Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be very aggressive, especially in Buenos Aires, and frequently ignore traffic regulations. The one rule that seems to be adhered to, however, is no right turn on a red light. U.S. driver’s licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but you need an Argentine license or an International Driver’s Permit to drive in the rest of the country.
Fuel is expensive at about $1 per liter ($4 per gallon). A car that uses gasoil (as the name implies, a hybrid fuel of gas and oil) is the cheaper option fuel-wise, about 15% cheaper than regular unleaded gasoline. Many cars in Argentina also operate on natural gas. When refueling cars of this kind, you and all passengers will be required to get out of the car to protect you from the possibility of leaks or explosions.
If you’re a confident driver, you shouldn’t find Buenos Aires too daunting to tackle by car – indeed, once you’ve got the hang of the street system, the city can feel like a straightforward place to zip around. With a few exceptions – notably Avenida 9 de Julio and Avenida del Libertador – the streets are one way, with the direction (which alternates street by street) marked on the street signs with an arrow. Traffic tends to move quickly, with split-second hesitation at green lights punished by a wall of impatient honking. Heavy congestion during the rush hour is the norm, however, and slows traffic down to a painful crawl.
The local technique for crossing the city’s numerous traffic-lightless intersections at night is to slow down and flash your lights to warn drivers of your approach. Be prepared to give way if the other driver looks more determined and never take it for granted that a speeding bus will respect your trajectory: accidents involving buses regularly make the headlines.
Parking within the area bounded by Avenida Pueyrredón, Belgrano, Avenida Huergo and Libertador (known as the macrocentro) is controlled by parking meters (parquímetros) on weekdays between 7am and 9pm and Saturdays from 9am to 1pm. Tokens (fichas) can be bought from kiosks. Your other option is in one of the estacionamientos, or car parks, which are numerous throughout the city center; look out for the flag-waving dummies marking the entrance. Hotel parking is generally only offered at mid- to upper-range establishments, costing around $10 to $15 per day. The area known as the microcentro, bounded by Avenida de Mayo, Avenida L.N. Além, Avenida Corrientes and Avenida 9 de Julio, is closed to private traffic between 7am and 9pm.
The United States Department of State authorizes the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance (AATA) as the only entities to issue International Driving Permits (IDPs). The AATA offers IDPs through the National Automobile Club (NAC). Other so-called IDPs are fraudulent and should be reported to proper authorities such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
National Automobile Club
American Automobile Association
For licensing information in Buenos Aires, contact the Automóvil Club Argentino (ACA), Av. del Libertador 1850 (54-11-4802-6061). The ACA has working arrangements with international automobile clubs and offers numerous services, including roadside assistance, road maps, hotel and camping information, and discounts for various tourist activities.
Americans living in Argentina can obtain an Argentine drivers license at the following location:
Dirección de Habilitación de Conductores de Vehículos
Av. Roca 5252, Villa Lugano
– US passport
– US driver’s license
– Argentine D.N.I. (National Identity Document)
– Certificate of domicile within the Federal Capital