This should be easy right? You just hold up your hand and a taxi stops. You jump in, taxi takes you to your destination and you pay. End of process and go on with your day.
If you came to Buenos Aires and you believe this, then I have an island to sell you.
Know when to grab a taxi:
If it is raining or it’s the rush hour, forget about that and go out into the street to hail a cab instead. Whilst Buenos Aires is relatively safe by Latin American standards, it is important to remember some basic safety precautions. Wearing flashy jewelry, camcorders etc will get attention anywhere you go, but in neighborhoods like the Once bus station or San Telmo, you’re asking for trouble. Also never take a taxi straight after getting out out an ATM, bank or the like. It’s all about being discreet and not drawing undue attention to yourself.
Remember what I said about rain; well any place where the drainage is suspect or not cleaned regularly, will flood. For instance, today in Buenos Aires, 5cm of rain fell and parts of Avenida Santa Fe and Avenida Alevear flooded! This are posh streets here and yet they flooded, never mind taking the bus in a thunderstorm.
Be smart not paranoid:
99% of the time, your gut will steer you right. If you don’t feel right about a taxi, then polite decline, make an excuse or run back into the shop. That being sad, everyone is not out to rob you or pass you fake money. It is all about being aware and looking the part. Most taxi drivers in Buenos Aires will engage you in a bit of conversation, they will at least ask where you’re from (every taxi I took by myself, invariable ended up with those questions, with the pleased reaction when I say “Trinidad y Tobago”), but of course even if you speak spanish, you probably won’t speak porteno spanish, so they will immediately know that you are a foreigner. I never think it is wise to lie about this, even if you think they will take you around. My experience after many countries of travelling has been to be honest and expect honesty – don’t let the paranoid stories make you afraid of everyone. The key here is be smart…..
Meter makes it better:
When in doubt do call a radio taxi! Radio taxi’s are registered taxis and the securest type of taxi in the city. Make sure that the meter is off when you get in and that he resets the meter when you start your journey and make sure that the driver is charging you with the meter (cheaper than a quoted price), unless you are going to the EZE or Aeropuerto or a destination similar whereas then you should have a quote from the person on the phone reserving the taxi.
Taxis in Buenos Aires are cheap:
No matter where you are in Buenos Aires, if you start seeing a taxi ride going above more than 20 pesos, ask him where he is going or confirm with him that he knows where you are going. A couple times here, the taxi driver did not understand “Marriott Plaza” or “Recoleta” or “MALBA” and started either on the wrong route or the bill got a bit much. My approach in every case was to restate where I was going, point to the meter and make the confused face … every single time the taxi driver reduced the rate to something reasonable or expected.
More baggage or pants means more waiting:
Portenos cab drivers are notorious for ignoring guys, foreigners or people with lots of bag or trolleys. I thought it was a joke, until it happened to me over and over and over. Of course, being a big guy with a backpack is not baggage, but why would they pick me instead of the pretty blonde in the short pants. I’m over it now, I just wait extra and move on. I do curse in mind, but I understand, it is what it is 🙂
Grey power rocks in Buenos Aires:
The best taxi drivers in the city are the one who have been doing it for all their life. The drivers are insane in Buenos Aires and you will see something in cabs that are out of NASCAR or F1. Porteno taxi driver can do any of the following
- Deliberately cut across other taxi drive
- Make lane signals with only a hand movement
- Invent completely new lanes in a two lane road or 8 lane autopista
- Swear in spanish and english at anything else moving on the road
- Weave in and out of pedestrian flow
- Ignore zebra stripes on the road and maneuver themselves through the other traffic
- Think that taxis can crush trucks
Thankfully, the old taxi drivers, will do all of this but you will feel confident that he knows what he is doing. This is the key, if a taxi driver makes it in Buenos Aires till he has grey hair, this guy will be an awesome taxi driver.
Coming in late at night in the airport :
Book a taxi with the guys inside the airport. Nuff said. You wouldn’t take an unlicensed cab in London, Mumbai, New York or Port of Spain, why would you do in Latin America???? If in doubt, please re-read the post.
Note these are tips not specific to Buenos Aires, but really tips that apply anywhere else in the world, but that I have applied for my time here in Buenos Aires.