Argentina Travel Tips
Argentina is the world’s eighth largest country and one of the most popular countries to visit in South America – whether you are backpacking the continent or just on a short, budget holiday. From the café culture of Buenos Aires to the natural beauty of Iguazu Waterfalls and the Perito Moreno glacier, Argentina has something to offer visitors of all kinds. Some of the world’s most dramatic scenery can be found here in the Patagonian Stepp, the Andes, and the lush Lake District. It is often viewed as the most cosmopolitan and European countries in the region. Don’t rush through this country – its vast landscape takes time getting too and is worth all the distractions you’ll find along the way. Throw in some amazing steak and world famous wine and you have the recipe for one great destination. One thing to be careful of is rising prices – inflation is rampant here with food prices rising every month.
Destination Guides for Argentina
- Accommodation: Hostels are widespread and you can expect to pay more upwards of $20 USD for a dormitory room in Buenos Aires and starting at $12 USD outside of the city. Private rooms with a shared bath are generally double the price of dorm rooms. Hotels in more expensive places like Mendoza and Patagonia cost upwards of $60 USD per night. Homestays are a popular option here. Homestays are done for a week at minimum and in South America cost between 100 – 140 USD per week and include three meals a day. You’ll stay in an extra bedroom of a local host family. You can find homestay sites via Craigslist or Home Stay Web.
- Food: In inflation plagued Argentina, you won’t find a lot of food. Food prices rise 30% per month sometimes! Meal prices for even a cheap restaurant will begin at around $10 USD and move up from there. Most western dishes will cost about $7 USD for a burger, sandwich, or pizza with something just like home will cost $20 USD for a cheap meal and a drink. If you are looking for a really nice sit down meal with good steak and wine, expect to pay $30 USD. It costs about $40 USD per week for groceries.
- Transportation: Argentina boasts an outstanding short and long-distance bus network. The more expensive buses generally offer high-quality service, and for distances longer than 200km, it is common to have food served on board as well as wifi and alcohol. Trains are experiencing something of a revival, since the government intends to re-establish long-distance passenger trains between all major cities. There is already rail service between the country’s three largest cities: Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Rosario. The most popular train service right now is the Train to the Clouds. This is a scenic tourist train that runs from Salta and takes about a day to do round trip. It costs $185 USD. The long distance routes (think Buenos Aires to the tip in Patagonia) are also a good deal.
- Sights and Activities: Activities are generally more expensive than other South American countries. A Patagonia tour will cost around $400 USD and a Mendoza wine tour around $100 USD.
Money Saving Tips
- Tenedor Libre - These are all-you-can-eat style buffet restaurants and are ideal for keeping your budget in check at around 25 ARS.
- Bus Journeys - If traveling long distances, try to get the overnight bus as this will save you the cost of a night’s accommodation.
- Travel off season - March to June and September to November are the off season months when you can get cheaper accommodation and enjoy less crowded attractions.
- Avoid Being Overcharged - Some merchants have been known to charge in pesos to Argentinians, and the same number but in dollars to foreigners. Always pay in the local currency.
- Use Discount Cards - Student and teacher discounts will get you incredible savings. You can also use the La Nacion Club and La Nacion Premium Club Cards, associated with La Nacion Newspaper, for discounts. Every week, La Nacion Club Card website lists participating establishments who give discounts to card members. This is good for travelers spending a long time in the country as you have to sign up for the newspaper.
Top Things to See and Do
- Buenos Aires – Nicknamed “Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires is an amazing city with a lot of class and culture. A café culture mixes with the grandeur of this once moneyed city to offer fantastic nightlife, food, and shopping. Spending time here makes it easy to see why people fall in love with it so fast and end up staying longer. Watch out for inflation – it’s a killer here.
- The Waterfalls of Iguazu - Probably the most popular day trip out of Buenos Aires is to the magnificent Iguazu waterfalls. The falls are higher than Niagara and twice as wide so the area has been nicknamed “Niagara on Viagra” and with 450,000 cubic feet of water thundering down the 275 cascades every second its pretty easy to see why. Outside Patagonia, it’s the most popular attraction in Argentina with lots of trips leaving from Buenos Aires (you can do it on your own too!). To enter the Iguazú National Park, the cost is 130 ARS for foreigners and 50 ARS for Argentineans.
- Train to the Clouds - Sure, it’s a train built for tourists and overpriced but the scenery is so breathtaking I don’t mind. El Tren a Las Nubes (the Train to the Clouds) is a 400 kilometer, 16 hour round trip into the Andes from the town of Salta. As the train climbs above 4000 meters, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular mountain scenery. It’s a pretty amazing train ride and worth the overpriced ticket. Operation is seasonal so be sure to check before you decide to go.
- Visit a Winery – Argentina is one of the most famous wine-making regions in the world and a trip to a winery is a must for fans of vino. If you’re a real wine connoisseur, the Wine Harvest Festival (“Fiesta de la Vendimia”) is held in February and March every year and has Tango, ethnic dance and colorful parades. Mendoza is the most famous wine region in the country and the spot you’ll most likely go to. If you can’t visit any wineries, make sure you at least drink the cheap wine!
- Cerro Aconcagua - At almost 7000 meters tall, Cerro Aconcagua is not only the country’s highest mountain but also the highest in the Western Hemisphere. This climb isn’t for the faint hearted and is probably only for very experienced climbers as it’s estimated that it will take 2 weeks to reach the summit and acclimatize to the altitude!
- Perito Moreno Glacier - Located within the expansive Los Glaciares National Park is the impressive Perito Moreno glacier. The glacier is almost 15,000 feet wide and 200 feet tall. It’s one of the coolest glaciers I’ve ever seen.
- Valle de la Luna - Translated as ‘valley of the moon’, this dramatic landscape dates back to the Triassic period. Winds and rain have carved the rocks in to strange formations which gives this place the look of a lunar landscape. Despite the arid conditions, the area is also a good place for wildlife spotting as it’s home to foxes, owls, armadillos and condors.
- Check Out the Markets – For the best cultural and shopping experience in Buenos Aires, make your way to San Telmo and the Sunday antiques fair at Plaza Dorrego. Artisans, musicians, stilt walkers and other street performers line the streets. Silver, paintings and sculptures can be picked up for reasonable prices.
- Whale Watching – From June to December is whale watching season in Patagonia as whales make their way to the coast to mate. Whale watching is an expensive excursion but well worth it during migration time. You are pretty much guaranteed to see whales.
- Ushuaia – Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world and the largest city in Tierra del Fuego. This is a very popular town with travelers coming to the end of their South American journey, or traveling to Antarctica (this is the launch point for all Antarctica cruises). Aside from the usual tourist traps of museums, the city is quite picturesque with colorful clapboard houses and the Andes in the backdrop.
- Learn to Tango – Argentina is famous for the Tango and you are going to run into it everywhere you go! People will be practicing in the streets – literally! There are many studios that offer lessons if you want to learn and plenty of places to just watch the natives dance away on the streets. If you find yourself staring out at a beautiful local, if you don’t try to tango, you don’t stand a chance. Be bold and try it out. The tango is in the soul here.
- Visit the Andes- Whether you are going to walk around the base or scale to great heights, visiting the Andes is a magnificent, natural attraction. Beautiful and entirely unavoidable, these mountains are sure to captivate you.
- Quebrada de Humhuaca – A deep valley carved out by the Rio Grande, the Quebrada de Humahuaca is an area rich in ancient Incan history and culture. Exploring the colonial streets and architecture of Humahuaza, as well as the surrounding area, is an amazing adventure.