Uber Buenos Aires

This past summer, we had a chance to use Uber (and Lyft) while traveling around Boston and New York, and it quickly became apparent why everyone loves the service. For less than the price of a taxi (in many cases), you get a private car to come right to your location and take you wherever you want to go. It’s all billed to your saved credit card, so you don’t even have to worry about having cash, let alone a wallet.

no uber buenos aires 300x150 Uber Buenos AiresSo, first things first – before I get your hopes up, no Uber is not launching in Buenos Aires.

While they have built a loyal following in many cities around the world, Buenos Aires is going to be a near impossible market for them to break into. Just look at what we’ve got for them!

  • Bureaucracy: The bureaucracy here is horrible. Getting anything approved in this city will take years.
  • Low Credit Card Use: Credit card use in Buenos Aires is minimal. People do not want the government to know what they are spending and do not like the idea of being tracked. Do you know how many people do not have wireless toll readers and would prefer to wait and pay cash for exactly this reason? Having them tie their credit card to a car ride app seems very unlikely.
  • Poor Cell Data: Cell data coverage is horrible in Buenos Aires. Got a 3G connection? Lucky you. Keep that for your whole trip? Not likely.
  • Low Smartphone Penetration: While Android smartphones are on the rise, Apple products are near-impossible to get here. Does Uber make a Blackberry app? Of course not. They may have to for Buenos Aires though.
  • Strong Taxi/Remis Unions: The taxi unions in the city are quite strong and have a lot of political ties. Anything that takes away from their business will be met with fierce opposition.
  • Safety/Crime: Tell an Argentine that you’re getting into the private car of someone you do not know and they’ll think you’re absolutely crazy. It took my Argentine wife a little while to get used to this idea with Uber and Lyft – and that was in New York and Boston!
  • Insurance: Insurance here is tricky (like everything else). It’s very doubtful that Uber would be able to get insurance policies to cover their drivers like they do in many other cities around the world.
  • Financial Instability: Uber exists to make money. They’d like to be able to get that money out of the country. Argentina makes that very difficult to do. Plus, with the difference between the official rate and blue rate life is even more difficult.

So, no Uber in Buenos Aires for the foreseeable future.

That being said, we do have some alternatives, though they rely on simply improving the existing taxi system rather than replacing it.

For the past month, I have been using EasyTaxi and it’s proven to be a much better way to get a taxi than hailing one on the street (especially at peak times and in the rain). You simply open the app, set the pickup location on the map and click “Call Taxi.” You can even specify that you want a taxi with a big trunk. A driver will respond and you’ll see their name, car model, license plate and approximate arrival time.

It’s safe and simple, plus it’s cheaper than calling a Radio Taxi  as you do not pay the “6 meter clicks” extra that they charge. At the end of the trip, you simply pay the metered fare in cash like always. (SaferTaxi is a competitor app to EasyTaxi, and has just started to accept credit cards if you prefer that.)

So, is it easier than hailing a taxi? Yes.
Is it cheaper than calling a taxi? Yes.
Is it safer? A bit.

Do the taxi drivers like it? Yep. It costs them less per month than being a part of a Radio Taxi service.

Do they taxi unions like it? Nope. One of our drivers told us that union members have been booking trips and then issuing a fine to the drivers for using it. Ahhh… there’s always some friction when older more established and expensive ways get disrupted.

Know of any other services? Let us know in the comments.

UPDATE: Ok, so here is where EasyTaxi failed me – 9am on a rainy work day there were absolutely no taxis that would take my request. I tried with SaferTaxi too, and while they have a cool feature that allows you to “offer a tip” during peak times, no one took my $20-$30 peso tip. I think they have a lot less drivers than EasyTaxi as well.

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Lost Argentina Reciprocity Fee Receipt

delta reciprocity fee1 300x249 Lost Argentina Reciprocity Fee ReceiptI recently had some blog readers who paid their Argentina entrance fee but then lost the copy of their receipt! They asked what they could do about it and luckily we were able to track down some suggestions.

First, you should be able to login to the Provincial Pagos website and get a copy to print from there.

If this does not work, you can email [email protected] with the following information:

  • Full name (as it appears on your passport)
  • Date of birth
  • Passport Number

Anyone with knowledge of Argentine bureaucracy may assume this would have little chance of succeeding, but guess what? It worked perfectly. The embassy sent them a copy of their reciprocity fee payment and they were all set to go.

Hope this helps someone else!

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Using An Award Booking Service

If you follow my blog at all, you’ll know that I’m a miles and points junkie. I’ve written numerous times about how our family uses points and miles to get expensive flights and hotels for very little money out of pocket.

As a points and miles junkie, I’m pretty familiar with how to book awards and travel. I’ve always been able to find flights for our family of four to go back and forth to the US, but it helps that we tend to have a lot of flexibility with our schedule. When you’re looking for very specific dates, it can sometimes be harder to use your miles to book award travel.

This is when an award booking service can come in extremely handy. What they do is take a look at all the miles and points that you have and then piece together a complex itinerary to get you where you want to go for the miles you want to spend. For this, they take a booking fee that usually ranges from about $125 – $200. If they cannot find flights or you are not happy with the schedule, you owe nothing.

In my case, I had to book a flight to the United States on short notice and with relatively specific dates. I went to all the airline sites to check for direct flight options in business class (how I prefer to spend my miles for the better value) and nothing came up for the dates I wanted. The return flight was the most problematic with no seats in business or even coach for the dates I needed. After spending the better part of a day searching, I turned to the MileValue Award booking service whom I had read about before.

milevalue award booking argentina 300x60 Using An Award Booking ServiceI filled out their online form – specifying my date ranges, preferred travel class, points balances and other preferences. I also specified that I preferred to use some of my 600,000+ US Airways miles over the lower balance miles I had on other airlines and that the bookings should be at the low-level award requirements. Within 8 hours I had a response and by the next morning I had an itinerary:

Departure:

  1. Buenos Aires to  Miami: first class on American Airlines (my first international first class!)
  2. Miami to Charlotte: first class on US Airways
  3. Charlotte to Boston: first class on US Airways

Return:

  1. Boston to Washington: first class on US Airways
  2. Washington to Miami: first class on US Airways
  3. Miami to São Paulo: business class on TAM
  4. São Paulo to Buenos Aires: business class on Qatar

Tariq at MileValue confirmed that the dates worked, let me know about an 8 hour layover in São Paulo and asked for my approval to book. I confirmed and by that evening I had my tickets! I then sent my payment for their services via PayPal.

That is an itinerary that I would never have been able to piece together myself! And, the best part is it only cost 125,000 US Airways miles plus $255 in taxes and fees (including a $75 fee for booking less than 21 days in advance).

I’d estimate that this is a $6,000 – $7,000 flight that I got for 125,000 miles and $380. That gives me a value of almost 5 cents per mile – an extremely high redemption value considering I only paid 1.13 cents for the miles during a US Airways share miles promotion.

I could not have been happier with their service, and I’d highly recommend them!

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Google Street View Argentina Launches

Google Street View for Argentina is finally here!

That’s right, about a year after Google announced that they were going to bring street view to Argentina, they have launched. Now you can get a virtual view of major Buenos Aires landmarks as well much of the rest of the country.

StreetView Buenos Aires time animation Google Street View Argentina LaunchesSurprisingly, after only driving in Argentina for a year, you can get a historical street view as well.

Find anything interesting?

This Reddit Argentina post is already picking out some of the more interesting shots which includes lots of villa views, Shrek, graffiti, and more.

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