Future Study Abroader

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Dear future study abroad student,

You are about to embark on an adventure of a lifetime, one that you will cherish and remember for the rest of your life--are you ready? I am currently in Brazil after having spent nearly one month in Buenos Aires Argentina.

One of the reasons that I signed up for this particular study abroad program was because it was recommended to me by a good friend. When packing and preparing for my trip I always consulted her for advice and recommendations. Although in general I did feel relatively prepared I hope that this particular letter prepares you more than me. First I will start by outlining what you should do to prepare yourself BEFORE you leave, then I will outline what you should expect when you are in Argentina:

I. Luggage

I flew with Delta which allows 2 suitcases and 2 carry-ons. Each suitcase has a limit of 50lbs (total 100lbs), and no limit on carry-ons. Two particular things of importance that come to mind are: 1. Fines for being overweight are hefty, typically a flat charge of $50US or $100US depending on the amount, and 2. There is a size limit for the bags (one particular student got a hefty charge because his suitcase was too big). Be sure to always check the specifics out on  your airlines website, or call!

So what would I recommend? Always try to pack light, but rather than one large bring, bring two mobile (maybe on wheels) bags. Also if you don’t need 2 carry-ons you may want to pack them, especially if you plan on buying souvenirs. This way rather than having one bag weighing 80 lbs and getting charge--you can have 2 bags with 40lbs each and be fine! :)

II. What to pack

This is probably the biggest issue that you will cross and depends on how high maintenance you are, and most likely if you are male r female. My suggestion is to simply make note of everything you use in a one week span.

     a.) Clothes

     This is a tricky issue, especially when trying to pack light. I would say that the temperature range was from 40-70 F, so you essentially need to be ready for all kinds of weather. I would recommend layers. Bring a swim suit for Brazil. And FYI- leather in Argentina is very cheap, so if you want don't bring your leather jacket, and buy a custom made one here for around $100-150.

    b.) Electronics

    A camera is a must, computers are a nice and convenient addition but it is not absolutely necessary. Wireless cafes are abundant, and to use computers at the locotorio (computer and phone place) costs roughly $0.30/hour. Cell phones are not necessary, but I recommend buying a phone card (ex: AT&T) that can be used in Argentina and Brazil, if not the rate in Argentina is roughly $0.10/minute. However do not count on rates in Brazil being as low (here in Florianopolis it is nearly $1.00/minute). Most people brought IPODs for entertainment--your choice.

    c.) Toiletries

    To say it quickly: females need to bring plenty of feminine hygiene products because there are no tampons with applicators. :-) They obviously have shampoo, conditioner (suave, loreal, etc), toothpaste, and toothbrushes (crest, colgate, etc), but if you are brand specific be sure to bring your own. If you are not brand specific you can purchase everything here at the same price, if not cheaper than the U.S..

    d.) Safety

-          Locks for luggage and book bags are a must as pick pocketing is a huge problem here.

-           Also, especially for females I would recommend bringing mase (be sure to not carry it on the plane•put it in your luggage). Many of the girls on the trip have mase and although none of us have used it, it is better safe than sorry.

-          As recommended in your study abroad meetings make photocopies of all important documents and keep them in a separate place.

-          Inform your bank you are going out of the country so they won’t think someone is stealing from your account. Also get one extra credit and/or debit card incase yours gets stolen•just call, it is usually free.

III. Brazilian Visa

I would recommend getting this in the U.S. rather than in Argentina. There is no language barrier, and hopefully they will treat you better than I got treated in Argentina. Trust me on this one.

IV. Travelers Guide, etc.

Buy a travelers guide for Argentina and one for Brazil. Also buy a phrase book/dictionary for Spanish and for Portuguese. Trust me, this will make your trip much more worthwhile and easy.

Everything above was a general guideline on what to bring to Argentina, and what to do before. (obviously just a few recommendations, not a complete list)  Below I will outline what to expect when you get there.

I.  Habla Ingles?

Do not expect everyone to speak English. Aside from the fact tha tit is rude, very little do speak English. I know there is not much time due to finals, but do yourself a favor and brush up on Spanish as much as you can before you come. Maybe go to the local library and pick up a Spanish cassette or CD?

II. Shopping

Argentina has the second highest rate of eating disorders (after Japan) and therefore if you are not a female under the size of 4 do not expect to find any clothes that fit. However there are a bunch of accessory stores here. Larger framed men may also have the same problem as the women, but not to the same extreme.

III. Laundry

There are laundry mats everywhere here. It costs on average 5-10 pesos per load to wash, dry, and fold.

IV. Money

How much money to bring depends on how much you like to drink and dine-out. Eating is a hobby of mine, and I ate out a lot here. I went out drinking maybe 3-4 times. I managed with roughly $100/week. Obviously taking trips, say to Mendoza (the Nappa Valley of Argentina), or Patagonia cost additional. We took a long weekend trip to Mendoza which by bus was an roughly $70 US, and stayed in hostels which were $10 US/per night for a room of two.

V. Safety

Please Please PLEASE always be on guard. This cannot be said enough. On the bus back from Mendoza to Buenos Aires I got my wallet, video IPOD, and $400 camera stolen all at one time. Another student got his wallet pick pocketed out of his FRONT pocket while he was on the subway. I do NOT want this happening to you. Be sure to bring locks, and lock up any of your belongings when you are not using them, and always keep an eye on them!

VI. Getting ripped off

Being a “rich, spoiled American” that we ‘all’ are comes with many ramifications. When traveling to any country you will inevitably get ripped off. This comes from buying things at markets, eating out at restaurants, and even sketchy taxi drivers that will take you on an unwanted tour of the city. To avoid this always do your best at speaking in Spanish (rather than assuming that people speak English). Also do not eat at places, or even buy from places that don’t have prices marked. When entering into a taxi, always have a map out and follow the route to your destination.

I am a very tall girl•5’10 and with light hair. No matter what I did it was very hard for me to blend in with everyone. I would walk into a store, and the salesclerk would automatically talk to me in English. For some this may be more difficult than others, but always shop around.

VII. The cheap city

Everything here is so cheap, and honestly I would take advantage of it. That means going out to a “very upscale restaurant”, and eating like a king or queen for less than $20US which would be comparable to a $100 meal in the US. An average dinner here is roughly $7•and that means a STEAK dinner with a drink and tip included! You only tip around 10% at restaurants which is definitely a change from the US.

All public transportation is very cheap, and I would recommend taking advantage of it. Clothes, food, drinks•all cheap. And for all you drinkers out there: beer comes in the LITER here, and at the supermarket you can buy a beer for roughly $1US!

Take advantage of the great exchange rate, because trust me when you get to Brazil you will be in shock!

VIII. Final word

Embrace every moment that you have, and take advantage of the free days that you have off. Plan a trip to Mendoza, Patagonia, or El Tigre during these days. Use your guidebooks that I recommend buying to help you plan these trips. Professor Bowman does give a lot of reading, but do the best that you can do. Do not let the work load bog you down too much, as I know I did at the beginning.

Feel free to email me if you have any questions, concerns, etc: gigi@gatech.edu

I promise, you will love it! J




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