The Conquest of Buenos Aires’ Public Transport System

There is something profoundly satisfying in conquering a city’s public transportation system, especially a city in a foreign country. By “conquer” I mean stepping into the bus, train or ferry free of the dazed and confused look of a tourist and instead full of the confident boredom of a local. I try to exude this nonchalance as quickly as possible in new places, hating the tag of tourist, although I’m sure the guidebook, map, huge backpack/ diaper bag, bottles of water and English I speak to my husband give me away within seconds. Ah well, it’s worth trying.

Today I feel we came the closest yet to living like locals here in Buenos Aires, at least in how we got around. Today we mastered Buenos Aires’ bus system. Big deal, I hear you say. How hard is a bus system? Put it this way. When the bus system requires a 192-page booklet full of maps, indexes and impossibly fine print, that bus system is not for the comfort-seeking traveler. That combined with choking diesel fumes and the drivers who begin speeding along the moment you step foot on the bus, despite the baby in your arms, means these buses should be avoided by the faint-hearted.

I’ve lived in many places where a combination of public transportation, walking and biking were convenient forms of getting around: small town Japan, Chicago, and even SW Portland. Now though I live in the Portland suburbs where taking a walk is pleasant but gets me only as far as the housing developments around me. The bus or Max are both even more inconvenient. A short stint at biking to work was great for a few months until I got pregnant and was scared I’d get hit by a car (I’m not sure how the two are related but pregnancy does weird things to your brain). So I drive as little as my suburban life allows, use my husband’s more fuel-efficient car whenever I can, and otherwise travel as “green” as I can by using public transportation wherever I am.


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