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2 Weeks of Travel in Buenos Aires

We really, really thought we’d love Buenos Aires. We were so sure of it, that we planned the longest stop of our entire round the world trip there. We’d have 2 whole weeks to explore, eat, and decide if Buenos Aires was really a city we could live in.

And…

It wasn’t.

I guess I’d had romantic visions of tango in the streets, magnificent architecture and succulent steak at reasonable prices. And all of that is there, in certain neighbourhoods and for a certain price (well, except for the steak at cheap prices!), but I couldn’t help but feel weighed down by the current economic reality of Argentina.

Crammed onto a bus like sardines

Crammed onto a bus like sardines

Yes, there were gloriously beautiful neighbourhoods, with towering trees and fantastic architecture, tango on some avenues, and luxurious, old cafes as expected, but there were also some uncomfortable surprises.

We also saw newly homeless people, sweeping the street in front of where they had collected all their belongings, and businessmen in full suits digging for change in phone booths and for empty cans and bottles in garbage cans.

These are images I can’t seem to forget, and these, along with the inflated prices we had to pay for food and travel, coloured my impression of the city, in an unfortunately, not entirely positive way. It’s not that these situations don’t occur in every country of the world, it’s that the city seemed to be pervaded with an overall heaviness I couldn’t shake – despite all the glorious buildings on offer.

As tourists, we enjoyed the best of Buenos Aires, and it’s truly warm and gracious citizens, but at the end of our 2 weeks, we were definitely anxious to leave and move on to the 3rd continent on our round the world trip – Africa!

We’ve already written separately about visiting magnificent Recoleta Cemetery, extravagant Cafe Tortoni and the huge Floralis Genérica, but here’s a taste of the rest of our time in pictures.

From the not entirely safe streets of La Boca (where some kind locals warned us to turn back from a certain area because we’d be robbed otherwise) to the kilometres long San Telmo street market, to the aristocracy of Recoleta, there’s enough difference in Buenos Aires’ districts to keep you entertained and walking for a long, long time.

Our Tips for a Trip to Buenos Aires

1) Stay in the Palermo or Recoleta areas of Buenos Aires
We rented a fully furnished apartment through AirBnB for the fantastic price of $20/night in the Caballito area of Buenos Aires, for the duration of our stay. We consulted a map and it didn’t look too far away from most of the sights and we liked the idea of experiencing life in a more typical neighbourhood. However, this turned out to be a big mistake.

Travel in Buenos Aires takes a long time and can be pretty frustrating (see the bus picture above). It’s not expensive, but it’s crowded and slow. We were wasting a good 2 hours per day, just trying to travel from our apartment to anything worth seeing as a tourist. Don’t skimp (like we did), and find someplace to stay that’s within walking distance of most sights if you can.

2) Book an apartment
If you’re staying in Buenos Aires for anything longer than a few days, I would recommend booking an apartment with a kitchen. Eating out in the city is not cheap, nor is getting drinks or a coffee. Additionally, most restaurants don’t open for dinner until 8:30 or 9:00 at the earliest, and mostly serve only meat, starch or pasta. Steak and potatoes is nice every once in awhile, but not every night, and certainly not right before bedtime! (yeah, it’s true, we’re an old married couple)

With a kitchen at our disposal, we were able to hit the local grocery, stock up on fruits and veg and do some cooking for ourselves. We saved a ton of money in the process and ate at “normal” times of the day and night.

3) Take advantage of all of the city’s free activities
These days, Buenos Aires can be an expensive city. Fortunately, there’s a ton of free activities to fill your time with. A trip to Recoleta Cemetery costs zero dollars and is completely worth it. The Floralis Generica? Free. A stroll through San Telmo’s huge Sunday market with it’s multitude of street performers and tango dancers? Also free.

In fact, it’s even possible to take a fully guided walking tour with BA Free Tours, at absolutely no cost. We took the City Tour, and were walked through all of the major sights and given quality information, just like on any paid tour.

4) Don’t miss the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo protest
During Argentina’s Dirty War, it’s estimated that between 15 – 30,000 left-wing activists, militants and sympathizers simply disappeared. Some were held in detention camps, some were killed, and some were pushed out of helicopters. Children of the Disappeared Mothers were sometimes stolen and given to military leaders.

Every Thursday afternoon, for the last 36 years, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo have protested in front of the Casa Rosada, first in defiance of the government’s policy of state terrorism, and then to learn the fate of their missing children.

It’s a painful part of Argentinian history that the country is still struggling with today, and witnessing the Protest was easily one of the most poignant experiences of our entire trip.

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20 Comments Post a comment
  1. I really love Buenos Aires, and while the city does have her fair share of economic burdens, the portenos still somehow remain warm and gracious, exhibiting an inner strength and grace that I find provides bright spots amongst the doom and gloom. I would love to live there one day… with the hopes that the economy picks up. Great post!

    October 17, 2013
    • Agreed! The people of Buenos Aires are amazing. We were on one of those cramped buses trying to pay for our fare in the completely outdated machine that only accepts coins, and were totally humbled when someone just gave us the coins to do it… and this in a country known for hoarding those coins!

      October 18, 2013
  2. I wasn’t as thrilled by BA as I expected either. In general, I much preferred the scenery to the cities in Chile and Argentina. Argentina is cheaper right now if you find a way to change money at the “blue” rate, or pay in cash USD at that rate.

    One thing I did enjoy in BA was a tour of street art with http://graffitimundo.com/

    I had intended to stay in a B&B in San Telmo, I was glad I allowed myself to be talked out of it. I stayed in palermo instead.

    October 18, 2013
    • Yeah, we really enjoyed our time in the NW of the country, around Salta and Cafayate…not so crazy expensive and stunningly beautiful too. I wonder if our experience would’ve been different if we’d stayed in Palermo?

      October 18, 2013
  3. The pictures look lovely. It’s sad that you didn’t enjoy it as much as you thought you would. That’s always a disappointment

    October 18, 2013
    • I think it’s partially because we were assessing whether we could live there, rather than just enjoying it purely as tourists. Plus, we were on a budget! which always makes things a little more complicated. 😉 It is a beautiful city though, that’s for sure!

      October 18, 2013
  4. Sometimes the places that you have the highest expectations are the ones that let you down the most! My hubby is going on a business trip there next month, and I am hoping to join, will definitely take your travel tips, thanks for sharing!

    October 18, 2013
    • That’s the truth, isn’t it? Expectations. Sigh* Def stay in Palermo! I honestly think that if we’d stayed there, we might’ve had a completely different experience! Enjoy you trip!!

      October 18, 2013
  5. Perfectly framed and angled shots! Dame, professional-istic images. You a travel writer? You should.

    October 28, 2013
    • Aww thanks! You are too sweet. Travel writer? No. I’ve thought about it, but I’m not too sure about mixing work with something that gives me so much pleasure. A lot of professional travel bloggers/writers seem so stressed out on their trips. Definitely not what we’re aiming for on our trips… 😉

      November 4, 2013
  6. marvelous shots! We spent a little over a week in an apartment in Recoleta and loved it! We weren’t of course scoping out the place for permanent residence 🙂

    November 9, 2013
    • Gosh, I really really wish we’d stayed in Recoleta. I swear the 2 hours of bus rides we had to make to get anywhere good, definitely impacted out impression of the city!

      November 16, 2013
  7. Love this blog ! I keep hearing about the crazy inflation in Argentina . Did u get pesos from the black market ?

    November 18, 2013
    • We didn’t, cuz we were too chicken. Would definitely have made things more affordable. We were honestly SHOCKED by expensive it was there. Way over expectation! 😦

      November 20, 2013
  8. And also, i have been dreaming about living in Buenos Aires for the longest time!

    November 19, 2013
  9. So I wasn’t the only one kinda disappointed by Buenos Aires! It was pretty, but … somehow I preferred Santiago.

    April 2, 2015
    • We never made it to Chile, but I’ve heard great things about Santiago and especially Valparaiso. Definitely gotta go back and explore all the parts we missed on the first go-round! 🙂

      April 3, 2015
  10. psduffy #

    Since I’m traveling alone in Argentina (for 92 days, 54 of which will be in BA), I found a private room in a guest house via airbnb in Amalgro. Like you, I wanted to experience a more authentic barrio, but since I’ll be (a) two blocks from the nearest subway stop; (b) don’t plan to travel during rush hours; and (c) I have 54 days there, I’m hoping the travel times won’t become an issue. Plus I do love to walk. Really appreciate your insight! I’m also going to write about my experiences and the people I meet at 90DaysinArgentina.com.

    September 4, 2015
    • Wow! 54 days in BA is a long time. You’ll be practically a local by the time you leave. 🙂 Hope it turns out to be a great experience for you.

      September 4, 2015

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