We wanted to put together some info that we would have loved to have known before we traveled – hope this is helpful!
Things to eat:
- Steak (obviously)
- Parilla (a small grill bought to the table)
- Fugazzeta – Argentinian pizza covered in cheese and onion
- Medialuna (small crossiants with a sweet glaze, sometimes served with ham and cheese)
- Dulce du leche (you can get dulce du leche cakes, ice creams etc, but hotel breakfasts will put a bowl of it with the jams…dip a medialuna in it for an immense sugar high)
- Dulce du leche pancakes
- Alfajores (2 soft biscuits sandwiched with dulce du leche and covered in chocolate)
Places to eat:
- La Cabera and Don Julio – more expensive steak meals
- Minga – reasonably priced meat in the heart of Palermo
- Dashi – excellent sushi
- Café Tortoni – coffee and cakes
- Olsen – Scandinavian food
- La Mezzetta – amazing empanadas and fugazzeta
- El Sanjuanino – empanadas (especially cheese and onion)
- El Quincho del Tio Querido
- Anna’s Bistro
- Dogxie for pints of mojito
- Lunch at La Garde vineyard
Currency: We bought US dollars with us to Argentina as it is hard to get Argentinean pesos outside of the country. Check what the rate should be (ours was about $15 pesos to dollars), and see how close the exchange place at the airport is to this as you may end up getting ripped off. You can also take money out at the cash points at the airport.
We didn’t do either of these things, as we thought dollars were going to be more widely accepted than they were. Some people like having them and accept them, but you will of course get change in pesos. Other independent places were happy to exchange small dollar amounts for us, and the international ticket offices at the bus station changed a chunk for us. However, sometimes we found the rates were less than favourable, so decided to change the whole lot at the bank so we didn’t have to worry about money every day. This is also ridiculously hard, with most banks only exchanging money if you are a customer there. We ended up having to go to the National Argentinian bank and queue for over an hour to exchange, and we had to accept $14.8 as the rate, but at least it was done. Certainly a lot of hassle so look into this before you go!
Jabs: We both had to get yellow fever jabs before you went. These seem to vary in price at different surgeries, being approx. £60, but shop around if you can! We also had to get Tetanus and ensure Hep B was up to date. Call your Dr a few weeks before you travel and they will be able to advise exactly what you need as it can vary depending on which area you go to.
Taxis: The traditional flag down taxis can end up ripping you off. The first one we got from the airport to our Airbnb cost $70 US dollars, which we later found out was about double what it should have been. If your hotel/Airbnb host can book a taxi for you, definitely do that as it will be cheaper! We also used Uber a couple of times, but the lack of wifi made booking them hard, and taxi drivers really hate Uber there, so we had to sit in the front to make it look like we were in a normal car.
Most of the time we flagged down taxis to take us home which was pretty easy, and amount were mostly around $100 pesos depending on the distance.
SUBE/Subway: This is by far the easiest way to travel round BA, but would be made better if there were more lines and stops. However, it is easy to use and cheap, and we highly recommend it. Actually getting a ticket and paying for it is hard. Most kiosks will sell SUBE cards, very like Oyster cards -we got ours for $35 each – but they won’t top them up. We found some machines to top these up, but at a lot of stations these are out of order, and office staff don’t to top ups at many stations. Each journey is $7.50, so if you find somewhere to top them up, pop $50 on and you will be good for a while. You can also go into minus numbers, so don’t worry too much. Just top up where you can!
Danger Zones: On the whole BA is safe. We very rarely felt in danger, but there are a few places you need to have your wits about you. We found the SUBE to be totally fine, despite some Americans we met being completely shocked we were using it as it is supposed to be dangerous. La Boca, where it is quite touristy is supposed to have a few pick pockets about, so keep an eye on things here. We had no issues. The only place that we found particularly dodgy is Retiro. This is where the bus station is, and also the biggest shanty town in BA. We came here to buy bus tickets to Mendoza at about 2pm, carrying a wedge of cash and passports, and were immediately wary. As soon as you get into the bus station it’s fine, but just pay attention. We met someone who had been mugged here during an afternoon one day. He admitted he was wearing his watch and so he had been clearly targeted, but certainly an area not to flash valuables at any time of day. Don’t go to this area at night if you can help it. Unfortunately, our overnight bus was at 8pm, so we got a taxi to the door of the bus station at about 7:15pm. This was fine.
Language: Is Spanish! (Duh) We both know enough to get by, but not a huge amount. We were fine, and many people in BA spoke very good English, especially in the more touristy bits. Knowing a few words will be helpful, and make sure if you’re getting taxis you can clearly articulate where you are going, or have addresses written down, which we did. Iguazu, being so touristy was fine, but Mendoza there was less English spoken. Just something to bare in mind. We are of the attitude that we are in a Spanish country so we do not ever expect to speak English and will always try to speak in Spanish where we can. Most people appreciate the effort
People: people are generally super nice and go out of their way to help. This included a guy in Mendoza seeing us looking confusedly at a map, and giving us directions in limited English which was hugely appreciated. Another guy helped us with SUBE when we were unable to top up our cards at the ticket office or the broken machines, taking us to a kisosk which also didn’t help. It was him that told us if we had some money on our card it would be ok – “It’s Latin America, it’s not an exact science!” – we loved this guy. He even offered us to use his card if ours didn’t work.
Some people are really really unhelpful. This was mainly the banks. We had once incident where we had tried two cash points to no luck, and asked a security guard at the bank. He literally shrugged at us and turned around. And I don’t think it was a language issue! However, a nice lady told us we could get cashback at a nearby supermarket. But generally, the people are totally awesome and really go out of their way to help you.
Mozzies/Zika: We had thought this was going to be awful, but we only actually got bitten about 4 times each. Iguazu was the only area with an issue with Zika, and our super B&B host told us all about this. The ‘bad’ mozzies (i.e. Zika) are active during the day, so you need to be protected. We had a mozzie plug in for the room, and level 4 repellent we used every day and night in Igauzu. We also had bite cream we put on the bites. Generally not a big deal.
Stray Dogs: There are loads of these about, in each of the four places we visited. For the most part, they totally leave you alone. Obviously, don’t pet them, but just ignore them and they will ignore you. We had a couple of times when we were walking and a couple followed us for a bit, but they eventually went away.
Unfortunately, there was a slight incident that we couldn’t avoid. Whilst in Mendoza we had a great day cycling around vineyards doing (free!) wine tastings. On the way to drop the bikes off, we noticed three stray dogs barking at a car. We ignored them and cycled past, but one ran up and nipped Rob on the ankle. We carried on until we could stop safely to assess the damage, and the bloody thing had broken the skin and it was bleeding. It wasn’t a bad bite by any means, but our main worry was rabies. We legged it back to the bike rental place and explained what had happened. Ignes was super, immediately running to a pharmacy to get antiseptic cream and a bandage. She also ordered her a taxi, and gave us her wifi code. This was crucial as it allowed me to whatapp my super awesome Dr sister, currently living in New Zealand. She recommended that we should get some jabs, and told us to head to hospital.
Hospital: Bleugh. Where to start. Avoid this if at all possible. The emergency room in Mendoza Central hospital was cramped, full and dirty. We managed to check in, miming that he had been bitten by a dog, and he told us there would be a 2 hour wait. Sigh. I legged it back to the hotel to message Dr Jen, and get on google translate to find the word for ‘stray’ and ‘I need the rabies vaccination’. After waiting a few hours with no sign of being called, Rob had a word with the (different) receptionist, and once he got them to understand we got seen sharpish.
The nurses were super, dressing the wound and writing out the three injections Rob would need, but annoyingly he couldn’t get these at hospital. We would have to go to the Vaccination clinic in the morning. The nurses got a map up for us, and recommended we headed there early in the morning. This went fine the next day (despite the language barrier!), with them filling out an immunisation form so Rob could get the rest of his injections in London. Rabies requires a course of jabs, on specific days, so they made sure to write down the dates Rob would need them. The Drs in London picked this back up (on one occasion giving Rob 9 injections in his ankle…9!!!) and so far he is showing no signs of frothing at the mouth.
Buses: We got the overnight bus to and from Mendoza, on Andesmar on the way there and Flecha Bus on the way back. These are a great and cheap way to travel round. We opted for the middle class, semi cama, which basically means half bed. You get a footrest and the seat reclines nearly the whole way back, and we managed to get a decent amount of sleep both ways. They show a film (which may be in English – the one of the way out was but with Spanish subtitles), you get dinner, which was surprisingly edible, and breakfast, essentially 4 packets of biscuits (!). It was actually a really good experience and a good way to save on a night’s accommodation. Bringing your own toilet roll is recommended!