The Buenos Aires subway system, or Subte, is perhaps the most inadequate and least people-friendly subway system we’ve used.  The system is poorly laid out, like a four-pronged fork joined in the east and pointing westward.  There is no connecting line in the west, so if you are in the northwest and need to get to the southwest, you must ride the line into what’s known as the Centro but is about as far east as you can get, then switch lines and head west again.  There is a short line connecting the two most southerly lines, about halfway along, and one more in the east but heading north/south.

Everything we’d read about the system before coming to Buenos Aires mentioned that it’s completely inadequate, and we’ll share some numbers to give you a feeling for it.  The Subte has 1.7 million riders daily on 32.5 miles of line, while the London Underground has 3.4 million riders daily on 250 miles of track.  So, the London Underground has twice as many riders, but spreads them out over 8 times as many miles of track.  If you’ve ever ridden the London subway you know it can be crowded, so you can imagine how much worse the Subte is.   If you think it’s unfair to compare the Subte to the Underground, consider that the Mexico City subway has 3.8 million riders, but spreads them out over 120 miles, or about 4 times as many miles of track as in Buenos Aires, and it’s a horribly crowded subway system, too.

Not only is it just not big enough, the layout of the stations really doesn’t make it easy to find where you’re going once you head downstairs to the buy your ticket. In any other subway system we’ve used, you can go downstairs from street level at any of the entrances for a particular stop, then follow the signs to the correct line and correct direction.  But here, some stations have entrances for only one direction, so if you’re heading east you must enter at this corner, and if you’re heading west you must enter at that corner.  Also, in the two places where three lines intersect, the stops for different lines have different names, so, for example, you need to get out at Diagonal Norte on the blue line to get on Carlos Pelligrini on the red line, even though it’s the same stop.

It is cheap and the trains run frequently, but that’s about all that can be said in favor of the system here.