Argentina is one of the most exciting countries to visit in South America, and unsurprisingly it often finds its way onto the itineraries of backpackers, travelers, and English teachers heading to the region. Some call Buenos AIres the ‘Paris of South America’ thanks to the cultural hybrid of Latin American and European culture that brings together a variety of people and backgrounds. Argentina as a whole is a kaleidoscope of cultural influences and experiences waiting to be had. However you choose to look at it, it’s no secret that traveling in Argentina is one for the bucket list.
1. Take the time to see less-visited sights.
When you first hit the ground (well, gracefully touchdown) in Buenos Aires, there are a few classic attractions that you will tick off the “To-See” list (Caminito Street, La Casa Rosada, Plaza de Mayo, Retiro Cemetery, San Telmo market). These are all the hotspots talked about in guidebooks, the standard tourist fare of all visitors to Buenos Aires.
To really get the most out of your stay in Buenos Aires, however, try to see a few of the things that are often missed. A boat ride on Tigre delta, a walk around the nature reserve, a visit to the mataderos gaucho market on a Sunday afternoon, a stroll around Palermo woods—these are some of the things that many of the tourists never get around to doing, but will give you a real glimpse of life in this fascinating city.
2. Try a steak (or five).
Argentina is world famous for its meat. The steaks in Argentina are relatively good value and absolutely delicious. Getting meat juice all over your fingers and face at a typical asado is an essential experience when traveling in Argentina.
There are dozens of excellent restaurants offering some of the best steaks you will ever tuck into, but for a truly cultural experience, try and wrangle an invite to an asado with locals. If you are invited to a family asado do not pass it up. Just make sure you do not eat anything during the day—it is not uncommon to consume a week’s worth of meat at such events.
Vegetarians, brace yourselves for a lot of confused faces and persistent offers of meat. You will have a lot of explaining to do.
When eating with Argentinians, remember not to eat too quickly. Eating is as much about enjoying the company of the people you are with, so in Argentina meals can be long, social affairs. Instead of rushing through your meal, slow down and enjoy it.
3. Learn (some) Spanish.
Even if you just take a few lessons in your first week, it is a good idea to learn a bit of Spanish when you travel to Argentina. There are lots of private language schools where you can take lessons, but you can also arrange one-on-one lessons with local tutors. You will quickly spot listings online and on lampposts offering the services of Spanish teachers. Organizing a casual Spanish class in a cafe somewhere in Buenos Aires is a great way to develop conversational Spanish skills, with vocabulary you will use in day to day life (starting with how to order a coffee).
These informal lessons can often work out cheaper than language schools and teachers often double up as very knowledgeable tour guides.
4. Embrace the cheek kiss.
Apart from formal or professional interactions, most hellos and goodbyes in Argentina involve the cheek kiss (which is really more of a cheek touch). It is a warm and friendly way to greet people, but can come as a bit of a surprise the first time you travel to Argentina. Don’t freak out over strangers trying to kiss you; just go with it, and eventually it will start to seem like second nature.
5. Stay safe.
In big cities, like Buenos Aires, keep your wits about you and an eye on your belongings at all times. Tourist hotspots like La Boca and San Telmo are notorious for pickpockets, who will happily relieve you of your camera or smartphone if they get the chance. It’s not a good idea to wander around alone after dark, and if you are going to take a taxi make sure it is from a reputable company (sometimes it is better to call for a taxi than to hail one in the street).
Counterfeit money is something of an issue in Argentina, so it pays to be vigilant for fake money. Always examine the large bills you receive, including the ones you get from ATMs and money exchange offices. It’s easier and safer to stick to smaller bills when you are out and about.
6. Pack for all weather.
Argentina is massive and the scope of the country means it has pretty much every kind of weather imaginable. Where you plan on spending most of your time will determine what kind of wardrobe you will need, but you may need to pack for everything from hiking glacial landscapes to basking on the beach. To make things even more complicated, Buenos Aires is a chic and cosmopolitan city where porteños (the residents of Buenos Aires) value fashion highly. If you can pack for every terrain, weather, and social situation in Argentina, congratulations, you are a master packer.
Don’t Cry for Me Argentina
The truth is, you’ll never want to leave. Armed with these pro Argentina travel tips, you will be all set to tango your way across the country. Embrace the adventure and enjoy every moment of traveling in Argentina.