I’m going to be real, I was actually looking for flights to Chile (I’ll be going there next month!), when I found that flights to Argentina were much cheaper. By much cheaper, I mean I paid around $1000 for a round trip ticket on TAM Airlines. The flight path was Chicago-Sao Paolo-Buenos Aires, and it’s a loooooonnnggg trip down. Chicago to Sao Paolo was about 11.5 hours, with another 2.5 hours from Sao Paolo to Buenos Aires. While the flight may have been pretty expensive, things in Argentina were pretty cheap, compared to the US dollar. In 2013, the exchange rate was about $1 = 4 Argentine Pesos. Currently, it’s about $1 = 14 Argentine Pesos. I had originally planned to go alone, but a friend decided to join me, booking her flight about a month after mine and paid a little bit more. However, she would be leaving a day earlier than me. Tickets booked in December for a March 22nd departure, and we were off!
What I Packed
Being in the southern hemisphere, Buenos Aires was in the midst of transitioning from Summer to Fall when we arrived at the end of March. This meant temperatures were warm during the day (around 70-80ºF) and very cool at night (around 50-60ºF). On the plane, I wore black leggings (shocking!) with a long sleeve shirt and a sweater. I packed jeans and tees for the day time, a couple cardigans and scarves to throw on in the evening, and a few sweaters. I also brought a couple dresses for evening outings, but needed to wear cardigans and leggings with them. We did a LOT of walking after being scammed by a taxi driver on our second day there (more on that later), so comfy shoes were a must. Unfortunately I did not pack comfy shoes so I had lots of blisters! Big mistake! I packed my jumbo sized suitcase and probably overpacked for just one week, but it was nice to have options 🙂
How I Got Around
We used almost every form of transit in BA!
There are tons of taxis in BA, but only few are actually legit. Radio-Taxis are the ones you want and they are black and yellow with a light box on top. Usually these taxis have to be called, but you can find them on the street as well. We took a taxi from the airport into the city and paid about $40. On our second day there, after a long bike tour and exploring an awesome antique market, we decided to hop in a taxi to return to our hotel. We had taken a taxi from our hotel earlier in the day and had no problem. Upon arriving back at our hotel, my friend handed our driver a 50 peso bill to pay for our ride. I watched her pull it out of her wallet and hand it to the driver. After a quick slight of hand that we only realized after, the driver showed us a 5 peso bill, claiming that’s what she had handed him and we owed him more money. She handed him another 50 and we exited. We both realized what had happened after it was too late and were livid. This kind of scam is popular among taxis all over the world, not just BA. The best thing to do is keep the bill in your hand, show it to the driver and say something along the lines of “I’m paying 50 pesos and I will need 10 pesos in change.” Wait until he gets his change ready, then exchange the bills. We decided to walk the entire rest of the trip, which was fine. We clocked about 17 miles a day!
Buenos Aires has a metro system, but we stayed away from it after hearing that it wasn’t very tourist friendly (read: lots of muggings). Not sure if that information was credible, but we stayed away nonetheless. We did take the commuter train to Tigre and I took it again to another suburb or BA for a cooking class. The train to Tigre was a little run down, but it got us there safely. On the return, we were jam packed in a car with no seats, tons of people, and not the cleanest. My friend ended up getting a little motion sickness, so we got off at a random stop so that she could get herself together. We hopped on the next train that came through and this was a complete 180 from the previous train. It was brand new, air conditioned, clean, lots of comfy seats- we couldn’t believe it! Trains ran from BA to Tigre about every 20 minutes, so maybe it’s best to wait and see what kind of train you’re going to get before hopping on. Just wait for the next one if it isn’t up to par! Tickets were about $5 round trip.
We took a ferry to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay for a day trip and it was awesome. We booked tickets online through https://coloniaexpress.com/ar. The trip was about 1 hour and cost about $40 roundtrip. There are many companies that offer transport between the cities so options are unlimited!
Where I Stayed
I HIGHLY recommend the hotel we stayed at- Pop Hotel (http://www.pophotelsbuenosaires.com). It was a boutique hotel located in the neighborhood of Villa Crespo. The neighborhood was lovely and filled with lots of shops, cafes, bars, restaurants. We felt very safe walking around at night as there were always others out and about. The hotel was very clean and staff was very friendly. Our room was nice and had a spacious bathroom. It also had free WiFi. I believe we paid about $300 for the week.
What I Ate
There wasn’t a meal in BA that I didn’t enjoy. Parillas are grilled meat sandwiches found in
stands all over the city. It’s the go-to street food that all the Argentinians eat. I believe the one I had was pork, but it didn’t matter what it was, it was good! You also have to eat an alfajor, which is a sandwich-type dessert of two cookies filled with dulce de leche in between. There are actually tons of different flavors and brands and we had at least 1 a day. Muy delicioso!
There was a little cafe next to our hotel where we ended up eating breakfast at every day. It was called Mazzo Coffee and Deli (http://www.mazzo-deli.com.ar) and it was amazing. Cheap but quality food and huge portions. We also shared a bottle of wine here one evening. Definitely a local hot spot.
We couldn’t visit BA without hitting up a steakhouse. For about $40, we had appetizers, full steak dinner with sides, bottle of wine, and dessert. It was a meal that would have cost well over $200 in the US. We went to La Cabrera (http://lacabrera.com.ar) as it was just down the street from our hotel, but there are numerous places equally cheap and delicious. We made a reservation at La Cabrera and it was a good thing we did because it was PACKED.
Hot chocolate and churros are another great Argentine tradition. We went to Cafe Tortoni http://www.cafetortoni.com.ar/en/), a famous cafe that was beautiful inside. Definitely a touristy place but worth it.
What I Did
On our second day there, we did a bike tour with Biking Buenos Aires (http://bikingbuenosaires.com). We did the Ultimate City Tour, which was a 7 hour tour all over the city. It included lunch and a very knowledgable guide who gave us a detailed history of the city. I really recommend doing this on the first or second day you are there so that you are able to get oriented in the city and get an idea of where you want to spend your time.
The other thing I did, and the most memorable, was a cooking class with Teresita. Teresita is an amazing chef who lives in the suburb of Adrogue. It was about a 45 minute train ride to Adrogue, which was a beautiful little town. I met Teresita at her home and she took us (there were about 5 of us in the class) on a little walking tour of the markets in town where she buys all her fresh ingredients. Afterwards, we returned to her home and she taught us how to make empanadas. We had so much fun, drinking wine and cooking in her home. Afterwards, she prepared us a 5-course traditional Argentine meal, which we ate in her garden. Info for the cooking class can be found at http://www.try2cook.com. This was an experience I will never forget.
Other highlights that you must do while in BA:
- MALBA (modern art museum)
- Day trip to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
- La Boca neighborhood
- La Recoleta neighborhood and cemetery (Evita Peron’s grave can be found here)
- Tigre, northern suburb of BA located in the midst of a delta
- Sunday Flea Market in San Telmo neighborhood (bought some awesome fake Ray Bans here)
As two young women traveling alone, we felt completely safe the entire time. Aside of the
taxi scam, we had no problems traveling the city alone. Even after my friend left and I was alone for a full day, I felt fine. Just as in any big city, pay attention to your surrounds and be on guard. The Argentinians like to protest a lot and we came across a procession during our bike tour. It can get kind of hectic with people all around, but staying neutral and just watching was the best thing to do.
Tips and Tricks
Argentine Spanish is a whole lot different than Mexican Spanish. The double L is pronounced “sh,” rather than “y,” which caused a lot of confusion our first day there! There are other pronunciation differences but that was the most drastic one.
Definitely book things ahead of time and be aware of certain days where museum entry may be free or certain discounts are applied. Best to Google places you want to visit before going.
Overall, I loved BA. It was a great introduction to Argentina. In the future, I would love to visit Patagonia in the south of Argentina. I will be traveling to Chile in June and I might do a day trip to Mendoza, Argentina (hello red wine!)