Driving in Argentina
There are some similarities and several significant differences between driving in Argentina and the United States. Drivers drive on the right side of the road and many traffic signs are easily understood, although they are all in Spanish. However, drivers in Argentina are known to be aggressive, and true defensive driving must be practiced. Some laws are applied loosely (like right-of-way and toll laws), while others, like driving under the influence of drugs or using someone's headlights, are strictly enforced.
Regardless, it is best to have all the documented paperwork and necessary safety tools with you before hitting the road. Do some research and see if you really need a car, or you can count on public transportation and taxis for the duration of your trip. If you have to rent a car, beware of the rags (informal workers who charge to watch your car in public spaces) and dishonest policemen who ask for fines on the spot.
Discover All You Need to Know About Driving in Argentina
To drive in Argentina, you will need to have a valid driver's license from your home country. It is not necessary to obtain an international driver's license. You will need to have registration and proof of insurance. You can purchase insurance from your rental company or use your credit card coverage for travel. However, you may need to deny the protection of the rental company to use your credit card insurance for travel. Check with your credit card company before traveling.
It is also a good idea to bring a copy of your rental agreement. Legally, you will need various tools and other equipment when driving.
You can rent a car if you are over 21 and a motorcycle if you are over 25. If you are between 18 and 24, some companies may rent a vehicle for you, but require an additional fee.
Checklist for driving in Argentina
- Valid driver's license (required)
- Vehicle registration document (mandatory)
- Proof of insurance (required)
- First aid kit, fire extinguisher, two warning triangles, wrench, and a tire jack (required)
- A rental company contract (recommended)
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Rules of the Road
Be vigilant and calm while driving. Tailgating is standard, as is road rage. Familiarize yourself with the laws and how they are strictly enforced (or not) so you have a better idea of what to expect on the road.
- Speed Limits: Speed limits vary. In urban areas it is usually 40 to 60 km / h (25 to 37 mph). In rural areas, the speed is 110 km / h (68 mph) and, on highways, 120 to 130 km / h (74.5 to 81 mph).
- Headlights: You should always keep your lights on while driving. If they are turned off, even during the day, it is illegal.
- Priority: In urbanized areas, many intersections (except the main ones) do not have traffic signals. You may see a stop sign occasionally, but in most cases there won't be one. Who has the right of way will not be apparent. At the intersection of a main road and a minor road, those coming from the main road generally take the right-of-way. At some intersections, the car on the right is theoretically preferred, but generally, it is the car that arrives first and goes straight ahead, the one that goes first. If in doubt, most drivers will take it as a sign that they have priority. Frankly, the most aggressive tend to go first. Drive defensively to avoid an accident.
- Left turns: Left turns are not allowed on major roads unless explicitly stated.
- Toll Roads: Many of the main roads in and around cities are toll roads. Tolls can be paid in cash at toll booths along the roads. If there is a significant reserve at the toll booths (and sizable horns from the waiting drivers), attendants sometimes open the barrier for car-free passage.
- Road Signs: Many of the road signs are pictograms that are used internationally (like a red octagonal sign). All traffic signs are in Spanish.
- Seat belts: By law, everyone in the car must wear a seat belt. Children under 12 years old must be properly secured in vehicles (with booster seats or cushions if necessary), and only those over 12 years old can ride in the front seat.
- Cell Phones: You can only talk on the cell phone hands-free while driving.
- Drinking and Driving: The legal limit for blood alcohol is 50 milligrams per 100 milligrams of blood (blood level 0.05%) for those who drive. For those who ride a motorcycle, it is 20 milligrams (blood level 0.02%).
- Service stations: if you are ordering gasoline in Argentina, say "gasoline" and not "gasoline". Gas stations abound in cities like Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Córdoba. However, if you are driving through remote stretches, especially in the interior of Patagonia, carry extra gas as the stations are scarce.
- Immediate fines: It is illegal for a police officer to ask you for a local fine. If there is a reason to be fined, the officer must issue a fine that he can pay at a police station or bank. The northeast of the country (mainly Entre Ríos) is known for traffic scams. Even if an official says that the ticket will be more expensive and his vehicle will be towed if he does not pay on the spot, he insists that a formal ticket be issued. After all, he could end up without a ticket.
- In case of emergency: If you need to contact emergency services in Argentina for any reason, call 911. Specific numbers for the service are 101 for the police, 100 for the fire department and 107 for an ambulance. In an emergency, position the warning triangles 30 meters (98.5 feet) in front of and behind the vehicle and turn on the hazard lights. If you are in an accident, consider calling your hotel or host for help and assistance with towing. Oftentimes, a local connection will prevent you from being a tourist.
Should you rent a car?
If you plan to stay in cities predominantly, especially Buenos Aires, it is not advisable to rent a car. Most of the time, public transportation, taxis, or walking are much cheaper, more efficient, and less stressful than renting a car. However, if you are traveling between cities or driving through Patagonia in particular, it is advisable to rent a car. Some activities, such as the Route of the Seven Lakes on the outskirts of Bariloche, would be difficult to do without a car. Car rental also gives you time to explore at your own pace and go on hikes that would otherwise be difficult to reach.
Most rental cars are on a fixed shift in Argentina. If you only drive automatically, reserve your car well in advance. Keep in mind that renting vending machines generally costs more than a manual gearbox. Also, if you're driving through particularly hairy stretches of remote terrain, request a four-wheel-drive vehicle. Some back roads are mostly gravel and tend to get muddy quickly when it starts to rain.
To park in a parking lot, look for a giant "E" sign and the words "parking," which means garage in Spanish. These parking lots have fixed rates for different periods and can be paid in cash. There is free parking on city streets, although some roads have specific hours when parking is not allowed. It is illegal to park in the opposite direction on a one-way street.
Trapitos, mostly informal workers who charge drivers money to "watch over" their cars in public spaces, can be found on the streets to park for free. When drivers refuse to pay for this service, they can return to the vehicle and find it locked or damaged. Rags are generally illegal unless they have an ID card on their chest. If one of them comes up to you and you can't leave, the best thing you can do is give them a small amount of money. It can often be traded up to a peso equivalent to $ 0.75.
Crossing the border to Chile
If you want to cross the border into Chile, keep in mind that not all rental companies allow it, but it is possible. The paperwork should take about four days for the company to process. You will also have to drive the car across the border to Argentina, as companies do not allow landing in Chile. Also, this whole process is a little easier in reverse, such as when driving Chile-Argentina-Chile, instead of Argentina-Chile-Argentina. The border crossing itself can also be arduous, with reported wait times of up to six hours. It is not advisable to cross at the end of the holidays as the lines tend to be longer. Plus, sailing in the morning instead of in the afternoon can save a few hours.
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