|Argentina/ Buenos Aires Overview
Population: Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina and the largest city in the country. It’s also the second largest city in South America next to Sao Paulo. When you’re in Argentina, you will notice people referring to Buenos Aires as “Capital Federal.” As of 2010, the total population of the Buenos Aires province is 15.2 million and there are 300,000 more women than men (Source of population numbers: http://bit.ly/a7oBbL).
Language: The main tongue in Argentina/Buenos Aires is Spanish; however, Argentines refer to it as castellano— pronounced caste-SH-ano. It can be a difficult Spanish to understand, but once your brain gets the hang of it you will start to adjust. You will also notice a slight lilt in the voice of an Argentine when they speak, almost as if they are singing. It is the most beautiful character about Argentine Spanish and I believe this is because a lot of the Argentines in Buenos Aires descend from the Italians that migrated to Buenos Aires. “In the early 20th century, Argentina absorbed millions of immigrants, many of them Italians, who spoke mostly in their local dialects (mainly Neapolitan, Sicilian and Genoan). Their adoption of Spanish was gradual, creating a pidgin of Italian dialects and Spanish that was called cocoliche. Its usage declined around the 1950s.”
“A phonetic study conducted by the Laboratory for Sensory Investigations of CONICET and the University of Toronto showed that the prosody of porteño is closer to the Neapolitan language of Italy than to any other spoken language.”
(Source for quotations: http://bit.ly/OIk1HD)
Also, instead of the more familiar tú, Vos is used instead. And for the irregular Ser, Sos is used. When someone asks you where you are from (and you will get asked this a lot) the question will sound like this “¿De dónde sos?” instead of the usual “¿De dónde eres?” About Spanish has a good example of the difference in verb usage: “In some places where vos is used, it takes the same verb forms as does tú. But not so in most of Argentina. Generally speaking, present-tense verbs take the endings of ás added to the root of -ar verbs, és for -er verbs, and í for -ir verbs. And because the accent is on the final syllable, you won't find the stem changes that you do when tú is used. The present-tense, second-person familiar form of tener (to have), for example, is tenés, and the present-tense form of poder is podés. Among the irregular forms is sos for ser. Thus, vos sos mi amigo is the equivalent of tú eres mi amigo, or "you are my friend." (About Spanish source: http://spanish.about.com/od/pronouns/a/vos_argentina.htm)
You will hear the words che and boludo/boluda a lot, usually used together. Che means “hey” and boludo/boluda means “buddy or idiot,” depending on the context in which they are used.
If you have dark hair or dark skin, you will be referred to as a morocha (f) or a morocho (m). Almost 99.9 % of the time you will be greeted like this: “Hola, Morocha/Morocho!” morocha/morocha is like morena/moreno.
It’s common practice in Argentina to use appearances as terms of endearment. For example, if you’re skinny, your friends may refer to you as flaca. If you’re bigger than them in size, they may refer to you as gordo. It is the same for your coloring as I mentioned above. A blond friend would be referred to as rubia/rubio and a dark skinned or haired friend would be morocha/morocho. While this may be considered offensive in some cultures, it’s done out of pure love in Argentine culture.
The double ll Consonant is pronounced with an S in Argentina instead of the Y sound. See example below:
Familiar Spanish: Calle (Kah-yeh) street
Argentine Spanish: Calle (Kah-Shay) street
Familiar Spanish: Me llamo (Me-yamo) my name is
Argentine Spanish: Me llamo ( Me –shamo) my name is
Currency: The currency in Argentina is the Argentine peso ARS. The current exchange rates for the USD, Euro and Pound are as follows:
$1.00 USD = 4.5 Argentine pesos
€ 1.00 Euro = 5.57 Argentine pesos
£ 1.00 pound = 7.11 Argentine pesos
Please visit http://www.xe.com/ to check more exchange rates.
If you try to break a 100 or 50 peso bill you will have problems, especially if you’re trying to break it at a kiosko (see shopping section) or in a taxi. Most of the time you will be out of luck, so make sure you always have smaller bills like tens or twenties on you. You won’t have too many problems breaking 100 or 50 peso bills in bigger places like the mall or grocery stores.
UPDATE: Because of the current inflation in Buenos Aires, prices are crazy high. Therefore, you will no longer have a problem breaking a 100 peso or 50 peso bill. On my recent trip as of 2012, I didn’t have a problem any of the times I broke a 100 or 50 peso bill. However, I still would not chance buying something for 5 pesos with a 100 peso bill.
Small coins are called monedas. Hold on to these with your life, especially if you’re a frequent bus rider (see public transportation section) and you will be if you plan to live there full-time. You will need monedas to buy your ticket on the bus, and because more Argentines ride the bus rather than the train, monedas can be hard to come by. So be happy when you get change back in coins and don’t be surprised if your Argentine friends don’t give up their coins so willingly. Lol!
UPDATE: There is now a card that can be used on the public buses that are only available to citizens of Argentina. The card allows Argentines to swipe the card at the front of the bus and pay for their fare without the use of monedas. Therefore, monedas are not as hard to come by as they used to be. Not once did I have a problem finding monedas for the bus during my return to Buenos Aires in August 2012.
Be careful of counterfeit pesos. I was slipped one once from a taxi driver…or a friend. The jury is still out on that one. Anyway, since I lived in Buenos Aires, I pretty much know how to spot a fake peso bill by habit and just by the feel of one, but I found a great guide that is spot on for anyone who is interested: http://suite101.com/article/how-to-spot-fake-argentine-peso-notes-a142806
There is now a cap on US dollars in Argentina, making it illegal for Argentines to purchase US dollars or for US dollars to leave the country. As quoted from www.argentinaconsultant.com: “Warning for U.S. Tourists – Exchange of Argentine Pesos into U.S. Dollars
U.S. tourists visiting Argentina have reported problems in exchanging Argentine pesos to U.S. dollars.
New Argentine exchange regulations decreed by President Cristina Kirchner placed restrictions on purchasing dollars and taking dollars out of the country. The new rules are causing banks and exchange houses to refuse to buy Argentine pesos from tourists.
It is strongly advised that all tourists keep original receipts proving the purchase of pesos at the official exchange rate. Banks and exchange houses may sell U.S. dollars to tourists with original receipts, but the sale will be in an amount equal to or lower than the amount purchased.”
The easiest option is to get pesos from an ATM. You can find ATM’s in Buenos Aires by looking for a sign that says LINK or Banelco. The ATM’s take most cards except Master Card. Using an ATM can be pricey. There is currently an 18 peso charge for each ATM transaction and don’t forget, depending on your bank you will also be charged a fee back home. So it can add up if you’re making constant withdrawals. Your other options are:
www.xoom.com. (Only available to US residents) This site functions like a Western Union. You can send money to yourself in Buenos Aires from your home bank. And they give you an exchange rate of 6.1 pesos for 1 US dollar. With the ATM’s and official exchange houses in BA you will only 4.6 pesos for 1 US dollars. You send the money online and then pick up your cash from the Xoom cash pick up office on Libertad. You have to have your passport and transaction number with you. I think Xoom is great if you will be living in Buenos Aires long term. I had problems verifying my transaction and because I was only going to be in Buenos Aires for 1 more week, I decided to just go to an ATM and take out the rest of the money I would need for the duration of my trip.
If you know a reliable Argentine, they will exchange your US dollars into pesos for you. What is great about this is that you avoid the fees that come along with using Xoom and an ATM. I know one of these reliable Argentines. So if anyone is interested, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Never exchange your money at the exchange counters in the Ezeiza airport in Buenos Aires. The exchange rate is absolutely atrocious and you will get ripped off. Instead, go to an ATM in the airport. You will get the official exchange rate of 4.61.
Weather: This is how the weather works in Buenos Aires:
Spring: September-November (best time to visit)
Summer: December – February (gets uncomfortably hot but Christmas and New Years in summer is dope!)
Argentine electricity is 220V, 50Hz. You can buy the appropriate adapters and transformers for your equipment at any hardware store in Buenos Aires; most can be found on busy avenidas (avenues) with a bunch of stores. Take your charger or equipment to the hardware store with you and show the clerk to ensure that you buy the correct adapter/transformer. The adaptors/transformers are really affordable. Depending on inflation, you should not pay more than 10 Argentine pesos.
Airport: The major airport when flying to Buenos Aires is Ministro Pistarini International Airport, but it’s more commonly known as Ezeiza.
In 2010, the Argentine government began to charge a reciprocity fee to tourists who hail from countries that charge Argentine citizens visa or entrance fees. These countries are: the United States, Canada and Australia. As of April 2012, the reciprocity fee for US citizens entering Argentina is $160 USD. The fee for Canadian citizens is $70.00 USD and the fee for Australia is $100 USD. If you are a US citizen, once you pay the fee, you are covered for 10 years for multiple entries into the country. For Australian citizens, the fee is good up to one year of multiple re-entries as of the date of the first entry. Canadian citizens will have to pay the fee for every new entry into Argentina.
There has been a change to how you can pay the reciprocity fee. The fee can no longer be paid upon arrival at the airport. It must be paid online at: www.migraciones.gov.ar or www.provinciapagos.com.ar and these are the steps you must take as quoted from http://www.argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/changes-to-payment-method-for-reciprocity-fee-visa/ :
1) Enter the web site www.migraciones.gov.ar or www.provinciapagos.com.ar of Provincia Pagos and register to start the process.
2) Complete the form with the corresponding personal and credit card information.
3) Print the payment receipt.
4) On arrival in Argentina, this printed receipt must be presented at Immigration Control. The receipt will be scanned by the Immigration officials, the information will be checked, and the traveller’s entry to the country registered.
The changes will go into effect October 31st 2012 for flights to Aeroparque and December 28th 2012 for Ezeiza International Airport.
Check out your government’s official travel website or the Embassy of Argentina’s website for current info about fees: http://www.embassyofargentina.us/espanol/home/home.htm
I’ve read that you won’t be charged the reciprocity fee if you enter Argentina by road. The fee is only charged when entering from the major airport. I found a thread on Lonely Planet about this. Check it out: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=2165029
Getting to the City from the Airport:
At the time of this writing, a taxi from Ezeiza to the city center of Buenos Aires is 200 pesos. This changes daily and weekly as prices in Buenos Aires are never stable. Always get a taxi from an official taxi stand. Never ever ever except a taxi invitation from a stranger he walks up to you. There are a lot of crooked taxis in Buenos Aires as there are in a lot of cities. They stalk airports waiting for easy prey. One popular scam is to pretend the taxi breaks down and then the crooked taxi driver charges the passenger 200 US dollars! So be careful!
There is a cheaper option to get to the city center from the airport that I had a positive experience with. There is a shuttle bus company that is completely reliable and safe called “Manuel Tienda Leon”
Their desk is located in the arrival hall and their employees speak English. The shuttle bus leaves every thirty minutes and is only 80 pesos! The shuttle bus will drop you off at their terminal in the city center in Buenos Aires, located in Puerto Madero. From there, their transfer drop off service will drop you at your hotel free of charge if it is in their drop off zones in the city. I highly recommend this company!
Taxi Ezeiza is another company I recommend and is the official taxi company for Ezeiza airport. They are great for a return back to the airport after your trip is over. Sometimes they have special promotions. I paid 160 pesos with tolls included to return back to the airport from anywhere in capital federal. You can reserve your taxi two days before your trip online. http://www.taxiezeiza.com.ar/eng/
Visa Information: If you’re a US citizen you can visit Argentina for up to 90 days without a visa. If you want to stay an extra 90 days without the paper work, take a 1 hour ferry to Colonia, Uruguay, spend a few hours there, because it’s beautiful, and then hop on the ferry back to Buenos Aires. Since you left the country, even though it was by ferry and only an hour away, your 90 days will be renewed. I would not recommend doing this more than once.
Again, visit your government’s official travel website or the Embassy of Argentina’s website for visa requirements by country: http://www.embassyofargentina.us/espanol/home/home.htm
Departure Tax: There is no longer a departure tax when leaving Argentina because it is now included in the price of the ticket.
Accommodation: I am not fond of staying at hotels too much, and when I travel, I prefer to rent from a local. I like traditional apartments that are common to the city. That being said, if there is anyone who has stayed at hotels in Buenos Aires, please add them here.
If you can’t rent an apartment from an Argentine friend, I recommend renting one from a local on the website Air Bnb: https://www.airbnb.com/?c=Airbnb&af=73699&gclid=CIT6xpPZybECFUXc4AodNE8AOQ
Room o Rama: https://roomorama.com/
Using your Cell Phone in Buenos Aires
I recommend coming to Buenos Aires with your cell phone locked already and then just buy a sim card for one of the Argentine cell phone carriers. Here is what you can do if you want to use the company Movistar:
Go to the Movistar store at Avenida Santa Fe 2158. When you walk in, make sure you take a number from the number dispenser and then wait for someone to call your number. When they do say "Necesito un pre pago chip" The chip is 20 pesos. I´m not sure how it will work with your phone but with mine, once I put the chip in, my phone asked me for my unlock code. I pluged in the code and my new sim activated.
Once the sim is activated, you need to by a pre paid card to top up your phone. Go to any Kiosco and say "Tenes un Movistar tarjeta?" They will ask you what amount you want to buy and the cards come in 20 40 and 50 pesos I believe. I usually buy 20 pesos. When you buy the card this is how you add the money to your phone:
If you don´t speak spanish you will not understand what the woman is saying so follow these steps
1. Dial *444 wait for voice
2. Press 2 wait for voice
3.Press 1 wait for voice
4. Enter the number from the scratch away section on the back of the card
5. Now I believe you press 1 again or # and then that´s it.
The prices in Buenos Aires are out of control! Buenos Aires is no longer cheap and inflation is crazy over there right now. Depending on what you are buying, Buenos Aires is more expensive than the states and cities like New York. I know you are raising your eyebrows right now so let me break it down for you in an example:
Bottle of Coca Cola in NYC: $1.50
Same bottle of Coca Cola in Buenos Aires: 13 pesos which equals $2.79
Can of Coca Cola in NYC: $1.00
Same can of Coca Cola in Recoleta, Buenos Aires 18 pesos which equals $3.87
Vintage shirt in NYC $5.00
Vintage shirt in Buenos Aires 80 pesos which equals $17.20
Like I said, it all depends on what you buy.
There are many neighborhoods in Buenos Aires but I will list the ones I am more familiar with. Feel free to add more.
Recoleta: Recoleta is the equivalent of 5th Avenue and the Upper Westside in New York. It’s very Richy Rich with an old money feel. You will also find more of the Parisian like architecture her. The famed Recoleta cemetery can be found in this neighborhood (see attractions).
San Telmo: San Telmo is my absolute favorite neighborhood in Buenos Aires next to Palermo. I call it the artist and bohemian neighborhood. It’s filled with painters, street jugglers and has tons of artist galleries. The neighborhood just has a real gritty artist feel that I love! I’m talking paint under finger nails gritty! San Telmo is also home to some of the most famed tango houses (milongas) is Buenos Aires. The streets are cobble stone (So I do not recommend wearing heels there. I had an intense experience walking the cobble stoned streets of San Telmo in heels), but they re beautiful! And the architecture is to die for! The markets on the weekend in Plaza Dorrego are not to be missed! I will say that San Telmo is a bit dicey at night so be careful.
La Boca: La Boca is beautiful during the day and full of color. The architecture and buildings remind me of a circus or puppet shop. If you do a Google image of the neighborhood you will see what I mean. I would not buy too many souvenirs here, though. You will get ripped off if you do. I like La Boca for the tango street performances and the artists selling their paintings. I brought a really beautiful piece of art that I am still fond of from La Boca. I also think La Boca is a great neighborhood for photography. The colors of the buildings are so breathtaking. However, La Bocas is one of those neighborhoods you should visit only in the day. Trust me when I tell you. You do not want to be caught in La Boca at night.
Palermo: Palermo is my favorite neighborhood in Buenos Aires. In fact, if you asked me which neighborhood you should choose to stay in when visiting Argentina, I will always say Palermo first. It is the safest neighborhood in my opinion and has everything you could possibly need. And there is diversity in age among the residents.
Palermo has a confusing aspect to it, and I will be here all day if I tried to explain it in detail. Basically Palermo is divided into four parts and the differences between those parts are an avenue, street or a few blocks. The four parts of Palermo are: Palermo Viejo, Palermo Chico, Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho. I found a blog that breaks it down perfectly. Check it out: http://casa34.wordpress.com/2008/07/19/best-places-to-live-in-buenos-aires-palermo/
Puerto Madero: The Puerto Modero it the waterfront neighborhood. To me, it’s a mix of Chelsea Piers, the Meat Packing district and Tribecca areas of New York City. Puerto Modero is surrounded by water and has beautiful views at night. It’s the perfect place to take a date to a restaurant.
Belgrano: Is a very tame neighborhood and reminds me of Brooklyn New York. It’s off the beaten path and is the most relaxing laid back neighborhood I’ve ever been in when living in Buenos Aires. Belgrano is another neighborhood divided into subsections. Belgrano C is where you can find China Town.
Public Transportation: There are three forms of public transportation in Buenos Aires: taxis, the subway (subte) and the buses (colectivos)
Taxis: Just like in any major city, if you take taxis all the time it can get pricey. If you do decide to take taxis, it is recommended that you call a reputable company rather than hail one off the street. Of course I still hailed them, mainly when I was with a bunch of friends but sometimes I hailed them when I was by myself. I did call them when I needed them too. It is ok to hail one if it says Radio Taxi and there are five numbers on the side of the taxi. Always make sure the Taxi driver starts the meter when you get in (so he won’t try to charge you his own price), which is located in the front of the taxi on the passenger side in the upper right corner. If the meter is not on, point to it and say “el reloj” (pronounced ray-lock).
Radio Taxi is one of the most popular taxi companies in Buenos Aires. I used taxi premium when I lived in Buenos Aires. They’re a good company.
Taxi Premium Phone: 5238-0000 Website: www.taxipremium.com
There is a new law in Buenos Aires instituted by the president of Argentina that states there is an automatic fee of 5 pesos before you even get in the taxis, which starts your fare at about 10 pesos before you even move. If you call the taxi over the phone there is an additional fee of 5.00 peso that will be added to your end of trip total.
Subway (Subte): If you’re from a major city with mass transit, you will get the hang of the Buenos Aires subway system easily. The subway in Buenos Aires works similarly to the subway in Paris. You can pick up a subway map from a booth in any station as well as buy your subway passes. The stations are easy to identify through out the city and look like this: http://scottandbea.blogspot.com/2011/05/subte-in-buenos-aires.html
Colectivos (Buses): This will be your main form of transportation if you’re living in Buenos Aires long term. Trust me. The buses are more wide spread than the trains and go deeper into the city.
As soon as you arrive in Buenos Aires city, purchase a Guia’T. Your Guia’T will be one of the most important things you own in Buenos Aires. The Guia’T is the guide to all the buses and is how you determine which bus to take and where to take it. The Guia’T can be purchased at any Kiosko (see shopping section) for approximately 10 Argentine pesos. Keep it on you at all times. You will understand what I mean the longer you stay in Buenos Aires.
When you’re at the bus stop and you see your bus coming, you must hail it or it will not stop. Remember that. Hail your bus! Once on the bus hold on tight because the drivers tend to pull off immediately. Announce the fare that you will be getting to the bus driver, put your monedas (coins) in the machine and collect your ticket. Make sure you collect any change that falls down with your ticket. Hang on to your ticket until you exit the bus.
The night life is hardcore in Buenos Aires and unpredictable. Clubs in Buenos Aires are called Boliches and the party doesn’t start until 3am or 4am and goes until around 7 or 8am. I’ve heard of parties on New Years lasting until 12 in the afternoon— like I said hard core.
The typical party night would be something like this:
Crush a cup of wine or beer at a friend’s house, travel with a pack of friends to another friend’s house, drink more wine or beer, decide on an area of Buenos Aires to hit and then bar crawl/club hop the entire strip until you’re completely intoxicated and incoherent.
OK, maybe it won’t be like that for everyone. It depends on how hard of a partier you are, but if you visit Buenos Aires, expect to party. I’m not a hard partier at all, I’m actually a bit of a wall flower but when I lived in Buenos Aires I partied pretty hard a few times.
And I have to mention and warn you that almost 99.9% of the music played in night clubs in Buenos Aires is house, techno, techno pop, electric, cumbia and dance music. Do you notice what type of music is missing here? Yup! Hip Hop. The Hip Hop is almost non existent in Buenos Aires, and being from New York I am a hard critic when it comes to good Hip Hop. But don’t worry; there are two places you can find Hip Hop style parties. When I complained about the lack of Hip Hop in Buenos Aires, I was immediately told about Lost (that’s the name of the party not the club. It’s common in Buenos Aires to give the name of the party rather than the name of the club which can get confusing when you think the name of the party is actually the name of the club. See— Confusing.) at a club called Araoz (see Araoz in nightlife section) and a club called Fugees 99 (see Fugees 99 in nightlife section).
I used to hate dance music until I moved to Buenos Aires. Now I’m obsessed with it.
Below is a list of clubs and bars. There are tons to choose from in Buenos Aires but for the sake of brevity I am only listing the biggies, the more popular ones and the ones I liked:
1. Klub Killer (Bar) Castro Barros 809 Open Fridays and Saturdays 12 am-until
Please don’t let the name scare you. Lol. I absolutely fell in love with Klub Killer the moment I walked in. What I love most about it is that it’s off the beaten path and a breath of fresh air. My Argentine friend worked here so she took me and two other girlfriends out and we had an amazing time. Klub Killer reminds me of a retro rock speak easy. Its low lighting is a simmering red and there are vintage velvet couches about. The vibes are good and tranquillo and there’s a beautiful courtyard in the back for smoking. Klub Killer is located in a 1920’s style building. It seems a bit underground, because you have to ring a buzzer to get in.
2. Milion (Bar) Parana 1048 http://www.milion.com.ar/eng/index.html
This place is a gorgeous mansion located in Recoleta! There’s a bar, restaurant, gallery, screening room and a garden. I really loved the European décor of the place and I felt like I was transported back in time. Even the music on their website gives you a feel for the place. A must see!
3. Niceto (Club) Niceto Vega 5510 http://www.nicetoclub.com/
This club is located in Palermo Hollywood and was the first club I went to when I arrived in Buenos Aires. I had an interesting time. I experienced Cumbia (a sort of Argentine reggae) I also caught contact from all the weed smoking going on. HA HA! The venue was nice. However it got so packed I could barely move. This is one of the popular biggies so I made sure to include it on the list.
4 Asia De Cuba (Club) Pierina Dialessi 750 http://www.asiadecuba.com.ar/
This place is located in the beautiful waterfront neighborhood of Puerto Modero (see neighborhood section). The décor inside is very elegant and Japanese inspired. I enjoyed my friend’s birthday dinner here (it’s a restaurant and a club) and at around 3am everyone hit the dance floor and the place turned into pure club mode. Expect to see VIP model types here.
5. Pacha (Club) Avenida Costanera Rafael Obligado y La Pampa http://www.pachabuenosaires.com/
I didn’t have the pleasure of going to this one but eeeevryone kept talking about it and it’s another biggie so I included it on the list.
6. Rumi (Club) Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 6442 http://www.rumiba.com.ar/
I had one of the most fun and wildest nights in Buenos Aires when I went to Rumi and I will never forget it. This is one that must be checked out.
7. The Shamrock (Bar) Rodriquez Pena 1220
I love this place! I went here my last night in Buenos Aires. It’s a great after work spot and the guys were dreamy. And fellas, yes, the girls were pretty too.
8. El Alamo (Bar) Uruguay 1175-77 (entrance on Av. Santa Fe and Arenales)
This bar is located in Recoleta. I’ve been here twice and both times were interesting. The place seems to draw a lot of expat college kids or disgruntled Argentines. My first experience was more pleasant than my second. I guess I feel a little wishy washy about the place but it’s worth a gander.
9. El Dorrego (Bar) Defensa 1098
This is an old school bar in San Telmo. I haven’t been yet but I’ve heard so much about it. I also heard it’s attacked by a lot of tourist. It’s over a century old.
10. Soul Café (Bar) Baez 246 and Supersoul (Bar) Baez 252
I haven’t been to these two sister bars but I passed them all the time; it was hard to miss the afro man glowing red on the bar’s awning. I’ve heard it’s a pretty dope place.
I have not been to the three clubs I am about to list below but I heard rave reviews from every partier I came in contact with. These three are also apart of the popular biggies:
11. Mandarine Club (used to be called mint (Club) Avenida Costanera Rafael Obligado and Costanera Norte
12. Crobar (Club) Paseo de La Infanta, Avenida del Lobertador 3883 http://www.crobar.com.ar/
13. Araoz (Club) Araoz 2424
Every Thursday nights is a party called Lost at Araoz. It’s all Hip Hop. Again, I haven’t been but this is the second place everyone kept recommending for a Hip Hop style party. The first was….
14. Fugees 99 (Club) Bolivar 1190 (@ Av. San Juan)
Fugees 99 is an underground hip hop club in San Telmo and is off the beaten path. I can not tell you how many times I heard about this club. Supposedly it’s the holy grail of Hip Hop clubs in Buenos Aires and probably the only one of its kind. My friends and I were supposed to go but we never made it. :0( I was also repeatedly told Fugees 99 was where I could find a lot of black people in Buenos Aires too. I found a dope description of the Fugees 99 experience on this site: http://www.buenosaires-argentina.com/nightlife/fugee-99.html
15. Portazuelo (Bar/Restaurant) Vicente Lopez 2160
This is a awesome bar/restaurant that is among the strip of bars behind the Recoleta cemetery. This bar was playing soul music all night and Prince! Yes! Prince! They even started playing new Chris Brown music. I recommend!
Plaza Serrano is another great place to go out. It’s full of bars upon bars. I must warn you it’s extremely crowded, especially on Saturday nights at 3AM. But it’s a great place to order a few beers from an outside terrace and drink and people watch with friends.
I like to be spontaneous with restaurants so I tend to tag along with friends or discover them as I explore neighborhoods. I am sure this section will fill up with more restaurants once more people travel to Buenos Aires. But here are three off the top of my head:
1. AcaBar Restaurants Honduras 5733 http://www.acabarnet.com.ar/
This is one of my favorite restaurants in Buenos Aires and it’s in Palermo. This restaurant used to be a toy shop and you can tell once you walk in. The décor is so imaginative and fun. Another cool aspect about AcaBar is that you can choose from tons of board games to play while you wait for your food. I had a yummy stuffed ravioli dish here. This restaurant attracts tons of expats.
2. Kentucky Santa Fe, Av. 4602
I looove this restaurant. I was in this restaurant all the time because it was so close to my house. The pizza will make you slap your mama (most pizza in Buenos Aires will) and the milanesa and pasta dishes are excellent. This is a great spot to grab a bunch of friends for lunch or dinner and just chill. The staff is super sweet too!
3. Lelé de Troya Costa Rica 4901 Corner of Thames http://www.leledetroya.com/
This is a Mediterranean style restaurant and it is beautiful! Every room is a different color and the food is scrumptious!
4. Boteco Bonpland 1367
This is a dope Brazilian restaurant in Palermo Hollywood. The feeling of the place was so warm and cozy. I loved the décor and the atmosphere reminded me of one of those cozy mom and pop restaurants in Brooklyn. They played all types of reggae and calypso music. And the food was slammin! You won’t find a lot of spices and flavors in Argentine food but because the dishes at Boteco are Brazilian, you get a ton of flavor!
I went there with a group of awesome women of color and the amazed and curious stares we got from Argentines passing by the window were hilarious but sweet. I highly recommend!
There are two cafes that I really loved when I was in Buenos Aires but some time has passed and I can’t remember the name and the address of them at the moment. However, when I return to Buenos Aires in a few weeks I will get the names and addresses of a few cafes and add it to the doc when I return to the states.
Café Tortoni Avenida de Mayo 825 http://www.cafetortoni.com.ar/index_ingles.html
Is a tourist trap (you have to wait in line to get in) but it’s the most famous café in Buenos Aires and beautiful
Gonzales formally known as Malesartes Honduras 4999, at Plaza Serrano, Palermo Soho
This is a really cozy café located in Paza Serrano.
Quilmes is the national beer of Buenos Aires and my favorite beer in the world. It has the perfect flavor to me. It’s not to bitter but not to watered down either the logo is the same color as the Argentine flag.
The alfajores is the national cookie. Just like everyone in the United States knows what an Oreo cookie is, everyone in Argentina knows what an alfajores is. The alfajores is a cookie sandwich filled with dulce de leche. Alfajores can be found all over Buenos Aires, especially in grocery stores. The best ones can be found at Havanna. Havanna to Argentina is what Starbucks is to the United States. Only Havanna is way classier.
Everyone knows that Argentina is the beef country and you will find top quality meat like no other here. There is something in Buenos Aires called a Parilla. It’s when you select an array of different meats and they bring it out to you on a mini sizzling grill. Here is a site that explains Parilla really well. http://argentinastravel.com/61/the-parilla-a-delicious-staple-of-the-argentine-table/
The Chimichuri salsa and Chorizo Sausages in Argentina are my absolute favorite! They always serve bread with Parilla and if you take two pieces of bread and put some Chimichuri and Chorizo in the middle its called Churi pan and it taste amaizing!!!!!
Malbec is the national wine and even the cheapest bottle at the grocery store is delish!
Dulce de Leche is everywhere in Buenos Aires and almost on everything sweet. Argentines love their dulce de leche. I’m not a big fan of it, though.
As I mentioned in the restaurant section, I love the pizza in Buenos Aires. I never had a slice that let me down. The cheese just melts in your mouth.
Milanesa is big in Argentina. I ate a boat load of it while I was there. They serve it Eeeevrywhere. Milanesa is a cutlet of meat that is breaded—most of the time the meat will be chicken.
All ice ream is good in Buenos Aires but some of the best can be found at Persicco Migueletes 868 http://www.persicco.com/. The ice cream here made my eyes roll back.
The kiosko is like a news stand and you will find candy, cigarettes and phone cards along with other yummy Argentine sweets and goodies. As I said above, you can also purchase you Guia’T at a kiosko.
The Locutorios are like internet centers. You can buy time on a computer to use the internet. You can also find Cabinas there. A Cabina is a phone booth where you can make international calls. You can also buy any phone card you may need in a Locutorio. You can find a Locutorio anywhere. They are almost on every block.
The Grocery store I shopped in the most when I lived in Buenos Aires was the Eki in Palermo on Avenida Sante Fe. (Update: Eki has now been bought out by the big grocery store chain Carrefour). They’re all over Buenos Aires. The two major supermarkets are Coto and Disco. You will see them everywhere. Be aware that you will be charged for your plastic shopping bags.
JUMBO Avenida Int. Bullrich 345 http://www.jumbo.com.ar/
I loved Jumbo. It’s huge! It’s a North American style grocery store like Pathmark . So if you start to miss things from back home like ranch salad dressing, Pringles, Kit Kats, M&Ms and Snicker bars, you will find them at Jumbo. Be aware that you will have to bag your own groceries in Jumbo.
EASY Av. Bullrich 345 http://www.easy.com.ar/easy/site/Easy/index.html
Easy is like the Ikea of Buenos Aires only it’s less intense. You can find some nice home goods here.
Best Shopping Areas
There are plenty of great places to go shopping in Buenos Aires, but my favorite areas are:
Avenida Santa Fe – rows and rows of good stores.
Calle Florida- Be aware you will get harassed by street hustlers.
Once (pronounced on-say) - Beautiful affordable stores for everything you can think of! It’s like 34th street in NYC so be careful of pick pockets and purse snatchers in the crowd.
Alto Palermo Shopping Mall
The Alto Palermo mall is one of the biggest malls in Buenos Aires. It’s on Avenida Sante Fe in Palermo. You can find everything that you would usually find in a mall here. If I remember correctly, you can take the D line on the Subte to the Bulnes stop and that’s how you would get to the mall.
The ferias are the outdoor markets on the weekend. Vendors sell everything from jewelry, clothing, hand crafted puppets. It’s a great place to find unique souvenirs for yourself and family and friends. My favorite ferias are in Recoleta and San Telmo. You can literally walk for hours shopping at the ferias.
This is what a vintage store is called and there are some great ones all over Buenos Aires.
In Argentina, breakfast is not large. So if you’re looking for a big plate of eggs with sausage and pancakes you in the wrong place. Breakfast in Argentina is a cup of tea or coffe and a pastry of some sort, most likely a medialuna (croissant).
Argentines eat dinner late, around 9 or 10pm.
I can not write a section on customs without mentioning mate (pronounced mah-tay). I described it well in the book I am writing about Buenos Aires so I will just quote from there: “Now allow me to go off on a tangent to explain. Mate is dried Yerba-mate leaves steeped in hot water. The tea is served in a small, rounded cup called a guampa that can fit in the palms of your hands. The tea is drunk from the cup with a metal silver straw called a bombilla. The custom is to drink the entire mate from the cup and then pass it along to the next person so that the gourd can be refilled and drunk from. When I first engaged in the practice of drinking mate, I used to take one sip and then pass the guampa. I was met with many confused looks when I did this and was asked, “Do you not like it?”
I did not know I was meant to drink it all before passing it, but I got the hang of this social custom very quickly. Drinking mate was always a wonderful way to bond with people and have the feeling of being connected. It was nice to be a part of it. The closest thing like this in New York was the passing of a blunt.”
If the thought of drinking after a complete stranger makes you do the ick face, then this activity is not for you. I am a germ phobe but for some reason I didn’t mind sharing mate. Maybe it was a “when in Rome” thing.
The love of futbol is an intense passion in Argentina and sometimes deadly. You haven’t experienced the real Buenos Aires until you have witnessed a futbol game. One of the most popular futbol teams in Buenos Aires is the Boca Juniors.
I never felt like my life was in danger when I lived in Buenos Aires; however, it is important to have street smarts. If you live in a city you already know the drill: don’t go to a darkened ATM at night alone, pull your purse or book bag to the front of you when riding on a crowed bus or train, be careful of pick pockets etc.. etc..
I really wish I did not have to write what I am about to write but my priority is candor and I must always remain true when writing about Buenos Aires. When I first lived in Buenos Aires five years ago, I did not receive as much warnings about danger that I did when I returned in August 2012.
Here is the deal. Robbery is a problem in Buenos Aires. Almost everyone I met has been robbed or knows someone that has been robbed. Armed robberies are rare but they do happen. Here are some tips to decrease your chances of being robbed.
Never walk alone too late at night or early in the morning. If you will be out late, take a taxi home.
Do not and I repeat do not flash expensive technology in Buenos Aires, this includes laptops, cameras and cell phones. These three items are big on the thief list. It is common there for someone to snatch your phone on the street or Subte and run. Almost everyone in Buenos Aires uses phones that are not to expensive that they would not cry over if they were jacked. Yes! This is how serious it is.
If you have no choice but to use an expensive phone, never pull it out on the Subte. Never! The Subte in Buenos Aires is like the New York City subway in the 80’s, complete with train cars covered in graffiti. I’m not joking.
Do not wear fancy jewelry like earrings and necklaces in the Subte. Chain snatching is still on and popping there.
When eating in a restaurant, whether its inside or out, always keep your purse in your lap, never place it on the floor or hang in on the back of your chair.
When leaving your apartment building, always make sure the door closes shut behind you and never I mean never let anyone in the building you don’t know or who does not have a key. In Buenos Aires, you can not buzz your guest up. You have to come down stairs to let them out and in. So people usually will wait at the door for their guest to come and get them and will not come in behind you. I was told from someone who has lived in Buenos Aires since 2005, that there are house robberies where the renter or owner is tied up in their own house and robbed. This is an extreme case an not likely to happen, but this is why you must not let anyone in your building you do not know.
Be careful of motor thieves (thieves that speed by on motorcycles and snatch your bag or phone from your hands). Walk with your bag on the inside of the street or across your front. Be aware when you are walking and texting.
Never carry all your important documents on you. Leave your passport in a secure place in your hotel room or apartment. Never carry your bank card on you. Withdraw the amount of money you need for the week and then leave your bank card and half of the money in a secure place in your hotel room or apartment
On a positive note, I’ve been to Buenos Aires twice and have never been robbed. If you use precaution you will be OK.
I’m not a fan of doing the touristy thing when I travel to a new cities but below are some tourist attractions that are worth the visit:
MALBA Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires) Avenida Figueroa Alcorta 3415 http://www.malba.org.ar/web/home_eng.php
This is one of Buenos Aires top museums. I enjoyed myself when I visited with my friend.
La Boca Neighborhood (see neighborhood section)
Puerto Madero Neighborhood (see neighborhood section)
La casa Rosada (Aka the pink house) http://www.museo.gov.ar
It’s like the white house only pink.
Cementerio Recoleta (aka Recoleta cemetery)
Recoleta cemetery is one of the most famous cemeteries in Buenos Aires. You will find some of the most beautiful sculptures here. The famous Evita rest in this cemetery.
Jardin Japones (aka Japanese Gardens), corner of Avenida Figueroa Alcorta and Avenida Casares http://www.jardinjapones.org.ar
Beautiful Japanese bontanical garden
Bosques de Palermo (aka Palermo Woods)
This park was like something out of a beautiful fairytale to me: arched foot bridges over water, ivory pergolas and weeping palm trees. It was simply beautiful. And the geese running around were enormous!
The zoo, planetarium and rose garden is also located near Palermo woods and the Japanese garden.
Rojo Tango at Faena Hotel + Universe, Martha Salotti 445 http://www.rojotango.com/
This was the best Tango show I’ve ever seen in my life! And one of the most beautiful experiences I had in Buenos Aires. It’s at the beautiful and other worldly Faena Hotel http://www.faenahotelanduniverse.com watch the video on the website and you will see what I mean. This is a real Luxury affair, so if you’re a student on a budget I would skip it, but if you have money to splurge please do it! A chauffer in a luxury vehicle picked me and my friend up from my apartment and drove us back once the show was over. We dined on some of the best duck I’ve ever tasted, had the finest champagne and ate yummy desert.
The tango show was red, sexy and smoky. All the male and female dancers were hot and so were the live musicians. We kept bumping into celebrities all night, Argentine and American. Jane Fonda was at the table in front of us and celebrated her birthday. And I’m sure I witnessed one of the sexiest renditions of “Roxanne” ever! In a sexy Argentine accent! Need I say more? Get thee to Rojo Tango!
The gallery I loved in Buenos Aires closed down, but I found a cool list on this website: http://www.welcomesantelmo.com/guide/3/Galleries
Going to the movies in Buenos Aires is like going to the movies anywhere else so this section does not need much explaining. Blockbuster movies are in English with Spanish subtitles. I went to the movies twice in Buenos Aires. There is a big movie theater in Recoleta called Village Recoleta at Junín and Lopez http://www.villagecines.com/
To find more touristy stuff you can visit the website of the board of tourism: http://www.bue.gov.ar/
Anyone of the many Buenos Aires suburbs is great to visit. One in particular is San Isidro. The houses are beautiful there. You can get there by colectivo; it’s just a longer ride and a higher fare.
Is another great place to visit. Tigre is about a half hour ride outside of Buenos Aires and you can get there by taking a train from the Retiro train station. You can also get there by bus. It’s a town that sits on an island surrounded by water. There are plenty of water boats to take a ride on. When I went, I took a boat ride and took tons of pictures. Tigre also has some of the best outdoor markets too. I heard the night parties there are pretty dope.
I’ve been warned by Argentines that the trains that take you outside of the city are not safe right now. There have been frequent accidents and derailings. This is because the trains systems are old and are not being up kept. If you want to go to Tigre, I recommend taking a bus.
Mar del Plata
Is a city not too far from Buenos Aires and it’s about a 5 hour drive. It rained when I went so I didn’t get to really enjoy myself. The Argentines there are a little more relaxed and friendly than the Argentines in Buenos Aires. Most people travel to Mar del Plata in the summer to go to the beach. You can buy a ticket for Mar del Plata from one of the many bus companies in the Retiro bus station. Buses leave for Mar del Plata from the bus terminal. Expect to pay about $30 US both ways.
As I mentioned before, you can take a one hour ferry to the beautiful Colonia, Uruguay. The streets are cobble stoned and the people friendly and beautiful. I must say the people in Uruguay are a little friendlier than their Argentine cousins. However, Uruguay is way more expensive than Argentine.
It’s always a good idea to make sure you’re up to date on all your vaccinations before you travel anywhere, but Buenos Aires doesn’t have any fatal disease warnings. I know any smart traveler knows to get travel health insurance before traveling anywhere but I wasn’t always that smart. I didn’t have international health insurance when I lived in Buenos Aires and I had to go to the doctor twice when I was there. Lucky for me, my visit to the emergency room was affordable.
When I had an emergency visit, I filled out some paper work at the front desk, which was my name, address, and telephone number. The front desk held on to my passport while I was seeing the doctor and I had my Argentine friend at my side to translate. At the end of my visit, my doctor handed me my prescription and my bill came to 36.30 Argentine pesos (about 9 us dollars). My medicine cost me about 5 Argentine pesos. All in all is was a really affordable experience.
Over the counter medicine and prescriptions can be filled at the Pharmacy. You will know when you have spotted a pharmacy because you will see a huge green blinking cross, similar to what you see in Paris.
A little note for the ladies: birth control pills are extremely affordable there too.
Argentines who reside in Buenos Aires are called Portenos. 95% of the Argentine population is white skinned with European features. Therefore, if you do not look like this you will stand out and they tend to stare at you. But it’s more curiosity than anything else (Argentines are very friendly people). Sometimes it borders on fascination though and can get a little disturbing: don’t be surprised if someone asks to take a picture with you because you have dark skin.
If you are a woman or man of color you will be considered exotic and pursued rather aggressively. Be careful when dating and know how to tell the difference between someone who really likes you and someone who only has a fetish for you.
The normal thing to do when meeting someone for the first time is to give them a kiss on both cheeks. Each new person to enter a room or party will work their way around the room until they have greeted everyone there with two kisses on the cheek, even if they don’t know you. The same thing happens when they leave. It’s not strange to see two men greet that way either in Buenos Aires. It’s the same way in France. It took a long time for me to get used to the hand shake again when I moved back to the states.
There are waaaaaaay more black people in Buenos Aires than there was five years ago and this is a beautiful thing. In ten years time, the black population will be nice. However, the stares are still happening. Sorry!
Learning Spanish and Meeting Argentines
If you’re traveling solo to Buenos Aires and don’t know a single soul there, you might want to consider Spanglish Exhange. https://www.spanglishexchange.com/. I found out about Spanglish Exchange after I moved back to the states and the founder contacted me. I wish I attended a few of their events when I was still in Buenos Aires. It’s the perfect way to meet new friends, especially Argentine ones, and learn Argentine Spanish. Everyone I recommended this to enjoyed themselves.
Well, this completes the overview. I hope it has been helpful.