Porteño Driving Explained

The driving in Buenos Aires is not the worst in South America, but that’s not saying much. When I first came here from Europe travelling in a bus or taxi was one of the most terrifying (or exhilarating if you’ve had a bit to drink) experiences of my life. Traffic in London seems bad when you come from Dorset, then you drive in Paris and things back home seem tame. Go from Paris to Milan or Madrid and things start to get a bit more lively. Then you arrive in Buenos Aires and nothing you’ve seen or known before applies.

When I got back here from Colombia it actually seemed tame here compared to Bogota, but nonetheless things are hectic and I am constantly amazed that more serious accidents don’t occur. Simple things here have always puzzled me like why nobody takes the blindest bit of notice of the lanes. There may be 4 painted on the road but there will be 6 cars lined up as you cross. Indicators have no link to reality. Ever. In fact it is not uncommon to see cars or driving along indicating right for 2 blocks, then the indicator stops and the car goes left.

Last week any puzzlement I may have had about why these basics are ignored was finally cleared up. Talking to some colleagues from Argentina and Holland, we were discussing the process in each country to get a driving licence. Myself and the Dutch guy talked about 15 hour long driving lessons, 30 minutes one-on-one driving tests, theory tests, the works. We then asked the Argentinian about the test here. “Test?” he answered, “I turned up on my own in my car, he made me reverse into a parking space, showed me one road sign and asked me what it meant, gave me the psychological test and got me to draw a house, a person and a tree, checked my eyesight and that was it, handed me my licence and I drove off again in my car, which wasn’t even insured.”

So there you have it, nobody here drives like they know what they are doing, because in actual fact they don’t know what they are doing.

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