Flying to Argentina is one of the most expensive part of traveling to Argentina and once you get here flights are limited within the country. Find out how to look for flight deals and tricks to air travel in a country with a burgeoning budget airline industry.
Argentina is an amazing destination, but it is literally at the ‘end of the world,’ so getting a flight here can be the most expensive part of your trip (unless you are doing something outrageous, such as an arctic expedition).
Argentina is a loooong way away from Europe, Australia and North America. Luckily for tourists ( but not for locals, unfortunately) a weak peso means Argentina is cycling back toward becoming a budget travel destination and the cost of hotels, dining out, and transportation is very reasonable compared to prices in most northern countries.
Plus, the business-friendly government is offering new incentives meant to spur tourism. Starting last year, if you book your hotel online and pay with a credit card, the 21% VAT tax will be refunded.
The Main International Airport: Ezeiza (Ministro Pistarini International Airport)
The main port of arrival in Argentina is Buenos Aires’ Ministro Pistarini International Airport (commonly called ‘Ezeiza,’ airport code: EZE). This airport services almost all the international flights to Buenos Aires from overseas.
Ezeiza is located about 45 minutes by car to the south of the city and unfortunately is not serviced by train or a metro service.
Budget Airlines Have (Finally) Arrived to Argentina
This is a good year for air travel in Argentina. The government is investing in aeronautical infrastructure and a number of budget airlines are setting up in Argentina such as the Fly Bondi, Norwegian Air, Avianca, and RyanAir. Low-cost airlines have started offering new international routes to Buenos Aires, in addition to domestic flights.
A lesser-known low-cost airline that flies to Buenos Aires is Level, which offers three uncomfortable — but cheap — flights a week direct from Barcelona.
Last year, Norwegian Airlines started offering a budget option from from London’s Gatwick direct to Buenos Aires (14 hours) four times a week for under a $1,000.
Among the other new 80 international routes into Argentina that have been granted are flights from Los Angeles, New York, Istanbul, Barcelona, Helsinki and even secondary European cities such as Kefalonia and Split. Norwegian is also trying to establish routes between Buenos Aires-Honolulu and Buenos Aires-Johannesburg, South Africa, as well as Buenos Aires-Singapore via Perth.
As it stands today, traveling between Asia or Oceania and Argentina is an ordeal that usually requires a stopover in the USA, Europe or the Middle East. (Although Qantas does offer a few flights a week between Sydney and Santiago, Chile.)
• Should you buy round trip ticket to Argentina?
Argentina has one of the highest tax rates in the world, so even those who are moving here or digital nomads looking to come for a few months should get a round trip or onward ticket to avoid the astronomical taxes purchasing the return ticket in Argentina.
If you think you might stay in Argentina longer than the maximum 180 days legally allotted on a tourist visa (with one renewal), make sure you reserve a round-trip ticket that can be changed — even if there is a fee to change the ticket, it will be less expensive than purchasing a new one-way ticket out of Argentina.
International round-trip tickets are almost always less expensive to purchase than two one-way tickets anyways.
• How to get the cheapest airline ticket to Argentina?
Despite the new low-cost options, it still costs a pretty penny to get to Argentina!
One of the best ways to save on airfare is to book a flight from a major hub and purchase any domestic tickets separately. For instance, if you are coming from Seattle, book your ticket to Argentina from a hub such as Miami and then book the domestic flight separately. Miami is the number one U.S. hub for flights to Buenos Aires and recently we’ve found round trip flights to Buenos Aires from Miami for less than $600 on Cheapo Air. Even from other large cities such as New York, Madrid or Mexico City, flights are often hundreds dollars cheaper than from secondary cities.
The same idea applies for Europe — to get the cheapest flight, buy the cheapest ticket to Buenos Aires (or Rio de Janeiro to save even more) from one of the continental hubs such as Madrid or London, and then buy the intra-E.U. ticket separately on a low-cost airlines such as Ryan Air.
Make sure to allow enough time to change flights during layovers, or to be on the safe side, break up your trip to add a few days in the layover city if time allows. Our kindred ticket outlet, Wander Air specializes in these multi-destination itineraries with long layovers.
There are online tools such as Skyscanner that allow you to see which days have cheaper fares — it’s true that dates matter, and often mid-week fares are lower.
November is known as a ‘dead zone’ in the airline industry — this is a month when flights generally cost less (except for on America’s Thanksgiving holiday). It also happens to be perhaps the nicest month during the height of spring in Argentina — so if you aren’t sure when to visit, November is a good bet cost-wise and weather-wise.
It’s not just the day of the week that you travel on that matters, but also the day you search for tickets. Most airlines tickets are sold online on Sundays, but Tuesday afternoon is the best time to shop for flights online — this is when discounted fares are released and start making the rounds in the search engines.
While some say that you should erase cookies every time you search for flights, the theory that flight prices go up every time a new search is conducted has been debunked.
The reason the cost goes up when you check the same search engine again is simple supply and demand — the tickets are being purchased, so demand is higher.
When searching for tickets to Argentina, you may notice that flights are much cheaper into Rio de Janeiro, Santiago or Montevideo. It cost more to fly into Ezeiza due to Argentina’s high taxes and strong unions.
If the savings are significant — or for someone with more time than money — it may be worthwhile to fly into one of those cities. If it’s worth the hassle, just purchase another flight to Buenos Aires separately, or even take the ferry from Montevideo.
Purchasing Tickets for Domestic Flights in Argentina
Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery, commonly called Newbery (airport code: AEP) services most of the country’s domestic flights and is a short distance north of downtown Buenos Aires, convenient for those staying in Palermo.
Those who are flying into Buenos Aires from an international destination and then immediately going to another destination will most likely have to get a transfer from Ezeiza to the domestic airport.
The El Palomar Airport (EPA) 18 km west of Buenos Aires is also now the domestic hub for the new, fledgling low-cost airline, FlyBondi, which currently serves 11 destinations in Argentina.
When booking internal flights keep in mind that domestic flights get canceled, or have delays more than anyone cares to admit, so tight itineraries should be avoided, especially on budget airlines.
Most domestic airlines allow up to a 15kg checked bag and a carry on of 8kg.
How to get the best price purchasing flights within Argentina?
To get the best price for flights within Argentina it pays to book them well in advance, either through a local travel agent or online from abroad.
This particularly holds true around Argentina’s vacation periods of December through February, Easter week and the winter holiday month of July, when prices are higher.
Since there are still relatively few internal flights within Argentina, the prices rise as availability goes down and the date of departure nears. There is not really a phenomena of ‘last-minute flight deals’ in Argentina, so plan ahead.
It is particularly expensive to fly to remote areas of southern Patagonia. While they don’t have many flights, if arranging your own travel it is worthwhile to check out the state-run Lade Airline, based in Comodoro Rividavia.
Despite excitement about low-budget airlines coming to Argentina, FlyBondi, whose motto, ‘The Freedom to Fly’ alludes to their desire to make flying more accessible here, has gotten off to a little bit of a shaky start. There have been protests by neighbors who live near the El Palomar airport, canceled flights and even an airport brawl.
Nevertheless, they are enabling many Argentines to fly the friendly skies for the first time — especially now that some domestic flights cost less than the traditional intra-country transport of long-distance buses.
Norwegian was granted permission to operate flights to 72 Argentine destinations, creating 51 new routes within the country.
Whether low-cost airlines will be successful on the domestic market remains to be seen.
As it stands, Argentina is the only Latin American country that sets a state-mandated minimum fair for flights. Only 7% of the population take internal flights — most people still rely on luxury long-distance buses for domestic travel.
Laws also require the airlines to hire only Argentine pilots. It is hoped that the restrictions, combined with other union demands and inflation won’t thwart the successful establishment of an Argentine budget airline industry.
It should also be noted that among traditional airlines, such as state-run Aerolíneas Argentinas and LATAM there is a two-tier pricing system for internal flights in Argentina.
Citizens and those who have a DNI (resident identity card) get much cheaper flights, and foreigners pay the big bucks. Some foreigners have found they can get around paying the non-resident price by purchasing flights online for the local price. See the post ‘Hacking Argentine Air Travel‘ on Gringo Buenos Aires to learn more how this works.
The main tricks are to purchase the ticket online, check-in online, and only take a carry on. It’s worth a shot for those who think rules were made to be broken, but be aware if you are busted trying to fly on the resident fare you will have to pay the difference on the spot before boarding.
The best priced-flights are booked for free for those who book trips around Argentina with Wander Argentina.
How to Search for the Best Flight
A good tool to start your search is Google Flights, which is one of the fastest airfare search engines.
This gives you an idea of the availability, airlines that fly your route, and a starting price range. You can also use the map tool on the upper left-hand pull-down menu to see alternate routes to and from nearby cities.
Skyscanner doesn’t sell tickets directly and they don’t work with every travel agent and airline. Once you spot a good deal on Skyscanner it is worthwhile to keep the tab open and check out a few other search engines to compare prices for the same itinerary before purchasing.
Here are a few alternate options:
• CheapoAir lives up to its name, with some of the best fares out there. Unlike some larger flight consolidators, they have actually have customer service if you need to call them. They also specialize in round-the-world deals for those who are doing extensive traveling.
• Jetrader is a good tool because, unlike many other search engines, their searches include budget airlines.
• Airfare Watchdog is a good tool for those who are thinking about coming to Argentina and want to get alerts for flight deals.
• Air Wander is a good search engine for those who plan to do multi-day layovers, which is a great way to break up a long trip and see an extra destination. Check out their prices for fares that include stopovers.
• Expedia sometimes has good deals, so it’s worth checking out. If there are problems, their overseas customer service can be a pain to deal with though. Don’t miss your flight with Expedia unless you love talking (and waiting) on the phone — you’ve been forewarned.
Once you’ve checked out a few different sites, you usually have a good idea of what you will be paying and which websites offer the best deals. It’s best to go ahead and pull the trigger after searching for an hour or two — if you wait the price will usually increase, and this is especially true for domestic flights within Argentina, due to its limited airline industry.
Also, buying something online that costs hundreds of bucks is stressful. It’s easy to prolong the torture searching for a few days, but, once you’ve searched in a few places, it’s unlikely that a lot of anxiety-filled hours waiting on more search results will save you enough money to make up for the time invested.
It’s also worth considering, not just the price of your airline ticket, but the value of it.
Consider the extra costs of travel transfers from far-flung airports, airport food and extra airline fees. Is it really worth saving $50 to endure a 18-hour layover in a dingy airport? Are you bringing so much luggage that you will get stuck with high baggage fees on a budget airlines, thereby defeating the purpose of buying a cheap flight? Will you earn miles and have more legroom if you take a flight that is slightly more expensive on a favored airline?
→ Wander Argentina can help arrange travel around Argentina with customizable itineraries to all the top destinations including Mendoza, Patagonia, Salta and Iguazu. Flights are arranged free of charge for those purchasing a travel package. Get in touch via our contact form to request sample itineraries.