While it's always useful to learn some of the local lingo before you go, sometimes things get a little lost in translation. Before you arrive in Argentina, remember these 15 things to stay safe and make the most of your time here.
Matt Lewis from i-to-i recommends travelers check their 100 peso notes before giving it to shop assistants. "They might claim it was counterfeit, even though it might not be, and give you a counterfeit note back! Also, coins are like gold. It's hard to get change anywhere, and you can't take a bus without coins!"
Buenos Aires local Martina Grossi says $100 peso notes would barely pay for anything these days – it’s now the equivalent of US $1.60 (as of 2020). Argentina has been undergoing a constant inflationary process for years.
For this reason, there are new $200 and $500 bills. “I’d still recommend you have change, as many places don’t accept cards, and the counterfeit scam is still current.”
Augustina Marmol from Dolomite Mountains says to avoid demonstrations, “they happen all too regularly in Buenos Aires, and occasionally can get a bit violent."
There are a couple of places in the city that are the focal point of protests. If there's going to be trouble, it'll be here. Violent crime is extremely rare, and there are smaller towns in Argentina which are considered safer than Buenos Aires.
There was an increase in violent repression during demonstrations throughout 2016 and 2017. If you choose to stay, blend with the people marching and you should be fine. People are very cooperative and will take care of each other, but yes, things can certainly get out of hand fast.
Not that we’re recommending you stick around, but if you’re there for a “cultural experience” or you agree with the cause, follow your instincts to stay safe, and carry as few belongings with you as possible. Whatever you do, don’t stay till the end – this is when the trouble starts.
Martina Grossi has been going to demonstrations since she was a teenager, “and I always felt safe, but I’m always very cautious. I recommend following the news to be aware of strikes and protests. Public transport, airports and other institutions may stop working when they break out.”
She also says that, unfortunately, violent robbery is quite common during demonstrations – especially in the city of Buenos Aires.
Josh Steinitz from NileGuide recommends travelers should always know where they are on the map, “Buenos Aires is the kind of place where fancier, tourist-friendly neighborhoods are directly adjacent to some rough spots."
Do your best to blend in. Try not to look lost – even if you are – don’t speak in English too loud, and put your best poker face to use. Martina says, “A little bit of a badass look could help. I do this all the time, even in cities like Rome or Paris.”
Always try to remain calm, and be on the lookout for a friendly face to get an idea of the city’s neighborhoods from a local’s perspective.
Antonija from GeckoGo says, “Buenos Aires is safe for women traveling and sightseeing alone, but you should be aware that the men will whistle at you when you pass by, and comment on your looks. At nighttime, it's better to take a taxi than walk the streets. This applies if you’re traveling alone or with others – especially for La Boca area."
It’s better to call a radio taxi or an UBER. If you happen to be waiting on the street, make sure the taxi has a “RADIO TAXI” sign and a visible phone number. This applies to most of tourist neighborhoods in the city of Buenos Aires. Avoid waiting around in isolated areas – stick to the crowds, even at the bus stop.
Martina also recommends having a valid phone chip in your cell phone to stay connected.
When you’re inside the taxi, always keep the windows shut and hide any valuable items. Otherwise, you may experience the moto-chorros – opportunists that steal from cars. Don’t give them the chance!
Christina Tunnah from World Nomads says you’ll come across large packs of dogs hanging around some of the bus stations, so beware. “Most of the time they won't bother you, but it's always better to travel with a friend. Power in numbers!”
You’ll also find lots of dog poo on the streets, so you have to watch your feet when walking around.
You can use this card for everything. The easiest way to get one is at a kiosco (convenience store). Otherwise, you’ll pay almost twice the cost for the ride.
Costs rise constantly due to inflation, so keep in mind that even if you’ve done your research on prices, once you get there, things will surely be more expensive. Budget accordingly.
Many places – including other major cities beyond Buenos Aires – either don’t accept credit cards, or they require a minimum amount to pay with one. For this reason, it’s a good idea to stock up on enough cash to get you by.
If you want to truly experience Buenos Aires, stay for at least a few weeks. Get used to the culture, the people, and see all the sites.
A lot of people fly in and leave immediately to see Iguazu Falls, or head up north or south to explore incredible landscapes. But there’s so much to see and do around town.
Argentina is one of the biggest countries in the world, so you can expect flights to be expensive, though there are now some low-cost carriers in the country.
Stuck on ideas for places to go? If you're keen to go skiing or back country hiking, check out Bariloche. For foodies and those of you with an eye for incredible scenery, Salta. If wine tasting and cycling through leafy streets sounds like a good time, Mendoza. Chasing waterfalls? Iguazu is your destination. Or, if you want to get a taste for the music and art scene in Argentina, head to Córdoba.
Moving from one city to another by bus takes time, but it’s better than using the train network. Argentina’s public transport works well, but sometimes there are delays.
Make sure you do your research to find a transport method to fit your budget, schedule, and comfort.
When Martina Grossi warns travelers of her home town, she always hears “yeah, but you need to be cautious in every big city”.
She’d like to make it clear: “Buenos Aires is more unsafe than many other cities, so it’s important to keep in mind all the safety advice to avoid getting unwanted attention.”
There is a 10% minimum suggested tip at all restaurants, cafés, and pubs. While it isn’t mandatory, it’s certainly respected and appreciated.
When crossing the border by land, make sure you have all the required documents at hand, especially if you are crossing in a vehicle.
Don’t carry any fresh food (or seeds). Be prepared to go through a thorough check with sniffing dogs, and you may be asked to take your suitcases out of the car.
If you have anything you think may get you a fine, show it first thing. Bear in mind there are many different crossings – the one that goes through Mendoza the most popular.
Visitors from some countries once had to pay a Reciprocity Fee to get into Argentina. There have been some changes in recent years, so check with your embassy before arriving. At the time of this writing, United States, Australian, and Canadian citizens no longer need to pay this fee.
Martina says, “Argentinians love culture, history, art, food, football, friends, and family. We have an Italian temper with a South American warm spirit. I certainly hope everyone’s experience in my city is a good one to remember.”
*This article was updated by Martina Grossi in November 2017 to address many comments below.
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