Questions that need answering:  Why do the buses whistle?

Questions that need answering: Why do the buses whistle?

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Seriously, they whistle.

Not only are there literally thousands of them (we have seen 10+ on the same block at the same time);  not only do they aim directly for you whenever possible; not only do they emit disgusting exhaust fumes, not only are their engines extremely loud; but on top of all that, some ass clown thought it would be a good idea to make them whistle at you.  All the time.  Day and Night.  Loudly.  Why???  I want to know WHY.

Buenos Aires Bus Image

Every one is a different color, but they all whistle the same. By which I mean annoyingly.

Google turned up the following result which provides a very good overview of the bus situation:

“Concerning Argentine Buses (or: Why I love it here)”

I’m going to digress for a moment to explain how the buses work here. First, you have your “Guia T.” This is a two part booklet, the first part being a map of Buenos Aires that is divided into grids. Opposite of the grids are corresponding boxes that contain a list of every bus that passes through that

grid of the city. These maps, however, do not tell you where these buses stop in the grid, just that they do. You then use your Guia T to look for a bus that passes through the part of the city you’re currently in and through where you’re going. Then you search the physical 4 block by 4 block square that is that grid in order to find the elusive bus stop. The signs are small and the buses will really stop anywhere. For most “portenos” (Buenos Aires residents, or “people of the port”) this is do-able. (?!?!?) If you, poor soul, need more help the second part of the Guia T includes a list of each bus’s main neighborhood stops with a drawing of the bus, which is necessary because all the buses are painted different bright colors to distinguish them.
So, to recap: hidden bus stops, unclear routes, confusing maps and buses that look like they belong on carousels. And if the driver tells you “Arriba” while you’re getting on you better get the hell on because that roughly translates to “I’m shutting the door now and driving wildly into traffic whether you are standing there or not” in Castellano. (Castellano being the Buenos Aires specific brand of Spanish).

Note: These buses whistle. No, not like a train whistle. A human whistle. These buses, should you look lost at a street corner anywhere in Buenos Aires, will good ol’ fashion greasy-construction-worker-at-a pretty-lady whistle at you to let you know, “Hey, baby, I know where you could be going. With me.”

I think that sums things up fairly well.  You may think I’m kidding about this, but I would never kid about whistling buses.

Whistle Image

I can hear one outside my window now. Why.

Can anyone explain this phenomenon?  If so, please do so in the comments!

Please leave a comment, it will make us feel special!

  • Yanina December 6, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    First to say I`ve been a lurker on your blog for ages jaj, Finally stepping out of the dark..

    Second: why do they whistle? it is just the air breaks all buses here use… whenever they hit the break, the air decompression casuses that famous “bondi” whistle..

    Hope that helps!

    Yanina, livin`in BA

    • ryan December 15, 2010 at 7:15 pm

      Hi Yanina,

      Thanks for the explanation!! We thought it might be the breaks, but it just sounded so different than anything we had heard from a bus before. That said, the collectivos in BA are definitely unique… :)

      Thanks again!

  • Nate January 23, 2011 at 11:57 am

    I dunno about that, they seem to whistle when accelerating as well…

  • Jacobo June 20, 2012 at 12:39 pm

    They whistle at pedestrians standing in the street or about to walk in front of them so they jump out of the way because the buses aren’t going brake.

    • Jacobo June 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      Also, it’s not as loud and annoying as honking.

  • bondiman December 2, 2012 at 3:59 am

    Hi, from Buenos Aires.
    I think there are two kinds of whistles. One of them, as Yanina said, is the sound of the breaks. The other one is the sound of pneumatic suspension.
    And there’s one more whistle, but not all of the BsAs’ buses do it. It’s a kind of honk called “chifle”, but only some buses -the most pimped- use it.

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