One of the questions guests ask themselves or us before coming to Estancia La Margarita (www.estancialamargrita.com ) is how to get here. There are basically three options i.e. by bus, by taking a taxi or by renting a car and driving here. Lots of guests opt for the first option as its pretty cheap and easy. Others have decided to rent a car and take in some other sites while on the road to La Margarita visiting say Mar de Plata (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mar_del_Plata) to see what all the fuss is about in Argentina’s top coastal resort or they head down to the Sierra de Ventanas a gorgeous hilly area in Provincia about 200kms from La Margarita (http://www.welcomeargentina.com/sierradelaventana/index_i.html)
Many that have chosen to drive here have asked me what’s driving like in Argentina. Since I have driven here for the past 12 years and experienced all sorts of driving conditions I fell pretty qualified to answer the question.
First thing to remember is that Argentine drives on the right (www.whatsideoftheroad.com) just bear that in mind if you are from a left driving country.
|This did have brakes thank goodness!|
Over the years driving here has got less and less how shall we say precarious. Course that doesn’t mean its totally safe but it is a lot better for sure than say 15 years ago. When I first came here and started to drive it was just after the financial crises. I was amazed at the state of the cars that were being used to drive on the roads here. Talk about being held together with rubber bands and cello tape. I used to take pictures of these cars that amazingly still started up and crawled along the Argentine roads. These cars presented all sorts of hurdles re- safe driving here. The old bangers were precarious to say the least as regards many had little or no brakes and steering was gangster driving at its best. They crawled along the roads causing all sorts of congesting as cars tried to over take them and many had accidents as well with no brakes so how could they stop gulp! It seemed the police didn’t think they were a problem as they sailed through any road checks. That or they were just too afraid to try and stop them for fear of being run over (goodness knows what the roads checks where looking for so few of these bangers seemed to be stopped). Just to illustrate how bad the situation was. When I went to buy a second hand truck for the estancia about 13 years ago I pointed out to one owner after taking his truck for a test drive that it had no brakes. He casually said it’s not the brakes that are important it’s the engine just use the gears to stop!
Over the years as the economy has improved so did the standard of the cars and the old bangers are gradually disappearing. Don’t get me wrong there are still many on the road but much fewer these days. The thing to watch out for these days if you are driving up to 150 kms outside of the city is speed. In the porteños (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Porteño ) desperation to leave the city and get to those wonderful green open spaces of Provincia called la pampas they speed as in the film! Thing is there is very little control to stop them. There are very few speed cameras and no speed cops. For those of you who hate speed cameras apart from the first 40-50klm, leaving the city you won’t find any obstacle to stop you doing a ton on the roads of Argentina - just watch out for loose cows and horse though!
There are few motorways in Argentina. Those that exist go from BA to Cordoba and BA to Mar del Plata . These roads are good but are to be avoided on the bank holidays called feriados here (http://servicios.lanacion.com.ar/feriados/2015 ). In fact the time to avoid them is the same as in any other country when it comes to holidays i.e. the day before the holiday and the day of the return. Outside of these times the roads can be pretty empty and the driving can be carefree. Here’s a tip - a good time to drive on the weekend is between 12-4pm as many Argentines are with their family enjoying an asado (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=asado ) and the roads can be spookily empty. I often drive back to the city or to the estancia within these hours
One thing not to forget is that there are a lot of trucks on the road in Argentina. Many are huge trucks carrying cows and other livestock or agriculture products. Be careful when over taking them and always always look in your rear view mirror, as Argentines seem to like a threesome meaning three cars across the road. They will see you overtaking and then proceed to overtake you while you are overtaking. The first time this happened to me my heart was in my mouth but as times have worn on I have got pretty used to it. Certainly be a bit more careful in your drive for the first say 150 kms as you drive out or enter the city. These roads are dominated by the crazy porteños escaping or entering the city who drive too fast with little police control (although that is changing).
After about 150 kms things start to clam down somewhat and oddly its not because there is more control, in fact there is less! I put it down to all those cows and sheep grazing in the fields calming everyone down. I have to say once that short bit of adrenaline filled porteños part is over it can be a pleasure to drive in Argentina with its fabulous scenery to melt your heart.
Hiring a car here is not cheap for sure. You need to shop around to get the best rate but once again be warned it not so cheap. Also be prepared to get a car that doesn’t meet what they said they would be giving you. If this happens so put up a fight and you may get something better – umm maybe
Petrol cost today (but check if you are driving tomorrow this is Argentina!) is around 1US$ a litre.
Be sure to carry your driving licence with you as it’s a legal requirement whereas a passport is not.
There are numerous road checks. These are in place to check for stolen cars and overloaded trucks. In the main the police are polite and providing all in is order will salute you on your way in a few minutes with smile
Over the years we have had lots of guests who have hired cars to come to the estancia and all have survived. They have had the freedom of the road and their comments have in the main been good about their experience re -driving here so don’t let this blog put you off it will be well worth it Argentina is a great country to get lost in.
This is David Cummings alias The English Gaucho hasta pronto
This is David Cummings alias The English Gaucho hasta pronto