• What’s Argentina like?
We get this question a lot – sometimes preceded by the statement, “Argentina! I love tango!” In truth, it’s difficult to describe in a few words what it’s like in the eighth largest country in the world, a huge swath of land with diverse geography and culture throughout.
One thing that needs to be said: it ain’t only about the tango. Sure tango has a very important place in the culture but so does downright messy politics, soccer, rock nacional (rock and roll in Spanish), the gaucho lifestyle of the Pampas, the wine industry, mate, literature, film, and speaking of dancing — how about folk dancing from the northern regions?
Argentina is kind of like a dysfunctional but lovable teenager — young, beautiful, passionate, chaotic, creative, sulky, deceptive and volatile. Argentina is so vast in terms of landscape and culture that describing it succinctly is a difficult task and it’s also very subjective, but the beauty of that is, you’ll just have to come and check it out for yourself.
• Do I need a visa?
As of the end of 2009, Argentina is charging a ‘reciprocity’ fee for a 90-day entrance stamp for American, Canadian and Australian citizens (US-$160, $75, $100 respectively, with Canadians given just a single entry). This cost is retributive — it’s the same charged to Argentines for a visa to those countries.
As of December 2012 the reciprocity fee can no longer be paid at the airport, but must be paid in advance of arrival online with a credit card.
Those from the EU, New Zealand or South Africa are not required to pay the entrance fee. Those from other countries can check on the immigrations website to see if you need a visa.
If you want to extend your tourist visa after your three months are up, you can go to the immigration office and get a one-time 90-day extension for $300 pesos. A more pleasurable option is to hop over to Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay for a day and get a new stamp for another 90-day visa.
• How do I get to downtown Buenos Aires from the airport?
This depends on your budget. If you have plenty of time and not much baggage or money you can take the number eight bus right to downtown. Just walk out of the airport and 200 yards down the road leading out of the airport and you will see the bus stop. If not, just ask someone. Make sure you have four pesos in coins because buses don’t accept bills. This option isn’t recommended if you have much more than a backpack. Note that the travel time to downtown Buenos Aires via bus is about two hours because there are a lot of stops on the way.
The second most economical option is to take Manual Tienda León, which can drop you off at their office in Retiro or take you door to door for a minimum of AR$45 (US$11). You can call ahead or just go to their stand which is right outside the exit area of the airport.
A third option is a taxi or a private car service known as a ‘remis’. You can prepay for one inside the airport, although the price is higher than one that is privately pre-arranged. Standard taxis that wait outside the airport have an overblown reputation for ripping off customers (particularly foreigners) or being involved in crime schemes, but you can usually find a better deal haggling and most of the time you will be fine. Just don’t use an intermediary hanging around the taxi cue — deal with the taxi driver yourself.
Make sure you chose a black and yellow taxi that has a sticker on the front windshield and two back doors — this means it’s legit, and you should try to do this throughout your stay. For those who don’t feel comfortable haggling for a taxi, Wander Argentina offers airport pick-up as well, get in touch with your request through our contact form. The previously mentioned Manual Tienda León also offers a pre-arranged taxi service but the price is quite high compared to their mini-bus service.
Manuel Tienda León
Tel: (54-11) 4315-5515
• Can I rent a car?
Yes, you can rent a car in Argentina with any foreign driver’s license and your passport. International companies like Avis or Hertz tend to be a little more expensive but they may have English-speaking staff and standard procedures in place that will be familiar. Some local companies are cheaper but be careful to be very clear about the terms of the agreement and check over the car for even minor damage before you drive off, just in case someone tries to figure out a way to keep some of your deposit.
A word to the wise: the rates vary widely between booking online and booking on the phone with local companies, so it pays to shop around. Renting a car directly at the airport can also be considerably more expensive as well.
• Do I need to speak Spanish?
This tends to be subjective, but it’s safe to say that if you speak a little Spanish you will probably enjoy your stay in Argentina more and even save money. Overall, not that many Argentines as you may think speak conversational English, so if you don’t speak Spanish you may only befriend locals of a certain sector of society — or other foreigners. Also rental and tour agencies that have English-speaking staff tend to charge more, in fact sometimes it seems there is a whole second economy for English-only tourists. Vendors tend to be patient and appreciative of those who make an effort to speak Spanish. If you can haggle in Spanish you will definitely save money, because it’s well-known that foreigners often get overcharged for goods, especially in tourist areas.
Have a question? Send it over via our contact form and we will get back to you and/or post a reply.