• 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 on the 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 folk dancing from the northern regions?
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 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?
In the last couple of years Argentina’s new 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 immigrations website to see if you need a visa.
Visitors who want to extend their tourist visa after three months are up, can go to the immigration office and get a one-time 90-day extension for a modest fee. 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.
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. Aerobus Ezeiza operates Monday through Friday from 8 a.m to 6 p.m, and leaves the airport every thirty minutes. This option costs about half the cost of a taxi, with drop off in the Monserrat neighborhood at Avenida Belgrano 254.
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 is right outside the exit area of the airport. Be aware that this area of Retiro can be a bit sketchy at night or 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.
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. 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 Uber before your trip.
• 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?
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). Those who are at the level to haggle in Spanish will definitely save money at places such as the San Telmo Fair, because it’s well-known that foreigners often get overcharged for goods, especially in tourist areas.
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