Argentina Travel Tips
- Buenos Aires can be dangerous (see below). Check with your friendly hotel or hostel employees to find out which areas to avoid.
- At the time we were there, the exchange rate that banks gave you was far worse than the exchange rate you can get on the black market. Take a wander down Florida Street and see what I mean. I’ve since heard that this has been improved but Florida Street is pretty interesting regardless.
- Argentina is huge with loads of amazing stuff to do. But this means either flying or enduring LONG bus rides! Bring a blanket and some earplugs and settle in for the long haul.
- You’ll probably eat loads of meat. Well, beef and lamb specifically. Vegetarians may starve in this country.
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Our Argentina Itinerary
Nick and I arrived in Buenos Aires around 10:30am, excited about the first day of our new travel adventure, and after settling into an overpriced hotel room we decided to check out the city. After exploring our general area we decided to head over to La Boca. This popular Buenos Aires neighborhood has a lively pedestrian street called Caminito that is full of beautiful, brightly colored architecture, talented street performers, and cute bars and restaurants.
At about 4:30pm we were a little lost – but almost to the right area – and WE GOT MUGGED! By kids. With steak knives…
Okay so by kids I mean they were like 18 but they were grabbing my hippie purse and Nick’s camera and waving steak knives at us (maybe they’d just come from a BBQ?).
Finally after some hesitation on my part (mind you Nick is up the block fighting off his own baby terrorist) I allowed the robber to snatch my bag and take off running. Then I thought to myself “there is no way I just arrived and already need to replace a drivers license, credit cards, a Forever 21 sweatshirt, a purse, and two toy 2 dinosaurs (a going away present) in a foreign country”.
So… I decided to take off running after him. I ran for about 3 blocks yelling “HELP” to all the ignorant thugs watching this unfold (there were literally people all over not doing a damn thing. Well, maybe because they don’t speak English but STILL!). Finally the cops spotted the crazy white girl running down the middle of the street in the worst neighborhood in Argentina and tackled the guys.
Whew right? Wrong. It took probably 3 hours of standing outside near the scene of the crime for the cops to do the paperwork. All the while the perps’s brothers and sisters and girlfriends were crying and all the other relatives were evil-eyeing us as if we were the criminals instead of the victims.
FINALLY they took us to the police station for our official statement and it took another 3 hours for them to translate and type everything. Oh and PS, the crazy thug family also made their way to the station and continued to evil glare at us (the worst was a ganster-in-training who was about 5 years old).
They finally allowed us to leave at around midnight and expected us to hail a taxi. Um, no way, this thug family will be up to no good before I’m a foot out of the police station. I had to coerce (threaten) one of the police officers who was off-duty to personally escort us back to our hotel.
All in all, it was a terrifying experience that negatively shaped my feeling about Buenos Aires and Argentina as a whole. The police officers returned my wallet but kept my sweatshirt and purse as well as Nick’s camera case for evidence. They said we could come back to pick it up in 5 days but we were outta there in 2. Looking back now, I can laugh at the situation although it will probably be a cold day in hell before I willingly return to Buenos Aires.
We didn’t let that horrifying experience completely ruin our time in Buenos Aires as there was still so much to see!
So the next day we took a tour of the seemingly safer areas and had a stroll through La Recoleta Cemetery. The graves are beyond impressive and several important people are buried there such as Eva Peron.
We also returned to Caminito in La Boca (by taxi this time) which is a darling little pedestrian area where the streets are filled with traditional music and tango dancers putting on shows.
As soon as we set down and ordered a couple of beers the tango dancers started trying to get volunteers to participate in their show. Dancing the tango is certainly one of the top things to do in Buenos Aires so of course, I obliged. They pulled me up on stage and swung me around a bit as well.
It’s hard to believe that the area directly surrounding that lovely street can be so dangerous. Take a taxi and don’t get lost!
We also had some great food around Buenos Aires and visited a Tango bar where we got to try out our moves. Then it was off to Bariloche!
Okay, so dramatic events in Buenos Aires aside, we had a really good time backpacking in Argentina. After an incredibly long, 22-hour bus ride we landed in a quaint little German-influenced town on a lake with a mountain range backdrop. We settled into a hostel – Penthouse 1004 – which was on the 10th floor of a residential building and the view for sunset was spectacular.
The town of Bariloche is fairly touristy with loads of gift shops and chocolate stores but easy to navigate with friendly locals sprinkled throughout.
We got a tip from our friendly hostel guide who mentioned Cerro Otto as being a great hike with lovely views at the top so the next day we took a bus out to the general area to begin our hike. The trailhead was difficult to find and we had to ask a few locals for directions – turns out it was inconspicuously located in a residential neighborhood between two houses.
The trail was steep and all uphill with no switchbacks to ease the incline. After about an hour and a half of climbing we reached the top and the views were incredible from the 360 degree lookout at the top. The trip back down was rough on the knees and we were kicking ourselves for avoiding the easy route – a chairlift that runs all the way to the top for a small fee. Next time…
The next day we decided to do a bike ride around the Circuito Chico Loop which is 27 kilometers on it’s own (we chose to add a trip to the brewery in Colonia Suiza in the middle which made our trip 33 km). We are in fairly good shape so a moderate bike ride shouldn’t be too tough right? Wrong.
Turns out the muscles you need to ride a bike are quite different than the muscles you need to do pretty much everything thing else (especially when riding uphill) and we found this ride to be quite challenging. We started around 11:00am and it took pretty much the whole day as we had to return the bikes by 6:30pm.
We were disappointed we didn’t start earlier. There were several great swimming holes and beaches along the way which would’ve been nice to take advantage of with the nice weather but unfortunately time did not allow. At the end of the ride we were exhausted and happy to sit and enjoy a local beer before boarding the bus back to town.
Also in Bariloche we stopped into a local chocolate shop to try the local chocolate and enjoy some ice skating (the chocolate shop expanded by adding a small café and an ice skating rink to their shop – smart!).
The food was good, the town was fun, our hostel was amazing… it was a great town that would be worth another visit one day. And it seems likely we will be back as we both drank from the Arroyo Lopez stream which local legend states that if you take 3 sips you’re sure to be back!
Perito Moreno Glacier
The story of the Perito Moreno Glacier is best told in pictures (below). But in summary, it’s AWESOME. And most certainly worth visiting. We went on a tour (touristy, I know) where we did a mini-trek around on the glacier in crampons and then finished with a whisky on glacier ice.
You can only go on the viewing platforms and walkways unless you’re on a tour so if you want to see it, you’ve got to bite the bullet. The glacier is fascinating and if you stand in awe of it for long enough you’ll likely see chunks of ice that are the size of buildings calving off of the glacier and into the water below.
Final Impressions of Argentina…
Argentina is an enormous country and the landscape in Patagonia is totally epic! Unfortunately, my perception of the country was somewhat ruined by the robbery incident in Buenos Aires. Still, I am hoping to return one day to see Iguazu Falls, do some more hiking in El Chalten, and bike through the wineries of Mendoza.
We also didn’t have an opportunity to visit Northwestern Argentina including the historic town of Salta, the wine region of Cafayate, stunning landscapes of Quebrada de Humahuaca. Hopefully, we’ll make it next time!
We visited Argentina in February 2013
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