The lure of a sultry Tango or this city’s famous steak may be enough to draw you to taste Buenos Aires for yourself, but rest assured, Argentina offers much more than dance and steak!
Although just like many big cities, parts of Buenos Aires are unfriendly and grotty, I don’t feel particularly unsafe here but only that it is too expensive for what is offered. Many of you may disagree with me I’m sure, but please let me know anyway.
Note: I’ve updated this post with more photos and info but also an easy-to-read format, so enjoy.
The 16-hour flight isn’t great as the plane doesn’t even have a TV screen in the usual seat in front…makes for an extremely long flight. The service isn’t great either with average food, even for plane fair. Won’t fly with this airline again as it isn’t even a cheap flight.
BSA (Bag Separation Anxiety)
Incidentally, during the change of planes in Portugal, the airline managed to lose my checked-in backpack, which never arrived in Buenos Aires.
A traveller’s worse fear is to wait for the end of the baggage carousel to stop and no more bags are forthcoming from the little Shute, whilst you’re left there standing…empty handed, under a sweating brow (exaggerating). Experienced this sinking feeling before?
Anyway, waiting at the Aerolineas Argentinas lost baggage counter for a while, I finally leave my name and phone number with the helpful officer. Comforted that my bag would be found in a few days and sent onwards to my hostel, it is with apprehension that we leave the airport and hopped into a taxi.
Probably preaching to the converted already, but all I can suggest is always carry at least a few changes of underwear in your carry-on and a change of clothes if you have room. Although obvious, this is easily overlooked when you’re trying to save space in a cabin bag.
Named by its founders in the 16th century, which means “fair winds”, energetic Buenos Aires is the second-most visited city of Latin America (Mexico City being the first), and also boasts being the most visited city in South America.
Be warned, with an immediate population of almost 3 million but much more in its surrounds, this is a very busy city.
I recommend 4 to 5 days for a taste of this massive vibrant city and then you’ll be ready to move on to the more spectacular scenery Argentina offers.
I guess Buenos Aires serves a purpose and is great as a stop-off point to other amazing areas within the country.
I hear BA also has a great nightlife, which starts around 1am – head to Palermo for some fun and much food!
This city also offers excellent attractions such as Tango demos – brilliant freebie on a Sunday at San Telmo Fair – the Recoleta Cemetery, historical sites, museums, and lots of great steak on which to feast, unless you’re a vegetarian.
Tango and Spanish lessons are quite expensive here so if you’re on a budget, doubt you’ll partake in either.
Instead, download Coffee Break Spanish, which are Podcasts with Mark and Cara – both will have you on your merry way to speaking fluent Spanish in no time (yeah right). All jokes aside, this is a great way to learn the language, especially filling in the long hours of a bus journey here…and there are many many long bus journeys.
Feria de San Telmo
Also known as the San Telmo Antiques Fair, prepare yourself from 9am-6pm for a colourful street fair experience in The Republic of San Telmo’s bohemian neighbourhood, if you’re lucky enough to visit BA on a Sunday.
Wander the pedestrian cobbled Defensa Street for a raw taste of Buenos Aires – it all happens on this street. You’ll see the festivities spilling out into side lanes also, so keep your eyes peeled.
Originating back in 1971 as a 270-stalled street market, passing years have seen this street bazaar explode and receives around 12,000 visitors each week. It’s vibrant street living from original live art and music, buskers, and sultry Tango demonstrations that sweep you up in their moment, making you want to learn this sexy dance yourself.
The antique stalls, homemade food morsels, funky clothing, and pretty much anything you can think of will have you spending countless hours here – I love this area, especially for people watching!
Spanning some 14 acres, this cemetery contains 4,691 above-ground vaults of which 94 are now declared National Historical Monuments and protected.
Eva Perón (a very popular grave with tourists), a granddaughter of Napoleon, and Argentinian presidents and politicians are amongst the famous that rest here.
A beautiful cemetery, as hailed so by the BBC in 2011. Spend a full day here to really walk around and study the beautiful intricate lifelike sculptures, which are works of art. I’m sure you’ll love the various architectural styles including Art Deco, Baroque, and Art Nouveau.
Stumble upon the Our Lady of Pilar (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Pilar) – the Order of the Recoletos monks’ church and convent built in 1732, and which the cemetery is built around.
As this cemetery and mausoleums are very much still in use today, depending on which way the wind blows or if not at all, an unsavoury smell may swirl around your nostrils.
The Hostal Parada (AR$160 Double) offeres a good room with private bathroom, which includes a breakfast of help-yourself croissants, tea, and coffee.
There’s also a kitchen with minimal utensils to cook a basic meal if you so desire; baggage storage; and very friendly accommodating staff (extremely helpful when I arrived in BA without my backpack).
Rooms are cleaned and fresh towels provided each day. Although the area the hostel is in (Rivadavia “Centro”) is a little seedy, it’s only a short walk to all the main attractions.
Just a tip, lock up your luggage when left in the room as I did have women’s personal items and Paracetamol stolen. Small items but quite expensive in BA.
BA is inundated with loads of great restaurants and cafes all offering wonderful food at reasonable prices. You definitely won’t starve in this city, and can of course, go to a flashy restaurant instead to spend buckets of cash.
As in every country, my rule of thumb is to go to places where locals are eating and avoid at all costs, places where tourists eat – these are typically more expensive and the food isn’t great.
Lingering over a hot café seems to be the Argentinian way, which is a lovely way to pass the day whilst people watching. Not being chased out of a restaurant as soon as you’ve finished your coffee is refreshing.
Don’t forget to try a world-famous steak while you’re here…it’s a must and legendary. I’m not a huge steak fan but the quality here is great. Although I’ve heard that the city is breaking its mould and extending its palate to incorporate a plethora of delicious cuisines. Walked past a couple of vegetarian restaurants as well but at the time of writing, this type of restaurant is not common in BA.
Leaving Buenos Aires
After over a week walking around BA taking it easy but also waiting for my backpack to be returned to me, which was delivered 3 days after my arrival in BA, it is time to leave this city.
I have to admit I’m not looking forward to this trip at all. I’ve heard that the buses are pretty good in Argentina and this will be the first taste, so I’ll see if the myth is indeed fact.
A bus is much cheaper than flying within Argentina, which is expensive for a gringo as there is a different pricing structure for a tourist than for a local. And of course, the tourist price is much pricier.
Overnight bus trips are tiring as I can never seem to sleep, no matter how comfortable the seat is and in which country I’m travelling…hope this trip goes quickly.