What Clothing Should You Pack for Argentina?
Argentina is a huge country with diverse terrain and eleven different climate zones, from tropical areas in the Northeast,(as in Iguazú Falls) to the arctic temperatures of lower Patagonia and everything in between.
Those coming from the northern hemisphere won’t want to forget that Argentina’s seasons are reversed – usually when a traveler arrives ill-prepared for the weather it is because they forgot this essential fact, or didn’t realize how much the temperature can vary around the country.
What to pack will depend on your specific destinations in Argentina and the activities you’ve planned.
Fashion in Buenos Aires and other Argentine Cities
Buenos Aires is one of the most fashionable cities in South America.
Clothing is sized in the European standard, and city-dwellers in Argentina take their style cues from Europe, not North America. Unlike other parts of South America, people in Buenos Aires do not wear many bright colors or patterns but tend toward classic styles in subdued solid hues.
Many travelers like to keep a low-profile and blend in a bit when on the road, if possible. With that in mind, things such as baseball caps, loud expensive sneakers, Velcro sport sandals, and 24-pocket safari-style travel vests cause travelers to stick out quite a bit in stylish urban areas (the vest and sandals might come in handy if doing outdoor activities in Patagonia though).
Argentina differs from other popular world destinations, where travelers don’t have to worry too much about what to pack and can just purchase whatever they forgot when they arrive. Here, locally manufactured clothes are poor quality and imported goods are limited and heavily taxed. This means that products, such as electronics, clothing, gadgets and quality cosmetics can be twice or thrice the price as in Asia, North America or Europe.
Whatever you forget, you may not be able to find it in Argentina, so bring what you need!
It’s always good to travel as light as possible, but to travel light and have exactly what you need, requires some planning.
The smart way to dress for Argentina is: layer, layers, and more layers. In summer and in humid areas such as the capital, cotton and linen are nice and breathable.
In much of the country – the high dessert of Salta and Jujuy, Patagonia, Mendoza, and coastal areas — it warms up during the day and cools off considerably at night. Patagonia, and coastal areas can also be very windy. The weather can also be rather erratic so like a good Boy Scout, ‘Be Prepared’.
Women’s Argentina packing list: Clothes
Even though Argentina is a Catholic country, most women don’t tend to dress as conservatively as one might expect. Dressing too immodestly can attract unwanted attention in the form of piropos (comments) on the street though, so the safe bet is to go for a look that is classy but not trashy.
A couple of pairs of slimfit dark jeans or Garbadine trousers such are versatile enough for several occasions. For summer or spring weather, it’s hard to go wrong with comfortable jersey capris. Note that adult women rarely wear above the knee shorts in the street, so they will kind of make you stick out as a tourist.
For casual days and layering purposes you will want a couple of cotton T-shirts or tank tops for layering. Leggings can be worn with a loose flared tunic top for maximum comfort on the airplane. Since the shirt covers the hips and flares out it is also good if you plan to pig out on steak and malbec on your vacation. A lovely chiffon v-neck blouse is nice for going out and perfect for travel as it won’t wrinkle and will dry quickly.
Women wear skirts and dresses quite a bit in Argentina. A flattering solid color dress with pockets will work for many occasions. For the milonga, a 3/4 sleeve flare faux wrap dress is a comfortable but elegant option for a few twirls on the dance floor after dining out.
At almost any time of year, you won’t go wrong with at least one light travel cardigan for when it cools off at night. In winter (June-September) a fleece sweater or travel shawl as well as a versatile all-weather jacket. Those headed to Patagonia or other cold regions in the fall or winter would do well to pack a lightweight down jacket.
On the footwear front, it’s important to have a pair of comfortable walking shoes versatile enough for city hikes but nice enough for nights out.
Tango dancers often wear high heels, but the sidewalks are an obstacle course in heels, so wearing heels is somewhat of a safety hazard, so we won’t recommend them here. If you do want heels for the milonga, tango shoes are one of the few items that may be worth buying once you are in Argentina, as there are a number of small manufacturers. If you are going out in heels the best suggestion is to take a taxi or Uber door-to-door.
Flip flops (thongs) are great at the beach and important if using a shared shower at hostels, but they have their limitations in Argentina.
Not only do locals not use them much outside of beach towns (unlike in neighboring Brazil) but the sidewalks and promenades in many areas are granite and very slippery when wet.
A better idea for summertime footwear is a sandal with traction that has solid soles and are comfortable enough to wear for long walks or hiking and aren’t a complete fashion disaster.
Those looking to do serious hiking in Patagonia or the Northwest you will definitely want to bring a serious pair of waterproof hiking boots that aren’t too bulky for travel. Those trekking in Patagonia in the winter season, or for those headed to hike the glaciers or Antarctica, will need a pair of warm snow boots. Day hikers can get away with less heavy duty boots if they pack good-quality waterproof walking socks.
Men’s Argentina Packing List: Clothes
Men will want a few tee-shirts. Those made with moisture wicking fabric such as Tommy John’s Cotton T-shirts and long-sleeve crew neck shirts are designed not to ride up – perfect for the long flight and humid climate of Buenos Aires. A stylish travel hoodie with tons of pockets is also perfect for airports and a range of climates. You’ll also want a pair of jeans or two. Black jeans such as Ralph Lauren regular or Dickies are a great option because they can be worn during the day with a t-shirt or an odor resistant button up short-sleeve shirt or look more formal with a nice button-up long-sleeve shirt and breathable travel blazer.
Khakis are not used much in South America. Darker style, light-weight and wrinkle-free slacks are a good travel option. Men also can’t go wrong with pants specifically made for travel such as Colombia lightweight water and stain-resistant pants with a zip security pocket.
For those going to the milonga or nice dinners, a comfortable wrinkle-free lightweight sport coat is ideal. Depending on the time of year and your destination in Argentina, you will want at least one or two sweaters such as a textured basic pullover or a Patagonia brand sweater fleece shirt.
For shoes, mix comfort and style with a shoe such as the Scarpa Men’s Casual Shoe is a good choice because it can be used in the city and for hiking.
Formal-looking enough for a tango show or a night at the Colón theater but comfortable enough for city walking are the water resistant Dockers Oxford. If planning to hike in Patagonia, you’ll want a Gore-Tex hiking shoe that is weatherproof but not too bulky for travel. A regular hiking boot will be adequate for day hikes even on glaciers, as long as you have good merino wool moisture-control hiking socks.
A Tip on Washing Clothes in Argentina
Self-service laundries aren’t very common in Argentina, but visitors in can easily get clothes laundered for them for between US$2-4 per load. Be aware that laundromats in Argentina have a reputation for shrinking clothes drastically, so if you aren’t staying at an Airbnb with a nice washing machine and dryer, consider hand washing your more valuable clothes.
Alternately, you could just ask the laundromat to wash your clothes in cold water and then hang dry them, as the dryers are the main culprit to be blamed for converting clothes into child sizes.
Luggage Options for Traveling in Argentina
There are three predominate luggage options for travelers to Argentina, depending on your travel style.
Those who are traveling around South America on a budget or plan to go hiking in Patagonia usually go for the trusty backpack.
The Arro 22 Backpack is a durable and comfortable backpack for a shorter trip, someone who packs light, for Patagonia hiking or even hitchhiking. To carry a bit more weight, or for extended backpack travel a lightweight internal frame backpack such as the Teton Sports Grand Ultralight Backpack is a good choice because it’s durable, expandable and has well-padded adjustable straps. It also comes with a waterproof tarp/poncho.
Although these days most people go for wheeled luggage, a nice duffel bag is a great option for a short Argentina trip as they are extremely practical, can be carried on the airplane and easy to move around with.
Another option good for work trips or those living the digital nomad lifestyle is a durable wheeled duffel bag such as Eagle Creek’s wheeled duffel bag, which has a laptop sleeve and nifty features such as a a gear support latch that doubles as a bottle opener.
A sleek duffel bag/ travel backpack such as this one ‘the holy grail of travel backpacks’ with an anti-theft business rucksack feature is terrific too as you can strap it on for longer walks and then convert it into a duffel bag when taking a plane or a bus. It’s also small enough to count as a carry on.
Unless you have to bring a lot of stuff or have a lot of formal wear and are heading straight to a luxury hotel such as the Alvear Palace in an upper-class area such as Recoleta or Puerto Madero, big suitcase are not very practical for travel in Argentina.
Outside of these nicer neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, the sidewalks are often broken, and with all the curbs and stairways – many old buildings don’t have elevators – suitcases can be cumbersome.
That being said, some of the smaller, lightweight suitcases with wheels such as the Briggs & Riley Carry-On Expandable Upright will be fine for a business or urban-orientated vacation. Another option is a Travelpro Luggage with a USB port, which combines the easy-to-pack duffel bag with the more purposeful suitcase.
After cellphone theft, snatch-and-grab robbery of purses or travel bags is the top street crime committed in Buenos Aires and other metro areas. As mentioned in the Safety for Women Travelers post, an understated cross-body bag, especially a nifty anti-theft one with interior zippers like this one is best. Guys that use a satchel or man purse to carry their gadgets will want to keep the same thing in mind. A small backpack is harder to rob than a purse as well, but be aware that while walking around with a backpack in crowded areas or on the subte, slick pick-pocketers can dig into outer bag compartments without you being aware.
Whatever type of bag you choose it’s a good idea to put a simple TSA-approved luggage lock on the bag for airline travel – recently there was a large bust of airport employees stealing from luggage at Ezeiza, Argentina’s main international airport. Hopefully that ended the airport bag theft, but a small lock is a low-cost item that can bring some peace of mind.
What type of cameras to bring to Argentina?
If you are looking to get professional quality photos of course you’ll want a digital SLR such as the Canon Rebel T6 Digital SLR Camera Kit with a 18-55mm and 75-300mm lens.
Nikon loyalists will want a dependable camera, ideally the Nikon D7500 with a 18-55mm lens. As with many cameras of this league they both have built in GPS and Wifi, so that you can geotag photos and instantly share them on social media.
You’ll also want a good general lens with a range of apertures such as a Canon 28-135mm lens which is perfect for street shooting because it can cover a range of perspectives, from wide-angle, to portraits and telephoto. A 24-85mm auto-focus vibration-reduction lens is a versatile photographer’s travel choice too.
Don’t forget your best insurance, which is UV lens filters and covers. If you plan to do a lot of photography you’ll also want a lightweight tripod such as the Gitzo carbon traveler tripod which is a durable carbon fiber tripod or a less-expensive aluminum tripod Slik Sprint Pro tripod.
GoPros are still great for travel and adventure and blogging photography and video. Hopefully Wander Argentina readers won’t see this type of action, but check out the viral video on this page shot by a young traveler in La Boca with a GoPro.
While great for video, GoPros can be trickiest when it comes to landscape or landmark photography due to the curved lens. For selfie-takers or group photos, the voice command is useful for taking clear photos without having to press the shutter. The biggest drawback of this camera is that you can’t chose where to focus. The biggest strength of the GoPro or cheaper knock offs such as the Yi 4K Action Camera is the small size and the fact that they’re waterproof (which comes in handy at Iguazu Falls!) Despite action cameras simplicity, they are simple to carry around and work great to simply record a vacation, and — who knows? — maybe a viral video too.
As photographers say, ‘the best camera is the one you have on you at the moment.’ While a basic point-and-shoot camera or smartphone camera won’t work for super high-quality professional photos, small phones,including modern iPhones and the Google Pixel which gets rave reviews for the camera, but not as much for the phone. take pretty good photos and videos these days.
The photos on Wander Argentina’s Instagram are taken by an older model Iphone.
A great inexpensive and durable option to keep young travelers engaged is a kids action camera such as the AKASO 4K Wifi Sport Camera. The low-cost compact Polaroid cameras being produced now, such as Fujifilm Instax Mini are fun to instantly share photos with people you meet on your travels.
Just make sure to bring enough Instax Mini Instant Film, as it may be hard or impossible to find in Argentina.
Phones, Communication & Electronics
While some people purchase international phone plans at home before they leave, they can end up being a pain to set up and expensive to use. If you do want a plan, T-Mobile is the only company that doesn’t apply roaming charges. It’s less expensive and more straight-forward to just use an unlocked phone and buy a local sim card that allows you to purchase prepaid credit, and communicate with home via Whatsapp, Skype or Google Talk.
Smart phones, particularly the latest iPhones are the number one stolen item on the streets of Buenos Aires (see above for the reason). For a short vacation, as long as you don’t pull out a fancy DSLR or smartphone on the street too much, a robbery is unlikely to happen, but a good protective case doesn’t just protect it from damage, but makes it a little more low-key. Also don’t forget to turn on the Find My iphone or Google’s Find My Device service in the phone’s settings.
Any unlocked phone, world phone that supports Global System for Mobile (GSM) will work in Argentina and the rest of South America. A smaller smartphone with an AI camera such as the Huawei Mate Pro or the Samsung Galaxy take excellent photos and makes one less of a target for street robbery. Newer model iPhones (even older models) are so coveted in Argentina that flashing it too much on the street might not be a good idea but for someone making a longer trip you can sell it before leaving, because as long as you find a buyer, you will get more than you paid for it.
For travel, bring a pair of noise isolating earphones to listen to music, audio books or podcasts while in transit (it’s a looong flight!). Buenos Aires is one of South America’s loudest cities, so make sure your accommodation is quiet if you need to get some z’s, and at least bring a pair of earplugs.
Very important for Apple users is not to forget your Iphone, Ipad or Macbook charger – unless you feel like paying three times the price for a new one. Aside from official Apple products basic cables, pen drives and other computer-related products that one might have forgotten at home can usually be found at the electronics complex, Galeria Jardin on Buenos Aires’ downtown pedestrian thoroughfare, Florida Street.
Toiletries, Medications & Miscellaneous
Most toiletries you need can be purchased in Argentina, with a few exceptions. Natural products such as Tom’s toothpaste, aluminum-free deodorant and sulfate-free shampoo and conditioner are not available or hard to find here, so bring your own supplies if you prefer natural cosmetics.
The ozone is depleted over Argentina, so if you are fair-skinned or sensitive to the sun, sunscreen is imperative. Most of the sunblock available in Argentina is expensive, greasy and chemical-smelling, so you may want to bring your own brand with a high Spf such as Neutrogena Spf 45.
It goes without saying that travelers who take any medication should bring enough for their whole trip. Many medications that are prescribed in the North America, Europe and other northern countries are not commonly used in Argentina. Be sure to bring a copy of your prescription if any of your medication could be considered illegal (such as pain medication or psychostimulants used to treat ADHD) as the legality of certain medications vary from country to country.
Many non-narcotic items such as antibiotics, asthma inhalers and birth control pills are available right at the pharmacy without a prescription in Argentina, and are relatively inexpensive. Keep in mind the formula or dose may be different than your regular medication, so having a copy of any over the counter prescriptions on your phone can help the pharmacist fill your prescription.
Speaking of birth control, condoms are widely available in Argentina but there is not much variety — they tend to be small and made with thick latex. Sexually active travelers may want to consider bringing a box of their favorite brand.
Women should note that the only tampons available in most of the country (and indeed most of Latin America) do not have applicators. These applicator-free tampons are more compact for travel and better for the environment, so it’s worth it to get used to them (or better yet, get an ecologically friendly menstrual cup), but if you normally use natural bleach-free tampons or are used to a specific brand, keep that in mind and bring your own supply.
A handy travel item for guys and gals that you see a lot on the streets of Argentina is a cotton Shemagh Keffiyeh. This versatile, durable scarf popular in the middle east is also seen all over Argentina and is the kind of street-wear item that will get you mistaken for a local. It can be used as a scarf, face-protector in a windstorm, an emergency towel, pot holder, sweat rag, travel pillow or as a low-key way to conceal an expensive camera while street shooting.
Sunglasses are one of those items that if you forget them or lose them you figure you will just buy another pair on the road. The problem with purchasing sunglasses in Argentina is that the industry is not regulated, so it is difficult to know if they have ultraviolet light protection or not, even if they have a sticker that says they do. The only way to know for sure is to buy them at an optometrist outlet, but this is another one of those products that will cost much more than you would expect to pay at home. So bring your own affordable and durable UV-protection sunglasses.
Those visiting Argentina during the rainiest months (January, February, March) will want lightweight rain gear. The North Face Venture jacket is super lightweight and versatile enough that it can be used everyday, rain or not.
Fashionable women may also want to try a more stylish jacket such as the Columbia Pouration Jacket. When it rains in coastal areas (including Buenos Aires) and in the Andes Mountains, it is often a blustery downpour. Locally sold umbrellas get inverted by the wind and become useless very quick. The streets of Buenos Aires become a graveyard of umbrellas every time it rains. It’s worthwhile to bring a strong, compact windproof travel umbrella that can withstand strong gusts. Having a durable umbrella makes the difference between enjoying a jaunt in the rain while keeping dry or not. Of course you can continue to use it when you go home or pass it on to a local friend or host before you leave – practical imported items of high-quality products are appreciated gifts in Argentina when these items can’t be found locally or are prohibitively expensive.
Specialty Outdoor Gear
Travelers planning on going skiing, fly-fishing, rock climbing or doing any other outdoor activity will probably be happiest bringing their gear from home. Although you can rent ski gear, fishing poles and other sport gear, it won’t be the latest and greatest equipment.
Skiers and snowboarders who really don’t want to lug their boards or skis to Argentina may at least want to pack their own ski or snowboard boots and rent the rest of their equipment. For one, rental outlets may not have larger boot sizes and breaking in a rental boot could lead to blister city. Travel insurance is recommended for those partaking in adventure activities.
Final Travel Recommendations
Bringing nice jewelry or family heirlooms to Argentina on vacation is strongly discouraged. Locals don’t even use diamond engagement or wedding rings but prefer plain gold or silver bands, so even a diamond wedding ring can make one a target for thieves. Those wearing Rolex brand watches are also a prime target for ‘motochorros‘ (thieves who use a motorcycle to mug someone and get away quickly).
Foreigners visiting Argentina need a passport in good condition. Some visitors from less-developed countries may need to apply for a visa in advance. See the post Visiting Argentina for more on those requirements.
It’s a good idea to keep a copy of your passport, credit cards, travel insurance, and other important documents in on cloud storage so that you can access them in case you lose your things.
Cash is still king in Argentina. Those who bring USD in $50-$100 bills will find they can get a favorable rate at the bank or on the reemerging black market. These days you can withdraw pesos (not USD) from an ATM no problem, although withdrawal fees are steep. It is always good to have some cash on hand, as well as more than one credit or debit card kept for your travels. See the post Money, Credit Cards, ATM & Change for more on money matters.