Situated on the eastern side of the Andes and settled in the crest of hilly terrain, Mendoza is famous for its wine, steak, and beautiful landscape. Mendoza City isn’t going to win any beauty awards but you don’t come here for the city – you come for the mountains and wineries surrounding the region. I spent over a week here biking around wineries, hiking mountains, visiting canyons, and gorging on steak and wine. The city makes for a good base for lots of activities and if you love wine (who doesn’t?), come to this region and drink its famous Malbecs. You can use the tips in the travel guide below to take what is considered a price region and turn it into an affordable destination.
Hostel prices – While some hostel dorms begin around 85 ARS (6 USD) per night, though the average is closer to 145 ARS (9.50 USD) for a 6-8 bed dormitory. Private rooms with a shared bath are generally triple the price of dorm rooms. There are a lot of HI hostels in the city and, if you’re a member, you’ll get 10% off your stay. They all come with a simple free breakfast.
Budget hotel prices – Simple budget hotels start at around 240 ARS (16 USD) per night for a single room and 430 ARS (28 USD) for a double room with a private bathroom and breakfast. After that prices go as high as 1,000 ARS (65 USD) per night. Airbnb has exploded in this town and you can find entire apartments starting at 400 ARS (27 USD) a night.
Average cost of food – Food in Mendoza is expensive. Cheap meals at the local burger/sandwich shops cost around 70 ARS ($5 USD). In most of the cafes around the city, you’re looking at 80-100 ARS (5-7 USD) per dish. Pizzas are really popular in the city and cost 120 ARS (8 USD). Steaks begin at 150 ARS (10 USD), bottles of wine at 120 ARS (8 USD), and pastas at 100 ARS (7 USD). If you are looking for a really nice sit-down meal with good steak and wine, expect to pay 350 ARS (23 USD). You can buy a week’s worth of groceries (including bottles of wine) for around 500 ARS (33 USD). Fast food like McDonalds or Burger King is between 90-110 ARS (6-7 USD) for a value meal. For a good cafe, visit Caffe Jack near the main square. Fast wifi, good and affordable food, and friendly staff!
Transportation costs – The city is easily walkable if you don’t want to take public transportation. You’ll need to get a red card for city transportation as you can’t pay on the buses or trams. It costs 10 ARS and can be purchased at kiosks around the city. Bus and trams are 5 ARS (less than 1 USD) each ride. For taxis, you won’t pay more than around 55 ARS (4 USD) for a ride around town and to the airport is around 100 ARS (7 USD). For onward travel to Santiago, the 7-10 hour bus costs between 600-850 ARS (40-56 USD) depending on the time and class of service. The bus to nearby San Rafael is 98 ARS (7 USD).
Suggested daily budget – 640 ARS / 50 USD (Note: This is a suggested budget assuming you’re staying in a hostel, eating out a little, cooking most of your meals, and using local transportation. Using the budget tips below, you can always lower this number. However, if you stay in fancier accommodation or eat out more often, expect this to be higher!)
Money Saving Tips
Mendoza doesn’t have a ton of cheap options. If you buy your own groceries and do your own bike tours, you’ll save lots of money but Mendoza should be considered one of your splurge cities. Eat the steak, drink the wine, and offset those costs by cooking your lunch! For a few ways to save money in the city, here’s what I found:
- Bike – To save on taxi and bus fares, rent around the city and to the wineries. You can rent a bike for around 150 ARS a day.
- Buy wine cheap – If you buy wine at the grocery store, you’ll get the same great local varieties for a much better price. Prices start around 20 ARS instead of 150 in restaurants.
- Travel off peak – You’ll find cheaper flights and accommodation in the off season from April to December.
- Get the plate of the day – Most of the restaurants and cafes (especially those downtown) offer a set lunch menu for around 100 ARS (often times including steak). If you want to eat at the city’s many restaurants, it’s best to do it during lunch!
- Free walking tours – Tours for Tips Mendoza offers a 2-3 hour walking tour that orients you to the city and gives you the history and culture behind Mendoza. At the end of the tour, you pay what you can, based on your budget.
- Couchsurf – Nothing’s cheaper than sleeping for free. Couchsurfing connects you with locals who will give you not only a free place to stay, but also a local tour guide who can introduce you to all the great places to see.
Top Things to See and Do in Mendoza
- Hiking – If water and wine aren’t your thing, take to the skies, and go paragliding, climbing, hiking, and trekking on Cerro Aconcagua. If you have more time to spare, head to Cerro Arco by horse and even try out fishing in the area. There are boundless opportunities to have some outdoor fun here amongst the glorious backdrop of Mendoza’s countryside.
- Parque San Martin – After all this activity, have a relaxing day on the Parque San Martin grounds. Complete with its own forested park, zoo, amphitheater, large lake, restaurants, and camping, as well as 34 sculptures and the El Rosedal Rose Garden, it is easy to see why the park has become a must-see attraction for visitors and locals alike.
- Grape Harvest Festival – Mendoza’s largest festival begins in January, with the crux of the festival beginning on the first Saturday of March and continuing until the beginning of April. Held in celebration of the winemaking industry, the event climax is a performance by hundreds of dancers, a large firework display, and the crowning of the Reina Nacional de la Vendimia.
- Plaza Espana – Plaza Espana, known for its beautiful colored tiles, is considered a restful, serene place to visit. Situated amongst gardens and fountains, this is your tranquil getaway, especially when there is a charming Artisan’s Fair with locals selling their handcrafts.
- Historical center – If you are looking for a diversion from all that outdoor activity and wine drinking, the historical center provides plenty of sights and museums, including the Museo del Area Fundacional on Pedro del Castillo Square and the Museo Nacional del Vino, perfect for learning more about the wine culture. Just outside of Mendoza is the Casa de Fader, an 1890 mansion once home to artist Fernando Fader that is now an exhibit of his artwork.
- Take a wine tour – Home to more than a thousand wineries, the vineyards of Mendoza are known for their beautiful landscapes. Reserve a place on a wine tour in advance to learn more about the recipes and techniques of winemaking. Most day tours are around 1,600 ARS (105 USD) while the half-day tours are around 600 ARS (40 USD). I would recommend taking a bike tour as it’s a much more scenic way to see the wineries. Avoid the YTA tour as there is a lot of wasted time and it doesn’t offer good value for your money. If you want to see one of the bottling plants without going far, you can take the tram to Bodega Lopez for only 6 ARS (less than 1 USD). There are no vineyards but the plant tour is interesting and you can taste 3 wines at the end. (But don’t skip out on a full day tour either!)
- Uspallata – To soak up even more of your breathtaking surroundings, head to Uspallata, a village situated in the Andes region heading towards Santiago in Chile. While this is a place to relax and unwind, it is also of historical and cultural significance as the site where in 1817 José de San Martín sent his army to fight the Spanish royalists in Chile.
- Puente del Inca – Visit Puente del Inca, a natural stone bridge which owes its coppery-gold color to minerals in the river’s water. One of the natural wonders of the world, tourists were once transported here by the Transandine railway which then continued on via tunnel to Chile. Puente del Inca is also the name of the hot springs nearby, and a great place to go hiking.
- Aconcagua – While you are on the route to Puente del Inca and Uspallata, why not keep on going and head to Aconcagua – at over 6900 meters and the highest summit in North America. Perfect to climb from November to March, the mountain is also surrounded by 75,000 hectares of national parks.
- Paragliding – There are many travel companies that offer paragliding tours from the base of the Andes Mountains over the wineries. Expect to pay bout 550 ARS (36 USD) per person.
- Museo Fundacional – This is the perfect museum for buffing up on the history of Mendoza and Argentina. Trace back through the city’s timeline, and check out displays of the original city remnants, prior to the majorly destructive earthquake of 1861. Admission is 27 ARS (2 USD) and it’s open daily from 8am-8pm, but it opens at 2pm on Sundays. It’s closed on Monday.
- Peatonal Sarmiento – Known commonly as ‘the pedestrian zone’, this area offers an escape from the congestion of the city. Open only to those traveling on foot, this is a great place to do some shopping, check out street performers and eclectic street vendors, or just grab a coffee.
- River rafting – For some of the best rafting in Argentina, head down the Mendoza River. Typically beginning at Porrerillos, this is an all-day activity. For those that are more adventurous, consider going on a full moon trip. The options are endless—check out a variety of adventure companies until you find the right fit!
- Villavicencio – Surrounded by beautiful parks, gardens, and various walking trails, this hot spring is an ideal get away. Beyond the mineral-rich waters lies beautiful scenery, ‘Darwin’s Petrified Forest’, Los Caracoles, and ancient Inca rock paintings.
- Get on a bike – Offering a little bit for everyone, taking a bike trip around the region is an awesome way to see the area. Most days are warm and sunny, perfect for slow rides around the mountains or hilly tours through the vineyards. Consider a tour company to show you around or just grab a rental, and get on your way!
- San Rafael and Canon del Atuel – Just over three hours by bus from the city of Mendoza, San Rafael is a central hub for just about any outdoor activity you can think of. From hiking to kayaking to paragliding, you’ll find something exciting to do with a stunning backdrop. My biggest recommendation is to head to Canon del Atuel, just outside of San Rafael. This breathtaking canyon boasts unique plant life, lakes and rivers, and natural sculptures along with stunning views. For cheap, you can take the public bus to Valle Grande and it’ll take you through the sights. Even better is packing a lunch and having a picnic (also be sure to bring lots of water).