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May 11, 2017updated 19 Jul 2021 11:43am

So what’s the Buenos Aires metro system like?

By Oliver Griffin

Alright, we all know you come here for information about underground transport systems, and that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Without further ado, let’s start learning you a thing or two about Subte, Buenos Aires’ underground system; the thirteenth largest subway network in the world.

First, history. Much like the District Line, the Subte was a long time coming. Porterños – the inhabitants of Buenos Aires – had been talking about building an underground network since the late 1800s. Really, this is no surprise, given that the tram network operator was the Anglo-Argentine Tramways Company, and London had just recently opened its own underground.

With a large tram network, many considered an underground system to be unnecessary. Nonetheless, the first stage of the new network opened in 1913, becoming the first underground rail system in Latin America, the first in southern hemisphere, and the first in the Spanish speaking world. (Madrid’s arrived five years later.)

A geographical map, with planned extensions in grey. Image: JoshuaPers/Wikimedia.

The Subte system boasts six lines — A, B, C, D, E and H — with 86 stations that extend finger like from the area near the Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosado (yep, “The Pink House”, where the president lives). While, technically speaking, many of the lines intersect with each other, they only do so at the extreme eastern edge of the network. In land, only the C and H lines, which act like barriers to catch wayward tourists, have any chance of returning you to the line you want to be on should you lose your way. As such, vigilance is an important part of riding the Subte – especially since it is not always possible to change directions without paying for a new journey if you find yourself heading the wrong way.

There’s also a ‘P’ line, which intersects at the end of the E line. The P stands for PreMetro, which is a 7.4km tramway that runs along the outskirts of Buenos Aires. While not technically part of the Subte subway network, it does appear on the map and passengers can use their Subte cards (basically an Oyster card) on both, as well as buses and other public transport.

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The architecture of the stations has been copied from the A line ever since its inauguration over 100 years ago, keeping the theme running across the entire network. Originally owned by the state, the Subte system was privatised in 1944, the same year that the E line was officially opened. The most recent line, H, was officially opened in 2007. Now, some 10 years later, it is due to be extended with an additional 20 trains running on the line.

While not as large as the Tube, or serving quite so many people, the Subte can still get suitably rammed during the rush hour period. In that time, you’re just as likely to find your face wedged into someone else’s armpit as you are on the Central Line. There are considerably more buskers, who operate like those you’ll see in the New York Metro. Additionally, it’s not uncommon to see a small group set up a literal band — complete with drum kit — in the space between the doors. They do appear to move when the train stops but, on the occasion that they don’t, be careful not to trip on your way out. 

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