The ¨Bondi¨ Identity

(Photo by Libertinus)

Colectivo and bondi (Lunfardo slang) are the common local words for bus. And, the colorful bus lines, with their character bus drivers are truly a part of the local identity.

The bus system in Argentina dates back to the 1930’s when due to the economic crisis, taxi passengers began to dwindle and cab drivers came up with the idea of collective taxis. The exact date is the 24th of September of 1928; it was then that taxi drivers stood on their stop and began to holler out promotional tariffs to specific destinations (Plaza Once and Plaza de Mayo).

From then on routes began to be established, and bigger cars were purchased until the lines were made official and actual buses began to circulate.

As many travelers have noticed, one of the defining characteristics of the Argentine bus system is its colorful bus lines.  As this mode of transport was private, the initial reason for this was to distinguish one line from the other.

One of the most popular color combinations was red and black. Some speculate that this was because the owners of the buses were anarchists.

The colorful system however did not last long. In 1936 the Transport Corporation was founded and bus lines were either bought or confiscated, their colors traded in for a uniform red and ivory.

Then, during the 50’s,  the Ministry of Transport determined that all buses should be silver with a blue lining.  It wasn’t until the privatizations in the 60’s that buses recovered their traditional coloring.  Bus tickets, were also different colors depending on the bus line and distance, and many collected them.

Now a days bus tickets have been homogenized thanks to the ticket machine, yet this colorful city emblem keeps unique chromatic combinations, as well as occasionally sporting fileteado porteño, and decorations inside the buses such as engraved mirrors, curtains and special lighting, amongst others.

Buenos Aires Transport System

Buenos Aires is a large city and can be intimidating for visitors to move around in, however, the city streets are visibly named and numbered and the bus system can be understood with a little help from a Guia T, available at any newspaper stand. Below is a small guide with tips to help you out with the city’s transport system.


(Photo by Garton)

Taxis in Buenos Aires are black with a yellow roof. You can hail them from the street or call a taxi company to have one pick you up (the safest method).  Available cabs have a red light on their window on and once inside they have a digital clock that shows the amount of money you have to pay. During the day the initial meter is 7.30 pesos and then 73cents/200 meters, at night the initial meter is 8.70 pesos and then 87c/200m.  If you’re going to the outskirts of the city (provincia), keep in mind that they may charge you extra for the return since they’re not allowed to pick up passengers outside of Capital Federal. An alternative option in the outskirts is to take a remis, which are private cars that you can ask for in a remiseria. They don’t charge the return and work with different rates.


(Photo by Armando Maynez)

The city has a pretty extensive metro (subte) system, which is very practical and will take you quickly across the city. Subway rush hours can be daunting though (8-9am and 6-8pm) so avoid them if you don’t like the idea of being squashed in a crowd, also, always beware of pickpockets. A copy of the subway map is available here, and subway timetables here.

Buses or colectivos

(Photo by mehan)

Buenos Aires has a very large network of buses identified by number and color. Tickets can be bought with coins and fares will depend on the bus line and distance but usually range between 1.10 – 2.00 pesos. When you get on the bus (after hailing with your hand at the corresponding bus stop) let the bus driver know the street you’re getting off on and then he will enter the amount in the ticket machine. Most buses stop every 2-3 blocks and you have to ring the bell by the back door to announce that you want the bus to stop. Basic bus protocol is: respect the line at the bus stop, be willing to offer your seat to pregnant women, adults with very small children, older people and people with handicaps.

Now, how to know which bus to take? There are two ways, through the Internet or with the Guia T or Guía Filcar which can be purchased for around 10 pesos at any newspaper stand. In the Guias, first look for the street and approximate numbering of your location on the street list. There you will find a map and grid number. Go to the map and on the grid you will find all the buses that pass through the area. Then look for the street and numbering of the place you are going to, locate the map and grid and find which bus numbers coincide. Finally go to the back of the Guía and look for the bus number where its route will be detailed.

Online there is also a webpage that helps you find the best transport to get to your destination. To find the best public transport option click on the left hand corner where it says “En Colectivo, Tren o Subte.” There you will be asked to introduce the address where you are parting from. First it will ask you for calle (street name), Altura o Esquina (numbering or cornering street), Provincia and Localidad (Anywhere in the city center is always Capital Federal). Click on Siguiente Paso and introduce the same information for your destination. Finally, the webpage will ask you how many blocks you’re willing to walk (¿cuantas cuadras estas dispuesto a caminar?) and what you prefer (¿que preferis?) which usually just gives you one option- the quickest (ir de la forma mas rapido). When you press continue you will get a few possible results with where to get on, where to get off and duration of the ride.


(Photo by Flodigrip´s world)

Traveling by train is a quick option to get around in the city and there are two lines, Mitre and Sarmiento.  The Mitre has branches from Retiro train station to the north of Buenos Aires and has a train line that also goes to Rosario, and the Sarmiento line goes to the West and South from the terminal in Once. More information on timetables and routes here.

Next to the Retiro train station is also the long distance bus terminal.