The Buenos Aires Colectivo
Colectivos (public buses) are a way of life in Buenos Aires. Whether it’s a parade of 15 number 12s bombing down Santa Fe, or a lone number 111 belching its way noisily down a narrow street in Microcentro the colectivo is integral to the daily life of your average Porteño.
For the average visitor to Buenos Aires however, buses are an incomprehensible, confusing and archaic system. There is no daily travel card, you need to ask the driver, in Spanish, for your ticket. Can I pay with a note? How much is it? Where do I get on? Where do I get off? The list of cons is seemingly far greater than the pros, especially when the Subte (metro system) is easy to understand, and failing that every vehicle that isn’t a bus is a taxi. So, who needs the bus?
However, I believe that to visit Buenos Aires without experiencing a colectivo is to miss one of the main attractions that the city has to offer. You get to see the city from a completely new angle, to see it as Argentines see it. OK, the Subte whisks you from Palermo to Plaza de Mayo in 15 fun-free, crowded, dark minutes but it’s not like you’re in a hurry!
The daily tour takes you on 2 bus rides and along the way we will:
- reveal the secrets of the Guia T city map
- unlock the mysteries of how much a trip costs
- give you tips on how to make sure you always have enough coins to pay
- tell you how to plan a trip, where to get on, where to get
- show you some of the main sights (and much more) of Buenos Aires as you have never seen them before
- save you money in the long run – you’ll never need to take a taxi again the whole time you’re here!
Who is behind Buenos Aires Local Tours?
That’d be me. My name is Jonathan, I’m English and a few years ago I left my job in Switzerland behind, put a rucksack on my back and flew to Buenos Aires. Since then I’ve travelled round a lot of South America (dutifully documented on my blog) and spent a lot of time in my favourite place of all, Buenos Aires. In my time here I’ve done some voluntary work, gone to bed far too late far too many times, worked in an office, made a lot of friends, all the while exploring and getting to know this amazing city. When I had people to stay I would often show them round the main sites, Recoleta, Microcentro, San Telmo but more often than not the parts they (and I) enjoyed the most were the times we just wandered around the less-touristy places. Both parts are important and Buenos Aires Local Tours aims to show you both. You can find some more information on me here, here and here.
So you’ll show us the Real Buenos Aires?
No. Simply because I don’t know what that is. Depending on who you speak to the “Real Buenos Aires” could be living on the 32nd floor penthouse in Puerto Madero or it could be rummaging in bins collecting cardboard to recycle. What I will show you is what other tours don’t show you, areas that will increase your understanding of this vast and complex city.
It’s not just another tour. There are lots out there, companies that do walking tours, companies who’ll herd you round in a big group, show you where the President lives and charge you a whole handful of dollars for the privilege.
Frankly, if all you want to see is the Casa Rosada (it’s the President’s Office, by the way, not her house) and the Obelisco, then my tour might not be for you. You’ve got the Lonely Planet, there’s a walking tour route in there – go for it! You’ll probably have a great day, but you’ll be missing so much!
If, on the other hand, you want to see those places and you want to take a local bus, learn about what makes Argentina tick, visit fascinating areas away from the usual tourist trail, learn some useful Spanish phrases and have fun doing then you should come along!
So, sounds great. How much?
It’s free. But I need Malbec & steak to survive so tips are welcome, but if you don’t want to tip, I don’t get angry. Promise.
Why do it for free? What’s the catch?
Honestly, there is no catch. I love Buenos Aires. I love living in Buenos Aires and I love showing people round. It’s true that I could charge a lot for this tour, there are plenty of people who charge lots to show you a lot less than I do, but I genuinely believe that by not charging I can share my love for this city with you, and hopefully help you get the most out of your time here.
How do I book?
If you’re interested (of course you are, who wouldn’t be?), take a look round the site, read the city guide, take a look at the blog, and as long as it’s not a Sunday, simply turn up at Plaza Italia at 11am. It’s that easy, no booking needed.
Apart from Sunday, are there any other days you don’t run the tour?
Yes, I take a break on the 24th and 25th December as well as the 1st January. Even if it is one of the hundreds of public holidays or if it’s raining, as long as it’s not a Sunday, I’ll be there. On the rare occasions when I can’t make it on a particular day I’ll put a note on the home page of this site.
I don’t trust free things, can I pay you money?
But, of course! I will happily organise a custom tour for you, with as much or as little input from you as you want to give, rates are competitive – use the form on the contact page for details.
So what else do I need to know?
One of the most important (and unique) parts of your time with me will be catching a colectivo. We do this for two main reasons. Firstly it allows us to see more in less time and secondly it all adds to the experience. Figuring out which bus to catch, where to get on, how to ask for a ticket and where to get off is not difficult once a few simple things have been explained. I’ll show you how and then you’re free to explore the city on your terms all you want!
However, we do ask that you bring as much change (monedas) as you can – buses only accept change.
See you soon in Plaza Italia and if you have any questions in the meantime, feel free to drop me a line.