Before traveling to Argentina there are a few things that you should know.
- Money: Argentina has a lot of corruption within its monetary system. It is important not to carry large bills and to examine the bills that you are spending and receiving. Although Argentines are happy and tourist friendly, that does not mean that one of them might give you back a counterfeit bill. Click here for a quick website that will help you detect fake money.
Bills are generally wrinkled and thin, almost like Monopoly money. The money usually isn’t in the best condition, so handle with care. It is also important to know where a few ATMs are within your area. They have a withdrawal limit and often times run out. Also, remember to carry coins if you intend on riding the buses.
It can be a problem to cash traveler's checks in Argentina. It’s better to bring VISA and Mastercard, and draw cash from ATMs. Most ATMs have an English option. Don’t expect to use your credit cards in stores though. They are rarely accepted. Lastly, banks, grocery stores, and restaurants are typically the only ones that will break a 100peso bill.
- Transportation: There are several different methods of transportation within Argentina, each with their own pros and cons. The first is the subway. The subway is easy, cheap, and only crowded during peak hours (9am and 7pm). Taxis are also inexpensive, but if you speak English, it is likely that you will be taken on a longer, more scenic route. Be sure you have your travel destination ready, either verbally or written on a piece of paper. The bus system is also very easy. Although it is typically only used by the locals, it is great because there are so many available buses. Walking is also another way that you can get from point A to point B. It is important to know where you are going. Two recommended maps are Guia T and Automovil Club Argentino’s maps. If you have a cell phone with a map application, that should work as well. Lastly, if you intend on renting a car during your time in Argentina, be sure to place the reservation ahead of time to guarantee availability. Also, be careful! Car accidents are incredibly common in Argentina.
- Food & Water: Argentina is a meat-lover’s haven. Beef is a staple item on any Argentinean menu. Unfortunately, for the vegetarians out there, it will be difficult to avoid getting meat on your plate. And vegans, everything is covered in cheese. For everyone else, get ready to expand your palate to all of the wonderful flavors of Argentina. Don’t be angry when you get charged a cubierto fee. This is a sit-down fee and is common in US restaurants as well. Water is questionable depending on your location. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Always drink bottled drinks. No ice. No refills.
- Weather: As Argentina is located on the southern hemisphere, it is important to study weather patterns before packing for your trip. This could mean the difference between needing a jacket or searching everywhere for an air conditioner. Air conditioners are scarce, so much so that cab drivers will advertise when they have it.
- Cultural Insight: During the holidays, Buenos Aires is a ghost town. Almost everyone spends the holiday season by the coast: Punta del Este, Uruguay, or Mar del Plata. Restaurants, stores, and even McDonald’s will be closed. Some stores will even be closed until January 15th. Be sure to take this into consideration when making your travel plans.
The “cheek kiss” is an aspect of the Argentinean culture that cannot be forgotten. Aside from business interactions, which consist of the generic handshake, all other interactions require the cheek kiss. The cheek kiss is actually not a kiss at all, but more of a cheek touch. Waving is considered rude, so when you leave a social gathering, be sure to cheek kiss everyone before you head out.
Americans eat quickly. We are always in a rush to get to our main destination. In Argentina, it is important to relax, slow down, and enjoy the company of those who you are dining with. If you are not in a rush, then there is no need to eat quickly.
- Safety: In Buenos Aires, be discrete with cameras and other electronics. San Telmo and La Boca are also hot spots for pickpockets. To stay safe, be sure to travel in groups and stay in the light after hours. When booking your hotel, stay away from downtown areas. They are usually dirty and more dangerous.
Watch your step when walking through the city. The sidewalks are often filled with cracked tiles and dog waste.
Also, be sure to carry a photocopy of your passport and keep the original somewhere safe.
- Health: Don’t be afraid to go to the doctor while you are there. Argentina has a reasonably good free public healthcare system.
- Things to Avoid: Avoid demonstrations. Even though Argentina has a relatively stable political sector, demonstrations are frequent and can become dangerous. Avoid them altogether.
Buses. It is common knowledge that buses speed when when they see pedestrians in the crosswalks, so be careful!
- Things to Bring: Bring your cell phone and your laptop! Cell phones will be extremely helpful when using map applications. Internet cafes are quite common, so you will be able to go online to post pictures about your trip!
- One last thing: Leave plenty of room in your suitcase for souvenirs. There is excellent shopping in Palermo Soho, so be sure to grab a few things for mom and dad.