Never been to Argentina and want to know what to expect? Here are the top 10 things you need to know before traveling to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Not a lot of people speak English. Some people might, especially in the more touristy areas, but for the most part, a little Spanish, however broken it might be, is going to come in handy. So take a class, download Duolingo, or study a travel book before visiting. Suggestion: Get the Google Translate App. Need to read a menu? Google translate is your best bet. You download the Spanish language library to your phone and it allows you to hover over menus and street signs and has it translate for you. It does struggle with context and provides a more direct translation. It isn’t perfect, but it is helpful and better than nothing.
Credit cards are widely accepted in Buenos Aires and ATMs run out of money. Before traveling to Buenos Aires (BA) I read somewhere that credit cards were not widely accepted in the city. While that might be true if you have an American Express Card, Visa is accepted almost everywhere and is a great way to avoid carrying loads of cash. Apply for a card without foreign transaction fees to lower your travel costs. It is also very important to know that ATMs frequently run out of money in the city as well as other parts of Argentina (I'm thinking of El Calafate in particular). This can be scary and its good to have that credit card handy. Long holiday weekends (of which there are plenty since Argentina is a Catholic country) exacerbates the ATM issue.
You don’t get a lot of bang for your buck. If you are American, it is fairly safe to assume that the prices you are paying for meals out and about are equivalent to those back at home. It’s not a great deal, but it doesn’t bust the bank either.
Not a lot is open on Sunday. If you’ve traveled to Europe, or are European, you know very well that not very many stores are open for business on Sunday. Same goes for Argentina. A small selection of restaurants will be open and there are lots of artisan markets in the major tourist area, around the Casa Rosada and the La Recoleta Cemetery. Definitely pick up your souvenirs here.
Book day trips ahead of time. I knew I wanted to travel via ferry to Uruguay for a quick day trip out of BA. Unfortunately, I couldn't because the ferry was completely booked up. This tends to happen, especially on holiday weekends. Make sure to book your day trips ahead of time as much as possible. It will save you a trip to the Buquebus Station (where you can purchase ferry trips to Uruguay) and a lot of disappointment. Other things that book up in advance: tours of the Casa Rosada and the Teatro Colon.
Pedestrians DO NOT have the right away. Be very careful when walking the streets of Buenos Aires because drivers are extremely aggressive. It’s a little scary, both as a passenger in a taxi and a pedestrian on the street. Follow the locals to know when it is safe to cross, and then double check one last time to make sure nobody is coming.
Beware of air conditioning rain. Yes, you read that correctly. Central air conditioning doesn’t seem to exist in Buenos Aires. To beat the heat, apartments and other buildings rely on wall unit that excrete water onto innocent passersby on the street. Locals seem to time their walks to avoid the dripping from the sky, but I have not.
If you are vegetarian, prepare to eat a lot of bread, pasta, and pumpkin. Traditional BA fare tends to lean towards meat and potatoes. While that is great and tasty if you are a meat eater, if you aren’t you might be worried about what options are available to you. Have no fear, you can eat well as a vegetarian in Buenos Aires. Although it is safe to say that your options might be slightly limited. While small breads are offered at many restaurants (at a price added onto your bill at the end) then veggie options may be limited, but are certainly there. Often times the veggie selection is a pasta of some kind, most often with a pumpkin based fillings.
The Metro is clean and easy to use. The BA metro is known as the Subte. It is clean and easy to use, albeit hot in the summer months. The cost is paid per trip at a rate of $7,50 pesos, which currently (as of December 2016) amounts to roughly $0.50. Grab a metro card and refill it as needed.
The city is clean and feels safe. As a tourist, you never know quite what to expect when visiting a new city. I was surprised how comfortable I felt in Buenos Aires. Temperature-wise, it felt like I was back in California. Looks-wise, it felt I was in a city that was an amalgam of different European cities. It feels like such a livable, accessible city with great transportation and lots of green space.