The Buenos Aires Subte, or subway, used to be the best deal in Argentina, offering what may have been the cheapest underground mass transit in the world. Last month, however, backpackers and budget travelers (not to mention Buenos Aires’ working poor) were saddened to learn that fares were rising from AR$1.10 (US$ 0.26) to AR$2.50 (US$0.58).
Fare prices had been frozen for decades, despite Argentina’s infamous inflation, thanks to massive subsidies doled out to the “private” company that runs Buenos Aires mass transit system, Metrovias. The Kirchner government is cutting off federal money in 2013, when responsibility for the Subte is handed over entirely to the city.
It’s worth noting that raising fares for the system’s 300 million annual passengers (assuming ride numbers don’t drop significantly in the wake of a 127% increase) will only net and extra US$92 million in 2012, well short of the estimated US$167 million the federal government provided in 2011. Though no further fare increases have been announced, they seem inevitable.
The Argentine capital’s population, predictably, protested the fare hike. Even the 3000-strong Subte workers union joined in, raising the barriers on the first day of higher prices, and allowing patrons to ride the Subte for free. Regardless, most Porteños agree that AR$2.50 is still a good deal, which includes unlimited transfers and free wifi throughout the system.
We also enthusiastically recommend riding the Subte, not only because it offers efficient, inexpensive transportation, but because it is well worth seeing. Construction on the Subte’s A line began in 1913, making it the first subway in Latin America. The oldest operating subway cars in the world, picturesque wooden “Brugeoise” carriages, with doors that passengers must open themselves, still run regularly. Many of the historic stations are home to museum-quality artwork, most notably murals rendered in gleaming azulejo tiles.
The Subte is also undergoing a massive expansion, which will add three lines and extend several others, for a total of 97km (37mi) of track. It’s still a great deal on getting around, and one of the most authentically Argentine experiences one can enjoy for only US$0.58.