Advice: Tourists in Buenos Aires

Florianopolis Travel Blog

 › entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
What to Pack

The very first thing you must consider when taking a long trip is what to pack. This is especially important on this trip because you will be traveling around both Argentina and Brazil and climates will change. First I would like to say that you do in fact need to put some planning into packing.   If you have spent anytime traveling abroad you probably won’t have a problem but in general you need to pack light, because you will inevitable collect more items.  In Buenos Aires things are very inexpensive and it is a good place to buy gifts.

The very first problem I encountered was at the airport on the way to Argentina. Instead of packing two smaller bags, I decided to pack one big bag. This is not a good idea; you should either pack one medium sized bag or you should pack two smaller bags. You should be aware that if flying delta (and most other airlines) you can check two bags and each bag can be up to 50 pounds, if your bag is above the 50 pound limit than you will be charged. Fifty pounds may seem like a lot, but trust me it can add up very quickly. Also when flying from Argentina to Brazil, depending on which airline you are on, they will most likely be even stricter on the weight limits, charging you for each kilo that you have above the limit. Therefore packing light is essential.

            It is winter in Buenos Aires, it will be cold. There might be a few nice days, but in general you will need warm clothing for the entirety of your stay in Buenos Aires.  Bring a nice warm jacket, a few people had to buy these once the weather really cooled off. I also brought one scarf which I wore a lot, but I am sure you could get by without it. My suggestion is to bring clothes that you can wear with anything. Do not bring a shirt or a pair of pants that is limited to just one outfit. You will need at least one nicer outfit, for the opera, tango or visiting the embassy, but it does not have to be too fancy. For the girls, nice pants and a dressy top will work great.  For the guys you should bring one tie and a nice shirt and pair of pants.  This is very personal but a lot of the girls learned this the hard way and I appreciated the advice I was given in this area so I will pass it along; it is better to bring tampons with you, they do not sell tampons with applicators in Argentina.  I am a heavy packer, but I can’t emphasize it enough, pack light!

 

Food

It is really difficult to survive in Argentina and Brazil if you are used to vegetarian cuisine and there is really no chance of surviving if you are a vegan. The meat in Argentina is part of the culture and you will attend at least one asado, which is more or less an Argentine barbeque.  We quickly found out that you can buy just about any kind of food with ham and cheese on it. The food is overall quite bland and you will never find anything spicy and a pepper shaker is rare. There is a large Italian influence on the cuisine, so you can always find pasta and pizza.  The hardest things for me to get used to were the salads, they usually don’t include a lot of leafy vegetables and salad dressing is non-existent.

            In the residencia it is very difficult to fix your own food, but for the most part the cook there is great and usually fixes good meals for both vegetarians and meat eaters.  There are a couple of refrigerators that you can use in the residencia but I didn’t ever take advantage of these, I only bought non-perishable food. Buying groceries is however very convenient. There are several smaller stores that sell the basics and there are also larger supermarkets that are called Discos. These are the equivalent of Kroger or Publix in Atlanta. But my favorite places to shop were the fruit stands that could be found on just about every block. They had great produce and it was very inexpensive. I was constantly buying tangerines and apples.

            There are a lot of great restaurants in Buenos Aires and you should explore these on the weekends, since the residencia does not provide food for you on Saturdays and Sundays.  Going out to eat is an inexpensive thing to do and the food is always good. There are several good restaurants close to residencia, all I can say is just be adventurous. If you are ever looking for some familiar food you can always go to a restaurant called Kansas, it is American style cuisine and it just a short cab ride from the residencia.

One of the things I will miss most about Buenos Aires are the cafes. They are pretty much on every corner and you can buy anything from a coffee to a full dinner to a beer there. The cafes are also a nice place to sit down and do your work.  Some of the cafes have wifi and I relied on these cafes to get online. Most of them open early and close at 10 pm.

 

Transportation

            After departing from Atlanta, the transportation in Buenos Aires will seem amazing, and the truth is, it is pretty incredible. One of the things that I was most appreciative of in Buenos Aires was the convenient and inexpensive public transportation. It seemed as if there were a multitude of options compared to our limited options in Atlanta.  There is the choice of taking a cab, the Subte or a bus.  All three of these forms of public transportation can be accessed very easily and very quickly. And you will always have some form of transportation to fall back on if one doesn’t seem to be ideal.

            The first thing you need to do is find a map of the city that you can keep with you at all times and you are comfortable with. It will make navigation around the city much easier and also much more enjoyable.  You should also invest in a gia “t” book, it has maps of the entire city in it and it lays out the complete bus schedule for you.  You can buy it at any magazine stand.  

It was effortless to take a taxi. Not to mention that the taxis were, in my opinion, ridiculously inexpensive (even before converting the fair to dollars).  We usually didn’t have any trouble hailing a taxi, even on the back roads and except for one or two occasions, the taxi drivers were legitimate, meaning they didn’t jip us out of money and time.  I found that it is better to get into the taxi with a map out and know where you are going, so that the driver will be less likely to take you on a long detour.  A taxi will take you just about anywhere in the city that you want to go and I never found myself stuck in traffic for long.

The subte was my next preference after taking a cab. The subway system in Argentina, is an extremely easy system to navigate and it is the cheapest form of transportation in Buenos Aires.  It is 70 centavos and the lines are extremely easy to follow and you can get just about anywhere in the city that you would want to go. At rush hour it would get extremely crowed but that still wasn’t enough to discourage me from using it. I also felt safe on the subway because there were always a myriad of people using it anytime of the day.  But you do need to be aware of your belongings at anytime when using public transportation, especially on the subway.

            I didn’t use the bus system too often, just on the way home from class once in awhile. Taking a bus normally took the most amount of time to get from point a to point b. But it is still very inexpensive, only 80 centavos.

            I also have to say that I did a lot of walking around the city. We walked to class from the residencia, and it was an hour walk but it was a good way to see the sites and become more familiar with the city. So anytime walking is feasible I would.

 

Money

            It seemed to me that everyone on the trip spent a different amount of money during there stay in Buenos Aires. It really just depends on how much you eat out, drink and how many souvenirs and gifts you buy. Things are inexpensive since the peso has been kept artificially low, so things are definitely cheaper and sometimes I was completely astonished that I could get a really nice and filling meal for less than 5 US dollars.

            I think the easiest way to get money in Argentina is to bring a debit card and just use the ATMs. The ATMs are relatively easy to find, but in certain areas of the city they are kind of scarce, so it is best to go to the ATMs that you are familiar with. Trying to exchange US dollars takes time to do at the Bank due to long lines and other places might not give you the best exchange rate.

            The one piece of advice that I can give you about spending money, is to think in pesos, not dollars. You might think you are saving money since everything is about a third of the price but if you begin to think about how much something costs in terms of dollars than you are more likely to buy more of it, and in the end you will not save money at all. Therefore it is always best to think in terms of pesos.

General

            One thing that I was curious about before I left for Argentina, was how easy it was going to be for me to workout. I usually just run outside and I figured I would be able to do that very easily in the city, but I am a girl and safety after sunset became an issue. Also the pollution in the city also made it difficult for me to run and breathe normally. But a large percentage of us did join a gym. The gyms have everything that we are used to but maybe just not quite as big or as new. We joined for one month and it was only about 20 US dollars.

Laundry was also extremely easy to take care of. There were a plethora of places that you could take your laundry to have it washed, dried and folded. It only cost about 5 centavos per load. This is extremely inexpensive.

             Get your Brazilian visa before you leave the US, it is incredibly easy to do. The people that waited until we got to Argentina had some difficulty and they also were only able to get visas for a maximum of 5 weeks, as opposed to the five year visa that I was able to get.  So just go ahead and take care of this before you leave the states.

            For the girls; there are several places where you can get your nails painted and your hair cut, and it is extremely inexpensive.

           

The Sites

It will be relatively easy to know which sites you should visit. And as a group you will visit a lot of them. But some of my favorites were the colon teatre. You should definitely take a tour of the theatre because it is incredibly neat. I won’t list the really touristy sites, you can read about those in a tour guide (which is nice to have when visiting any city and you should consider buying one), but I will list some of the more low key things to do and see.

You should take a walk in the rose gardens that are close to the residencia. You should visit the markets on the weekends (Saturday and Sunday 10 am to around 8). There is one really close by in Plaza Serrano and my other favorite was the market in Recolleta, which is a good walk, but a cheap cab ride away.  You should visit florida street, just to see it, but only go once.  My favorite activity was the flamenco that we went to go see, it was very intimate and a fabulous meal was included. You should think about going out to Notorious, to listen to various kinds of music. It is a quick cab ride away and you can get dessert of a drink there.

 

Living Conditions

            The residencia is your typical dorm style living situation. You may or may not have your own bathroom, I was lucky enough to have my own bathroom, but I was one of the few. You will have roommates, you will either have three or just one depending. They may or may not be with your study abroad group, but in general the residencia is a great place to get to know people from all over the US and South America. One thing that I wish I had were earplugs, I generally never use them, but the noise from the street and from other roommates had a tendency to wake me up. The noise in the resedencia does take a little while to get used to.

            You will need to bring your own towel, but you don’t have to bring sheets or a pillow. You should also bring shower shoes and make sure your bathroom supplies are easily portable to and from the bathroom.

            I brought my computer to do work, but unfortunately we didn’t have wireless in the building, there were a few computers up stairs in a small lab, but sometimes there was a long wait to use them. It was nice however to have my computer to take down the road and find a café with wifi.

 

Class

            You will have a lot of class in Argentina but do not get discouraged, because it is definitely manageable and it is interesting. Take full advantage of any kind of class on wheels because you will learn a lot with the site-seeing lecture combination. 

            You only need a notebook and a pencil for class. You might want to bring a highlighter for the readings you will receive but that is about all you will need. You can also buy all of these items once you get to Buenos Aires.

 

Long Weekend

If given a long weekend, don’t hesitate to look into taking a bus outside of the city.  I group of us went to Mendoza and it was an incredible adventure filled weekend. The buses are very nice, and traveling on one is not exactly like traveling on a greyhound.  IT cost about 180 pesos for a round tirp ticket to Mendoza. The bus ride took about 15 hours each way, which seems long but they trip is overnight so normally you can sleep or read.

We stayed in a nice hostel and almost all of the hostels in Mendoza are extremely nice. The name of our hostel was Larges and it was about 9 US dollars per night. Like most other hostels, ours provided daily activities that were easy to sign up for and were inexpensive.  We did a variety of activities, including wine tours, paragliding, canopying and horseback riding. You can also go trekking, or white water rafting. The trip to Mendoza is a nice break from the city.

 

The Most Important Things

            Take the time to get to know the locals that are living in your residencia, talking to the locals is a great way to get to know the culture on a more personal level.  Also you might make some lasting friendships.

            Try to do some kind of “Buenos Aires activity” everyday, whether it is walking in the Rose Gardens or going out to listen to local music.  Class might end anywhere from three to five o’clock so even though it might seem too late in the afternoon to do something you still have time to do some kind of exploring. If you try to do something little everyday you will experience so much more of the city.

Overall while you are in Buenos Aires, you just need to really appreciate the fact that you are lucky enough to be in another country experiencing their culture and so you need to have the mindset that you don’t want to miss anything. 

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Sponsored Links
Florianopolis
photo by: Vagabondatheart