El Colectivo

El Colectivo” needs a special post because we have established a love/hate relationship throughout my stay here.

Coming from NYC to Argentina, I am not a stranger to taking buses, subways, taxi or just walking. It is the only way I commute everywhere in NYC and the same in Argentina. The first thing I learned is how to call the bus. In my Spanish is “Autobus” but in Buenos Aires they call it “Colectivo”. I thought it was such a funny name but it started to make sense. It is a bus that collects people!!!

I was told not to take the SubTe (Subway) in rush hours because it gets super packed and it does not have heat or air conditioning.  I don’t mind crowed subways since I am used to by taking the green line in NYC, but without AC or ventilation, it’s just crazy. Nonetheless, I have my “colectivo” option.

The first time I took the colectivo, I took the 152 to go to work. I had to have exact change in order to get on the bus and used a website that they have that tells you all the routes on how to get to any place in Buenos Aires: mapa.buenosaires.gob.ar. I have to say that website rocks…it is like google map in the US but in Buenos Aires.  There are so many options when it comes to public transportation that you can easily get lost. This website is my best friend here!

Just to summarize my impressions on my first ride, it was so crowded I hardly made it in, I worked all my muscles, got really acquainted with everyone around me since I ended up on top of some people and learned that I really needed to push everyone to exit the bus, otherwise the bus driver would shut the door before you get out and you Empty 152...would have to wait for another two or three blocks. Getting out is almost harder than getting in.  Since you need to exit through the back door you really push everyone on the way to make it on time, even if this means getting up before your actual stop.  I was so sore the next day and I never realized was due to the many intense breaks the bus driver made and the push I got from people.

People asked me why you didn’t take a taxi or why I still don’t do it as much. Of course taxi’ing could be cheaper than NYC but the way I see it is I pay $1.25 ($0.25 USD) pesos for the colectivo and $25 pesos ($6 USD) for a taxi. We are talking about 2000% increment.

So, I would like to share some best practices I have learned in order to have a more enjoyable experience in the colectivo:

    • Get a Sube card so you can reload it or have the exact change. There are so many issues with change here specially. I have gotten responses like: ”The bank does not work today so I can’t give you change”
    • No matter what I always pay $1.20. Not to be cheap but the way it works is that you tell the driver how much you paid. I have heard $0.90 cents to $1.25, and no one validates it. Of course I have tested all the prices: $0.90, $1, $1.10, $1.20 and $1.25 and I have never had any issues. So, I decided to keep it constant between $1.10 and$ 1.20. Unless the colectivo is empty and they could question if it is a long trip, if that is the case I tell them where I am going so they can tell me how much it is 🙂
    • Position yourself close to the exit door when you have at least 10 blocks to go so you can have time enough to get off. Or be ready to yell at the bus driver to wait
    • Everyone should do this but I have such bad experience in NYC that I was not as hesitant to do it. Always give your seat to an elderly, child or pregnant woman. Don’t worry if you haven’t figure it out they are pregnant they will be very vocal about it. I have gotten yelled at once since I kind of passed out in my seat and I didn’t realize there was an elderly person on the bus.
    • My friends that are shorter than me tell me that they need to position strategically in some places since the bars are too high for them. You have to have something to hold to, or you will end up… rolling around the bus when it breaks or turns.
    • Make sure you know where you are going prior getting in the colectivo because people might not be willing to have the time to explain if you ask. Specially note that some lines have different sublines. They call it “ramales”.
    • Always have cash with you. If you are just lost get off in a big avenue or ask the bus driver (if you are lucky) and take a cab back.
    • Last but not least… Watch your stuff
      • Avoid carrying big bags or loads, the colectivo is cheap and convenient, but it´s not comfortable

Overall, I have had good experience and gone everywhere in colectivo, SubTe, train (this option is my least favorite) and taxi and I am able to jam my music during my commute. I hope it stays the same for the rest of my trip. I do have to say that I am impressed to find people reading a book while standing in the bus. Even when I sitting down I am trying to balance myself.

To be honest the fact the public system works in a Latin American country is amazing to me. Furthermore, most of the buses are equipped to assist handicap people!!! Super plus!

Anyone who has other tips that could be helpful are more than welcome to post!