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 fairly volatile, so visitors should check the currency exchange rates.
• 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 in order 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 it’s Italian intonation.
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 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 are also about 200,000, mostly elderly, Yiddish speakers within the Argentina’s Jewish population.
• Other languages spoken by sizable populations in Argentina that highlight the country’s cultural diversity include Portuguese, Fujian and Taiwan Chinese, Catalan, Welsh, Okinawan Japanese, Basque, Korean, Romanian, Albanian, Russian, Turkish, Hebrew and Vlax Romani, among many others.
• Among the 15 living indigenous languages in Argentina are Guaraní, Quechua, Mapudungun, Wichí and Aimara.
• 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.
• 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 some of the most progressive in the world.
• 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.
• Today 12% of Argentina’s land and 9.5% of marine areas are natural reserves or national parks.
• Argentina’s capital is celebrated for it’s rich culture and arts scene. The Colón theater is considered one of the top opera houses in the world, and museums such as MALBA and the National Fine Arts Museum attract millions of international visitors
• 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 (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, 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 — you’ll just have to come and check it out for yourself to find out what it offers you.
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• Do I need a visa for Argentina?
In the last couple of years Argentina’s ruling administration has done away with the ‘reciprocity’ fee that was previously required for American, Canadian and Australian citizens. Now, most visitors get a free three-month visa once they land in Argentina.
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 other countries can check on Argentina’s immigration website to see if you need a visa.
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 quick day trip to Colonia de Sacramento, Uruguay or even to the capital, Montevideo for a day and get a new stamp for another 90-day visa. Those planning to stay longer in Argentina should see FAQ:Living in Argentina.
• How do I get to downtown Buenos Aires from the international 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 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. This option also 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 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.
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 usually find a better deal haggling and most of the time everything will be fine. Just don’t 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 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.
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.
• 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.
Renting a car directly at the airport is another option, but we only recommend this for experienced drivers. Check out the following post to learn about driving in Argentina.
– Do you need Travel Insurance for Argentina? – Click for a free quote see our visit World Nomads
• 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 money.
Overall, not as many Argentines as one may think speak conversational English, 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 Youtube star, Dustin Luke).
Those who are at the level to haggle in Spanish will definitely save money at places such as the San Telmo Fair, because just like in many tourist destinations, it is well-known that foreigners often get overcharged for goods, especially in tourist areas.
• Do visitors need travel insurance in Argentina?
Travel insurance isn’t required for Argentina and there is a public health system that serves everyone. Unfortunately the public health system is overburdened, so it probably is a good idea to have travel insurance. Travel insurance can also protect you in case of theft, canceled flights, lost luggage or other unexpected occurrences. Read more about whether you should get health insurance 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
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 takes place in small Patagonia town of Los Antiguos in early January
– Carnival Buenos Aires takes place all over Buenos Aires in January and February
– Carnival in Gualeguaychu is the largest Carnival celebration in Argentina. The northern city of Corrientes also has a considerable celebration.
– Chinese New Year is celebrated on the weekend closest to the correct date in early February
– ‘Vendimia para Todos‘ a 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.
– 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 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
– 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.
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