A Finland Swede in Bavaria

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Local transport: About bus 152 to La Boca, and the lack of monetas

I like travelling by public transport. It's convenient. I can delegate the driving to somebody else. Also, with a bus, one sees other people, where they go, what they look like, how they behave -- which is a better way to learn to know a place than sitting in a taxi. At least if there's time.

And Monday morning, I did have some time. But what I didn't have was something else needed, if you want to ride the bus in Buenos Aires: Monetas. No, that's not to say that I didn't have any local money. I gave the bus driver a well-worn five pesos note. But he didn't accept it, as you'll need coins to pay the bus.

On the way to La Boca, my wife and I had 1,50 when we would have needed 2,00. A friendly, young porteño (inhabitant of Buenos Aires) just gave us 0,50 (worth roughly 10 Euro cents). Very kind.

For the way back, we knew we were in trouble. We tried to persist, but no, the bus driver was more persistent than we were.

So we went for a bar, another bar, a kiosco, and a number of shops. "No, we don't change money". I offered to exchange a five-peso-note for four peso coins. Still no. "The bank is eight blocks that way". Well, I may like going by bus, but I am not going to walk eight blocks in order to change coins which Hotel Sheraton should have understood to give us to begin with.

Hence, after a bit of raised voices, I decided we would just board the bus, coins or no coins. With just four hours allocated to tourism, I wasn't going to spend any time running around trying to change coins.

Sure enough, the bus driver didn't accept the five peso note. "Change it in a shop somewhere", I think he said (in Spanish). "No shop was willing to change any coins", I know I replied (in Swedish). We just sat down, and after a minute of hesitation, the bus driver felt obliged to drive off anyway, mumbling something about the "policia" and implying all kinds of trouble for us.

Ha! The world is a much better place than that. Ten minutes later, along our route, an official-looking, uniform-dressed person boarded the bus, got briefed by the bus driver, and approached us. I had no intention of accepting any abuse from his side, but decided (as usual) to start in a friendly way, giving him the five peso note. And he happily exchanged it for five one-peso coins, with which I paid. No fine. No bad language. Gracias!

Update: Later on, when buying tea in a cafeteria, we wanted to get monetas in return. No tengo monetas. My (German) wife asked in English for coins. Nobody spoke English. But a fellow tea drinker approached my wife and asked her "talar du svenska?" ("do you speak Swedish?"). She sure did, and got some notes changed.

1 comment:

  1. [...] Señoras y señores, I am happy to have been part of the MySQL launch in Argentina yesterday. Visiting Argentina has been a great opportunity to meet with the MySQL users and not-yet-users in a country with 30 degrees Celsius, with colourful houses in La Boca, with an omnipresent Diego Maradona, and only minor challenges in the form of payment methods when using local transport. [...]