WHEN TO GO
Situated on the banks of the wide, café con leche–colored Rio de la Plata and barely above sea level, Buenos Aires enjoys a mild, if sometimes muggy, coastal climate. The humid winters are cool but not severe (on July 9, 2007, porteños delighted in seeing the city's first snow for 89 years—the event was so rare that it made headline news around the world) and the transitional seasons are comfortably warm, making them the best times of year to visit. (October, however, is the rainiest month.) Avoid, if you can, the sticky Buenos Aires summer. Significant holidays (aside from Christmas, New Year's, and Easter) include April 2 (Malvinas/Falklands Day), May 9 (May Revolution Day), July 9 (Independence Day), and October 12 (Columbus Day).
HOW TO GET THERE
International flights arrive at and depart from Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, better known as Ezeiza, the airport named after the outlying suburb in which it's located. Ezeiza is about 20 miles southwest of the city, so expect about a 45-minute ride by taxi or remise (car service) to get you downtown (75 minutes during rush hour). Note that many regional flights to and from Brazil, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay—in addition to points around Argentina—are routed via B.A.'s domestic airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, which is located in the Costanera Norte district (about 10 minutes from downtown). Flight information for Ezeiza and Aeroparque: 54-11-5480-6111.
Several passenger rail stations around Buenos Aires service the city's suburbs, but few long-distance services survived rail privatization and service cut-backs in the 1990s. The few lines still running are not recommended for visitors: schedules are unreliable, robbery aboard ill-lit and poorly guarded trains is rife, and journey times are significantly longer than in long-distance buses.
Buenos Aires' bus terminal, or Estación Terminal de Omnibus (1680 Avenida Ramos Mejía), is located in the Retiro section of downtown, next to the Retiro train station. There are 120-odd companies that operate out of Retiro, with myriad services heading out to every province of the country, as well as other points around South America. There are three levels of service: plebian común (often known as semi-cama); and diferencial (a.k.a. cama ejecutiva), which includes a comfortable, fold-down seat, and sometimes food; cama suite, where passengers ride in individual booths with beds that fold horizontal—a much-needed upgrade for lengthy jaunts to Patagonia. Passenger information: 54-11-4310-0700.
Passenger ferry service, Buquebus, is available between B.A. and points in Uruguay (including Montevideo) at the passenger port of Dársena Norte in Puerto Madero (corner of Avenida Córdoba and Avenida Alicia Moreau de Justo).
Navigating Buenos Aires is a snap. Like most major metropolises, B.A. enjoys an extensive public transportation system, which, for the most part, is safe and functional.
Subway: The Buenos Aires subway—known as the Subte—opened in 1913, making it the oldest underground rail network in South America. Now operated by Metrovías, the Subte's six lines—A, B, C, D, E and the newest, H—cover the city well. One drawback is that four of the six lines (A, B, D, E) fan out from El Centro to outlying barrios, so connections between them can be problematic—a hitch the slowly lengthening H line is designed to correct. A single journey costs a mere 70 centavos to anywhere in the network; magnetic card tickets for multiple journeys can be purchased at the stations. B.A. has yet to launch an integrated subway/bus/train card, but the free-to-subscribe Monedero and Sube cash cards work on the subway and some bus lines.
Buses: The typical B.A. bus—or colectivo—cuts a retro figure as it careens around the city, belching fumes and often coming close to mowing down unwitting pedestrians. With more than 140 lines running multiple routes throughout the city and frequent 24-hour service, the bus remains a popular choice for getting from point A to point B. Typical fares cost from one to two pesos, depending on the journey's length; fares generally rise each January. Bus maps and guides (known universally as the Guía T) are available at most newsstands. Bus information: 54-11-4819-3000.
Taxis: The black-and-yellow B.A. taxi is a familiar sight on the town's calles and avenidas. Vacant cabs display a red libre light in the front window. Locals prefer to take the cabs marked "radio taxi" on the roof: Their movements are monitored by the taxi company, for the safety of both passengers and driver. Most restaurants and hotels will be happy to phone a radio taxi, rather than letting you flag down a cab yourself. A welter of fare increases in recent years have meant that cab rides are no longer ridiculously cheap, but radio taxis are still the first-choice transport option for visitors looking to maximize time and minimize hassle. Remises, which are priced on distance, not time, are best for forays out of town. Radio taxis (Mi Taxi, 54-11-4931-1200; Siglo XXI, 54-11-4633-4000); Remises (Remises Recoleta VIP, 54-11-4801-6655). Full listing: www.radiotaxisyremises.com.ar
Car Rental: To rent a car in Buenos Aires, if you're so inclined, you'll need to be over 17, with a passport, credit card, valid driver's license, and nerves of steel. Porteños—and actually all Argentineans—drive as if they're harboring NASCAR fantasies. If you're not willing to exceed the speed limit, aggressively tailgate, and change lanes without warning, driving in Argentina might not be your cup of maté. Among the larger rental chains, Avis can be found at both airports (Ezeiza, 54-11-4480-9387; Aeroparque, 54-11-4776-3003), along with Hertz (Ezeiza, 54-11-4480-0054; Aeroparque, 54-11-4772-2161); the chains also run downtown offices.
On Foot: With its picturesque calles, green plazas and wide, Haussmann-inspired avenidas, Buenos Aires is ideal for strolling, especially around Palermo Viejo, Recoleta, and San Telmo. Palermo's extensive parks, in particular, merit a rambling paseo (walk). In El Centro, around the Plaza de Mayo and the pedestrian-only Calle Florida, conditions can be unpleasantly bustling at rush hours and lunchtime. After nightfall, exercise caution on La Boca's side streets.
There are several tourist info centers around Buenos Aires that provide maps and bilingual advice.
Avenida Roque Sáenz Peña at Florida
200 Alicia Moreau de Justo - Dique 4
596 Avenida Quintana at Ortiz
Terminal de Ómnibus
Avenida Antártida Argentina at Calle 10, Office #83
Secretaría de Turismo de la Nación
833 Avenida Santa Fe, Retiro