,000 bus arrivals and departures per day, with several companies serving most destinations. Buses depart and arrive from a total of 75 hubs, and to buy your ticket you have to choose from around 200 ticket offices on the upper level of the terminal.
The more expensive buses tend to offer a high quality of service, and on journeys of over 200 km it is common for food to be served on board. There is usually plenty of legroom and many coaches have seats that convert horizontally into beds (called camas), making them very similar to business class on an aircraft. The best category with fully reclining seats is usually called cama suite, but other names such as tutto leto, ejecutivo , cama vip or salon real are also common. Slightly cheaper seats recline only partially (semi-camas) or not at all (servicio común). Each service falls into one of five official comfort classes, with minimum requirements set by law for comparison. The best buses provide everything you need, while for the lower categories it may be wise to bring drinks and food, as well as toilet paper and earplugs. If the journey is really long, say more than 12 hours, it is better to spend a few euros more and pay for a better bus service. If you are travelling with a large bag or suitcase, bring a handful of coins to tip the porter who carries your luggage in the taxi and bus.
Remember that although buses usually arrive at their destination a little late, they almost always leave on time. Don’t think that this relaxed attitude will affect the departure times of the buses!
For more information on bus timetables and fares, visit the websites of online ticket sellers Plataforma 10, Central dePasajes. To buy tickets and have a real choice between different bus companies, you can visit Ticket Online or VoyEnBus. For buses to and from Buenos Aires, you can check the websites of Terminal Retiro de Buenos Aires. A second bus station in Buenos Aires is located in the Liniers district, but it is smaller and less accessible than the Retiro one.
Car rental services are available throughout Argentina, although they are a little expensive compared to other means of transport. Travelling by car allows you to visit places that are difficult to access by public transport. Patagonia, in southern Argentina, is a popular destination for tourists due to the breathtaking views it offers over many miles of open land.
Argentina generally recognises valid driving licences issued abroad. Drivers must be over 21 years of age. Car rental companies charge USD 6,000 on the renter’s card, which is used in case of an accident. They cancel this charge when the car is returned. On the rutas in the border provinces, the police often stop cars at police checkpoints to check insurance, registration papers and driving licences. They do not stop all cars, however; if you arrive at a police checkpoint, drive slowly and you will usually be allowed to pass without stopping. Near provincial borders, these checks may include a trunk inspection for contraband and a mandatory two-peso fee for “disinfecting” or removing insects from the underside of the car by running it over a mechanical sprayer that sprays water or does nothing. Police are known to set up roadblocks and demand bribes to pass, especially around Buenos Aires.
Traffic rules in Argentina are generally the same as in the US or Europe, but locals are often unaware of these rules. On roads and highways, it is mandatory to turn on your car lights, even during the day. Be aware that the driving style in Argentina is aggressive and chaotic. Be careful at night.
Maximum speed: 60 km/h in town, 40 km/h on secondary roads and 100 km/h to 130 km/h on roads outside town and on motorways. Speed checks are frequent. However, speed limits and lane markings are generally ignored and running red lights is common. Most drivers treat stop signs, red octagonal signs that read PARE, as if they were “yield” signs, although some drivers ignore them completely. In the cities around Buenos Aires, it is common to honk your horn as you approach an intersection, and whoever honks first has the right of way. Right of way is determined somewhat arbitrarily by a combination of the size of the vehicle and who comes first. Make sure you are confident in your driving skills before attempting to drive in Argentina.
Highways are limited to the areas around the major cities. Most of the country is connected by unpaved two-lane roads (rutas) used by buses, cars and large trucks. Some areas are only accessible by gravel or dirt roads – indeed, some of the main roads in southern Argentina are unpaved, making 4WD vehicles more popular. This is particularly the case in the south. It is important to travel with a good map (for example, the World Mapping Project’s waterproof road map of Argentina) and to be well-informed about distances, road conditions and estimated travel time. In addition to a good map, the cochera andinapublishing website offers useful information on over 120 routes in Argentina.
The current cost of petrol in central and southern Argentina is about 6 pesos per litre. In many small towns, especially in the north, petrol may be rationed to sell enough until the next tanker arrives. In this case you can only buy 30 pesos worth of petrol at a time. It is advisable to fill up at regular intervals when the opportunity arises. In the Andes, the fuel consumption of non-turbocharged engines increases due to the altitude.
The hitchhiking club Autostop Argentina was founded in Argentina in 2002, inspired by clubs in France, Germany, Italy and the United States. As a result, hitchhiking has become more acceptable to the younger generation, and giving a thumbs up on a highway is a symbol that most people understand.
Nevertheless, a woman’s thumb has a gigantic success compared to a man’s today. A single man has to expect hours of waiting or just plain luck. But if you are taken, you are usually treated very generously.