Buenos Aires in particular, with its 40,000 cabs, is one of the best cities in the world to take a taxi.
The black and yellow cars abound — there is one car for every 80 inhabitants — and it’s fairly easy to hail one on any major avenue, rain or shine.
The only time it is difficult to get a taxi in central Buenos Aires or other large cities is when the subway or the bus lines shut down due to protests or flooding and all the wayward passengers decide to hail a cab at the same time.
Buenos Aires How-To: Hailing or Calling a Taxi
To summon a taxi on the street, look for cabs that have the red light turned on that says ‘LIBRE‘ in the corner of the windshield.
Make sure you are on the right-hand side of the avenue and try to select a place where the taxi will have room to stop safely — it’s best if you’re not in front of a bus stop.
To be on the safe side, try to hail an ‘official’ taxi, which can be distinguished by the words ‘radio taxi’ on the top of the car and logos on the back and front doors.
These are taxis that work for a company, instead of independently, meaning if there is any dispute with the driver you can call the company to complain.
The fact that they work for a company makes them less anonymous than ‘freelance gypsy cabs,’ and are thus considered a safer option.
Remises vs Radio Taxi
It is even safer to call a Remis or Radio Taxi on the phone or through an app, because the cabbie’s number and your pick-up address are registered on a computer.
When a radio taxi is called the price is quoted on the phone, but they do tend to be more expensive than cabs that use a meter and you have to call them in advance.
Smartphone users can call a ride using an app such as Easy Taxi, Uber, or BA Taxi.
Pet owners will be interested to know that Easy Taxi also has a service called Easy Mascota which shows cars allowing pets.
Small Change & Taxi Scams
Before getting into a taxi you’ll want to make sure that you have smaller bills to pay your fare.
Finding change in Buenos Aires is a big problem (although not as much as it used to be) thus a taxi driver may not have change for a 1000 or even a 500 note.
In a blue moon, a shifty driver may take the large note the customer pays with and switch it out with a counterfeit note before telling you he doesn’t have change.
If you only have 500’s or 1000’s on you, make sure you ask the driver if they have change before you get in the cab (bearing in mind that it is unlikely they will want to change a $1000 bill due to Argentina’s currency issues).
Once you get into the cab make sure the taxi driver turns on the meter.
In Buenos Aires the meter increases every 200 meters or 30 seconds of idle waiting time.
Giving Directions to Taxi Drivers
While most of the taxi drivers of Buenos Aires are honest, occasionally a cab driver may take a route that seems illogical or drive you into the middle of a traffic jam.
Part of his act will be to appear incredulous — like he had just no idea that a protest would be blocking the street, even though he’s currently blaring news on the radio.
The more you know where you are going and how to get there, the less this will happen.
Those who have a data plan for their phone can track the ride on Google Maps.
Feel free to suggest a preferred route to the driver to prevent getting an unintentional ‘city tour.’
Even if you don’t know the exact route, you can at least pretend that you do.
Often the driver will ask you whether you want to take one street or another. He may ask, for example, “Corrientes o Rivadavia?”
Instead of saying that you don’t know, answer with a firm, “Corrientes!” The two routes are likely to be fairly similar in distance so the price won’t change much if you choose the longer option, but at least you will give the impression that you know your way around, and he’s less likely to take you on a ‘gringo tour.‘
The most common way locals give directions to taxi drivers is to name the street and the nearest cross street of their destination, rather than a street number.
It’s often easier to tell the driver, “Vamos hasta Uruguay y Santa Fe” (Let’s go to the corner of Uruguay and Sante Fe Streets), rather than saying, “Uruguay 1245″, for example. Naming the cross streets instead of stating the address also leaves less room for economically-motivated ‘confusion.’
Riders should be aware that there are many one-way streets in Buenos Aires and left turns aren’t usually permitted, so sometimes it is more convenient to just get out and walk half a block near your destination instead of waiting for the cab driver to go around the whole block.
If your Argentine Spanish is up to par you will probably find Buenos Aires cab drivers to be rather entertaining and opinionated conversationalists — get them going about football or politics for a good laugh, or to learn some new Lunfardo.
The vast majority of taxis in Buenos Aires only take cash, but the newish app rolled out by the city called BA Taxi allows users to request a taxi through their smartphone and pay with a credit card.
Unfortunately, the BA Taxi is app is only available in Spanish.
While Uber is on unstable legal ground in Argentina, some foreigners prefer it because the app not only allows credit card payment but it also can be used in English and many other languages.
Getting a Taxi from the Airport to Downtown Buenos Aires
As we detail in our post about airport pickup, Buenos Aires’ international airport Ministro Pistarini International Airport (Ezeiza) is 35k from downtown and there is no train or subway to get to the city. The only public transportation option is the public bus #8, which takes two hours.
There are three shuttle bus options, Manual Tienda León, Aerobus Ezeiza and Minibus Ezeiza, which run every thirty minutes during office hours.
The shuttle option will cost about the third of the cost of a taxi for a single traveler, but the total will cost more than a private taxi for three or four people. The shuttles have an additional charge for each piece of luggage as well.
To get the shuttle bus you may need to walk 60 meters onto the roadway to the same bus stop as the public bus.
It is not recommended to just hail a cab waiting outside the airport (even locals don’t do it) because of Buenos Aires’ infamous taxi ‘mafia’.
One option to get a taxi is the taxi stands, including auto-service stations with touchscreens, to hire an official taxi.
The taxi stands are on the left-hand side as you come out of the customs area. The only drawback to the taxistand option is there is usually a wait for the taxi and they tend to have a surcharge if you pay with a credit card instead of cash.
As detailed in our post about ride-sharing apps, Uber doesn’t work at the airport, but there is an app called BA Taxi that allows credit card payment. Make sure to request the taxi ahead of time so that you don’t have to wait.
✈ Alternately, Wander Argentina provides fast, safe airport pickup and we can sometimes provide private money change services, so that our clients can avoid the notoriously high ATM fees or the bad conversion rate at the airport currency exchange.
Do you Tip Taxi Drivers?
Tipping cab drivers is not customary in Buenos Aires, although most passengers round up to the nearest convenient amount.
→ Read about ride-hailing apps such as Ba Taxi, Uber and Cabify here.