Argentina is a country that has been luring in travelers and expats for decades. With salt flats to the north, sublime mountain ranges to the west, Iguazu Falls to the east, and the end of the world on its southern tip, that’s not really much of a surprise. Not only does the scenery invite, but the people, culture, and food of Argentina radiate passion, vitality, and an unbeatable zest for life and its pleasures. There are volunteer opportunities aplenty in Argentina, from inner city Buenos Aires, to the rich farm lands of Mendoza.
Argentina spans the lower half of South America, is the second largest country on the continent, the eighth largest in the world, and the Atlantic Ocean laps up its eastern shore. At the southernmost tip of the country you’ll find the Drake Passage, the body of water that runs between South America and Antarctica, a popular crossing point for travelers. The Andes mountain range runs all the way down the west side of the country, spilling over to its neighbor, Chile.
The population of 41 million people is spread out across the country and are mostly found in the major cities leaving parts of the country completely uninhabited. The vast majority of Argentines are descended from European immigrants that flocked to the country from the mid-19th century, and now only 1 percent of the population descended from indigenous citizens. However, the national identity remains very strong and distinct, and Argentina remains one of the most rapidly developing countries in the world.
Argentina spreads out across a huge chunk of South America so there are several different climates. To the far north you’ll find the outer regions of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth. Further south towards the center of the country, more greenery appears and fertile farm land dominates provinces like Mendoza or the Pampas. Even further south is Patagonia, a region littered with snow-capped mountains and sublime scenery. Once you reach the very southern tip of Argentina, the sub-zero temperatures set in.
This diverse climate provides boundless opportunities for volunteers, and makes travel within the country an ever-changing experience. It also allows for travel all year round, as there will always be colder or warmer areas.
The official language in Argentina is Spanish, but it may not be the Spanish you are used to hearing anywhere else. The Argentine dialect pronounces certain syllables differently to other Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain itself or others further north in South America. You may find one or two other regional languages, such as Quechua, spoken, but the vast majority of the population speak Argentine Spanish.
Argentina is a country of passion, from its people, to its food, and customs. The country is predominantly Roman Catholic, although you will not find an overbearing sense of religion. Whilst it remains a tradition amongst the older generations and most Argentines will say they are Roman Catholic, it does not dictate other parts of their lives and there is a general sense of religious freedom.
The people are straightforward yet warm, unreserved yet tactful, and happily welcome foreigners into their country. It is thought that their passion comes from their European influence, and you could easily find parallels between characteristics of Argentines and the Spanish or Italians, for example. They are extremely social people, and to say that Argentines like to have a good time is an understatement. The certain joie de vivre from Europe has definitely crossed over to Argentina, and you’ll find plenty of fun to get involved with as a visitor.
The Argentine love of anything rich and passionate is reflected in their food. The country boasts some of the best steak on the planet, as well as the best wine. In summer, you will come across weekly asados, which is a BBQ filled with meat aplenty and an endless flow of vino, which is particularly famous in the Mendoza region. It’s not the easiest place for a vegetarian to find a meal, but meat is not the only thing on the menu so they won’t leave with empty stomachs.
The currency in Argentina is the Argentine Peso. There are many ATMs in every city, and in smaller towns. However, if you are planning on volunteering in remote places, it is advised that you take some cash with you, as access to ATMs may be limited.
As there is so much difference between the northern, central, and southern regions of Argentina in terms of climate, there are many different kinds of placements to do. Argentine society is moving forward very quickly, so there aren’t as many humanitarian or aid projects as there are in less developed parts of Latin America, but that is by no means to say that they don’t exist. Most bigger cities offer projects that help struggling communities, so volunteers looking to help people will find more projects within the more densely populated areas.
Farming placements are also very popular in Argentina, particularly in the central regions where the land is rich and fertile. Volunteers seeking the opportunity to learn how to live off the land and use natural resources to live will find many projects in Argentina.
Finally, due to the large hostel culture within Argentina, volunteers will also find many opportunities for work exchange projects in hostels. Those looking for a more relaxed and social volunteer position can work in a hostel in exchange for their board, saving them accommodation fees as they travel around Argentina.
The most popular way to travel around the country is by bus. They are relatively inexpensive, albeit very long bus rides. Volunteers could move through the country, working on a variety of different projects, and be easily working on something completely new in each location.