Driving in Argentina: There are some similarities and several important differences between driving in Argentina and driving in the U.S. Drivers drive on the right side of the road, and many road signs are easily understood, even though they are all in Spanish. However, in Argentina drivers are considered offensive, and true defensive driving should be practiced. Some laws are enforced recklessly (such as the right of way law and paying tolls) while others, such as driving under the influence or using one’s headlights, are enforced heavily.
Regardless, it’s best to have all the documented paperwork and necessary car safety equipment with you before you hit the road. Do a little research and see if you really need a car, or can rely on mass transportation and taxis for the duration of your trip. If you must rent a car, beware of traitors (informal workers charging you to see your car in public places) and crooked cops who demand fines on the spot.
To drive in Argentina, you must have a valid driver’s license from your home country. It is not necessary to obtain an International Driving Permit. You must have registration and proof of insurance. You can purchase insurance from your rental agency or use your travel credit card’s coverage. However, you will probably have to deny the protection of the rental agency to use your travel credit card’s insurance. Check with your credit card company before your trip.
It’s also a good idea to carry a copy of your rental contract. Legally, you will need to have a number of tools and other equipment with you while driving.
If you are over 21 and you are over 25 then you can rent a car. If you are 18 to 24 years old, some companies will rent a vehicle to you but you will have to pay an additional fee.
Checklist for Driving in Argentina
- Valid driver’s license (required)
- Vehicle registration document (required)
- Proof of insurance (required)
- First aid kit, fire extinguisher, two warning triangles, lug wrench, and a tire jack (required)
- A contract from the rental company (recommended)
Rules of the Road
Be alert and stay calm while driving. Tailgating is standard, as is road rage. Familiarize yourself with the laws and how strictly (or not) they are enforced to give you a better idea of what to expect on the road.
- Speed Limit: Speed limits vary. In urban areas, it is typically 40 to 60 kilometers per hour (25 to 37 mph). In rural areas, it is 110 kph (68 mph), and on highways, it is 120 to 130 kph (74.5 to 81 mph).
- Headlights: You should always keep your lights on while driving. If they are closed, even during the day, it is illegal.
- Right of Way: In built-up areas, many intersections (except the main one) do not have traffic control signs. You may occasionally see a stop sign, but in most cases, there won’t be one. It is not clear who has the right of way. At the intersection of a major road with a minor road, people coming from the big road usually take the right route. At some intersections, the car on the right theoretically has the right of way, but generally, it is the car that gets there first and continues driving, which goes first. If you hesitate, most drivers will take this as a sign that they have the right of way. Frankly, the most aggressive people go first. Drive defensively to avoid crashes.
- Toll Roads: There are several main highway toll roads in and around the cities. Toll can be paid with cash at toll booths located along the road. If there is a significant backup at toll booths (and there is considerable respect from waiting motorists), sometimes attendants will open barriers for free passage of cars.
- Road signs: Many road signs are pictograms used internationally (such as the octagon, the red stop sign). All road signs are in Spanish.
- Seat belts: Everyone in the car is required to wear a seat belt by law. Children under 12 years of age should be suitably restrained in vehicles (with car seats or booster cushions, if necessary), and only children 12 years of age and older may ride in the front seat. can.
- Cellphones: Only hands-free talking is allowed on a cell phone while driving.
- Drinking and driving: The legal blood alcohol limit for those driving a car is 50 milligrams per 100 milligrams of blood (0.05 percent BAC level). This is 20 milligrams (0.02 percent BAC level) for motorcyclists.
- Gas station: If you’re asking for gas in Argentina, say “Nafta” not “Gasolina.” Gas stations are plentiful in cities such as Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Cordoba. However, if you are driving through remote areas, especially in the Patagonian countryside, carry extra gas with you, as stations are sparse.
- Fines on the spot: It is illegal for a police officer to ask you for a fine on the spot. If there is reason to fine you, the officer will issue you a ticket which you can pay at a police station or bank. The country’s northeast (especially Entre Ríos) is known for traffic scams. Even if an officer claims that the ticket will be more expensive, and your vehicle will be towed if you do not pay on the spot, insist on issuing you a formal ticket. You might not have a ticket after all.
- In an emergency: If you need to access emergency services in Argentina for any reason, call 911. The service-specific numbers are 101 for the police, 100 for the fire department, and 107 for the ambulance. In an emergency, place the warning triangle 30 meters (98.5 ft) in front and behind the vehicle and turn on the hazard light. If you do get into an accident, consider calling your hotel or host for assistance with towing. Many times, a local connection will save you from being taken advantage of as a tourist.
Should You Rent A Car?
If you plan to live primarily in cities, especially in Buenos Aires, it is not advisable to rent a car. Most of the time, taking public transportation, taxi or walking will be far cheaper, more efficient, and less stressful than renting a car. However, if you are traveling between cities or specifically driving through Patagonia, renting a car is highly recommended. Some activities, such as the Seven Lakes route just outside Bariloche, would be difficult to do without a car. Renting a car also gives you time to explore and go on treks at your own pace, which can be difficult otherwise.
Most rental cars in Argentina are stick shift. If you only drive automatically, book your car in advance. Keep in mind that automatics usually cost more to rent than stick shift ones. Also, request four-wheel drive if you’re going through hairy stretches of terrain, especially backward. Roads in some backward areas are mostly gravel and turn muddy quite quickly when it rains.
To park in a parking garage, look for a giant “E” sign and the word “estacianmiento,” which means parking garage in Spanish. These parking garages have fixed fees for varying durations and can be paid in cash. There is free street parking in cities, although there are specific hours for some streets when parking is not permitted. It is illegal to park a vehicle on a one-way street in the opposite direction.
Trapitos, mostly informal workers who charge drivers money to “see” their cars in public places, can be encountered on free parking streets. When drives refuse to pay for this service, they can return their vehicle to have their keys damaged or otherwise damaged. Trapitos are mostly illegal as long as they don’t have an identity card on their chest. If you find yourself approaching one and unable to leave, the best course of action is to give them a small amount. At times, around the pesos equivalent to $0.75, it can be reduced.
Driving Across the Border to Chile
If you want to drive across the border to Chile, be aware that not all rental companies allow this, but it is possible. The paperwork should take about four days for the company to process. You have to take the car across the border back to Argentina, as the companies do not allow leaving in Chile. Also, the whole process is somewhat easier in driving Chile-Argentina-Chile rather than Argentina-Chile-Argentina. With wait times of up to six hours, crossing the border can also be difficult. It is not advisable to cross towards the end of the holiday, as the lines are long. Also, crossing in the morning instead of in the afternoon can save a few hours.