ARGENTINA CHEAT SHEET
- Visa: A Reciprocity Fee Must be purchased online beforehand. US CITIZENS $160USD / CAD $92 /AUS $100USD
- Best Time to Travel: Early April to June (for their Fall) and September - December (for their Spring). Peak season is Jan - Feb
- Currency: Pesos. $1USD = 9.41 Pesos / $1 CAD = 7 Pesos /$1 AUD = 6.60 Pesos (as of 9/2015) *BLUE DOLLAR exchange will net you more. Read here.
- Cost of Typical Meal $90- 150+ pesos for a no frills restaurant in a tourist neighborhood
- CC friendly: Yes in Buenos Aires, with some restaurants even accepting USD.
- Transportation: Trains are efficient and cabs are affordable, though rates change depending on the time of day you get in. Nights are more expensive.
- Airports: Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE)
- Language: Spanish and English.
ONGOING RUMOR: Buenos Aires is the "Paris of South America".
MY EXPERIENCE: Yup. The buildings are Parisian inspired, and the locals, called "Portenós" are a mix of Italian, French and Spaniards.
DRINK OF CHOICE: Yerba Mate - a tea that is drunk out of little mugs and straws. You'll see locals carrying around a thermos at all times.
"THE GOOD WINDS"
Known for it's Euro influenced city, Buenos Aires is known as the "Paris of South America." I think of it more as the city of Passion. It was the immigrants in the shanty towns of LA BOCA, that created the TANGO here, after all. This is the city where football is considered not just a sport, but a religion and a rite of passage is to have a symbol of your team loyalty tattooed on your body. By and by, Buenos Aires is a pulsating city that will at all times thrill and excite you.
When traveling within South America, it is affordable and safe to take the bus. These buses are comfortable and similar to the first class section on a plane with large, leather recliner seats, plenty of leg space, individual television screens and even have small snacks served. The only downfall is the amount of time taken. From Lima, Peru to BA is a 72 hour bus ride on Cruz Del Sur that costs approx $218USD compared to a 4 hour flight for $700USD one way. From the states, you can fly from NY to BA nonstop for around $800USD via Aerolineas Argentinas, though you can find cheaper tickets if you do some hunting.
Though plane tickets are expensive, there is a "blue dollar" rate of exchange for the US dollar in Argentina that may balance out the flight. The "blue dollar" will get a much higher rate as opposed to the standard exchange rate of $8USD per Peso at any bank or currency exchange location. You can read my article HERE on how I was able to get $12USD per peso by visiting FLORIDA STREET. As a note, you should definitely bring USD cash to Buenos Aires. These underground exchange places only want crisp $50, $100 bills. Whether they are to be props for a hip hop music video starring DJ KHALED, I am not sure. If you are coming from Peru or Uruguay, the ATMS there dispense USD.
Stay in the trendy neighborhood of PALERMO SOHO. It's worth it to get an AIRBNB here instead of staying in a hostel, apartments are super affordable with some places costing as low as $59USD per night. Besides, you'll want to have that neighborhood feel here, it's like living in a magazine ad where beautiful people are always laughing and doing elaborate jumps in the middle of crowded, city streets. Within Palermo is the Plaza Serrano, an outdoor market where you can buy anything from hunting knives to baby clothes to leather dog leashes, all crafted by local artists. If local markets aren't your thing, no worries. Hip boutique shops with live DJs blasting Annie Mac's latest hits stand next to high end stores you'd recognize from NY's Fifth Avenue.
There are plenty of local cheese shops and neighborhood restaurants to explore and try out. For lunch, check out 1810 Cocina Regional, famous for their empanadas and their Locro Stew, a Pork and beef stew with made with pumpkin. Take a walk through the neighborhood and stop at BROOKLYN for a Beer or Otono for brunch. Just be wary that brunch is huge here, so wait times can be long and result in serious shopping sprees as you wander through the neighborhood.
Palermo SOHO and Palermo HOLLYWOOD are also known for their nightlife. Take a visit to KIKA, where you'll have to pay an entry fee that includes one drink. There is no re-entry so be sure to leave your wishy washy friends at home. Clubs here don't pick up until 2AM, when most Americans are leaving the club, or in my case, microwaving a Celeste for One Pizza in my footie pajamas. People order champagne by the bucket and carry it around, tipping off their glasses through the night. In general, Porteños don't even leave the clubs until 5 or 6AM, and are notorious for having wooden blinds in their windows to shield sunlight from coming in. To prevent hangovers, do as the locals do and order a Fernet and Coke.
Buenos Aires is home of the TANGO so be sure to check out one of the free, outdoor Milongas or dance parties that take place in the parks. Locals and tourists come out to play as drummers and dancers play at the La Glorieta de Belgrano in the Barrancas de Belgrano every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7pm-10pm.
PUT THE PEDAL TO THE METAL:
The best way to explore a new city is
by taking a bike ridE
We started off our first day with an incredible bike tour with Biking Buenos Aires, a full day tour set us back $90USD. We biked through the birthplace of the TANGO's La Boca, the OLD MONEY neighborhood of Recoleta, and NEW MONEY's Puerto Madero (where Messi lives). Bike lanes in Buenos Aires are wide and safe to ride in, even for beginners. All day I had the Legally Blonde song, "It's a Perfect Day" stuck in my head. (For those of you who don't know..listen HERE for a TBT and play while you continue to read this.
We grabbed some delicious sandwiches from a Parilla (grill) - check out "Parilla de mi sueno" or the "Grill of my dreams" in Costanera Sur, where you'll find plenty of locals lining up for a tasty sandwich during their lunch break. This whole area is perfect to bike through or sit and people watch by the water. We crossed 9 de Julio Avenue, which is given the glory of being the largest avenue in the world. Most importantly, the bike tour offered us a realm of knowledge about the country's hidden past.
During the bike tour, we stopped off at the Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve, where locals come for an escape from the city and run, ride bikes and work out. Alongside the reserve is the Rio de la Plata, a muddy river who's waters toggle between Argentina and Uruguay. The destitute coast line here is a sad reminder of the "Dirty War" that took place in Argentina from 1974 -1983. Approximately 30,000 political dissidents, most of whom were students or guerillas were "disappeared" during this time by the government, some of which were dropped into the Rio de la Plata here. Today, the Civil War has been replaced with a democratic government that is trying to right the wrongs of it's past. Visit the Parque de la Memoria to pay your respects or to learn more.
EXPLORING THE TOWN
The University of Buenos Aires is a free university for all students, including foreigners. It's also ranked Argentina's top university, so young ones looking to go to school might want to consider applying here.
Take a visit to Recoleta Cemetary to visit Eva Peron's grave. I know it's weird to visit a cemetery, but these are gorgeous memorials and worth taking a look. Some of the graves have larger rooms than a studio apartment in NYC. Nearby, visit the Recoleta Craft Fair to pick up your very own Yerba Maté mug! Vendors sell all sorts of fun artwork, souvenirs and random crap you may not necessarily buy but is fun to look at. Need a pick me up? Coffee is sold by men pushing little carts through the park with a variety of coffees, sweets and treats to choose from. In the meantime, take a look around Recoleta, the upper class neighborhood with Parisian architecture and ornate, gated mansions. I would skip visiting Eva Peron's museum and going to visit the Park where she gave her famous speech instead at the Casa Rosada in the Plaza de Mayo. On Thursdays at 3:30pm you can come to this plaza and watch a solemn part of history where the "Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo" have marched every week since 1977 in protest of the disappearances of their children from the "Dirty War".
The first thing that people will tell you to try is CARNE ASADA or barbecue. Parilla Don Julio is a renowned steak house in Palermo and probably makes all the top gringo places to visit, but I'll tell ya. It was one hell of a steak. Sit outside for dinner. Keep the red wine flowing and always, always order medium rare. You'll have an amazing night.
If you aren't a fan of meat and are looking for some more variety, take a look at Peron Peron. This place was as local and kitschy as it gets. Non english speaking staff or menus. (Thank you Google Translate) Amazing local cuisine. And shrines to Eva Peron ALL OVER THE WALLS. Did I mention every hour or so the WHOLE restaurant breaks into song and sings, slamming on the tables and clapping/dancing? Feel free to join in on the singing and dancing even if you don't know what's going on. Just don't drink too much and start belting out "Don't cry for me Argentina" and expect everyone to join in because they won't and it'll be awkward and your friends will judge you.
And finally, for a special night out..check out i Latina for one of Buenos Aires' famous Puertas Cerradas or "Closed Door" restaurants. They're pretty much the equivalent of a private dinner party or pop up restaurant. This place is on every GRINGO TO DO list in Buenos Aires, but for a reason. The food here is incredible, and well worth the experience for a seven course meal of Argentinean and Colombian cuisine.
Empanadas are a favorite staple of mine. Any dough that is wrapped in a meaty, cheesy filling is a green light for me, but there was a tourist trap to me called El Sanjuanino. It's cheap and fast, but you will be charged more to eat in than out. The staff are old men who are characters, but you can find a much better empanada elsewhere.
Helado. Take a walk to the local heladeria where you'll find ice cream that is actually gelato mixed with crack because this stuff is ADDICTING. I ordered a cup and it came in a massive styrofoam cup with a COVER that was a miniature version of an ice box. Order the Dulce de leche with Hazelnut. You won't regret it. And if you do end up regretting it - then I hope your car radio gets stuck on a Nickelback playlist because we're no longer friends.