This topic couldn’t be avoided. It is what expats and tourists complain about the most, it is not just dangerous. It is chaotic. I have never really heard Argentines complain. Did I miss that? Or is traffic something that really does not bother them?

I am probably not the right person to write about this. I am Belgian. Not so long ago I read an article and saw the statistics of dangerous traffic in Europe. Belgium was number one. But if someone would have asked me if traffic was dangerous, I would have been genuinely surprised and would have said, beyond any doubt, that it isn’t.

Of course the traffic rules here are the same as anywhere else in the world. But slightly adapted. And when you know them, you realise traffic isn’t that bad after all. In fact I find Belgians far more aggressive.

For example priority from right exists, but it depends on what car you, and the other one, are driving. Usually it is the newest, most expensive or nicest car that gives way to the other. Just to be sure. You should stop in front of a red light, but it is not such a big deal if the orange switches to red just when you pass it, or right before. And if you get caught by a camera, you can always try and convince the police of the circumstances beyond your control, like having to let pass an ambulance. It might help. Not that I ever tried that. Crossing the red light would be like crossing the line. I don’t think I could ever do that. Once you leave Capital, it is more common to not stop. Sometimes because there just never comes anyone from the other street, sometimes because it is more dangerous to stop then to keep on driving.

As a tourist, I never wanted to drive here. Not so much because the traffic scared me, but because I was afraid to get lost. The day we decided to move here I realised I had to take the jump. I put on my turn signal to go to the right and I waited patiently until someone would let me pass, until my husband told me that we if I don’t push myself into the other lane, we would never get to our destination. Really? Pushing is all I have to do? I am good at pushing, after all, don’t forget, I am Belgian. But not truly convinced about the safety I tried it here, hesitantly, and yes. They actually just let you pass. Without angry signs. Unlike Belgium.

If you push hard enough you can get just anything done. You are on the left lane of 7 and you need to take the first street on your right? No problem. Just go for it. Open your window and stretch out your arm in the direction you want to go is always very effective. Of course this is easier if you have to turn left.

The most important rule however, is that everyone driving in front of you has priority. You never have to turn your head more then 45°, never have to look in your rear view mirror, unless to spot bikers. When you look to your side, and the driver next to you is behind you, you have priority and you can go into his lane. He lets you pass. On the other hand, if he is just a bit ahead of you, you should let him pass in front of you when he wants to. With this rule it is really easy to drive in BA, to switch lanes all the time without having accidents. And actually, it is fun!

This is where the story of one of my readers Recoleta comes in. 2 Cars having to go into the opposite direction, the one on the left wants to go right and vice versa. Neither of them wants the let the other one go ahead as that means he is losing his priority. It is just a fight of who gets first. Usually it is the one who cares most about his car that wins this game.

But “Ojo!” with collectivos (busses). They have their own rules. They just drive. Never lose sight of them. Avoid them. Stay away from them. They just hit you. Like they hit me. And they keep on driving. All you can do is curse and swear, and get your car repaired….

Buenos Aires Traffic. Not so bad after all?

2 responses to “chaos?”

  1. I think your post is yet another proof that people get used to even the most abnormal circumstances… I like the way you have codified the unwritten rules but, still, I think traffic in Buenos Aires is just another manifestation of the lawlessness of the place and I am sure it has a price. Did you try to look at accident/deaths statistics from Argentina compared to other countries (normalized for number of cars, etc.)? Come to think of it, these numbers should also reflect the bad infrastructure, especially intra-city.

    BTW thanks for the mention 😉

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