At this point I’ve driven three rental cars (named Blanca, Plata & Blanca Dos) in three cities in southern Argentina, logging north of 1,700km. Here are my take aways.
- Argentina is a middle income country with solid road infrastructure, good rule of law, and they drive on the correct side of the road. Great start. And then you get in the car and reach an intersection inside a city (excluding BA). Nothing. No light. No stop sign. No yield sign. No any sign. Apparently the bigger road has priority. Ok, fair enough. What if they’re the same size? Apparently you’re just supposed to know. Seems like a recipe for problems. And you definitely yield to whomever is already in the intersection, so assertiveness is key. Recipe for disaster? And you will get honked at if you’re too much of a wuss. Catastrophe? That said, I haven’t seen any accidents yet. But don’t drive here if you fluster easily.
BTW- It’s not as if they’re short on signs. Out on the highways, every hint of a curve gets one or two Curva Peligrosa signs. Potholes get signs. Uphills get signs. Downhills get signs. There are tons of no passing signs. There are no passing signs all over the place. Highway intersections have traffic circles (often with yield to the circle signs) or even jug handles. But basic city intersections? Nothing.
- All of the highways I’ve been on have been two lane undivided and you need to be pretty alert way ahead of you and behind you because
- There are some very fast drivers here (take it from a lead footed guy with a LOT of speeding tickets on his record)
- Aggressive tailgating seems to be a common practice. Apparently it is a normal prelude to passing to get within a meter or two of your rear bumper at 120km/hr (75mph). It’s pretty disconcerting and they seem to have no concept of how dangerous it is.
- While the signage around Passing and No Passing zones is excellent, compliance with them is not. More than once I’ve been part of a row of cars passed by another car going into a blind curve. Crazy.
You do have to be willing to get out there and do some passing yourself or some drives will take forever.
- Speed bumps are common. On the largest roads. On small roads. On dirt roads. A bit random. They do slow everyone down, and force some yielding (when they are placed at intersections).
- Headlights are required. Yet none of the three rental cars have had daytime running lights. (Hence me leaving them on in Ushuaia.) It makes sense to have the rule, given all of the undivided highways, but not designing the cars for it?
- Pedestrians, beware. You do not have the right of way and there aren’t any crosswalks. It’s Frogger time! Although the Yield to someone already in intersection seems to apply to pedestrians. Overall, this is unpleasant, especially so when traveling with small kids.
- Policia checkpoints are on the way in/out of every town. Signs warn you (and speed limit suddenly drops from 110 to 60 to 20). Then there is a line of cones down the middle of the road, with a cop standing in the middle of them (n.b. a high proportion of them seem to be women – is this equality or just that the women get the crappy job of standing in the middle of the road while the senior dudes supervise from the little hut across from the cones?). Most don’t even make eye contact or even bother to wave you one– except when you’ve forgotten to turn your lights on. In those cases, I’ve been scolded.
- Car seats. Ha! When we jump in a taxi and start madly strapping the kid booster seats in, the cab drivers range from bemused to befuddled to annoyed with the delay. They all seem proud that they have seat belts and don’t see the point of anything else. One cab driver, who we rode with twice in Ushuaia, called us “very American.” In short, we are a laughingstock for using car seats in Argentina.
BTW- we went out of our way to buy brand new inflatable booster seats (Bubble Bums) for this trip and both of them leak. Crap! And based upon our search so far, there isn’t a replacement within a thousand kilometers, possibly on this entire continent.Drive safe!