|Currency||Argentine peso (ARS)|
|Population||42,192,500 (2012 estimate)|
|Electricity||220V, 50Hz (European plug)|
|Time zone||UTC -3|
Argentina, (officially Argentine Republic; Spanish "República Argentina") is a large, elongated country in the southern part of South America, neighbouring countries being Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Argentina is located in South America, and is the eighth-largest country in the world. The highest and the lowest points of South America are also located in Argentina: At 6,960m, Cerro Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Americas while Salinas Chicas, at 40m below sea level, is the lowest point in South America.
At the southern tip of Argentina there are several routes between the South Atlantic and the South Pacific Oceans including the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, and the Drake Passage---as alternatives to sailing around Cape Horn in the open ocean between South America and Antarctica.
The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.
The deserts of Cuyo, which can reach temperatures of 50°C, are extremely hot and dry in the summer and moderately cold and dry in the winter. Spring and fall often exhibit rapid temperature reversals; several days of extremely hot weather may be followed by several days of cold weather, then back to extremely hot.
The Andes are cool in the summer and very cold in the winter, varying according to altitude.
Patagonia is cool in the summer and cold in the winter. Extreme temperature shifts within a single day are even more common here; pack a variety of clothes and dress in layers.
Don't forget that seasons are reversed from those of the Northern Hemisphere.
The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa. There is jungle in the extreme northeast. The southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia. The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including the Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert with some poisonous frock trees.
Following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals. In the first decade of the 20th century, Argentina became the richest nation in Latin America, its wealth symbolized by the opulence of its capital city.
European immigrants flowed into Argentina, particularly from the northern parts of Italy and Spain; by 1914 nearly 6 million people had come to the country.
After World War II, a long period of Peronist rule in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976.
A painful economic crisis at the turn of the 21st century devalued the Argentine peso by a factor of three and ushered in a series of weak, short-lived governments along with social and economic instability.
However, later in the decade Argentina seemed to find some new stability, and currently has a much better economic outlook - albeit with the eternal problem of high inflation.
Argentine electricity is officially 220V, 50Hz. Adapters and transformers for North American equipment are readily available.
The best way to use imported electrical equipment in Argentina is to purchase an adapter once there. These are available in the Florida shopping area in Buenos Aires for around USD2 or less in hardware stores outside the city centre. Buildings use a mix of European and Australian plug fittings. The Australian-style plugs are IRAM-2073, which are physically identical to the Australian AS-3112 standard (two blades in a V-shape, with or without a third blade for ground). However, the live and neutral pins in the Australian fittings are reversed. Therefore Australian equipment may be incompatible despite the apparent plug-compatibility. This is not a problem for battery chargers for devices such as Thinkpad, iPod, iPhone, and Blackberry.
European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" outlets and the non-grounded, but compatible, European CEE-7/16 "Europlug" outlets may still be found in some older buildings. US and Canadian travellers may want to pack adapters for these outlets as well.
Many sockets have no earth pin. Laptop adapters should have little problem with this. If your laptop adapter requires an earth pin you will need a plug adapter that takes three pins from the laptop and requires only two from the wall socket. This does work but may reduce electrical safety or affect your warranty.
Some Argentine sockets accept North American plugs, particularly ones on power strips. Beware - this does not mean that these sockets deliver 110 volts. Make sure that your equipment can handle 220 volts! Simply changing the shape of the plug with a USD2 adapter will not allow 110V equipment to operate on 220V Argentinian voltage, unless the device is specifically designed to work on both 110 and 220 volts, irreparable damage and even fire can result. Most laptop power adapters and many portable electronics chargers are designed to work on either voltage; check the specifications for your equipment to be sure. If your equipment cannot accept 220V voltage, you can purchase a '220-110V' transformer for approximately USD6 in most Argentinian electronics shops. This is much heavier and bulkier than a small adapter. There are two types of these transformers. One supports heavy loads for short durations, for example a hair dryer. The other supports light loads for long durations, for example an inkjet printer. Do select the right one.
|Andean Northwest (Catamarca, Jujuy, La Rioja, Tucuman, western portions of Salta and Santiago del Estero)
|Chaco (Chaco, Formosa, eastern portions of Salta and Santiago del Estero)
|Cuyo (Mendoza, San Juan, San Luis)
|Mesopotamia (Corrientes, Entre Rios, Misiones)
|Pampas (Buenos Aires, City of Buenos Aires, Córdoba, La Pampa, Santa Fe)
|Patagonia (Chubut, Neuquen, Rio Negro, Santa Cruz)
|Tierra del Fuego
In addition, the Falkland Islands, a United Kingdom Overseas Territory, are claimed by Argentina as the Islas Malvinas, but as they are not ruled by Argentina, they are covered in their own article. That fact should not be construed as expressing approval or disapproval of either side's claims.
- Buenos Aires — or "Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires", which people occasionally call Capital Federal to distinguish it from the province of Buenos Aires
- Córdoba — second largest city, in the heart of the Pampas region
- La Plata — known as "the perfect city" for its tracing; just look at a map of the street pattern of the city
- Mendoza — well known for its extensive and high quality wine production. It is also near the Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside of the Himalayas. Mendoza is the capital of the province of Mendoza.
- Rosario — third largest city known for its beautiful neoclassical architecture
- Salta — known as 'La Linda' due to its beautiful surroundings
- San Carlos de Bariloche — in the foothills of the Andes with lots of facilities for skiing and trekking
- San Juan — a focus of quality wine production
- San Miguel de Tucuman — the largest city in the northwest and the fifth largest city in Argentina
- El Calafate — the main destination when visiting the Glaciers National Park; advancing to the Perito Moreno Glacier is a must when visiting Argentina
- Ibera Wetlands — a nature reserve of 13,000 km² with its eco village Colonia Carlos Pellegrini right in the heart of the reserve
- Iguazú Falls — awesome falls right in the north-east corner of the country
- Nahuel Huapi National Park — at the foothills of the Andes mountains with lakes, rivers, waterfalls, peaks, glaciers and forests
- Ushuaia- southernmost city in the world
Passport holders of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Argentina when the purpose of the visit is tourism for up to 90 days: Andorra, Australia,* Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada,* Czech Republic, Chile, Cyprus, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Grenada (30 days), Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Jamaica (30 days), Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia (30 days), Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States of America,* Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela (60 days).
While visas are not required for tourist visits for US, Canadian, and Australian citizens, the Argentinian Government charges a "Reciprocity Fee" for citizens using passports from those countries. The fees paid by travellers are dependent on their nationality and similar to the amounts that Argentinian citizens pay for visa applications to visit the US, Canada, or Australia. Since 2013, ALL entries to Argentina at ALL ports of entry have required pre-payment of the reciprocity fee at the Argentinian Department of Immigration website. Step-by-step instructions for paying the fee are available at Argentina Fees.
For US citizens, the USD160 fee allows multiple entries to Argentina for a period of 10 years. For Australians, the AUD100 fee allows multiple entries for 1 year. Canadian citizens have a choice between paying a CAD75 single-entry fee valid 3 months and allowing travelling to and from adjoining countries within that time frame or a CAD150 fee valid for multiple entries for 5 years.
Citizens of India or Morocco have to obtain a visa in their country of usual residence, but the visa is free.
Aerolíneas Argentinas and LAN Chile offer connections between Buenos Aires' international airport Ezeiza and many cities throughout South America, as well as North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Qantas no longer offers direct flights from Sydney to Buenos Aires, instead flying to Santiago - home of its OneWorld Partner LAN, where travellers can connect onto multiple destinations in Argentina.
There are international flights to other airports, such as to Mendoza with LAN from Santiago Chile .
If you plan on visiting Buenos Aires you will fly into Ministro Pistarini International Airport (IATA: EZE); if you're traveling to another location in Argentina you may have to travel from Ezeiza to the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (IATA: AEP), the domestic airport in Buenos Aires. One problem is that the airports are located on opposite sides of the city, so some time has to be factored when travelling from one airport to the other. There are cheap shuttle buses which take you there in about an hour, but travel time varies greatly depending on traffic. There are few flights (mostly to Río Gallegos and Ushuaia), which leave early in the morning from Ezeiza International Airport. All the other domestic flights (and also to Uruguay and Paraguay) leaves from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. Be sure you are in the right airport!
You should be able to ride a motorcoach or hire a service taxi from one of the booths after you clear customs. The fixed rate for a taxi from Ezeiza international airport to Buenos Aires is ARS130, the rate from the Jorge Newbery domestic airport to town is ARS40. (Mar 2012)
- Ezeiza International Airport (EZE): +54 11 5480-6111
If visiting another city there are a number of airports throughout the country. Many find it far easier to travel to a neighboring country and then take a short distance hop to the smaller airport. All major cities in Argentina and major tourist destinations like Mendoza, Perito Moreno and Iguazu Falls have airports nearby. There are several national airlines, with different levels of service. In general flying gets you everywhere quickly and cheaply (relatively). Although the buses in Argentina are among the most comfortable in the world and are reasonably priced, travelling takes a lot of time because of the distances and slow road travel involved.
Passengers leaving Ezeiza Airport no longer have to pay the "departure tax" of USD29 (USD8 to Uruguay and domestic flights) after check-in, as they are now included in the prices of the tickets.
There are currently no international services to Argentina. A connection between Chile and Argentina is under construction.
International coaches run from all the neighbouring countries.
- Retiro Bus Terminal: +54 11 4310-0700
The Retiro bus terminal is large and hidden behind Retiro train and Subte stations. For long distance buses it is advisable to buy a ticket several days in advance of your trip. Be sure to arrive about 45 minutes before your departure and always ask at an information counter if your gate number is the same as the one printed on your ticket. You will be given a range of possible gate numbers (for example 17-27). Watch your belongings carefully at Retiro as it is often crowded and there have been reports of thefts and even muggings at night. Traveling by bus is one thing you wont regret. You will come across the best costumer service and world class seats. Comparing Argentinian coach buses to those in the United States would be insulting to Argentina, for they have much higher standards than those like Greyhound.
Regular catamarans routes link Buenos Aires with Montevideo and Colonia in Uruguay. The company Buquebus has both a slow (3 hours) and rapid (1 hour) ferry service that departs several times a day to Colonia. Ferries depart from the downtown Buenos Aires neighborhood Puerto Madero. There are two companies (Cacciola and Líneas Delta) that link the city of Tigre with Carmelo and Nueva Palmira in Uruguay, respectively. Trains to Tigre depart from Retiro (one of Buenos Aires' main train stations) every ten minutes. The trip costs ARS1.1 and takes 50 minutes.
To a lesser extent, Grimaldi Freighters run freighters which carry up to 12 passengers from Hamburg, London, Antwerp, Le Havre, and Bilbao to Montevideo (Uruguay) every 9 days. They also carry cars and you drive your car on and off - unlike other freighter services. More information can be found on the website.
In recent years the government has promoted the re-establishment of long distance passenger trains, although most lines still operate at a low frequency (one or two departures weekly). The rail network is very limited, and intercity buses offer better service and faster rides. Train fares are very cheap - often only a quarter of the bus fare.
Local travel in the Buenos Aires province is both by bus and by local trains, with fast trains being the quickest way to get through the city's traffic. The three largest train terminals in Buenos Aires are Retiro, Constitucion and Once. Retiro is actually three train stations alongside each other with the main long distance bus (or "micro") terminal behind the furthest of the train terminals (from the city centre).
One of the major long distance train operators is Ferrobaires. See also Satélite Ferroviario for up-to-date information on trains and services (in Spanish). Ferrocentral departs from Buenos Aires twice weekly to Tucumán and twice per week to Córdoba.
An amazing train ride is the Tren a las nubes (Train to the Clouds) in the northwestern province of Salta, but some people may get altitude sickness. This service, which has experienced suspensions, recommenced in August 2008.
Domestic flights are available within Argentina, but tickets are pricey, and most domestic flights pass through Buenos Aires' domestic airport Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. The main carriers are Aerolíneas Argentinas and LAN Chile. Aerolíneas Argentinas' subsidiary Austral, shares its parent's fleet, and tickets for both can be booked at the same office. The prices for tickets are double for non-residents, so be careful with publicized ticket prices.
An exception to passing through Buenos Aires for domestic flights is Aerolineas Argentinas' "Great Circle Route", going both ways Saturdays, Tuesdays and Thursdays BA-Bariloche-Mendoza-Salta-Iguazu-BA (and reverse on another flight both days).
If you fly on your international trip to Argentina with Aerolíneas you sometimes get discounts on domestic flights. Sometimes you even get free flights with your international ticket but keep in mind that you probably already paid for this with the inflated price of your international ticket.
Always plan to arrive at your final destination before your flight home 2 or 3 days in advance, as Argentina, like most Latin American countries, experiences more delays and cancellations in travel than most areas of the world.
Argentina boasts an outstanding short and long-distance bus network. Since regional train service is limited and plane tickets are more expensive, bus travel is the most common way to travel from city to city within Argentina. Note that it is not as cheap as it was before, with about USD4-5 for each hour of travelling (Puerto Iguasu to Buenos Aires about USD100).
In Buenos Aires, a city bus is called a colectivo while a long distance, city-to-city bus is called a micro; usage varies somewhat in provincial areas. The hub of this network is definitely Buenos Aires' Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro; it has up to 2,000 bus arrivals and departures per day, and multiple companies serve most destinations. Buses arrive and depart from a total of 75 platforms, and in order to buy your ticket you will have to choose between about 200 ticket booths situated on the upper level of the terminal.
The more expensive buses generally offer high-quality service, and for distances longer than 200 km, it is common to have food served on board. There is generally a good amount of legroom, and many buses have seats that recline horizontally into beds (camas) making them a lot like travelling business class on a plane. The best category with completely reclining seats is normally called cama suite, but other names such as tutto leto, executivo or salon real are also in use. Somewhat cheaper seats only recline partially (semi-camas), or not at all (servicio comun). Every service belongs to one of five official comfort classes with minimum requirements that are prescribed by law in order to facilitate comparisons. The better buses will provide everything you need, while for the lower categories it may be a good idea to take drinks and food with you, as well as toilet paper and ear plugs. If travelling with a large bag or suitcase bring a handful of 25c coins to tip the guys that heaves your pack in and out of the taxi and bus.
Remember that, although buses usually arrive at their destination a little late, they almost always leave on time. Do not think that the relaxed approach carries over to bus departure times!
More information on bus companies and schedules is available at the webpages of the Terminal de Retiro in Buenos Aires. A second bus terminal in Buenos Aires is situated in the Liniers neighbourhood, but it is smaller and less accessible than the one in Retiro.
Car rental is readily available throughout Argentina, though it is a bit expensive compared with other forms of transportation. Travelling by car allows you to visit locations that are hard to reach by public transportation. Patagonia, in the South of Argentina, is a popular driving location among tourists due to the breathtaking views across many miles of open land.
Argentina generally recognizes valid drivers' licenses from foreign jurisdictions. Drivers must be over 21. The rental companies will charge the renters card $6000 to be used in the event of an accident. They cancel this charge when the car is returned. On the rutas, in the provinces bordering other countries, the police frequently stop cars at controles policiales ("police checkpoints") to check insurance and registration papers and drivers' licenses. They do not stop all cars, though; when you come to a control policial, drive slowly and you will usually be waved through without stopping. Near provincial borders, these controles may also involve inspection of the trunk for contraband and a mandatory two peso fee for "disinfection" or removing insects from the car's underside by driving it over a mechanical sprayer that either sprays water or does nothing. The police have been known to set up roadblocks and demand bribes for passage, particularly around the city of Buenos Aires.
Traffic regulations in Argentina are generally the same as in the U.S. or Europe, but the locals often ignore the regulations. On roads and highways it´s mandatory to have car lights on, even during daytime. Be aware that the driving style in Argentina is aggressive and chaotic. Pay attention at night.
Maximum speed: 60 km/h in the city, 40 km/h on side roads and 100 km/h to 130 km/h on roads outside the city as well as on highways. There are frequent speed controls. However speed limits and lane markings are universally ignored, and running red lights is common. Most drivers treat stop signs, octagonal red signs reading PARE, as though they were "yield" signs, though some drivers ignore them completely. Within cities surrounding Buenos Aires it is proper to honk at an impending intersection and the one who honks first has right of way. Right of way is determined somewhat haphazardly by a combination of vehicle size and who arrives first. Make sure you are thoroughly confident in your driving skills before attempting to drive in Argentina.
Highways are limited to the areas around large cities. Most of the country is connected by paved unlit two-lane roads (rutas) shared by buses, cars, and large trucks. Some places are accessible only by gravel or dirt roads - indeed, some main roads in southern Argentina are unsealed, leading to 4x4 vehicles being more popular. This is particularly the case in the south. It is important to travel with a good map ( e.g. Argentina Waterproof Road Map from World Mapping Project) and to be well informed about your route distances, road conditions and the estimated travel time. In addition to a good map the website of cochera andina publishes useful information on more than 120 routes in Argentina.
The current cost of gasoline in central and southern Argentina is approximately 6 pesos per litre. In many small towns, particularly in the north, they may ration gasoline to ensure they have enough to sell until the next refuelling truck arrives, in which case you will only be allowed to buy 30 pesos worth of fuel at a time. It's advisable to fill your tank at regular intervals when the opportunity arises. In the Andes, the gasoline consumption of non-turbo charged engines increases due to the altitude.
The hitchhiking club Autostop Argentina began in Argentina in 2002, inspired by clubs in France Germany, Italy and the United States. As a result, hitchhiking has become more acceptable among the younger generation, and raising a thumb at a highway is a symbol most people understand.
Today, nevertheless, the thumb of a woman is gigantically more successful than the thumb of a man. A single man should count on long hours of waiting or just plain luck. If you do get a ride, you will in general be treated with much generosity though.
Hey Big Balls
Don't be surprised if you hear some creative terms of endearment on the street. It's not uncommon to refer to one's friends as boludo ("big balls") or loco ("crazy"). "Che" is also used.
There is no such thing as political correctness in Argentina. In a colloquial speech, larger people are unapologetically addressed as gordo (fat), blacks as "negro", and anyone resembling indigenous peoples are also commonly addressed as "bolita" also (regardless of their actual ancestry); Italians are tanos; spaniards gallegos; jews rusos; anyone islamic as "turcos", anyone Asian chinos and the like. This sort of blunt address is considered somewhat normal in Argentina. Try to take it lightly, as it is usually not meant to offend, but don't copy it, because in certain circles this practice is considered racist and xenophobic.
The official language is Spanish. Generally, most people speak Spanish using a local dialect, Castellano Rioplatense, which is subtly different from both the language of Spain and that of Central America. Most notably, the pronoun "tu" is replaced by "vos", and the you plural pronoun "vosotros" replaced with "ustedes", the latter being common throughout Latin America. Besides, there are separate verb conjugations, sometimes significantly different for irregular verbs in present tense and informal commands. Additionally, people from each city pronounce words differently too! In this way, people from Buenos Aires speak differently compared to those from Spain and other Spanish speaking countries; example: chicken in Spanish (pollo) is pronounced PO-zhO or PO-SHO by the "Porteños" (residents of Buenos Aires), with the SH sound harder than in Spanish; unlike most other Spanish speakers of South America who pronounces it PO-yo. However, all Argentinians learn standard Castillian Spanish in school, so while not the first language of choice, people would generally be competent enough to communicate.
Rioplatense Spanish is also heavily influenced by Italian, even frequently being mistaken for it, a result of the large influx of Italian immigrants. Hand gestures derived from Italy are extremely common, and many colloquialisms are borrowed from Italian (for example: instead of saying "cerveza", which means beer, youngsters find "birra" cooler, which is in Italian). Most locals can readily understand most Spanish dialects, as well as Portuguese or Italian (especially due to its similarity to the local Spanish). English is mandatory in high school and usually understood in at least a basic level in tourists' areas. German and French can be understood and to some extent spoken by small fractions of the population. A few places in Patagonia near Rawson have native Welsh speakers. Words borrowed from aboriginal languages include: quechua, guarani, mataco, che, mate and others.
Although there's a community of descendants of Welsh immigrants on the Pampas, and Scots and Irish communities too, it's not these impoverished emigrant communities that have had the biggest influence in Argentina; that was from rich, monied investors that had the financial wherewithal to send their children to English boarding schools and universities.
Commonwealth English is certainly not an official language, but has historically been the variety widely used by the educated elite in Argentina.
Thanks to groups like the Argentine British Community Council (ABCC) it's possible that British expats may in fact feel more at home in Argentina than in Britain. Constantly arranging truly “British” events such as car boot sales, village fetes, fun runs and fundraisers, the ABCC see their duty as upholding the British tradition, which includes saying “please”, “thank you” and being on time! Argentina is the country with the biggest British community in Latin America, has many cities founded by Englishmen, and 80% of Buenos Aires' private schools are British. Argentina could have been, along with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the fourth British colonised country in the Southern Hemisphere!
Buenos Aires used to have the only Harrods store outside the UK and continues to have the most important and oldest English newspaper in Latin America, the Buenos Aires Herald. Just a few of the towns established by British settlers in the Buenos Aires Province of Argentina: Hughes, Rawson, Hudson, Hurlingham, Temperley, Banfield, O'Higgins, Brandsen, Parish, Fair, Barker, Bunge, Tornquist, Roberts, Gunther, Gahan, Abott, Anderson, Warnes.
Few sights present as quintessentially British a scene as admiring the immaculately trimmed polo fields of the Hurlingham Club or watching a football match between St Andrews School and Balmoral College. The Anglophile can attain a pinnacle of perfection by taking afternoon tea while leisurely browsing through the local news in the Herald.
The interjection "che" is extremely common and mean approximately the same as English "hey!". It can also be employed as a phrase known to someone you don't remember their names. Ex: "Escucháme, Che,...." Sometimes it is peppered throughout the speech, similar to the English phrase "yo," as in "What's up, yo?" Nonetheless, communication will not be a problem for any Spanish speaker.
Argentines will communicate with each other using lunfardo, a street dialect or slang. It is used together with Spanish by replacing nouns with their synonyms in lunfardo. As opposed to changing the original meaning, it just makes the phrase more colourful. An important aspect of lunfardo is that it is only spoken. For example, one knows the word dinero (money), but may use the word "guita" in order to refer to the same things. Lunfardo is composed of about 5,000 words, many of which do not appear in the dictionary.
For many travellers, Argentina as a country has the same seductive appeal as the tango it's famous for. Just like that iconic partner dance, Argentina embraces you, constantly moving to the rhythm of the streets and improvising every step of the way.
Its large cities all bustle with life. The famous capital, Buenos Aires, is the most visited city in South America and a place like no other. Of course, there's fancy cosmopolitan boutiques, top of the line nightlife and gourmet cuisine. However, it's the classic, unpolished side of the city that makes it a world wide traveller's magnet. The downtrodden but colourful neighbourhoods where crazy traffic sounds drown out distant accordion tunes, the pleasant street-cafés and parillas (steak houses), busy outdoor markets and the lovely old centre with its European colonial architecture. San Telmo is the oldest neighborhood of the city and a good place to indulge in the city vibe of cafés, street artists, tango parlors and antique markets in a colonial surrounding. The atmosphere is perhaps Buenos Aires' biggest attraction, but some of the main sights include Recoleta’s cemetery and the Plaza de Mayo. Argentina's other big cities share the energetic buzz of BA, but have a distinct character of their own. Mendoza is a lively yet laid-back town, characterized by broad avenues. It's famous as a wine capital far beyond the borders of Argentina and a perfect starting point for the Argentina Wine Route along the hundreds of wineries in the area. As it's close to the Andes, it's also a good base for winter sports and other outdoor activities. The old university city Córdoba is known for its particular musical culture with the cuarteto as its number one music style. The city also boasts some of the best colonial heritage sights in the country. Bariloche, also at the base of the Andes mountains, is a major tourist destination, popular for its skiing opportunities, lovely beaches and chocolate shops.
Fascinating as Argentina's urban life may be, the country's mighty natural attractions are at least as good a reason to come. The landscapes are incredibly various, from the high peaks of the Andes and the famous Perito Moreno Glacier to cacti filled desserts, sandy Atlantic beaches and biodiverse wetlands. With some 30 national parks in the country, there's always a good place nearby to see some of the country's natural wonders. A highlight in the subtropical north are the spectacular Iguaçu Falls, easily one of the most impressive waterfalls on earth. Argentina's wildlife includes ﬂamingos, penguins, caimans and capybaras, sea lions and -at times- even whales. Especially when you're visiting in autumn, the coastal town of Puerto Madryn is a must. From there you can easily make your way to Punta Tombo and Peninsula Valdes to go whale-watching and meet up close and personal with some of the million penguins who come to Patagonia each year to nest and raise their young. Head to El Calafate to organize your tour to the highly popular Los Glaciares National Park and see the famous glaciers and the icy Argentino Lake. Be amazed by the many colours and remarkable rock formations of Quebrada de Humahuaca, a mountain range in the north that extends far over the Bolivian border. Drive through and spot traditional villages and indigenous women and their goat herds. Other great destinations for nature lovers include the Ibera wetlands (with the most divers fauna in the country) and Talampaya National Park, a primary site for archaeological and palaeontological finds.
Some other highlights
The countryside in general is a most pleasant side of Argentina; laid-back and with a taste for life close to nature. Rural villages are a breath of fresh air compared to the country's hectic big cities and a nice way to experience traditional culture. The north is as South-American as Argentina gets. Its wine regions are famous throughout the world and an increasingly popular tourist destination. If the bustle of Buenos Aires is too much for your taste, Mendoza and Salta are an excellent choice. They also make for a good base to explore the scenic regional vineyards and friendly villages with the Andes mountains in the background. Salta is also the starting point for the Train to the Clouds, a heritage railway that seems to be running solely to provide some unforgettable panoramas for travellers. The Traslasierra Valley is a pleasant green valley and one of the many places where you can enjoy a world class spa, as hot springs naturally occur around here. Finally, if you like a day at the beach, Argentina has plenty to offer for you. Mar del Plata is one of the top destinations for beach resorts.
Buenos Aires has a number of walking tour options. They include the typical tours you may find in any city, as well as interesting options including free walking tours, Downloadable MP3 Walking Tours, and even Running Tours.
The most popular sport in Argentina is fútbol (soccer). If you come to Argentina, you shouldn't miss the chance to experience a professional match live. Argentina's fans are very passionate.
There are five teams called "Los 5 grandes", which are the elite of Argentinian football tournaments:
- Boca Juniors - famous stadium "La Bombonera" where Diego Maradona played.
- River Plate - Stadium "El monumental de Nuñez" where Argentina won the 1978 FIFA World Cup.
- Racing Club - The first Argentine team to win the Club World Championships.
- Independiente - won the most Copa Libertadores
- San Lorenzo
- Rosario Central - Stadium: "El gigante de Arroyito"
- Velez Sarfield (European SouthAmerican Cup Champion in Tokyo 1994)
- Estudiantes de La Plata - World Champion '68, Champion of America 1968 - 1969 - 1970 -2009. Club where Juan Sebastián Verón played.
- Newell's Old Boys - team where Gabriel Batistuta played
- Colón De Santa Fe - team with the largest number of supporters based on Argentina's coast
Rugby and basketball (basquet) are also popular.
Argentine Polo is famous throughout the world, and the country is home to all of the highest ranked players today. First introduced by British settlers in the 1870s, skilful gauchos adopted it and the passion caught like wildfire. The Argentine Polo Open, usually played on early December every year, is a must for polo fans from all over the world. The sport's governing body is the Asociacion Argentina de polo and its webpage lists all the official tournaments held each year. Argentina is also well known for the many polo clinics held on clubs and farms around Buenos Aires.
Tennis has been growing in popularity with the Argentina's steady production of top players over the past three decades.
Field hockey has also became a popular sport, especially among women. The National Women's Field Hockey Team, Las Leonas (The Lionesses), has grown in the past years and developed into a now competes against the best in the world.
Car racing is popular too: The main leagues are Turismo Carretera (Ford vs Chevrolet), TC2000 (Touring Cars) and TopRace. The most important racetrack in Argentina is in Buenos Aires is "Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez.
Golf in Argentina is an increasingly popular sport thanks in part to the success of Argentinian players such as Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero and Eduardo Romero. There are currently around 280 courses in the country, most located around Buenos Aires and including such well-known names as the Jockey Club, Olivos and Hurlingham. On the Atlantic coast in Mar del Plata are a couple of courses that have held international events, and Patagonia has excellent resort courses such as Llao Lloa, Arelauquen and Chapelco (a Nicklaus design) as well as the 9-hole course in Ushaia.
The official currency of Argentina is the peso (ARS), divided into 100 centavos. Coins come in 5, 10, 25, 50 centavo and 1 and 2 peso denominations. Banknotes are issued in values of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos. Be prepared to receive 5 or 10 cent change in the form of golosinas (candies), especially in Chinese supermarkets.
Since 1969 thirteen zeroes have been dropped (a factor of ten trillion) as differing names of peso have been revalued again and again.
In more recent times the exchange rate hovered around ARS3 = USD1 from 2002 to 2008, dipped to about ARS4 = USD1 from 2009 to 2011 and officially reached 6 pesos in Nov 2013. However, due to the National Government's policies and the market's lack of trust in the peso, the free exchange rate (the only one possible, as the government has now banned all access to US dollars) is about 10 pesos per US dollar (although it fluctuates wildly).
The government pegs the peso at an artificially high level and heavily restricts currency exchange from pesos into dollars, leading to a thriving black market in the "blue dollar" (dólar blue). The market is so huge that the latest rates are published in newspapers and on websites like DolarBlue.net. As of February 2014, the government rate is 7.80 pesos per US$1, while the black market rate fluctuates around ARS11.40 per USD1. This translates to USD100 being worth around 780 pesos if exchanged officially or withdrawn from an ATM, vs. 1120 pesos on the black market. Other currencies like the Chilean and Uruguayan peso exhibit similar behavior, although the dollar commands a premium. The best rates will be received for USD100 bills in good conditions when exchanging more than USD1000.
Black market dealers are called arbolitos ("little trees") and they operate from cuevas ("caves"). They can be found everywhere, with Florida St in Buenos Aires being particularly notorious. If you choose to go down this route, remember that this is illegal, so take all possible precautions to avoid getting ripped off and remember that your money may be confiscated if you are busted by the police.
In October 2013 all exchange places at Foz do Iguaçu were officially selling Argentinian pesos for rates closer to the Blue rate than to the official rate. Other options to get a good rate are to transfer money electronically using services such as Xoom (only from the US) or Azimo (only from the UK).
Peso purchases with foreign credit cards get exchanged at the terrible official rate, so this is best avoided. If you want to use a debit or credit card, the checkout operator in places like supermarkets will require you to present both your card and a form of identification such as a drivers' licence. Present both simultaneously at checkout and with confidence. A lack of confidence will lead to a request for your passport as identification. For larger purchases such as long-distance bus tickets you will need to present your passport and your credit card. Although this makes shopping difficult, do try to keep your passport in a location such as a hotel-room safe.
As of 2011, unlike other parts of South America such as Peru, the credit card purchasing systems do not support credit card PINs. So, if you enabled PIN in your home country do not expect the Argentinian restaurant, hotel, or retailer to ask for you to key it in. Instead, they will ask for your signature, which is normal.
The fashion and art scenes are booming. Buenos Aires' signature European-South American style overflows with unique art pieces, art deco furniture, and antiques. Creative and independent, local fashion designers - who are becoming a source of inspiration for the U.S. and European high-end markets - compose their collections based on lots of leather, wools, woven fabrics, and delicate laces with a gaucho twist. At times, the exchange rate can present good value for international tourists. For example, in early 2006 the dollar and the euro were strong in comparison with the then-weak Argentina peso.
Fashionable clothing and leather products can be found in most commercial areas; jackets, boots and shoes are easily available. However, Buenos Aires has a relatively mild climate, so truly cold-weather gear is harder to find here. Long coats or heavy gloves may not be in stock; similarly, jeans and other basics have a thin construction compared with those in cooler countries. The Andes regions and Patagonia are considerably colder in the winter, so thick clothing is much easier to find here.
Electronics are not cheap, as they are subject to heavy import tariffs. The price of music, books, and movies lags slightly behind changes in the exchange rate and can offer a bargain if the volatile exchange rates are in your favour.
Most freestanding shops in Buenos Aires are open 10:00-20:00 on weekdays, and some of them also Saturdays and Sundays, depending on what area of the city they are in. Enclosed malls, however, set their own hours, and are also open on the weekends.
Most places outside of the city of Buenos Aires, where most stores remain open during a siesta, still observe a siesta from approximately noon until 16:00; almost all businesses are closed during this time. The precise closing hours vary from store to store, according to the preferences of the owner. Shops and offices generally open again in the evening until 21:00 or 22:00.
Argentinian breakfasts are somewhat light compared to what travellers from English-speaking countries are accustomed to. Typically, it consists of a hot drink (coffee, tea, milk) with some toasts, medialunas (croissants, literally "halfmoons"), or bread.
Hotels typically provide a free buffet consisting of coffee, tea, drinkable yogurt, assorted pastries and toast, fruit, and perhaps cereal. These kinds of breakfasts are also readily available in the many cafes.
Lunch is a big meal in Argentina, typically taken in the early afternoon. Lunch is so big because dinner is not until late: 20:30 to 21:00 at the earliest, more commonly at 22:00 or even later. Most restaurants do not serve food until then except for pastries or small ham-and-cheese toasted sandwiches (tostados), for afternoon tea 18:00-20:00. Tea is the one meal that is rarely skipped. A few cafés do offer heartier fare all day long, but don't expect anything more substantial than pizza or a milanesa (breaded meat fillets) or a lomito (steak sandwiches) outside of normal Argentine mealtimes. Dinner is usually eaten at 22:00 and typically consists of appetizers, a main course, and desserts.
By the way, North Americans should beware that Argentinians use the term "entrée" to refer to appetizers. This is common outside of North America but can surprise some Canadians and most Americans. Only in those parts of North America outside of the province of Quebec) is the "entrée" a "main dish". In Argentina the main dish is a "plato principal".
The entrée in Argentina typically consists of empanadas (baked pastries with a meat filling), chorizo or morcilla (meat or blood sausage), and assortments of achuras (entrails). For a main dish there is usually bife de chorizo (sirloin / New York Strip steak) and various types of salads. Dessert is often a custard with dulce de leche and whipped cream topping.
Beef is a prominent component of the Argentine diet and Argentine beef is world-famous for good reason. Argentina and Uruguay are the top 2 countries in meat per capita consumption in the world. Definitely check out Argentine barbecue: asado, sometimes also called parrillada, because it is made on a parrilla, or grill. There is no way around it - foodwise Argentina is virtually synonymous with beef. The beef is some of the best in the world, and there are many different cuts of meat. Lomo (tenderloin) and bife de chorizo are excellent. "Costillas" (ribs) is considered by locals the real "asado" meat cut and is very tasty. North Americans will see that costillas are different to those at home. Argentinians cut ribs perpendicular to the bone. Having a parrillada dinner is one of the best ways to experience Argentine cuisine; preferably with a bottle of wine and a good amount of salads. In some popular areas, parrilladas are available from small buffets, or sidewalk carts and barbecue trailers. Skewers and steak sandwiches can then be purchased to go.
Given that a large portion of Argentines are of Italian, Spanish and French descent, such fare is very widespread and of high quality; pizzerias and specialized restaurants are very common. Take note that a convention observed in Argentina is to treat the pasta and sauce as separate items; some travellers have found out what they thought was cheap pasta only to find that they were not getting any sauce. You will see the pastas for one price and then the sauces for an additional charge.
Cafés, bakeries, and ice-cream shops (heladerías) are very popular. Inexpensive and high-quality snacks can be found in most commercial areas, and many have outdoor seating areas. Empanadas (turnovers) containing meats, cheeses, or many other fillings can be bought cheaply from restaurants or lunch counters. The Alfajor is a must try snack of a two cookies with a dulce de leche filling and can be purchased at virtually any local kiosco.
Smoking is now prohibited in most of Buenos Aires' restaurants and all of Mendoza's restaurants. In some cities, it's forbidden in all public buildings (cafés, shops, banks, bus stations, etc.), so it's better to ask before smoking anywhere.
- Empanada (baked pastries with a meat filling)
- Milanesa (breaded meat fillets)
- Chorizo (sausage) and Choripan (with bread)
- Tarta de Jamón y Queso (baked pastry crust with ham and cheese filling)
- Guiso Criollo - with meat, vegetables and fruit
Desserts and snacks
- Dulce de leche
Yerba mate (pronounced in two syllables, 'MAH-tae') is a traditional Argentine herbal drink, prepared in a hollowed-out gourd which is passed around in a social setting and drunk through a metal straw. Although usually drunk hot, mate can also be served cold, usually known as "tereré". Terere is preferred in Paraguay. Mate contains less caffeine than coffee, but contains other vitamins and minerals that give it a stimulating effect, particularly to those who are not used to it. It is naturally rather bitter, so it's not uncommon to add sugar. The drinking of mate with friends is an important social ritual in Argentina. The informal tea ceremony is lead by a "cebador" or server and people arrange themselves in a "rueda" or wheel. Those who like the drink bitter and those who like it sweet are clustered together to aide the server.
Argentina is renowned for its excellent selection of wine. The most popular being Mendoza which is rated among the worlds most popular regions due to its high altitude, volcanic soils and proximity to the Andes Mountains. The terrain seems to complement the European grape varietals with interesting notes not present when produced in other climates, this allows the Argentine wine to be positioned in a league of its own. The best way to experience and understand the selection of Argentine varietals is one of the many tasting events.
Most restaurants serve a broad range of liquors. Beer is offered in draft form in a chopp (small glass) or served in bottles or cans, and is typically a light, easily drinkable lager. The most popular locally made brands of beer are Quilmes, Isenbeck, Schneider and Brahma (although it's Brazilian). Widely-available imports include Warsteiner, Heineken, Budweiser and Corona. There are now many small pubs and bars in Buenos Aires that brew beer on premises, but most of these offer a poor quality product compared to what is widely available in parts of the USA and Europe. In the Buenos Aires area, the Buller Brewing Company in Recoleta and the Antares Brewery in Mar del Plata offer excellent handcrafted English/American style ales.
Ask if there are "cervezas artesanales" to discover if there are locally hand crafted beers.
Fernet is widely consumed by Argentinians, especially in Córdoba, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires. Originally from Italy, it's a bitter drink made from herbs, with 40% alcohol by volume and dark brown in hue. It can be mixed with Coke (served in bars, pubs, clubs) and if you go to an Argentinian house they will have Fernet and Coke to offer you. Also, Fernet is usually served as a digestif after a meal, but may also be enjoyed with coffee and espresso, or mixed into coffee and espresso drinks. It may be enjoyed at room temperature or with ice.
Cafés often have fresh-squeezed fruit juices, which is otherwise hard to find. The legal drinking age is officially 18, although most establishments will serve anyone approximately 16 or older.
A wide range of accommodation possibilities are available in Buenos Aires and the rest of the country, from student hostels to homey bed and breakfasts to trendy boutique hotels in the city to luxurious palaces and modern five-star hotels. There are also many beautiful lake-side lodges in Patagonia, and fabulous regional farms (estancias) outside the cities.
Many vacation cabañas (cabins or weekend houses) are available for short-term rent directly from the owners in the mountains, seaside, and in rural areas. Drive around and look for signs saying alquiler ("rental"), or check the classified section of any major newspaper.
Bear in mind that, except in the 5-star hotels, usually the rooms are not as large as in hotels around the world.
There are a lot of public and private quality institutes who give Spanish lessons, and many more for Tango lessons, Argentinean art and literature, architecture.
Apart from Buenos Aires, Mendoza is another popular and excellent place to take Spanish lessons for those who want a more idyllic setting (see the entry for Mendoza for details).
Education in Argentina is free for everyone, no matter the level, and it has a good quality.
Argentina has the highest traffic mortality rate in South America at 12.6 per 100,000 inhabitants. To put that in perspective, the figures for the USA and UK are 10.4 and 2.75 respectively. Drivers in Argentina kill 20 each day (about 7,000 a year), with more than 120,000 injured people each year. These deaths have included some unfortunate tourists. Pedestrians should exercise extreme caution. Do not jaywalk if you do not feel comfortable, and always keep your eyes about you when crossing the street.
There is plenty of activity and foot traffic throughout the night. Nice areas have a very thorough police presence, perhaps one officer per 3 blocks, plus store security and auxiliary patrols. Public security in all major cities like Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario is handled by the Federal Police and the National Gendarmerie or the Naval Prefecture, especially in the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.
As in any large city, certain particular neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires and other cities are very dangerous. Some shady neighbourhoods include Retiro, Villa Lugano, La Boca and Villa Riachuelo. Ask trusted locals, such as hotel desk staff or police officers, for advice. Pay attention to your environment and trust your instincts. If an area seems questionable, leave.
Many people in the street and in the subway hand out small cards with horoscopes, lottery numbers, pictures of saints, or cute drawings on them. If you take the card, the person will ask for payment. You can simply return the card along with a no, gracias. or simply in silence if your Spanish is not good. Persistent panhandlers are usually not dangerous; a polite but firm no tengo nada ("I don't have anything") and/or hand gestures are usually enough.
Most robberies are not violent, if it is just give the robbers everything, because they may be on drugs, drunk, have a knife or a gun; in most cases, if your wallet is stolen, you won't even notice until hours later. In the unlikely event that you are confronted by a mugger, simply hand over your valuables - they are replaceable. Watch out for pickpockets in the subway and on crowded city streets. Never hang your purse or bag from the back of your chair in a cafe or restaurant - stealthy theft from such bags is common. Keep your purse or backpack on the floor between your legs while you eat.
Popular demonstrations are very common in Buenos Aires, and are best avoided by tourists as these demonstrations sometimes grow into violent confrontations with the police or National Gendarmerie, particularly as they approach the government buildings in the city centre.
Since 2005 the government has cracked down on illegal taxis very successfully. Petty crime continues (like taking indirect routes or, less commonly, giving counterfeits in change). Taxicabs that loiter in front of popular tourist destinations like the National Museum are looking for tourists. Stay away from them. Your chance of falling prey to a scam increases in these situations. Stopping a cab a block or two away on a typical city street where others locals would do the same is good choice. Also having small bills will help you avoid issues mentioned, as well you will often find taxis that don't have change for 100 peso bills.
Carry some ID with you, but not your original passport; a copy (easily provided by your own hotel) should be enough.
Ezeiza International Airport Security Warning
In July 2007, Argentina's TV network "Canal 13" conducted an investigation revealing that a group of security operators at the airport were stealing valuable objects such as iPods, digital cameras, cellular phones, sun glasses, jewellery and laptops while scanning the checked luggage of passengers. According to the special report, security operators at the airport should check each bag before putting it into the plane; however, some operators take advantage of the scanner machine to detect valuable objects and steal them. The report states that this event occurs every day and that the stolen items include anything from electronic devices to perfumes and works of art.
You're strongly encouraged to place high-value items in your carry-on luggage to prevent any incidents.
Police officers will often try to get you to bribe them during a traffic stop. The best thing to do is to give them the money (they will keep you at a stop for a long time if you don't.) However, if you do wish to take the ticket they will give it to you without any problems.
- Ambulance (Immediate Health Emergency Service, SAME): 107
- Firemen (National Firemen Corps): 100
- Police (Argentine Federal Police): 101 (currently Argentina is implementing a 911 service, but at the time of this writing it is available only in a few cities, which include Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata)
- Tourist Police: +54 11 4346-5748 / 0800 999 5000
Visiting Argentina doesn't raise any major health worries. Certain vaccinations may be necessary for visitors, depending on what parts of Argentina you plan to visit. Yellow fever vaccinations are recommended for those visiting the Northern forests. Different climate conditions might take your body by surprise, so be aware of the weather before you arrive. An upset stomach is the most you're likely to have to worry about as your body adjusts to local micro-organisms in the food. It's also best to ease yourself gently into the local diet – sudden quantities of red meat, red wine, strong coffee and sweet pastries can be very unsettling for a stomach used to gentler repasts – and though tap water in Argentina is safe to drink, if sometimes heavily chlorinated, you may prefer to err on the side of caution in rural areas in the north of the country.
Although oral contraceptives are sold over the counter, without a prescription, a woman considering taking them is well advised first to consult a wise and licensed physician about their proper use, as well as possible contraindications and side effects.
Hospitals are free. They won´t charge you for any treatment, but it is customary to offer a contribution, if you have the means. In public/state run hospitals, it is now illegal for any hospital employee to receive or even ask for payment. This does not include private health care facilities, or for medicines.
If you are feeling ill, but its not an emergency, go to a pharmacy. Every pharmacy has a licensed pharmacist as part of their staff who can suggest which medication to take. Until recently, most prescribed medicines have not required a prescription, with the exception of psychoactive or stronger narcotic drugs; however, many pharmacies have been insisting on doctor's prescriptions lately. Pharmacies are located all over the country, and for simple ailments, they are much more convenient then a trip to the hospital or 'sanatorio' or 'clinica' for a doctor's prescription, will you just take to the pharmacy.
Sun block is recommended in the north of the country, where the heat can be intense with 38°C (100°F) common in some areas. Heat rash, dehydration, and sunburns are common for first time visitors.
Dengue, a mosquito borne illness, is a serious and potentially fatal illness, but only a risk in the far north. Mosquito bites should be prevented at all costs in the far north, where they have many bug repellents, from lotions to sprays, as well as citronella candles, and 'espirales' (a spiral shaped incense). These are purchasable at most kiosks (kioskos) or pharmacies.
Successive peso crises have left many Argentines bitter towards some authorities and institutions. While many shops will appreciate payment in US dollars or euros and even offer you a better exchange rate than the banks, try to blend in elsewhere. Keep a supply of pesos on hand for those businesses that do not accept dollars.
As of Jan 2014, it is difficult to obtain US dollars. They can no longer be obtained through the automated teller machines. In order to receive dollars for pesos, the official agencies require a receipt from an Argentinian bank (for the amount of pesos), an official form of identification, and a copy of the individual's ATM/bank card. Damaged bills or those larger than a USD20 are very undesirable and may be declined.
Argentines are very engaging people who may ask very personal questions within minutes after first meeting someone. They will expect you to do the same. Failing to do so would signify lack of interest in the other person.
Don't be offended if someone calls you a "boludo". Even though it's a swear word, to Argentines it means "pal", or "mate" (depending on the tone it is said), it is said they talk about 100 boludos per hour (100b/h). Argentinian people are infamous for the amount of cursing they do, so if they are talking to you don't pay attention to the cursing. If Argentinians are mad, teasing you or making fun of you, you will tell by the expression of their face or the tone of their voice as well as even more cursing than usual.
Also, don't be offended if an Argentinian says things to you in a very direct manner: this is very usual among locals and sometimes offends foreigners. Argentinians are very emotional and extremists, both when telling good things or bad things to anyone. You'll also see that they have an acid humour, make fun of themselves in every aspect, and sometimes they will make fun of you. Just reply back with another joke if this is the case; locals won't take it as an offence.
Taxi drivers (especially old people) are very friendly and usually very well informed about everything. Feel free to talk about whatever you want. Some of them even know lot of history and politics of the city.
Try not to compare "dulce de leche", pretty women, soccer, birome (bic pen), and public bus, unfavourably with anything else in the world, likewise for Argentinian meat; doing it will be considered insulting.
Cheek kissing is very common in Argentina, especially in bigger cities, among and between women and men. People make contact with right cheeks, and make a light "kiss sound" but not touch the cheek with their lips (only once, two kisses -right and then left- is very rare). When two women, or opposite sexes first meet, it is not uncommon to kiss. Two men will first shake hands if they do not know each other, but will probably kiss when departing, especially if they have spoken for a while. Male friends cheek kiss every time when greeting, it is like a sign of trust. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude especially if you are an obvious foreigner. Remember when visiting another country its always interesting to try new customs.
In the rest of the country, regular handshaking applies. Also women will greet by kissing as described above, but it's reserved to other women and to men they are acquainted with. All the aforementioned applies elsewhere in Latin America and in the Iberian Peninsula (except the man to man cheek kissing, which is not common elsewhere).
Since some Argentinians are extremely die-hard football fans, try to avoid wearing rival soccer jerseys, as one bad turn on the wrong street, or walking into a bar wearing the wrong colours, could be dangerous in low-class areas. You can wear European football club jerseys with an Argentinian player's name on the back (for example: a Manchester City jersey with Tevez's name, a Barcelona jersey with Mascherano's name, etc.). If you really want to wear a jersey, the safest plan is to wear an Argentina World Cup jersey.
Argentine "barrabravas" (An equivalent of the term "hooligans") cause various degrees of vandalism, assault, and deadly shootings in a few occasions due to football debates. It is recommended not to wear local football clothing too often, and you will be better off if you avoid using football clothing altogether.
The Perú national football colours (and jersey design) are almost identical to those of local team River Plate, so be cautious as to avoid misunderstandings.
Punctuality and perceptions of time
Argentinians generally take a relaxed attitude towards time. This can be unsettling to visitors from North America and non-Latin parts of Europe where punctuality is highly valued. You should expect that your Argentine contacts will be at least 10 to 15 minutes late for any appointment. This is considered normal in Argentina and does not signify any lack of respect for the relationship. Of course, this does not apply to business meetings.
If you are invited to a dinner or party at, say 21:00, it does not mean that you should be present at 21:00, but instead that you should not arrive before 21:00. You'll be welcomed any time afterwards. Arriving to a party one hour late is normally OK and sometimes expected.
This attitude extends to any scheduled activity in Argentina. Plays, concerts usually get going around half an hour after their scheduled times. Long distance buses leave on time though. As in any busy city around the world, short-distance public transportation like city buses and the subway do not even bother with time estimates; they arrive when they arrive! Factor these elements into your calculations of how long things will take.
Delayed bus or train departures are not uncommon, especially in big cities. This is normally not a problem, as in general no one will expect you to be on time anyway. However, long-distance bus departures almost always leave on time (even if they arrive late), so do not count on lack of punctuality to save you when arriving late at bus terminals.
Things to avoid
Avoid talking about the "Falkland Islands" (Las Islas Malvinas) including the Falkland War and dispute, with their English name. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines and can cause a strong reaction and an unpleasant situation for you.
Avoid wearing any English and British symbols due to the above mentioned reasons. English and British flags as well as English national football (soccer) tops (who are rivals of the Argentine national football team during the World Cup) are definitely to be avoided. Although no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, people might be very upset about them and you are very likely to receive very icy looks and treatment from the population.
Also avoid talking about the Perón years and also about politics, the military junta and religion in general. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines and can cause a strong reaction as well.
Avoid comparing Argentina with its neighbours Brazil and Chile, because they are considered rivals especially in the economic sphere.
Avoid comparing regional foods. This too can be a sensitive subject, as recipes and key ingredients vary from province to province.
Avoid asking for ketchup for anything other than a hot dog. There's fantastic beef in this country, and asking for ketchup, or barbecue sauce, then pouring it on a steak can easily get you kicked out of a restaurant.
Same sex marriage is legal since 2010, but in small towns, or the more conservative north of the country, some people (especially older generations) might be shocked by public displays of affection.
Drug use, while legal in the country, is frowned upon by most inhabitants. Alcohol is generally the vice of choice here. Paco, a crack-like mix of by products from the cocaine manufacturing process, is a serious problem, and its users should be avoided at all costs. These people are undeniably violent and unpredictable.
'Villas' or ghettos, usually composed of wooden or steel plate shacks, should also be avoided due to the high crime rate in these areas.
You can get a prepaid Movistar / Claro / Personal SIM card for a few pesos / free at phone shops, all you pay is about ARS20 (about USD5) for your initial credits. Inserting the SIM card into your unlocked mobile phone should work, although to register the SIM you have to enter your passport (or any 9 digit) number - you then have your personal Argentinian phone number, which is very useful to keep in touch with other travellers, either by calling or by writing text messages. Calls cost around ARS1 per minute.
Receiving calls is usually free, except for international calls, and some cross network / inter-city calls - hence buying a SIM card purely to keep in touch with people overseas may not be worth it.
To reload you can buy small cards with secret numbers at many kiosks. If you have a prepaid Claro SIM card, dialling *444, pressing 2 followed by 1, and entering the secret number does the trick.
Not related to mobile phones, there are similar cards with credits for international calls. You get them at so called locutorios, where you can also use the phone booths. You dial a free number to connect to the service, then your secret number for the credits, and then the international phone number you want to call. Using these cards, a one-hour call to Europe will cost about 10 Pesos (3 US-Dollars). Don't call without such cards or even from your hotel - it will be way more expensive.
The phone numbering plan in Argentina is hopelessly complicated for foreigners. Do check out the Wikipedia article about it to find out more.
- Directory Listing (The White Pages): 110
- International Operator: 000
- National Operator: 19
- Collect National Calls: 19 from regular phones, *19 from public phones
- Mobile phone numbers start with 15
- Regional code for Buenos Aires: 11
Other useful phone numbers include:
- Official Time: 113
- Consumer Advocacy: +54 11 5382-6216 or 6217
All 2 and 3-digit numbers are free, except the official time service (113).
All 0800 numbers are toll-free numbers, except if you call from a mobile phone.
Long distance calls from Argentina: You may use calling card, ARS0.18/min or ARS0.59/min for calling from Argentina to USA.
Many cafés and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi with an advertisement in their windows. All you need to do is buy a coffee and ask for the password.