This page may be a little help for other visitors who come to Buenos Aires. Everything you will read here is written from my personal point of view. There may be other opinions, experiences or ways to do things. This is only what I got to know so far.
I will do it in English, so chances are higher it may help one or the other who accidentally steps over this page. English is not my mother tongue, so please excuse any mistakes!
It is always humid in Buenos Aires. If your hair tends to get curly with a bit of humidity, it will do so, when you are here.
With the start of October spring turns into summer very quickly. Now it’s not only humid, but it is also getting hot. The sun seems to be quite aggressive, even locals use sun screen with no less then 40!
With humidity and heat come along the Mosquitos. So better have some insect repellent with you. I can talk of myself; those little beasts just love me and I got lots of bites already at the beginning of summer.
In summer it is not only extremely hot, the weather is also very moody. In one day you can have forty degrees and then it starts raining cats and dogs, temperature falls down to 20 for half a day, then it’s getting hot again… and so on.
In winter temperatures can fall down to 5 degrees Celsius and also the spring nights are windy and slightly cold, so it’s never a fault to bring a jacket along.
Of course Buenos Aires is famous for its great meat, so is Argentina in general. You will find so called ‚parillas‘ everywhere. Those are restaurants where you can choose from almost every part of beef you love. Many restaurants have a little guide to explain what part of the cow you are actually eating, which is helpful if you want to choose between a rather fat piece of meat or one without fat.
It is not uncommon to order something and share it with the others sitting on the table (of course only if you know them). At least that is what I experienced when I was eating with friends. So it is as well common to just split the bill. Put a ten percent tip on top and everything is fine.
There are restaurants that already charge a tip. You will see that on your bill. In that case no need to tip more. This happens more often when you are in areas that are very touristy.
If you are lucky enough to get invited to an ‚Asado‘ be happy to say yes! This means a big private barbecue with sometimes just a few friends or a garden full of people. Make sure you bring time! The meat will be on the ‚parilla‘ for ages before you get to eat it and after that you will sit for another few hours to chat, relax and to finally be able to move again after some great food.
Normally when you get invited you don’t have to bring anything, but you should ask the person who is in charge of the Asado afterwards what you are supposed to give, because the costs for food and drinks will be split between everyone.
When people are talking about meat/carne it means always red meat, so most of the time beef. Fish and chicken is a species of its own. This is important to know for vegetarians, because when you ask for something without meat, you can still get chicken.
In Buenos Aires (maybe in Argentina in general, I don’t have that experience yet) you will soon find out that live happens very late. Usually you will have some kind of lunch, but then comes a looooong time of nothing. Most of the time dinner is about eleven at night. You will see that every restaurant is full by then, at least at the weekends. So make sure that you eat something small in between, or you may be starving.
There are ‚panaderías‘ almost everywhere – amazing bakeries that offer a lot of sweet stuff, but also sandwiches and ‚empanadas‘. Empanadas are little pieces of pastry filled with cheese, chicken, meat or vegetables. You can ask in the shop for to heat them up, that makes them even more tasty and they are a cheap little treat as well.
To help you through the flavours, here is a little list with things an empanada (or a tarte) may contain:
Pollo – chicken
Carne – meat
Queso – cheese
Verduras – vegetables
Cebolla – onion
Zanahoria – carrot
Calabaza – pumpkin
Hongo – mushroom
Berenjena – eggplant
Zapallita – a mixture between a pumpkin and a zucchini/courgette
There are more for sure, but just to give you a clue what you may be eating.
This list comes in handy as well when you order a salad, in many restaurants you choose you favourite flavours for your salad. Very common as well is beet root which is ‚remolacha‘ and ‚letchuga‘ of course, all kinds of green leaves that you would eat in a salad.
If you are a friend of sweets, make sure you try some ‚dulce de leche‘. This is some kind of creamy caramel that you get everywhere. It’s quite sweet. When you eat it with a ‚flan‘, which is sort of a pudding, it takes away a bit of the sweetness, and it is even better.
And there is…
Almost on every corner you will find a heladería. It’s obvious that Buenos Aires has Italian roots.
It is pretty hard to decide which flavours to pick, because there are so many. Often no less than 50.
If you go for a cuarto, which is 1/4 Litre and not that much, you can choose three flavours. If you’re not sure which ones to take, ask if you can try some. Normally that is no problem.
There are some ice cream chains that are pretty good. Freddo for example. You will find them all over Buenos Aires and they do very good ice cream, but are also expensive.
I tried a lot of heladerías (of course not all) and my favourite one so far is Fratello.
You will find them in
Medrano 1904 and Coronel Díaz 1521
And there you have to go for the Torroncino and the Maracuyá! It’s amazing.
In general are the milky flavours the better choice. Strawberry or raspberry for example sometimes taste a little artificial.
This is a very interesting experience. The bus system in Buenos Aires is pretty good, – you can get from one point to the other with just one bus almost every time – but also very, very complicated! To be honest it is only worth trying to understand it, when you are going to stay longer. But then it is definitely necessary.
There are more then 300 bus lines in and around Buenos Aires. I’m not joking. So, the question is, which bus goes where and when do I have to get off.
First advice: if it is possible, take the ’subte‘, which is the underground train. Easy to understand and use. You can buy single tickets or a card (like the Oyster card in London) that you can charge with credit on every kiosk. With this card you can also use the bus.
Second advice: if you can’t use the subte, take a walk (not at night!). Many places of the city, especially places that tourists want to see, can easily be managed by a nice walk. You will see more, get fresh air (mixed with the nice smell of waste gases) and have done something for your body before you are having a heavy dinner.
Third advice: If you can’t take the subte and you don’t want to walk, go by taxi.
All taxis are black. But there are some that have a print saying Radio-Taxi on the side. Try to stick with them. They are known as the more official taxis, if there is anything like this. At least they are tracked and have to keep a report of the ways they drive. So if something happens, chances are higher that somebody can find out where the taxi went and when. If you see some taxis from afar and are not sure which is a radio taxi and which is not, choose the one that is best maintained. Normally the Radio-Taxis are better maintained than others. Once you have waved at a taxi, they won’t be happy if you change your mind…
If it is possible don’t pay with hundreds. To take a taxi is not that expensive and you avoid getting false money when you pay in small cash.
So if it is really necessary… Take the bus:
First of all you should get one of these little guys:
You can buy this guide at one of the kiosks that are everywhere. Try to find someone who can explain to you how to use it, because it is filled with little maps and street names and bus numbers. No way to explain without having it in front of you. But once you figured out how it works you can take the bus from everywhere to wherever you want to go. If…
…you can find the bus stop!
The bus stops are not nice and neat and to be seen from afar. Some are, but most of them aren’t. So once you know the number of your bus line and the corner of the street it should stop close to, try to find the bus stop. Look everywhere! If you’re lucky, there is a pole with a sign that has the number of the bus line on it, if you’re especially lucky it is a bus stop with a little roof, but if not… Search for the little sticker with the number of the bus line on it… on every pole you pass, on the ground, on trees, on houses nearby.
A little hint that comes in handy: the streets are very long, but remember that they are departed into blocks. Each block is about 100 numbers. Normally there should be a sign on the street. There should be. But sometimes there isn’t. So use the numbers you see on the houses to count.
For example, when you know you have to get off the bus at Gaona (that would be the street) 2634 (house number) you take a serious look at the numbers on the houses and find out, if they go up or down. Let’s say the bus just passed number 1986 and numbers are getting up, then you have about seven blocks more to go. Then you push the button and the bus will let you go at the next stop (which may be one block before or after your number, but a short way to walk). I know it is complicated, but with the little guide it will make sense to you.
You always have to wave the bus down, otherwise it will not stop.
And really, it is no shame to get lost or take the wrong bus!
The official currency, as you may know, is the Argentine Peso. In Argentina you can’t get any other currency at a bank and the Argentines themselves have a limit for foreign currency that they are allowed to bring in the country that is way below the limit for non-Argentines.
Unfortunately the Peso is not very strong and loses value constantly. That’s why the US Dollar is highly welcomed by locals. (Euro as well, but the Dollar a little more.)
Officially you change your money at the bank. But there are other ways to get more out of your cash. Even in some newspapers and of course in the Internet you can read about the dollar blue. This is the exchange rate at the black market. Although it varies it is about a third as much as you would get at a bank. But where do you find this market? I won’t recommend anything to you, because I have to tell you that it is illegal. And especially if you don’t speak proper Spanish I wouldn’t give it a try on your own.
You may find some streets in Microcentro for example where you hear constantly the word ‚cambio‘ yelled by guys hanging around at the street corners. It is possible to follow one of these guys to an office that has no signs outside and is well hidden for normal visitors of the building, but I just can remind you that it is illegal and that you should always take care of yourself!
That is all the information I can give you here.
Way more important is to watch out for fake money. It is not unlikely that you may get 50s or 100s that are false money. This is something you should be aware of. (20s are not as often faked as the other ones)
As I told you in Take the bus that can happen in a taxi. When you try to pay with a 100 the driver may take it, tell you that it’s a fake and that he is not going to accept it, he gives „your“ 100 back to you and there you‘ ve got your fake.
So when you come here make sure you take a close look at the bills.
First of all try to remember the paper of a real 100 or 50. How does it feel? It’s different from normal (false) paper.
Second: the numbers „100“ and „50“ as well as the writing „banco central de la republica argentina“ are not even with the rest of the paper. You can feel that they are a tiny little bit raised.
Third: take a closer look at the number printed in green. When you fold the bill a bit you can see that it is not only one shade of green, but shimmering in different shades.
Fourth: the silver lining on the bill is not just printed on it. If you look closely it is drawn through it, like a thread through fabric.
Five: of course there should be a watermark.
I hope that all makes sense to you, but after all I hope you never get false money!
If you have learned Spanish at school, in Spain or somewhere else… good for you! But be prepared for a few changes.
When you come here people might ask you: ‚De donde sos?‘ Which means, of course, where are you from. But what you might have learned is: ‚De donde eres?‘
Here in Argentina doesn’t exist the Spanish ‚tú‘, but the ‚vos‘. It’s easy, but you have to get used to it.
So the second person singular is always built from the infinitive minus the r plus an s and with the stress on the last syllable.
For example: tener – tenés, querer – querés, tomar – tomás, vivir – vivís…
Also forget about the second person plural. Doesn’t exist at all here. You always use the third person plural (ustedes).
The pronunciation is different from the Spanish in Spain as well. ‚Ll‘ is spoken as the English ’sh‘. So is the ‚y‘ if followed by a vocal.
Apart from these very simple rules exist a lot of words that are completely different from words in Spain. You will find out when you get here.
You will find the spirit of Tango all over the city. Many people come to learn it where it was invented. In Buenos Aires.
There are those who dance or those who don’t. There is not much in between, because obviously dancing Tango is addictive.
I’m not here for a long time yet, but every time Tango was involved, there was also drama, jealousy, couples fighting or even breaking up. It is passionate, so better beware! But it is also worth trying.
There are so called Milongas all over Buenos Aires. Places where you go to dance Tango. Normally you pay for the entrance, find a table, order some wine or food or whatever and dance. The girls wait until they get asked to dance, the men are in the position to ask. For people who don’t dance it can be horribly boring to go to a milonga!
For the first contact with Tango you can join one of the group classes, which are offered almost daily in all milongas, always around nine pm. You pay the same amount as the entrance, but take part in the one hour lesson with a lot of beginners just like you. This is fun. It’s nice to get to know people, but it’s far from dancing Tango.
If you really want to learn it, I recommend you to take private classes. You get a completely different feeling of what Tango can be. You will find teachers in the Internet or can ask at the milongas for names and numbers.
And then you have to practice.
I haven’t been to that many milongas yet, but I will give you a few addresses. There will be more by the time, I guess.
La Catedral, Sarmiento 4006: The atmosphere is nice. Many young people, many tourists. It’s very arty, nicely lit, food and drinks are good, but cheap. The floor is not amazing. For professionals this may not be the best milonga, but for beginners and advanced persons it is absolutely good enough for practising and having fun. And for people who don’t dance it can be entertaining too.
Club Villa Malcolm, Córdoba 5064: The atmosphere is not amazing and prices for food and drinks are higher as for example at La Catedral, but so is the level of Tango. Here you will find the better dancers and it is a great place if you do have some experience. At around midnight there is quite often a short Tango Show that is worth to be seen.
El Metejón, Ramirez de Velasco 55: This milonga is small and cosy. Dancers are of higher level, but not necessarily professionals. There are also offered a variety of classes.
Sanata Bar, Sarmiento 3501: This is not directly a milonga, but a bar with Tango feeling. Food is not cheap and of average quality, but still it is worth going. The atmosphere is very nice and cosy, a little arty and normally there is live music for free (donation is recommended). At Sundays the tables in the middle of the bar are put aside to make room for people willing to dance tango, as in a milonga. The entrance still is free, but a donation expected.
still to come
still to come