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Buenos Aires Subte

Well-traveled visitors have seen versions in New York, London, Paris, and other major metropolises. Buenos Aires version of the underground called the Subte was opened in 1913 and was South America's first giving porteños something else to brag about. The subte was privatized in 1994 and is now run by Metrovías. The subte experience ranges from modern and clean to antique cars that feel as though they could splinter to pieces at any moment. With all its charm, the subte is a fast and convenient way to cruise around the city.

One ride on the subte costs $0.70AR and anyone planning on riding more than once should buy a multiple-ride ticket. During peak hours, the lines at the boleterías (ticket windows) look like the line for the bathroom at a Rolling Stones concert. You can buy cards with 2, 5, 10, or 30 viajes (trips) and once you use your magnetic card to roll through the turnstile, your remaining trips will be noted on the back of your card for handy reference. Once inside, you will not need your ticket again to exit.

The subte is generally non-eventful though some stations have incredible artwork and tiling and most aboveground entrances had new signage installed in 2006. Lucky travelers will experience the constant merchandising as vendors pass through cars with everything from stickers and pens, to Kleenex and holy water. Performances are not uncommon ranging from one-man bands to absolutely mind-blowing 10-year-old jugglers. The subte is always multi-sensory experience.

The subte is generally safe and easy. As always, visitors should travel sensibly. Crowded places are always a target for petty thieves and the subte is no exception. During rush hour subte cars (particularly on línea D connecting downtown with Palermo) are jam packed like sardine cans, hot, sweaty, airless, and pretty unpleasant. It is always imperative to keep a watchful eye on belongings and not travel with valuables if possible. Anyone who experiences a problem should speak to a member of staff or call the Metrovías Centro de Atención al Pasajero (Passenger Attention Center) toll-free at 0800-555-1616. As always, a little common sense goes a long way in avoiding unnecessary troubles.

The subte operates from about 5am-10pm Monday-Saturday and 8am-10pm on Sunday. This can put a damper on things, as visitors to the city likely won't finish dinner until after midnight. It's good to have taxi money handy or know your way around the colectivos if heading out for the evening. It is also important to know that on Sundays and holidays, service is far less frequent and long waits are not uncommon.

The lines are divided alphabetically and by color. Four of 5 major lines run east to west while line C runs north to south connecting the other four. The following is a breakdown of the current lines for your subte-riding pleasure:

LINEA A (light blue): Runs east to west from Avenida de Mayo in Microcentro to Primera Junta in Chacarita mostly following Avenida Rivadavia. This is the oldest line and has some groovy old wood cars for rickety traveling.

LINEA B (red): Runs east to west from Leandro N. Alem in Microcentro to Los Incas past Chacarita mostly following Avenida Corrientes.

LINEA C (dark blue): Handy north to south station connecting the other four lines. Runs from Retiro Station (connect here with bus station and suburban overland trains) in Retiro to Constitution at the plaza approximately following the path of the monstrous Avenida 9 de Julio.

LINEA D (green): Runs east to west from Catetral in Microcentro to Congreso de Tucumán in Núñez following Avenida Santa Fe and Avenida Cabildo, passing through Palermo and Belgrano along the way.

LINEA E (purple): Runs east to west from Bolivar in Microcentro to Plaza de los Virreyes in Flores following Avenida San Juan. At Plaza de los Virreyes there is a subte extension called the Premetro, which is unlikely to be used by tourists as it is of mostly commuter value.

As this is written, Metrovías have big plans for extension in lines and improvements in service so check back for future updates and buy something interesting on your next underground journey.

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