The Argentine peso has remained relatively stable at between three and four to the US dollar for nearly a decade. Continual high inflation has eroded many of the exchange gains that the 2001 devaluation first gave and it can no longer really be described as a cheap destination. But the quality of what is on offer is mostly pretty good, and certain things can represent particularly smart value – notably eating out and transport – and outside Buenos Aires and the main tourist destinations you can find real bargains in shops and hotels.
Adhering to a reasonable daily budget is not impossible, but there are considerable regional variations. As a rule of thumb, the further south you travel the more you will need to stretch your budget. Roughly speaking, on average you’ll need to plan on spending at least $1000/US$260/£160 a week on a tight budget (sharing a dorm, eating snacks, limiting other spending), double that if staying in budget accommodation but not stinting, while to live in the lap of luxury you could easily burn through $10000/US$2600/£1600 in a week.
Camping and self-catering are good ways of saving money, though the now-extensive network of youth hostels enables you to pay little without sleeping rough. Out of season, at weekends and during slow periods it is a good idea to bargain hotel prices down. You can save money on food by having your main meal at lunch time – especially by opting for the set menu (usually called menú ejecutivo). Picnicking is another option; local produce is often world-class and an alfresco meal of bread, cheese, ham or salami with fresh fruit and a bottle of table wine in a great location is a match for any restaurant feast.
Long-distance transport will eat up a considerable chunk of your expenses, particularly if you use internal flights; buses are obviously much cheaper if you have the time. They vary greatly in condition and price from one category to another, though you may find the cheaper fares are a false economy – the better companies usually give you free food and drink (of varying quality) on lengthy journeys, while spacious coche cama comfort overnight enables you to save the price of a room and is worthwhile for covering the longest distances over less interesting terrain. City transport – including taxis and remises (radio taxis) – is inexpensive, but then most cities are compact enough to walk around anyway.
Hotels, restaurants and big stores may ask for a hefty handling fee for credit-card payments (as high as twenty percent), while many businesses – and hotels in particular – will give you a fair-sized discount for cash payments (efectivo or contado) on the quoted price, though they may need prompting. Be aware that many services, especially air travel and hotels, operate dual pricing – one price for Argentine residents (including foreigners) and another, often as much as three times more, for non-residents. Hotels and other types of commerce, especially at the luxury end of the market, may charge foreigners in US dollars, rather than Argentine pesos, as a covert but perfectly legal way of charging more. This practice is mostly found in more touristy locations such as Ushuaia and Bariloche, as well as the capital.
Crime and personal safety
With the effects of economic crises in 2001 and 2009 still lingering, Argentina has lost the reputation it enjoyed for many years as a totally safe destination. However, any concern you have should be kept in perspective – the likelihood of being a victim of crime remains small, because most of the more violent crime (concentrated in the big cities) is directed at wealthy locals rather than foreign visitors.
The usual precautions should be taken, particularly in the capital, cities like Rosario and Córdoba, and some of the northern border towns (near the frontiers with Paraguay and Brazil). In Buenos Aires, highly publicized incidents of violence and armed robbery have increased over the years but the vast majority of visitors have no problems. Some potential pitfalls are outlined here – not to induce paranoia, but on the principle that to be forewarned is to be forearmed.
There are some basic precautions you should take to reduce the likelihood of being a victim of crime. A basic rule is to carry only what you need for that day, and conceal valuable items such as cameras and jewellery. Be cautious when withdrawing cash from ATMs. If you’re not sure about the wisdom of walking somewhere, play it safe and take a cab – but call radio taxis or hail them in the street, rather than taking a waiting one. Remember that pickpockets most commonly hang around subte stations and bus terminals (particularly Retiro in the capital), and on crowded trains and buses.
Theft from hotels is rare, but do not leave valuables lying around. Use the hotel safe if there is one. Compared with other Latin American countries, you’re unlikely to have things stolen on long-distance buses (luggage Is checked in and you should get a ticket for each item), but it makes sense to take your daypack with you when you disembark for meal stops, and, particularly at night, to keep your bag by your feet rather than on the overhead rack. Pilfering from checked-in luggage on flights is quite common – don’t leave anything of value in outside pockets, and lock your bag where possible. Car theft has become a very common occurrence; if you are renting a car, check that the insurance will cover you, and always park in a car park or where someone will keep an eye on it. When driving in the city, keep windows closed and doors locked.
As elsewhere in Latin America, you should be aware of the possibility of scams. A popular one, especially in the tourist areas of Buenos Aires, is having mustard, ice cream or some similar substance “spilt” over you. Some person then offers to help clean it off – cleaning you out at the same time. If this happens to you, push them off, get away from them fast and make as much noise as possible, shouting “thief!” (“ladrón!”), “police!” (“policia!”) or for help (“socorro!”). Another well-worked scam involves a regular cab picking you up from the taxi rank outside Aeroparque Jorge Newbery, driving off the airport grounds (so they’re no longer on CCTV), then the driver taking a call on his mobile phone and suddenly saying that he has to drop you off and can’t take you to your destination. He leaves you stranded at the side of the road to be picked up by a “random” cab he’s in league with, who’ll fleece you. Easily avoided: always make sure you take an official, booked remise rather than waiting for a regular cab.
Note, too, that, though the police are entitled to check your documents, they have no right to inspect your money or travellers’ cheques: anyone who does is a con artist, and you should ask for their identification or offer to be taken to the police station (gendarmería). If you ever do get “arrested”, never get into a vehicle other than an official police car.
Drugs are frowned upon, although perhaps not as much as in other parts of South America. Drug use, particularly of marijuana and cocaine, is fairly common among the younger generation, and quite openly celebrated in some popular song lyrics. Despite court rulings in 2009 interpreted as a step towards decriminalization, Argentine society at large, and the police, don’t draw much of a line between soft drugs and hard drugs, and the penalties for either can be stiff if you get caught. As everywhere else, there are many slang words for drugs: common ones for marijuana include porro, maconia and yerba; for cocaine, merca and papa.
If you are unlucky enough to be the victim of a robbery (asalto) or lose anything of value, you will need to make a report at the nearest police station for insurance purposes. This is usually a time-consuming but fairly straightforward process. Check that the report includes a comprehensive account of everything lost and its value, and that the police add the date and an official stamp (sello). These reports do not cost anything.
220V/50Hz is standard throughout the country. Two different types of sockets are found: two-pronged with round pins, but which are different to the two-pin European plugs; and three-pronged, with flat pins, two of which are slanted. Adapters will probably be needed and can be bought at a string of electrical shops along Calle Talcahuano, in Buenos Aires. Some, but not all, of the multi-adaptors on sale at airports will do the trick, so check the instructions.
Citizens of the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand do not currently need a visa for tourist trips to Argentina of up to ninety days. In the past entry fees (some quite hefty) have been introduced on a reciprocal basis for the citizens of certain countries such as the US. All visitors need a valid passport and will have to fill in a landing card (tarjeta de entrada) on arrival, when you will be given a stamp. In theory, this could be for thirty, sixty or ninety days, but in practice it’s almost always ninety. If you are travelling alone with a child you may be requested to show a notarized document certifying both parents’ permission for the child to travel. Keep your landing card safe, as you’ll need to show it to leave the country. If you do lose it, it’s rarely a serious problem, but you’ll have to fill in a new form at the border control.
On entering the country, you will also be given a customs declaration form. Duty is not charged on used personal effects, books and other articles for non-commercial purposes, up to the value of US$300. Make sure you declare any valuable electronic items such as laptop computers or fancy mobile phones.
You can extend your stay for a further ninety days by paying a reasonable fee and presenting your passport at the main immigration department, Dirección de Migraciones in Buenos Aires, at Av Antártida Argentina 1350, Retiro (T011/4317-0237 or 0238). This costs $100 and must be done on weekdays between 8am and 1pm; be prepared for a possible lengthy wait. You can do this extension, called a prórroga, once only. Alternatively, you could try leaving the country (the short hop to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay is a good option) and returning to get a fresh stamp. This usually works, but may be frowned upon if done repeatedly, and the provision of an extra stamp is totally at the discretion of the border guards. If you do overshoot your stay, you pay a moderate fine at Migraciones, who will give you a form that allows you to leave the country within ten days. This was a fairly common practice at the time of publication, but bear in mind that if you do this your stay in the country will be illegal and could potentially cause you problems. If you are crossing into Chile, make sure your papers are in order, as Chilean officials are considerably more scrupulous.
When leaving the country, you must obtain an exit stamp. At certain border controls, particularly in the north of the country, it is often up to you to ensure that the bus driver stops and waits while you get this – otherwise drivers may not stop, assuming that all passengers are Argentine nationals and don’t need stamps. In some places (for example, Clorinda) your Argentine exit stamp is actually given on the far side of the border, but check this with the driver beforehand.
Visas for work or study must be obtained in advance from your consulate. Extensive paperwork, much of which must be translated into Spanish by a certified translator, is required; allow plenty of time before departure to start the process. The websites listed below have details of what documentation is needed, or contact the consulate directly.
Although checks are rare, visitors are legally obliged to carry their passport as ID. You might get away with carrying a photocopy, but don’t forget to copy your entrance stamp and landing card as well. In the majority of cases, this is acceptable to police, but getting a copy certified by a public notary increases its credibility.
Gay and lesbian travellers
Despite remarkable progress in recent years, the attitude in Argentina towards homosexuals is generally ambivalent. Discreet relationships are tolerated, but in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation any “deviance”, including any explicit physical contact between members of the same sex (let alone transvestism or overtly intimate behaviour) will be almost universally disapproved of, to say the least. Violent manifestations of homophobia are rare, however, especially now that the Church and the military exert less influence; homosexual acts between consenting adults have long been legal.
Gay and lesbian associations are springing up in the major cities, notably in Buenos Aires, where nightlife and meeting places are increasingly open, but rural areas still do their best to act as if homosexuality doesn’t exist. Yet one of the first pieces of legislation passed by parliament in 2003 afforded all citizens protection from discrimination, making a specific reference to sexual orientation. In the same year, the city of Buenos Aires legalized non-marriage unions for heterosexuals and homosexuals alike, with several gay couples tying the knot in highly publicized ceremonies. At the end of 2009 two men were given permission to marry in Ushuaia, having failed to do so in their home city of Buenos Aires, following a legal struggle that won national and international press coverage.
Travel to Argentina doesn’t raise any major health worries and with a small dose of precaution and a handful of standard vaccinations or updates (tetanus, polio, typhoid and hepatitis A) you are unlikely to encounter any serious problems. There have been highly publicized outbreaks of dengue fever in the far north and there were a large number of (again, much publicized) cases of swine flu in mid-2009. Yet a bout of travellers’ diarrhoea, as your body adjusts to local micro-organisms in the food and water, is the most you’re likely to have to worry about. The tap water in Argentina is generally safe to drink, if sometimes heavily chlorinated, but you may prefer to err on the side of caution in rural areas in the north of the country. Mineral water is good and widely available.
Argentine pharmacies are plentiful, well-stocked and a useful port of call for help with minor medical problems; the staff may offer simple diagnostic advice and will often help dress wounds, but if in doubt consult a doctor. Medicines and cosmetic products are fairly expensive, however, as they are mostly imported, so if you have room, take plenty of supplies.
The easiest way to get treatment for more serious ailments is to visit the outpatient department of a hospital, where treatment will usually be free. In Buenos Aires, the Hospital de Clínicas, at José de San Martín, Av Córdoba 235l (T011/4961-6001), is a particularly efficient place to receive medical advice and prescriptions; you can simply walk in and, for a small fee, make an on-the-spot appointment with the relevant specialist department – English-speaking doctors can usually be found. For a list of English-speaking doctors throughout the country, contact your embassy in Buenos Aires. For emergencies or ambulances in Argentina, dial T107.
Among the nasty complaints that exist on Argentine territory are Chagas’ disease, cholera, malaria, dengue, hantavirus, yellow fever and rabies, though are all rare, mostly confined to remote locations off the tourist trail. That said, each is sufficiently serious that you should be aware of their existence and of measures you should take to avoid infection. For up-to-date information on current health risks in Argentina check Wwww.cdc.gov and Wwww.medicineplanet.com.
The incidence of HIV/AIDS is similar to that in most developed countries. As some of the condoms sold in Argentina are of pretty poor quality, it’s wise to bring a reliable brand with you.
Puna (altitude sickness)
Altitude sickness is a potentially – if very rarely – fatal condition encountered at anything over 2000m, but likeliest and most serious at altitudes of 4000m and above. It can cause severe difficulties, but a little preparation should help you avoid the worst of its effects. In many South American countries it is known by the Quichoa word soroche, but in Argentina it is most commonly, and confusingly, called puna (the local word for altiplano, or high Andean steppes). You’ll also hear the verb apunar and the word apunamiento, referring to the state of suffering from puna, whether affecting humans or vehicles (which also need to be adjusted for these heights).
First, to avoid the effects of the puna, don’t rush anywhere – walk slowly and breathe steadily – and make things easier on yourself by not smoking. Whenever possible, acclimatize: it’s better to spend a day or two at around 2000m and then 3000–3500m before climbing to 4000m or more rather than force the body to cope with a sudden reduction in oxygen levels. Make sure you’re fully rested; an all-night party isn’t the best preparation for a trip up into the Andes. Alcohol is also best avoided both prior to and during high-altitude travel; the best thing to drink is plenty of still water – never fizzy because it froths over and can even explode at high altitudes – or tea. Eating, too, needs some consideration: digestion uses up considerable quantities of oxygen, so snacking is preferable to copious meals. Carry supplies of high-energy cereal bars, chocolate, dried fruit (the local raisins, prunes and dried apricots are delicious), walnuts or cashews, crackers and biscuits, and avoid anything that ferments in the stomach, such as milk, fresh fruit and juices, vegetables or acidic food – they’re guaranteed to make you throw up if you’re affected. The best form of sugar to ingest is honey, because it’s the least acidic. Grilled meat is fine, so asados are all right, but don’t over-indulge. If you’re driving into the altiplano make sure that your vehicle’s engine has been properly adjusted. All engines labour because of the low oxygen levels, so don’t try to force the pace: stay in low gears and go easy on the air conditioning. Take care also with items such as ink pens and screw-top tubes and bottles of shampoo or creams – the low pressure at these altitudes may cause them to burst or leak.
Minor symptoms of the puna, such as headaches or a strange feeling of pressure inside the skull, nausea, loss of appetite, insomnia or dizziness, are nothing to worry about, but more severe problems, such as persistent migraines, repeated vomiting, severe breathing difficulties, excessive fatigue and a marked reduction in the need to urinate are of more concern. If you suffer from any of these, return to a lower altitude and seek out medical advice at once. Severe respiratory problems should be treated immediately with oxygen, carried by tour operators on excursions to 3000m or more as a legal requirement, but you’re unlikely ever to need it.
Sunstroke and sunburn
You should take the sun very seriously in Argentina. The north of the country, especially the Chaco region and La Rioja Province, is one of the hottest regions of Latin America in summer – temperatures regularly rocket above 40ºC; the extended siestas taken by locals are wise precautions against the debilitating effects of the midday heat. Where possible, avoid excessive activity between about 11am and 4pm and when you do have to be out in the sun, wear sunscreen and a hat. You should also drink plenty of liquids – but not alcohol – and always make sure you have a sufficient supply of water when embarking on a hike. Throughout the country, the sun can be extremely fierce and even people with darker skin should use a much higher factor sunscreen than they might normally: using factor 15 or above is a sensible precaution. Remember that the cooler temperatures in the south are deceptive – ozone depletion and long summer days here can be more hazardous than the fierce heat of the north.
It is a good idea to take out an insurance policy before travelling, though always check first to see whether you are already covered by your home insurance, provincial health plan or student/employment insurance. In Argentina, insurance is more important to cover theft or loss of belongings and repatriation than medical treatment – the country has a state medical system that is free for emergencies. It is perfectly adequate, though the technology is not the latest and waits can be long. Most well-off Argentines use private healthcare, which is very good and far cheaper than the equivalent in the US or Europe. Make sure your travel insurance policy includes coverage for any adventure sports you may be planning, such as scuba-diving, white-water rafting, or skiing – you will probably have to pay a premium to have this included. If you need to make a claim, you should keep all receipts, and in the event you have anything stolen, you must obtain an official statement from the police.
All towns and most villages in Argentina have public places where you can access the internet, either in internet cafés, or in locutorios. Rates vary considerably, from $1 to $10 an hour, with the highest rates in Patagonia. In most decent-sized places there will be broadband, but out in the sticks internet connections can still be painfully slow, sometimes down for days, or non-existent. Virtually all upmarket hotels in towns and cities offer wi-fi, and increasingly hostels and mid-market hotels do as well. The ones that don´t often have a PC with broadband access you can use. Cafes with wi-fi are common in Buenos Aires, less so in the interior – try wwww
.navegawifi.com for a hotspot list.
The Spanish keyboard is prevalent; if you have problems locating the “@” symbol (called arroba in Spanish), try holding the “Alt” key down and type 64.
Most towns and cities have a plentiful supply of laundries (lavanderías or lavaderos), especially since not everyone has a washing machine. Some also do dry-cleaning, though you may have to go to a tintorería. Self-service places are almost unheard of; you normally give your name and leave your washing to pick it up later (the service is fast by European standards); some places will deliver to wherever you’re staying. Laundry is either charged by weight or itemized, but rates are not excessive, especially compared with the high prices charged by most hotels. Furthermore, the quality is good and the service is usually reliable. One important word of vocabulary to know is planchado (ironed).
Living and working in Argentina
More and more foreigners are choosing to stay in Argentina long-term, and if you want to take the plunge you will be in good company, particularly if you settle in Buenos Aires or one of the key travel destinations such as Ushuaia or Mendoza. Organizations that cater to expats include the South American Explorers’ Club, which has a Buenos Aires clubhouse, the lively internet forum wbaexpats.org and the website wwww.livinginargentina.com.
Tourist visas are valid for ninety days. You are usually allowed to renew your visa once, although this does mean an encounter with the bureaucratic immigration services. Many medium-term residents simply leave the country every three months (usually hopping across to Colonia, in Uruguay), to get a new stamp, but this approach might not be tolerated over many years. Obtaining a residence permit is time-consuming and is usually granted only if you have an Argentine spouse or child, or make a sizeable investment in the national economy.
As far as working is concerned, remember Argentines themselves compete for the few jobs on offer and your entry into the employment market may not be looked on kindly; also, unless you are on a contract with an international firm or organization, you will be paid in pesos, which will inevitably add up to a pretty low salary by global standards, though of course it will stretch further in Argentina. If you’re determined anyway, many English-speaking foreigners do the obvious thing and teach English. Training in this is an advantage but by no means necessary; the demand for native English-speaking teachers is so high that many soon build up a roster of students via the odd newspaper ad and word of mouth. Working in tourism is another possibility – a fair proportion of agencies and hotels are run by foreigners. Consider also translation if you have the language ability.
If you just want to volunteer, contact the South American Explorers’ club, which matches potential volunteers and organizations that need help, and doesn’t charge a hefty fee for doing so, although you do need to be member.
If you need a place to live, there are plenty of agencies aimed at foreigners – one is Wwww.alojargentina.com – offering accommodation in apartments, university residences and B&B-type establishments; more are listed on the forums mentioned above, or you could try wwww.craigslist.com. Apartments aimed at locals are advertised in newspapers or rented by inmobiliarías (estate agents) and are cheaper, but you will need somebody who owns property to be your guarantor and be prepared to sign a two-year contract.
Argentina’s rather unreliable postal service, Correo Argentino (T011/4891-9191) is the bête noire of many a hapless expat. Not only is it costly to send post to North America or Europe (starting at $5.50 for a postcard), but many items also never arrive. If you want to send mail abroad, always use the certificado (registered post) system, which costs about $11 for a letter, but increases chances of arrival. Safer still is Correo Argentino’s encomienda system ($110 or $140 for a package under 1kg to North America or Europe respectively), a courier-style service; if you are sending something important or irreplaceable, it is highly recommended that you use this service or a similar international one such as UPS (T0800/2222-877) or DHL (T0810/2222-345). Packets over 2kg need to be examined by the customs (Aduana) at the Centro Postal Internacional at Antártida Argentina 1900 y Comodoro Py in Retiro, Buenos Aires (Mon—Fri 10am—5pm). For regular airmail, expect delivery times of one to two weeks – the quickest deliveries, unsurprisingly, are those out of Buenos Aires. You are not permitted to seal envelopes with sticky tape: they must be gummed down (glue is usually available at the counter). The good news is that as well as post offices, many locutorios, lottery kiosks and small stores deal with mail, which means you don’t usually have to go very far to find somewhere open.
Receiving mail is generally even more fraught with difficulties than sending it. Again, a courier-style service is your best bet; if not, make sure the sender at least registers the letter or parcel. All parcels go to the international post office at Antártida Argentina 1900 in Retiro, and you will receive a card informing you that it is there; you will have to pay customs duties and should expect a long wait. If you are elsewhere in the country you must find out where your nearest customs office is. All post offices keep poste restante for at least a month. Items should be addressed clearly, with the recipient’s surname in capital letters and underlined, followed by their first name in regular script, then “Poste Restante” or “Lista de Correos”, Correo Central, followed by the rest of the address. Buenos Aires city is normally referred to as Capital Federal to distinguish it from its neighbouring province. Bring your passport to collect items ($4.50 fee per item).
To send packages within Argentina, your best bet it to use the encomienda services offered by bus companies (seal boxes in brown paper to prevent casual theft). This isn’t a door-to-door service like the post: the recipient must collect the package from its end destination (bring suitable ID). By addressing the package to yourself, this system makes an excellent and remarkably good-value way of reducing the weight in your pack while travelling, but be aware that companies usually keep an encomienda for only one month before returning it to its original sender. If sending an encomienda to Buenos Aires, check whether it gets held at the Retiro bus station (the most convenient) or at a bus depot elsewhere in the capital.
There are a number of country maps available outside Argentina, including the Rough Guides’ detailed, indestructible Argentina map. Other than that and the maps in this book, the best city map of Buenos Aires is the brilliant Insight Fleximap, which is clear, reliable and easy to fold.
Within Argentina, road maps can be obtained at bookshops and kiosks in all big towns and cities or at service stations. Many maps aren’t up to date: it’s often a good idea to buy a couple of maps and compare them as you go along, always checking with the locals to see whether a given road does exist and is passable, especially with the vehicle you intend to use. The most reliable maps are those produced by ACA (Automóvil Club), which does individual maps for each province, to varying degrees of accuracy. These are widely available at ACA offices, kiosks on Calle Florida in the capital and service stations. Glossy and fairly clear – but at times erratic – regional road maps (Cuyo, Northwest, Lake District, etc) are produced by AutoMapa and are often available at petrol stations and bookshops. Slightly more detailed but a tad less accurate is the mini-atlas Atlas Vial published by YPF, the national petrol company, which is sold at their service stations. There’s a good series by Mapa de Dios (Wwww.dediosonline.com), sold in bookshops, with themes such as restaurants, tango and shopping in Buenos Aires, plus other country and regional maps.
For 1:100,000 ordnance survey-style maps, the Instituto Geográfico Nacional at Av Cabildo 381 in Buenos Aires is the place to go (Mon–Fri 8.30am–4pm; T011/4576-5576 ext 152, Wwww.igm.gov.ar). These topographical and colour satellite maps are great to look at and very detailed, but they are only really of practical for those like trekkers who are used to maps of this type.
After dollar–peso parity lasting a pipedream decade, from 2002 to 2008 the exchange rate against the US dollar fluctuated slightly around or just above the three-peso mark. Then, as the worldwide value of the greenback recovered and Argentina slid into a new recession, the rate drifted towards 3.80 or even 4 to the dollar by the end of 2009. Notes come in 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 denominations, while (rare), 1 peso and 1 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavo coins are in circulation. Sometimes people are loath to give change, as coins can be in short supply, so it’s a good idea to have plenty of loose change on your person. Ask for small denomination notes at banks if possible, break bigger ones up at places where they obviously have plenty of change (busy shops, supermarkets and post offices), and withdraw odd amounts from ATMs ($190, $340, etc) to avoid getting your cash dispensed in $100 bills only – trying to buy a drink, an empanada or a postcard with a crisp $100 note can be a frustrating ordeal and won’t make you many friends. Argentine money is difficult to change outside the country, other than just across the border, where it may even be used as legal tender.
You can check current exchange rates and convert figures on Wwww.xe.com.
IVA (Impuesto de Valor Agregado) is the Argentine equivalent of VAT or sales tax and is usually included in the price for goods and services except food or medicines. The major exceptions are some hotels, which quote their rates before tax, plus airfares and car rental fees. IVA is currently a hefty 21 percent and is added to everything except food and medicines. It is worth knowing that foreigners can often get IVA reimbursed on many purchases, though this is practical only for bigger transactions (over $100) and subject to all kinds of limits and complications. Shops in the more touristy areas will volunteer information and provide the necessary forms, but finding the right place to go to have the final paperwork completed, signed and stamped and to get your money back, at your point of exit (international airports), is a much taller order; ask for instructions when you check in, as you must display your purchases before check-in and then go through the often frustratingly slow formalities once you’ve been given your boarding pass.
ATMs and credit and debit cards
ATMs (cajeros automáticos) are plentiful in Argentina. It’s rare that you’ll find a town or even a village without one, though you can sometimes be caught out in very remote places, especially in the Northwest, so never rely completely on them. Most machines take all credit cards or display those that can be used: you can nearly always get money out with Visa or MasterCard, or with any cards linked to the Plus or Cirrus systems. Most ATMs are either Banelco or LINK – test the networks to see which works best with your card. Machines are mostly multilingual though some of them use Spanish only, so you might need to have a phrase book or a Spanish-speaker handy.
Credit cards (tarjetas de crédito) are a very handy source of funds, and can be used either in the abundant ATMs (note that this can be expensive) or for purchases. Visa and MasterCard are the most widely used and recognized, with American Express and Diners Club less likely to be accepted. Be warned that you might have to show your ID when making a purchase with plastic, and, especially in small establishments in remote areas, the authorization process can take ages and may not succeed at all. Using your debit card, which is not liable to interest payments like credit cards, is usually the best method to get cash and the flat transaction fee is generally quite small – your bank will able to advise on this. Make sure you have a card and PIN that are designed to work overseas.
Most shops and services are open Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm, and Saturday 9am to 2pm. Outside the capital, they may close at some point during the afternoon for between one and five hours. As a rule, the further north you go, the longer the siesta – often offset by later closing times in the evening. Supermarkets seldom close during the day and are generally open much later, often until 8 or even 10pm, and on Saturday afternoons. Large shopping malls don’t close before 10pm and their food and drink sections (patios de comida) may stay open as late as midnight. Many of them open on Sundays too. Casas de cambio more or less follow shop hours. However, banks tend to open only on weekdays: opening times depend on the region. In hotter regions, banks open as early as 7am or 8am, but close by noon or 1pm; whereas in many other areas, including Buenos Aires, they’re open from 10am to 3 or 4pm.
The opening hours of attractions are indicated in the text; however, bear in mind that these often change from one season to another. If you are going out of your way to visit something, it is best to check if its opening times have changed. Museums are a law unto themselves, each one having its own timetable, but all commonly close one day a week, usually Monday. Several Buenos Aires museums are also closed for at least a month in January and February. Tourist offices are forever adjusting their opening times, but the trend is towards longer hours and opening daily. Post offices’ hours vary; most should be open between 9am and 6pm on weekdays, with siestas in the hottest places, and 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. Outside these hours, many locutorios will deal with mail.
Argentina operates a GSM 850/1900 mobile phone network, in common with much of Latin America. Most modern mobile phones are tri- or quad-band so should work fine, but if yours is older you should check with your phone provider to confirm it will work. Local mobile numbers are prefixed by the area code, like fixed lines, and then 15. If you are dialling an Argentine mobile number from abroad, omit the 15 and dial 9 before the area code. If you’re likely to use your phone a lot, it may be worth getting an Argentine SIM card to keep costs down. These can be obtained before you travel from various providers, or, cheaper still – though you’ll need some Spanish here – is to get a pre-paid SIM (chip) from a local operator such as Movistar (wwww.movistar.com.ar) or Personal (wwww.personal.com.ar). Movistar is preferable as it will activate your service straight away, whereas you may have to wait a day or two with other providers. They have a large customer service centre in Buenos Aires at Santa Fe 1844 (Mon–Fri 9am–6pm).
In many ways it’s just as cheap and straightforward to make calls from the public call centres known as locutorios. Although they are not as ubiquitous as they once were, they are still widely found throughout the country. You’ll be assigned a cabin with a meter, with which you can monitor your expenditure. Make as many calls as you want and then pay at the counter. You can get significant discounts on international calls with pre-paid phonecards, available at the locutorios.
Digital memory cards are widely available, although generally more expensive than in places like the US and Europe, especially in the more remote locations and for the larger-memory cards. Most mid-size towns have places where you can burn photos onto DVDs or CDs. Standard photographic film is also still available, but you’re advised to bring specialist films (eg. slide film, black-and-white, low-light ASA ratings) from home. The same goes for all camera spares and supplies. Developing and printing are usually of decent quality but are also quite expensive and outside Buenos Aires the situation is erratic. A constant, however, is that you should watch out where you take photos: sensitive border areas and all military installations, including many civilian airports, are camera no-go areas, so watch out for signs and take no risks.
Argentina hasn’t – it seems – settled on a stable pattern of time zones. Officially, there’s supposed to be a unified national time zone (3 hours behind GMT), but in reality – and according to changing local policies – some provinces operate separate systems. Some parts of the country, mainly in the east, have recently adopted a mid-Oct to mid-March daylight saving time (2 hours behind GMT). Other parts of the country (eg San Luís) are four hours behind GMT from mid-March to mid-Oct. For the latest information, you’re best off checking on Wen.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_in_Argentina and the official government site at Wwww.hidro.gov.ar.
The main national tourist board (Wwww.turismo.gov.ar) is in Buenos Aires and is a fairly useful stop for maps and general information. Piles of leaflets, glossy brochures and maps are dished out at provincial and municipal tourist offices (oficinas de turismo) across the country, which vary enormously in quality of service and quantity of information. Don’t rely on staff speaking any language other than Spanish, or on the printed info being translated into foreign languages. In addition, every province maintains a casa de provincia (provincial tourist office) in Buenos Aires.
Travellers with disabilities
Argentina does not have a particularly sophisticated infrastructure for travellers with disabilities, but most Argentines are extremely willing to help anyone experiencing problems and this helpful attitude goes some way to making up for deficiencies in facilities. There are also a couple of organizations based in the capital that can help you once you arrive, and several that can help you plan your trip before you leave home.
Things are beginning to improve, and it is in Buenos Aires that you will find the most notable changes: a recent welcome innovation has been the introduction of wheelchair ramps on the city’s pavements – though unfortunately the pavements are not great. Public transport is less problematic, with many of the new buses that now circulate in the city offering low-floor access. Laws demand that all new hotels now provide at least one room that is accessible for those in wheelchairs, but the only sure-fire option for those with severe mobility problems is at the top end of the price range: many five-star hotels have full wheelchair access, including wide doorways and roll-in showers. Those who have some mobility problems, but do not require full wheelchair access, will find most mid-range hotels are adequate, offering spacious accommodation and lifts.
Outside Buenos Aires, finding facilities for the disabled is pretty much a hit-and-miss affair, although there have been some notable improvements at major tourist attractions such as the Iguazú Falls, where new ramps and catwalks have been constructed, making the vast majority of the falls area accessible by wheelchair. The hostel associations Red Argentina de Albergues Juveniles and the Asociación Argentina de Albergues de la Juventud can offer information on access at their respective hostel networks.Read More
Argentine embassies and consulates abroad
Argentine embassies and consulates abroad
Embassy John McEwan House, Level 2, 7 National Circuit, Barton ACT 2600 T02/6273-9111, Wwww.argentina.org.au.
Consulate 44 Market St, Piso 20, Sydney, NSW T02/9262-2933, Wwww.argentina.org.au/consulado.
Embassy 90 Sparks St, Suite 910, Ottawa, Ontario K1P 5B4 T613/236-2351, Wwww.argentina-canada.net.
Consulates 2000 Peel St, 7th floor, Suite 600, Montréal, Québec H3A 2W5 T514/842-6582, Wwww.consargenmtl.com; 5001 Yonge St, Suite 201, Toronto, Ontario M2N 6P6 T416/955-9190, Wwww.consargtoro.ca.
Embassy Sovereign Assurance Building, Level 14, 142 Lambton Quay, PO Box 5430, Wellington T04/472-8330, Wwww.arg.org.nz.
Embassy 65 Brook St, London W1K 4AH T020/7318 1300, Wwww.argentine-embassy-uk.org.
Consulate 27 Three Kings Yard, London W1K 4DF T020/7318 1340, [email protected]
Embassy 1600 New Hampshire Ave, NW, Washington DC 20009 T202/238-6401,
Consulates 245 Peachtree Center Ave, Suite 2101, Atlanta, Georgia 30303 T404/880-0805, Wwww.consuladoargentinoatlanta.org; 205 N Michigan Ave, Piso 42, Suite 4209, Chicago, IL 60601 T312/819-2610, [email protected]; 3050 Post Oak Blvd, Suite 1625, Houston, TX 77056 T713/871-8935, [email protected]; 5055 Wilshire Blvd Suite 210, Los Angeles, CA 90036 T323/954-9155, Wwww.consuladoargentino
-losangeles.org; 800 Brickell Ave, Penthouse 1, Miami, FL 33131 T305/373-1889, Wwww.consuladoargentinoenmiami.com; 12 West 56th St, New York, NY 10019 T212/603-0400, Wwww.congenargentinany.com.
On the most important national public holidays, such as Christmas Day, just about everything closes. On the other holidays you will find lots of places stay open. Bear in mind that some of these holidays (marked with an *) move to the nearest Monday, and that there are several local public holidays, specific to a city or province, throughout the year, and ones specific to certain communities and non-Christian faiths. Many offices close for the whole of Semana Santa (Holy Week), the week leading up to Easter, while the Thursday is optional, as is New Year’s Eve. Oddly, Easter Monday is not a holiday.
January 1 New Year’s Day
Good Friday Friday before Easter
March 24 Truth and Justice Day, in commemoration of the 1976 coup
April 2 Malvinas Veterans’ Day
May 1 Labour Day
May 25 Day of the Revolution
June 20* Day of the Flag (anniversary of General Belgrano’s death)
July 9 Independence Day
August 17* Liberator San Martín Day
October 12* Day of Race (Columbus Day)
December 8 Immaculate Conception
December 25 Christmas Day