Here’s a helpful guide to what to do and what you can do in Buenos Aires whether you are planning or living or just coming to visit.
1 Bring Cash*: (Some of this may be illegal, so it will be written in a purely hypothetical way. It should also be read as if being whispered to you). SOME people have informed me it MAY be possible that if you were to arrive to Buenos Aires with a certain amount of cash in a currency like, say, dollars or euros, you COULD exchange that money on the black market for a better exchange than is available in ATMs. Some ways to exchange said money illegally MAY include approaching unwashed men on Calle Florida who shout “Cambio” randomly or in various jewellery shops.
2 Legal Ways to Get More Pesos for Your Dollar: So if you are not the type to break the law, then there’s legal ways too. Use money transfer services, which offer good exchange rates. For those living in Argentina with US dollar accounts, use Xoom, while those with British Pounds can use Azimo. Those with euro accounts need to hold on a little. Azimo have said they will launch their exchange service from euro accounts in late-Winter (in the Southern Hemisphere) 2013. They personally told me for Irish bank accounts it will be August 2013. At the moment of writing, the peso to dollar rate was officially 5.46 pesos for every dollar, 8.85 pesos on the black market (blue dollar rate) and Xoom offered 7.76 pesos. Both Xoom and Azimo have reputations for quite reliable services. Maybe not totally efficient, but you will get your money. If you have Bitcoins, there’s also the possibility you could exchange them for pesos at a very strong rate as well.
3 Free Concerts: If classical music is your thing, you can check out free concerts in Usina del Arte in La Boca every Sunday at 11.30am. Also, one of Buenos Aires’ premier tourist attractions, the prestigious Teatro Colon, offers free classical concerts once a month. You need to book two days in advance (that’s the only day possible due to demand) and it always takes place on a Sunday morning. Both have acoustics of the highest quality. Check their websites for further details.
4 English-speaking news in Buenos Aires: While living in the Argentinian capital, it’s important to understand what’s going on day-to-day and the two main publications are the Buenos Aires Herald and the Argentina Independent. The Herald offers decent day-to-day coverage of Argentinian, Latin American and international news. It can be found on most newsstands and online. The Argentina Independent offers a slightly more limited day-to-day coverage but is strong on reviews of various exhibitions and cultural events in Buenos Aires. It also offers strong features articles offering context to issues facing Argentina and Latin America today, for example on land reform throughout the Americas. The Argentina Independent is online only.
For more light-hearted news, but which also includes very effective reporting of serious issues, check out The Bubble.
7 Spanish-speaking Newspapers: There’s five or six main national newspapers. The most prominent are Clairín, La Nacion and Página 12. It’s important to note that it’s hard to find unbiased coverage in any of the main newspapers. Clarín and La Nacion are strongly against the Government, while Página 12 is in favour. Keep that in mind when reading them.
8 Mate: Argentinians drink mate in the morning, evening, when they play sports, when they watch television, when sitting in the park under searing heat, when it’s almost ice-cold. If you want to live in Buenos Aires, make it a part of your life.
9 Know Your Barrio (danger-wise): Choosing where you live is important to avoid some bad things happening to you, which is all too possible, especially with regards muggings and pick-pocketing. As a general rule, if it’s north of Avenida de Mayo (the avenue that connects the Congress with the Pink House), there are relatively safe barrios (neighbourhoods), while south of there is not so good. In the north, you’ll find prosperous Recoleta, Palermo, Nunez and Belgrano. In the South there’s La Boca, Barracas, San Telmo and Congresso.
10 Know Your Barrio (Social-life-wise): The downsides in the northern barrios is that, while they are less dangerous, they are also more expensive, not just in terms of apartments, but basic produce like fruit and vegetables. Palermo, meanwhile, offers lots of bars and trendy places to go out, while San Telmo has grittier and edgier bars. Las Canitas (a small barrio between Palermo and Belgrano) is one of the most famous areas in the city to go for a meal. La Boca has two of the most famous tourist attractions, the Camino and the Boca Juniors football stadium.
11 Buy a Sube Card: Upon arriving into Buenos Aires, try and get a Sube card as soon as possible. One of these makes transportation a hell of a lot easier. They reduce the cost of a bus to a relatively insignificant amount (between 1.50 and 1.70 pesos), while without one, the buses cost 3.50 pesos and it’s only payable in change. Spare coins aren’t easy to come by in Buenos Aires either.
12 Jazz music: If jazz music is your thing and you are sick of, or were just never into, the clíched and tourist tango scene of Buenos Aires, try the Ionious Club or Notorious for some decent jazz music. Both have live jazz most nights of the week, while the cost will be somewhere between 40 pesos on less busier nights to 120 pesos at the weekends.
13 Kissing: Argentinian men kiss other men by way of greeting. Get used to it.
14 Supermarkets: The queues are long and with inflation rising all the time, the cost of goods is increasing in line (or relatively so) with inflation. Also be aware that goods may not be as plentiful as they are in other countries. Recently, the Government told citizens to cut down on eating tomatoes for two months, while cooking oil is limited to three bottles per family at time of writing. Also, products tend to disappear off the shelves and not come back for a week due to issues with suppliers. It’s all a part of living in Buenos Aires.
15 Traffic and transport in Buenos Aires: It can be a nightmare, but then sometimes you just get lucky and it’s fine. Buses are quite plentiful, so it’s actually rare to be waiting a ridiculous amount of time for one. They are small though, so generally packed. Ditto for the underground. If there’s a protest in the city centre, which is quite frequent, avoid all public transport at that time. The area will be at a standstill.
16 Teaching English: It’s the number one way newly-arrived foreigners pay day-to-day expenses in Buenos Aires and there’s a plentiful amount of websites looking for teachers, even those with little or no experience. Craigslist is probably the most prominent. If you wish to work for several months, make sure you are being paid in line with increases in inflation. If inflation is at 25%, as unofficial estimates suggest, your pay should rise 12% every six months or so.
17 Working as a Journalist: Some also come with aspirations to work as an English-speaking Journalist. Some important points to keep in mind. The Buenos Aires Herald does not accept freelance work. You can also only be hired by them for a paid position if you have a DNI (a sort of social security card), which allows you to work. The Argentina Independent offers only unpaid internships and will accept freelance work, but will be unpaid. Ditto for The Bubble.
18 Visiting a villa: In Buenos Aires, a villa is the term used for slum, much like favela is used in Rio de Janeiro. If you want to see one, but not in any working capacity for a charity for example, then you could take a bus through one. If you take the number 46 bus going south, it passes through two villas and gives you a brief glimpse of what life is like living in the most disadvantaged parts of Buenos Aires. With regards this, please use your discretion with regards your own safety.
19 US Dollars: If you just happen to, for whatever reason, want US dollars, you can do what many people in Buenos Aires do. Get the boat to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay, just one hour away, where you can take dollars out of the ATMs. You can also exchange Uruguayan pesos for US dollars if you wish, because frequently the ATMs are out of US dollars (I can’t imagine why).
20 Going to a Boca Juniors football game: Many tourist websites like BsAs4U offer packages to go see Boca Juniors play a game. At between 500 and 600 pesos, they are expensive for what is essentially 90 minutes of sport. Unfortunately it’s difficult to attend a game another way. Boca Juniors generally limit the general sale to club members and those who hold a type of reservation for season tickets. But it is Argentina. There’s ways around everything, but it probably involves borrowing the card of a club member or season ticket holder somehow.
*EverythingIsLoco does not advocate the use of illegal activities.