Things you should know

Florianopolis Travel Blog

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Buenos Aires is a wonderful city, and you should be very excited to have the opportunity to spend time there. The city has many things to see and do. It is also inexpensive and relatively safe for its size. I would definitely go back to Buenos Aires as soon as I have an opportunity. However, there are a few things that I wish I knew before I left for Argentina. I hope the information that I am giving you will help answer some of your questions or concerns about Buenos Aires.

            It is not necessary to carry a large sum of dollars with you on the trip. Money is difficult to exchange, because of the crazy bank schedule. Banks are open from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm only Monday thru Friday. They also decide every now and then to take an occasional Wednesday off. However, money is extremely easy to withdraw from ATMs. These machines are located in the bank lobbies and can be accessed 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. These banks are also located on almost every block in the city, so finding one is definitely not a problem. When you withdraw, keep in mind that with a Wachovia Visa debit card which I used, there is a $2.00 service fee per transaction. For this reason, I would recommend withdrawing money only once a week or in decent amounts. I would also recommend not to withdraw exactly 200 or 300 pesos. This is because in the city many stores have a very hard time making change for large bills such as a fifty or one hundred. I would usually take out about 290 pesos (just less than $100) at a time so that I would have some smaller bills on hand.

            Definitely bring a laptop if you have one. I did not have a laptop and using computers was a little more of a hassle than I thought. There are computers in the residencias, but there are also alot of people trying to use these computers. The computer room is also very hot and the computers are not of the best quality. In fact in my building only 2 out of 5 computers worked. The residencias have wireless internet and many cafes do as well, so laptops come in handy. However, if you do not have a laptop do not worry too much. There are places all over the city called locotorios. These are places were you can use the internet and are charged based on how long you are there. From what I remember it was only someting like 1 peso for an hour. That is hard to beat.

            If you are planning on going to Brazil, go ahead and get your visa in the states before you leave. Getting a visa at the Brazilian consulate in Buenos Aires is a pain. You have to go to the consulate between 10 am and 2 pm and fill out all sorts of paperwork. Then if you have all of the required information, they hold your passport and you have to walk several blocks to a certain bank and pay 333 pesos. Then with out losing your receipt you wait 3 to 4 business day and return to pick it up between 4 pm and 5 pm. The lines are long, and everything at the consulate is difficult to deal with.

Pack light! There is no need to carry a bunch of extra clothes. Laundary is simple within Buenos Aires. For only 6 pesos or 2 dollars, the laundary mats will wash, dry, and fold a load of your clothes. Usually if you take it to the mat by noon, you could pick it up that afternoon. Clothes that need special treatment should not be taken to these places, because I had one shirt ruined. Instead there are slightly more expensive dry cleaners who do an excellent job with dress clothes. All laundary mats or dry cleaners are easily within walking distance of the residencias. In fact there was one directly across the street form me. It doesn´t get any easier than that. Packing light will also guarantee so extra room for souveniers and any other items you might pick up along the way.

The restaurants in Buenos Aires are excellent. Cafes are located on every block and are all very nice places. However, do not expect to run into a cafe or restaraunt, quickly get your food, and leave. The atmosphere while eating is very different than that of the US. Waiters take there time, and you are supposed to sit and relax. If you have somewhere you need to be make sure you take into account the time it takes to eat. The residencias have meals provided which are included in your program fees. I would try and eat as many of these meals as possible to save money. Sometimes I would eat this meal and go out with a group to a restaraunt to hang out. At the same time, treat yourself to a nice meal ever now and then, because the food is delicious.

Transportation around the city is fairly simply. Personally, I would recommend walking everywhere you can. You see so much more by walking. If your destination is too far to walk, then there are taxis, the subway, or buses. Taxis are good late at night when the subway has closed. They are a little expensive compared to the other modes of transportation, but they are not ridiculously expensive. However, I would not every recommend taking a taxi alone. Also, I it good to have an idea of where you are going, because every now and then you will get a taxi driver who intentionally drives to long route to run up the fee. When pay the cab driver, pay special attention to the money you are using. There is a watermark on all of the bills, and as you go to pay check to see if you see this watermark. As you check, make sure the taxi driver sees you checking. Apparently is a common for some of the drivers to take your money and switch it with counterfit bill, which will cause you to pay twice as much. The subway system is very easy to use and it only cost 70 centavos. However, keep in mind that this system closes at 11:00 pm, so don´t plan on taking it late at night. The bus is also fairly easy to use, however, make sure you have enough change to cover the fee. The fee is 80 centavos. I made the mistake of only having paper money, and I had to leave the bus, because there was no way of making change.

            Phone calls are easy from Buenos Aires. Some people carry cell phones with them, but I would not recommend doing so. All over the city there are phone booth. These booths take change and  connect with the United States. They are inexpensive, and have a timer on the phone so you know how long you have left to talk before you need more change. I also used an international calling card to make calls. For 10 pesos ($3.33), you can talk for 32 minutes. I would not call someone everyday, however, because the money adds up after a while.

            Excersising is also easy within the city. Argentina is known for its beautiful people, so finding somewhere to burn the fat is no problem. There are many parks and gyms. The rose garden is an excellent place to run, as long as you are running during the day. I joined a gym called Always Gimnasio on Paraguay. It only cost 63 pesos for a month membership that included weights, bikes, treadmills, aerobics, and free instructors. The gym was also accessible from 7 in the morning to midnight. I would recommend to anyone to join a gym. It is more than just a place to exercise, but it seems to be part of the Argentine way of life and is full of a very unique social atmosphere.

            There are many fun and exciting things to do within the city. I recommend making a list of the events you would like to do, once you get to Buenos Aires and try to do as much of it as you can. I highly recommend the market in Ricoletta on the weekend as well as jazz clubs or other cultural events. Everyone at some point needs to experience the night life of Buenos Aires. Going to a club is completely different than anything else I have ever done. I arrived at one club at 2:30 am and it was nearly empty, but at 4:30 am it was completely full. Just so you know, if your going to the club, then go really late. Also plan on sleeping in the next day, because people do not leave until the sun is rising.

            On a free or long weekend, definitely travel to other cities or across the country. I made a trip with 8 others to Mendoza where we rode horses, went hiking, tasted wine at the vineyards, and then went paragliding. Several others in our group went to other cities as well. It is nice to get out of Buenos Aires after a while. Make sure when you are budgeting to plan for such adventures. Mendoza is on the other side of the country, so I flew for an hour and a half for $200. Others that went took a bus for 15 hours that only cost $70. All the events that I did in Mendoza totalled around $110.

            I spent approximately $700 during my month in Buenos Aires. Just over $400 of this was on my visa to Brazil and entire trip to Mendoza. So for about $300 dollars, I lived in Buenos Aires. Most of the money, I spent was on food during the weekends as well as going out for a few drinks here and there. I also bought a few souveniers. The best way to conserve money is to think of one peso as costing the same as one dollar instead of the 3 pesos to a dollar rate that it really is. However, I would not recommend being too tight with your money. Go out and explore the city and take advantage of everything you can do. I hope this informantion will help answer some of your questions you may have before your trip.

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photo by: Vagabondatheart