5 Favorite Things About The Subte

Posted on August 6, 2010 by Vivi in VISIT BUENOS AIRES

Subte is the Argentine word for Subway.  Here is the Buenos Aires Subte Map:

Buenos Aires Subway Map

5.  Mercado Libre (free market)

Do you ever think, ‘hmmm, I really could use a new pair of socks, but I don’t have time to go to the store!’  The entrepreneurial poor in Buenos Aires have found a solution to that problem.  They sell socks on the subte.  Subte cars are constantly patrolled by independent venders selling random knickknacks – socks, pens, gum, magazines, etc.  Often they will pass quickly through the car, placing their product on your knee.  They come back around to collect money should one wish to make a purchase.  If not, simply hand the product back.

4. Bootleg DVDs

One great product that is commonly sold by subte vendors are bootleg DVDs.  Yes, I mean the old fashioned kind where some brave soul sneaks a video camera into a movie theater.  Obviously the quality is less than optimal, but the price is fantastic – usually around 4 pesos per DVD.  That is less than a dollar.

3. Shaking Hands with Homeless Kids

Buenos Aires has an unfortunate presence of homeless street kids.  They often beg on the subte.  They come around to each person offering their hand to shake.  You can refuse, but if you do shake it they will give you a little greeting card, similar to an elementary school valentine.  Sometimes there will be a small note attached asking for a spare coin to purchase food.  When the kid comes back around, you can give him the card back, or keep the card and give him a coin.

2. Live Music

Rush hour subways are always well stocked with karaoke jam bands.  Common performances include whistling man who beats his drum, Mr Reggae sing along and Brazilian drummers with an act to sell.  Musicians play a few songs, come around asking for coins and move on to the next car.  Thanks for making live music so affordable!

1. Crowds

Have you ever seen the youtube videos of how they load people onto the subway in Japan?  They show glove wearing attendants literally shoving people as tight as possible into a subway car.  My own personal hell.  Well in Buenos Aires there are no gloved attendants, so just shove yourself onto the crowded car.  It took me a few months to get used to being touched by several people, all breathing on me and swaying together with the movement of the subway.

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