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Reading Anil Mundra’s dispatch on the shortage of coins in Argentina, I remembered my own ordeal searching for coins in Buenos Aires when I was there on vacation this summer.
We were staying outside the capital, about 35 minutes away by car or bus, and one hour by train. Getting to the capital in the mornings for a day of typical urban tourism took time: We couldn’t take a bus there because we needed exact change for the four of us to hop on. So we took the train. Not a nice Amtrak-type train ride where you can sit down and relax and watch the scenery go by. No, these are somewhat filthy wagons where if you’re lucky you get a seat, with vendors getting on at every station trying to sell you anything from chocolate to pirated CDs, and seatless wagons in between used supposedly for people with bicycles or large equipment, but actually used by groups of passengers to smoke pot or drink collectively (beer is sold on trains by these traveling vendors). Nevertheless, train transportation is extremely cheap; a fraction of the bus fare.
But after a day of beating the pavement, what we really wanted was a nice bus to take us home fast and comfortable. It cost 6 pesos, in coins only. We had to rush to the plaza where the bus station was before the kiosks selling tickets closed so we could buy with bills and not have to go through the ordeal of getting together 24 pesos in coins (6 for each one of us).
We almost never got there on time, and we certainly never had 24 coins with us. During the day, we would try to gather the maximum number of coins and hang on to them as a dear treasure, but we never made the necessary sum of 24 coins to get home on a bus. People would rather charge you less for something than have to surrender their small change.
One particular day, we went to the tourist attraction Caminito. By then, we knew our way around enough to take buses and metro, as well as know what a reasonable fare in taxi was. And cab drivers were not reasonable in Caminito. Their fares were rather scandalous.