Whenever you travel to a foreign country, there are certain things you need to take into consideration and plan before arriving. When travelling, one of the key aspects is to learn as much as you possibly can about your destination. If you are travelling to Buenos Aires, these are some of the most important things you need to know about the city.
To become a travel professional there are several travelling tips you should take into consideration, such as how to move around an airport, how to pack any suitcase, important documents and information you need to take with you…
However, there are also some location-specific recommendations which you need to keep in mind when travelling to Buenos Aires. By knowing these you can avoid stress and problems that might arise from not sufficiently prepared.
10 things to know before travelling to Buenos Aires
Consider the following 10 things to know before travelling to Buenos Aires, plan ahead and be prepared:
#1 Always carry cash with you
One of the most important things you need to keep in mind when travelling to Buenos Aires is to carry cash, and more specifically change, with you. No taxi driver or bus machine will accept ARS 100. Bus machines only accept change or the SUBE card, and taxi drivers don’t normally carry a lot of change.
Also, while making cash transactions be sure to check your money before handing it over, since it is not unusual for sellers to try to swindle tourists out of their cash by claiming their bills are counterfeit and returning counterfeit money to them.
In addition, due to Argentina’s high inflation levels, it is highly recommendable to carry dollars with you and make transactions with it. Due to the fact that dollars are very valuable to the Buenos Aires currency market, you can get interesting discounts when exchanging your money and access interesting discounts when buying at a store in dollars.
#2 You are entering the city of night owls
Buenos Aires is considered by many as the city of night owls, which basically refers to the fact that many Argentinians prefer to stay up until late hours of the night. It is not unusual for locals to have dinner as late as 11:30 pm or go clubbing at 1.30, whereas in other places that time is when the party begins its descent and people leave. That is just the way of Buenos Aires. Prepare to do everything very late.
#3 Stay away from public protests
Protests and demonstrations are fairly common in Buenos Aires, it is considered essential to their democracy and a part of their idiosyncrasy, but at times they can become violent, which is why you need to be especially vigilant around them.
There are specific places where protests normally are held, such as Plaza de Mayo, the Obelisk and some major avenues, such as Avenida del Libertador. If possible, should there be any protests in those areas, try to reschedule visits. Should you want to see what protests are about, we recommend you try to not stand out.
Simply bear in mind that things can spin out of control and turn violent in an instant. Should anything of the sort come to pass, try to leave the area as soon as you can and not stay in the surroundings.
As a tourist in the city you can follow the news to be aware of places where protests are taking place. You might find yourself in an uncomfortable position if you get caught up in one as airports, transports and other institutions in the area might stop working during such time.
Lastly, robberies are not unheard of when it comes to crowds of any sort, which is why if you plan on attending a protest, avoid taking your valuables. Make a copy of your passport and take it with you or keep your documents as hidden as possible to avoid losing or having it stolen.
#4 Try not to get lost
If possible, before traveling to Buenos Aires you should try to become familiar with a map of the city. Gran Buenos Aires (which includes the city of Buenos Aires [CABA], and its suburbs) is notoriously big: more than 14 million people live in 13.934 km². Only in CABA there are 48 different neighborhoods and the suburbs are divided in 44 districts.
By knowing where you are you can avoid dangerous neighborhoods. Also, understanding how the city is structured is key to organize your plans. By knowing which buildings are closer or which bus or subway line to take to get from one place to another, you can plan your trip more efficiently and cover as much of the city as you can.
If you find yourself lost at any point, especially in a not so friendly environment, try your best not to look lost. It is best not to call unnecessary attention upon yourself.
#5 Always take a taxi at night
Buenos Aires can be dangerous at night, especially if you don’t speak Spanish. However, because this is a city that actually never sleeps, bars and nightclubs are open every week night and they are normally crowded. Buenos Aires has a rich and wide range of cultural activities, some of which are a must when in town, such as theaters, stand-up comedy acts, theme and hidden bars, milonga circles, tanguerías, art exhibitions, concerts…
In Buenos Aires you can take a regular taxi, call an Uber, Cabify or Easy. Because in Buenos Aires up to this day there are some less legal taxi companies, it’s safer for you to call a taxi (radio taxi) instead of hailing a taxi in the street.
The main problem when hailing taxis is that if you are travelling a long distance, many taxi drivers refuse to drive you, while by calling you make sure you’ll be taken to your destination.
Streets can be dangerous, so when in a taxi, remember to always keep the windows closed and your valuables away from sight, so as to avoid potential thefts. Also, if you travel at night by taxi keep in mind that fares are 20% more expensive at night than during the day.
Travelling by taxi can also be enlightening, since drivers tend to be very knowledgeable, and can recommend great places to eat, interesting events and even plays. Also, they can help you with local transportation and share the best route to get somewhere you need to go.
#6 Learn some Spanish
If you still have time, you should try to learn a little Spanish before traveling to Buenos Aires. It is not always easy to communicate in English with locals, so knowing a few phrases in Spanish can be very useful.
There are several ways to learn a bit of Spanish, such as downloading any of the language learning apps available for free like Duolingo, Busuu or Babbel. YouTube also has several channels dedicated to teaching Spanish like Tío Spanish (Spain) or Spanish Pod 101 (Mexico), where you can learn basic phrases quickly. English-Spanish dictionaries can also be very helpful.
#7 Have your documents ready upon arrival
If you intend to enter the city by land, you prepare all your travelling documents upon arrival to Buenos Aires. Certain items like fresh foods or seeds are not allowed beyond customs. Normally by land, checking isn’t as thorough, although by air and boat their might be more control, since it is part of their customs protocol.
When travelling to Buenos Aires, remember to check on whether citizens of your country have to pay a reciprocity fee. The cost varies from country to country, so consult your local embassy before embarking on your journey.
Before, visas could be purchased at the point of entry, however this is no longer allowed. If citizens from your country of origin need a visa to enter Argentina, then you will have to complete the process before arriving to the country, otherwise you might be sent back.
#8 Avoid no-carbs diets before your trip
Unless you intend not to eat anything in Buenos Aires, avoid no-carb diets before your trip. Eating carbs during your stay in Buenos Aires is practically unavoidable, since porteños are known for their love and expertise at preparing pizza, empanadas, croissants, pasta and all sorts of food with an important amount of carbohydrates.
Therefore, it is better not to start a diet before travelling to Buenos Aires. You will find yourself indulging in foods like empanadas, bread, pasta, sandwiches, toasts and croissants.
#9 Buenos Aires is a massive city
Buenos Aires is a massive city, which means that to enjoy everything this city has to offer you need time. If you plan on travelling to Buenos Aires, try to stay at least a week.
It is advisable to plan carefully before traveling to take the most advantage of the journey. By staying longer you can understand the locals and their culture as well as enjoy everything the city has to offer.
You will find great wine in Buenos Aires, at a very cheap price, so leave enough room in your luggage when packing to take a few bottles back home.
#10 Create a budget
Due to inflation, you might find costs in Buenos Aires are high. In fact, they might even be expensive compared to costs in your country. That is why we recommend researching the costs for accommodation and flights, food and drinks and tickets for the different attractions, and then devise a budget for your trip.
Some places might not accept credit card payments or might require a minimum amount on transactions with credit cards, so do research on the places you want to visit beforehand so you can make arrangements in case they only accept cash.
Things are a lot slower
Finally, it is important to remember that things might not move as fast as they do in your country. The waiter might take longer to take your order or bring the bill, and you might have to wait in line to access certain attractions, so be prepared. Settle in and relax, and you will enjoy your stay.
Remember that priori knowledge is key to enjoying everything the city has to offer. Thus, you should try to get as much information as possible on your destination before travelling to Buenos Aires.