Advice for future students traveling to Buenos Aires

Florianopolis Travel Blog

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Buenos Aires is a city of intrigue and mystery with thousands of paths to walk down, millions of people to meet, and more individual experiences than a lifetime can hold. After a month in Buenos Aires I learned a few things about the city and her ways, discovered a few places well worth visiting, and encountered a few setbacks in my journey that hopefully I can help you avoid repeating. What follows is an account of information I would have liked to have had prior to arriving in Buenos Aires and then information that will perhaps help you prepare to discover Buenos Aires in your unique way.


First, information I would have loved to have had…


With regards to packing, be sure to bring with you your own bath towel and washcloth. Both of these items are quite crucial to life at the residencia you will call home as well as at any youth hostels you should choose to visit. Should you decide to purchase these in Buenos Aires, you will be spending a minimum of 25 pesos, the equivalent to a beautiful dinner. Along with your towel, be sure to bring shower shoes of some variety. If you are traveling in Argentina’s winter months, the temperature may drop as low as a few degrees above freezing. Because you will be walking all around the city during the day and the night, bring clothing you would wear when going outdoors in such temperatures in America (gloves, a scarf, a hat, a warm coat). To help lighten your packing load, practice the art of layering. For example: instead of bringing a heavy winter coat, wear a t-shirt below a long sleeve shirt below a sweater or leather jacket. Bring with you one nice outfit for instances like going to the opera or meeting the ambassador (nice slacks and a shirt or a skirt and blouse will suffice) as well as accessories to dress up a plain outfit. If you are a woman, do not forget your makeup bag. Everyone in Buenos Aires wears makeup and if you are going out at night, it’s amazing what the slightest bit of makeup will do to your acceptance. Bring also a pair of nice shoes, something brown or black that can make a pair of jeans turn into a dressy outfit. No one wears tennis shoes out to dinner or to concerts, nor does anyone wear flipflops, which will draw far more attention to your feet than the tennis shoes. If you are of a normal size, you do have the option of purchasing your shoes in Buenos Aires, one of the shopping capitals of the world, for a decent price.


A further note on shopping in Buenos Aires: Bring all of the items essential to your daily survival (jeans, corduroy pants, a sweater, shirts etc.) but do not fret going out to the store prior to arriving in South America to add to your wardrobe. Shopping in Buenos Aires is inexpensive given the strength of the dollar, so if you are willing to try your hand at the stores and practice your Spanish, save your money to be spent in Buenos Aires. A warning: fashion in Buenos Aires for women runs in sizes small and smaller. The American women’s small equates to at least a medium. Do not expect to wear in Buenos Aires sizes equivalent to those you wear in the United States.


A few other odds and ends you should strongly consider packing or purchasing upon arrival in Buenos Aires: a single set of silverware, a corkscrew, a water bottle, a hanger or two for anything that absolutely must be hung, an adapter for electronic appliances, a small Spanish/English phrase book, ear plugs, and an eye mask. Things not to bring with you to Buenos Aires to save some weight in your suitcase: a notebook and paper, shampoo (unless you have a specific brand, especially if it is American, imports are expensive) and soap. These can all be purchased in Buenos Aires easily and inexpensively.


Once you are in Buenos Aires you will find the allure of the city, its wonderful nightlife, its omnipresent shopping scene, and delightful delicacies have the amazing ability to empty the contents of your wallet without you hardly knowing it. My advice to managing your money overseas is as follows. Keep a tiny notebook (moleskin notebooks have seen me through all my travels) and record each day your expenditures, the amount and what it was spent on. By keeping a record of your expenditures you can look back and see where all of your money is going, how much you have left to spend, and what you should stop spending money on. You need remember that Buenos Aires is just a stop on your journey and that anything you buy in Buenos Aires will need be carried with you throughout the rest of your travels and will perhaps be fined to you as overweight baggage at exorbetent fees. You can ship purchases to the United State from Buenos Aires, but expect to spend well over 100 pesos for such a service and do not expect to be able to send original artwork out of the country; it must be carried on your person.


Because everything is so inexpensive in Buenos Aires, you will inevitably have to fight the urge to spend, spend, spend, if not on yourself, on other people. My advice is to not compare prices to American prices all of the time and think of what a great deal you are getting, but pretend to be Argentine and forget the exchange rate. A peso is a peso and a 35 peso dinner is indeed expensive. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t occasionally enjoy the luxuries of an expensive dinner or spend money to see a wonderful show, but it will help you on a daily basis cut down on the amount of money you spend. Another easy way to help reduce your spending is to eat your meals at the residencia. Wake up in the mornings for breakfast and enjoy the company and good food and be sure to mingle with other students at dinners in the evenings. The food at the residencia is good quality, though perhaps bland, and they even accommodate dietary restrictions. This will save you lots of money.


Below is an itemized list of how much money I spent in Buenos Aires and what I spent it on. I did not often engage in the bar or club scene where the overhead prices can be steep and the price of alcohol steep (comparatively) as well. If the clubbing and bar scene appeals greatly to you, plan for it.


All information is in pesos (exchange rate, roughly 3 Argentine pesos to 1 USD)


Travel (bus fare, subway fair, cabs) and newspapers: $73.95

Food (lunches, pasteries, all meals on Satudays and Sundays, all drinks and gelatto visits): $344.60

Entertainment (cover charges and show prices): $70

Gifts for family and friends and CDs for me: $255.40 

Exit fee from Argentina: $56 pesos (I think...)


Total spent in Argentina: about $800 pesos or just under $300 USD



My additional advice regarding Buenos Aires concerns places to visit, opportunities not to miss out on, and ways to keep your roommate life sane.


First, places to visit. It is imperative that in your time in Buenos Aires that you see the following: Colon Theatre, the rose garden, as many football games as possible, Plaza de Mayo, Puerto Madero (the view of Buenos Aires from here is spectacular), and as many café’s as your budget can afford. While those are also large tourist areas, I would recommend finding some jewels that aren’t. Clasica y Moderna is a beautiful little bookstore with a café that has evening entertainment all seven days of the week. If you go, you will be one of the younger in the audience, but notably as well, the only, or one of a very few, foreigners. The block down from Clasica y Moderna is Notorious, a neat little cd store and jazz club that always has good, live jazz as well as a neat crowd of people. Be sure to make reservations in advance to get a nice table. Wander the streets of Palermo (not by yourself) at night with other sober individuals and listen in at the many cafes and bars near Plaza Serrano and you’ll be sure to hear music wafting through some window. Follow it. Buy a bottle of Malbec. Groove and meet people you otherwise would never have seen. Use the Buenos Aires Herald and the Clarin to find interesting events happening around Buenos Aires and go. There is always something going on somewhere and it is almost always worth not missing.


If the dredge of the city starts to get to you, a wonderful day trip is to El Tigre. Spend six pesos on the scenic train ride that allows you to get off and board again with no charge at any of the ten or so little towns between Buenos Aires and El Tigre. Be sure to get off at San Isidro and as many other towns as meets your fancy. They are all beautiful and have a slower pace of life than Buenos Aires. In El Tigre you can walk along the river, enjoy wonderful ice cream, check out a fruit market that sells not just fruit but local wares, or take a riverboat ride. This trip is perfect for a single day and will help revitalize you for more city life.


Because there is little private space in the residencia in Buenos Aires (you may be sharing bathrooms and a tiny room with up to four people, or you may luck out and have a two person suite… let fate play her cards), I highly recommend making deals with your roommates regarding each individual having some down time in the room alone each week. Also be sure to spend some time alone with the city of Buenos Aires. Take a map and get lost in the city by yourself and you will enjoy the peace and solitude that can only exist in a city of her size. Bring your ipod or small music device, put on it some Gotan Project or Bajofundo Tango Club and let the city groove with you while you walk. I would recommend walking to class as often as the weather and your sleep schedule permit it. You will see more fascinating people and more intriguing aspects of the city by foot than on the subte or on the bus.    


My last piece of advice regards your health. Be sure to bring any medications you can for see needing on the trip, especially allergy medication. Buenos Aires is not a particularly clean city, and if you are sensitive to smog or cigarette smoke, be sure to take precautions. While the city has a spectacular nightlife, be sure to get plenty of sleep. Illness creeps up on you much more efficiently when you are sleep deprived and in a dirty city. Also, be sure to try and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, or at the bare minimum bring with you a multivitamin. If you sleep, minimize your drinking, and eat well, your chances of keeping healthy despite living in dorms where others will inevitably fall ill are greatly increased.


You will love Buenos Aires, and if you let her, she will love you back. Enjoy! Buena Suerte!  

travelman727 says:

You should become a travel book author. I'm a sports editor for a weekly newspaper and your review is congent, clever and captivating. I hope you and your classmates don't suffer mate withdrawal.
Posted on: Jun 17, 2006
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