Friday, April 20, 2007

Fun on the Subte

One of the things the Argentines have got right in Buenos Aires IMO is their underground train system, or "The Subte".

I've attached a map of the system, taken from the official Subte website, the system covers the majority of the Capital and runs from 5am to 11pm (with variatons according to line/day). You can go from anywhere to anywhere on the Subte for a flat rate of 70 centavos (approx 13pence or 25c US).

I've used the Subte practically every day in my time here and the vast majority of the time it runs beautifully. It can get very overcrowded at peak times (9am-12noon, and 4pm-8pm weekdays) and subject to occassional delays (usually due to bad weather). But of all the underground systems I've used in the world, and considering this is Argentina, the Subte here is amongst the most efficient I've experienced. I've also never encountered any problems with undesirables. In my experience Portenos overwhelming agree with me that the system is remarkable crime free. (There was a spate of rape cases during the 2006 World Cup, consequently security was upped).

As an added bonus the majority of my journies on the underground are usually accompanied by some sort of entertainment. Today for example two young men dressed in orange overalls boarded my carriage and proceeded to perform a well-rehearsed comedy act. Most passengers, including myself, enjoyed the performance and were happy to toss a few coins their way afterwards. I've also seen magicians, musicians, jugglers, singers and actors working the subte. You'll also find a lot kids/homeless selling all manner of cheap tat trying to make a few pesos.

Somewhat surprisingly for me I have rarely seen outright begging in Buenos Aires. There are beggars dotted around, but they are nearly always badly crippled or extremely old, basicaly in no fit state to work. I have however seen countless people, and even whole families, searching through the trash for anything of value (plastics, paper, cans etc). Extreme poverty is widespread here, yet even the poorest of the poor do not expect something for nothing. A marked contrast to my experiences in the UK and USA for example.


Roamer said...

Interesting. In the Dominican Republic the attitude is more of a mixture of the two.

Here, people do not expect something for nothing but, at the same time, they don't want to work. They just want money.

It's due to a mixture of lack of education, opportunity and the result is a lot of "tigres".

Perpetual_Traveller said...

Don't get me wrong, if an Argentine is presented with an opportunity to execute a 'chanta' (scam) he will exctract as much money from you as possible. If he gets away with it is as much your fault for being naive as his for being a scumbag IMO.

It may be that Argentines just don't give to healthy beggars, so there's no EV in it?!

Even in the richest parts if BA I rarely see anyone with their hands out asking for change, but do see countless selling cheap plastic crap. Maybe a ratio of (1:100).