Visiting Argentina

Table of Contents

• What is 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.

Tango definitely has a important place in the culture (and there’s a big tango tourism scene) but so does downright messy politics, soccer, rock nacional (rock and roll in Spanish), the gaucho lifestyle of the Pampas, the wine industry, the local concoction of yerba mate, literature, film, and speaking of dancing — how about Argentina’ s popular folk dancing tradition?

Culturally, Argentina is 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 is also very subjective.

The beauty of that is that Argentina is it has something for everyone.

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• Do you need a visa for Argentina?

Visitors get a three-month visa once they land in Argentina.

There used to be a ‘reciprocity fee’ required for American, Canadian, and Australian citizens. but that doesn’t exist anymore despite what the government website says five years later!

Similarly, those from the EU, New Zealand or South Africa are also not required to pay an entrance fee or apply for a visa in advance, and neither are those from most developed countries.

Those from up-and-coming countries can check on Argentina’s immigration website to see if you need a visa for your nationality.

Visitors who want to extend their three-month tourist visa can go to the immigration office and get a one-time 90-day extension for a modest fee.

A more pleasurable option is to book a day trip to Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay. to get a new ‘digital stamp’ and renew your visa.

You could even make a weekend of it and sail to Uruguay on our sailboat tour.

Another option is to go further afield and take a weekend trip to Uruguay’s capital, Montevideo.

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Is Argentina Safe?

Argentina is considered one of the safest countries in South America.

Rural areas and smaller towns are generally safe.

In big cities such as Buenos Aires, Rosario and Mendoza visitors need to have a little more care and street smarts.

There isn’t much investigation of online scams, so visitors should watch out for online scams such as fake apartment rentals and robbers who use dating apps (Argentina has had its own cases of ‘Tinder swindlers’).

The most common crimes in Argentina’s larger cities are petty crimes, such as pickpocketing, snatch-and-grab robberies of cellphones (sometimes the perpetrators are on motorcycles), and distraction crimes.

Read our post about safety in Buenos Aires to learn how the petty crime operations work, and how to hopefully avoid becoming a victim.

•Do visitors need travel insurance in Argentina?

 Travel insurance that covers Covid is no longer required for visitors to Argentina.

Travelers still may want to have travel insurance though.

See our Travel Insurance page to learn about inexpensive travel insurance options. There is no minimum amount of coverage required.

Anyone who is hospitalized or treated at a public hospital has their expenses covered by Argentina’s universal healthcare.

When the government re-opened borders to all (including the unvaccinated) in April 2022 they initially required travel insurance that covered Covid.

They wanted to avoid visitors burdening the overwhelmed public system, but it hasn’t proved to be a problem, so they removed the insurance requirement.

Travel insurance is still a good idea, especially because it can protect you in case of theft, canceled flights, lost luggage or other unexpected occurrences.

Read more on the post ‘Do You Need Travel Insurance for Argentina?’

You can also get a free travel insurance quote here or in the search box below.

• How do I get to downtown Buenos Aires from the international airport?

Whether you take a bus, shuttle or taxi from the international airport to downtown Buenos Aires upon arrival depends on your budget.

• Bus

-If you have plenty of time and not much baggage or money you can take the number eight bus right to downtown Buenos Aires. 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.

The biggest challenge with this option is that since you will probably not have an electronic smart card to board the bus unless you’ve been here before.

If they have them in stock, you can buy them in the airport terminal convenience store.

Taking the bus isn’t recommended if you have much more than a backpack because carrying luggage on a full bus is not pleasant.

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.

• Shuttle

The second most economical option is to take a shuttle service. Shuttles operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m and leave the airport every thirty minutes.

The biggest drawback to taking the shuttle is that there will be a line if several flights land at the same time.

Minibus Ezeiza operates a similar service with the same daytime hours.

Passengers are picked up at the airport import area and dropped off at Defensa St. 417, also in Monserrat.

Manual Tienda León is a 24-hour shuttle bus, which can drop you off at their office in the Retiro neighborhood (Eduardo Madero 1299).

You can call ahead or just go to their stand (which often has a line),  right outside the exit area of the airport. Be aware that the drop-off area in Retiro can be a bit sketchy at night, especially if you are loaded with luggage.

• Taxi or Private Car

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 wait outside the airport but have a bit of a reputation for ripping off customers (particularly foreigners) or being involved in crime schemes, but those who speak Spanish can try haggling.

We recommend finding an official taxi which is dropping people off in the departures area, rather than grabbing one waiting in the arrivals area.

Just be sure not to use an intermediary hanging around the taxi cue — deal with the taxi driver yourself.

As we recommend on ‘Taking a Taxi in Buenos Aires‘ be sure to choose a black and yellow taxi that has a sticker on the front windshield and back doors — this means it’s legit, and you should try to do this throughout your stay.

Ride sharing services have also come to Argentina and are another option for catching a ride from the airport, but read up on the limitations of getting an Uber from the airport before your trip.

• Wander Argentina Airport Pickup

➠ For those who don’t feel comfortable haggling for a taxi, Wander Argentina offers friendly door-to-door airport pick-up. One big advantage to our service is that we can help you change dollars for you on the weekend at the so-called ‘blue rate.’

• Renting a Car

Renting a car directly at Ezeiza airport is an option, but Buenos Aires has hectic traffic, so we only recommend this for experienced drivers. Renting at the airport is usually a bit more expensive too. (See more about renting a car below)

• Can I rent a car in Argentina?

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.

Check out the following post to learn about Driving and Renting a Car in Argentina.

• Do I need to speak Spanish?

The question of whether visitors need to speak Spanish 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 some money.

Overall, not as many Argentines as one may think speak conversational English, (in fact Italian is the second most common native language) so those who don’t speak Spanish may only befriend locals of a certain sector of society, those who work in tourism, 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 (and bonus points for those who can speak Argentina’s unique version of Spanish, like American Youtube star, Dustin Luke).

Those who are pros enough to haggle in Spanish will definitely save money at places such as the San Telmo Fair.

Argentina Basic Visitor Facts:

• Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world and the second largest in South America, after neighboring Brazil to the north.

• The Argentine peso is the official currency. It is famously volatile, so visitors should check the currency exchange rates and learn about the so-called ‘Blue Dollar.’ 

• Argentina’s capital is Buenos Aires.

Cordoba is the second largest city. Although not a huge tourist destination, Rosario, is the country’s third largest city. 

The wine capital of Mendoza is the fourth largest city in Argentina. La Plata, the capital of the province of Buenos Aires, is the fifth largest city.

• Despite its huge size of 2,766,890 square kilometers (1,068,296 square miles) Argentina is only the 32nd most populous nation in the world, with a population just under 45 million.

This makes it easy to understand why Argentina has one of the world’s most open immigration policies.

• There are eleven different climate regions in Argentina according to the Köppen climate classification system.

Argentina’s climate ranges from the humid subtropical region in the very north, to the subtropical wine-growing region of Mendoza, and the Valdivian jungle of Patagonia, down to the glacial regions of the Antarctic Peninsula.

A large swath of the country, including Buenos Aires and the pampas, enjoys a mild climate.

Otherwise, temperatures and precipitation levels vary widely throughout the country. Visitors are advised to research the specific climate of each area they plan to visit in Argentina to know what to pack.

• Argentina is a federal republic and a constitutional representative democracy. The federal government is composed of three branches: judicial, legislative and executive. 

After the Dirty War of 1976-82, in which the ruling military government killed an estimated 30,000 political dissidents, contemporary Argentines put a strong focus on human rights.

• Argentina does not have an official language but Spanish is the de facto official language.

Argentina has a unique Spanish with some unusual vocabulary, including the widely used slang, lunfardo. 

Most noticeably around Buenos Aires, Argentine Spanish is characterized by its Italian intonation, thanks to the many Italian immigrants who came to the country decades ago.

English is the most widely spoken second language, with 2.8 million English speakers in the country, although there are only 100,000 native English speakers among them.

When it comes to native speakers, Italian is Argentina’s second language, with 1.5 million Italian speakers in the country.

Many among the older generation, including Argentina’s own Pope Francis, grew up speaking Italian.

Argentina is culturally diverse. Levantine Arabic is the third most common language spoken at home in Argentina, with approximately one million speakers originally hailing from Lebanon and Syria, including the family of Argentina’s former First Lady, Juliana Awada.

• There remain about half a million German speakers among the descendants of those who immigrated to Argentina, most noticeably around the Bariloche region of Patagonia.

• There remain about 20,000 mostly elderly, Yiddish speakers within  Argentina’s Jewish population.

• Other languages spoken by sizable populations in Argentina that highlight the country’s cultural diversity include Portuguese, Fujian and Taiwanese Mandarin, Catalan, Welsh, Okinawan Japanese, Basque, Korean, Romanian, Albanian, Russian, Turkish, Hebrew, Ukrainian and Vlax Romani, among many others.

• Among the 15 living indigenous languages in Argentina are Guaraní, Quechua, Mapudungun, Wichí and Aimara.

• Argentina is famous for it’s football (that’s soccer for the Americans) and exports many excellent players.

The late Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi are the most famous footballers in Argentine history.

• Despite being famous for its soccer, Argentina truly dominates the sport of Polo and the country hosts the largest polo tournaments as well as producing the most world-class polo horses and players.

Tango is Argentina’s most popular musical export and Buenos Aires hosts the yearly Tango World Cup, but unbeknownst to most travelers, Argentine folklórica (folk music and dance) is more popular among citizens country-wide.

• Argentina was one of the first countries to legalize same-sex marriage and did so five years before the United States.

Today, there are 18,000 married same-sex couples in Argentina. Argentina’s transgender laws are also some of the most progressive in the world.

• The Catholic Church plays an important role in Argentina. Abortion remains one of Argentina’s most polarizing social issues.

Human Rights Watch estimated 40% of pregnancies in Argentina ended in clandestine pregnancy termination before it was legalized in 2020.

Although Argentina enjoys a universal public health system there was no program in place to provide contraception until 1996.

• Argentina was one of the first five countries in the world, and the third country in the Americas, after Canada and the United States, to start a national park system.

Argentina’s first national park, Nahuel Huapi National Park remains a popular destination in Patagonia. The waterfalls of Iguazú Falls in Iguazú National Park, the second national park founded in the country is another bucket list destination.

• Today 12% of Argentina’s land and 9.5% of marine areas are natural reserves or national parks.

• Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, is celebrated for its rich culture and arts scene.

The Colón theater is considered one of the top opera houses in the world and excellent museums such as MALBA and the National Fine Arts Museum attract millions of international visitors.

Contemporary art can be explored at galleries such as Fundación Proa, Fundación Amalia Lacroze de Fortabat, and at the swanky annual ArteBa Contemporary Art Fair.

Popular cultural centers with ongoing events include the La Boca neighborhood’s Usina del Arte, the Borges Cultural Center (CCB) in Galerias Pacifico, and the Kirchner Cultural Center (CCK) in the beautifully restored central post office downtown.

Underground arts in Argentina include a thriving street art scene, dynamic theater productions, electronic music and circus arts.

Argentina’s Annual Events & Festivals

There are many festivals and annual events that attract visitors to Argentina throughout the year. Argentina’s festivals include:

– The Cherry Festival, taking place in the tiny Patagonia town of Los Antiguos in early January

Carnival Buenos Aires takes place all over Buenos Aires in February

Carnival in Gualeguaychu is the largest Carnival celebration in Argentina. The northern city of Corrientes also has a considerable celebration. If you’re in the capital, there are also Carnival Celebrations in Buenos Aires

Chinese New Year is celebrated in Buenos Aires’ Chinatown neighborhood on the weekend closest to the correct date in early February

– The Vendimia, The Grape Harvest Festival is the city of Mendoza‘s largest yearly festival which culminates in late February to early March

– ‘Vendimia para Todxs‘ an alternative Grape Harvest Festival takes place immediately after the official Vendimia Festival.

Argentina’s Soccer season and championships, taking place from February-May and August-early December.

-Argentina’s Oktoberfest is in early October in General Belgrano, Cordoba

– The Buenos Aires International Festival of Independent Film in April

-The Feria de Libro, South America’s largest book fair every April

ArteBa, a high-end art show for galleries and curators in April

– The Buenos Aires Tango Festival and World Cup, which culminates in the championship in August

Ciudad Emergente, a youth festival that takes place every September

– The city of Cordoba celebrates its German population with their version of Oktoberfest in October every year.

– The Buenos Aires Jazz Festival in early to mid-November

– The Gay Pride parade, the largest in South America in early November

Buenos Aires Museum Night (Noche de los Museos) takes place in early to mid-November

– The Gaucho festival celebrating Tradition Day, the country’s largest cowboy gathering, takes place in the province of Buenos Aires the week closest to November 10

– Argentina’s professional football/soccer season runs from late January/early February until May and August until early or mid-December. —> Learn more about soccer tickets and tours.

– The Argentine Polo Open, taking place in November and December

Christmas and New Year’s are of course celebrated with great gusto in Argentina, but remember: these are summer parties. Don’t expect to see the Christmas food & desserts you are used to on the holiday spread!

Have a question? Need help arranging your trip? We can arrange trips to suit your budget, from the bare basics to a luxury vacation.

Send us your request with dates of travel, destinations and number of people in your group via our contact form and we will get back to you.

→ Check out our Day Tours and Trips in Buenos Aires

→ Book a Tango Show or Activity in Buenos Aires

→ Book airport pickup from any Buenos Aires airport online now


– Read tips on getting Flights to Argentina

Accommodation options in Buenos Aires

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