Argentina is intoxicating on many levels – from its world-renowned tango to its excellent coffee, vast otherworldly landscapes and fantastic cultural sights, many things vie for your attention in this incredible, mammoth land. Here are some things to note before your stay.
Argentines are some of the warmest and friendliest you’ll come across – with a tendency to be passionate and ever-so-slightly dramatic, they’re also generous-hearted, good-humoured, inclined to self-deprecate and very game for a laugh.
Argentina domestic flights
If you’re planning on taking domestic flights during your trip to Argentina, arrive at least two hours before take off and expect delays – flights are often cancelled and there are sometimes strikes, so it’s wise to keep a loose itinerary around flight times. The national carrier, Aerolíneas Argentinas, allows you to check in online and print boarding passes beforehand, which will help you save precious minutes and allow you to cruise past often huge check-in queues.
Driving in Argentina
Driving in Argentina is another great way to see the sights beyond the popular urban hotspots. Apart from the largest cities like Buenos Aires, there is little traffic, road conditions are good and destinatios are well signposted. Argentines drive on the right side of the road and the use of low lights is mandatory at all times. The maximum speed limits are 25mph (40kmh) in residential areas, 37 mph (60kmh) in urban areas and 74mph (120kmh) on highways. Speed checks and police checkpoints crop up occasionally, so always have your papers in order and to hand.
The peso is Argentina’s unit of currency. A ‘blue market’ operates in parallel to the official market and its rates are even listed alongside it in newspapers. It offers a higher exchange rate and traders can be found in almost every city, even in smaller towns distributors operate, although it’s advisable to change money before heading anywhere rural. To change your money on the ‘blue market’, take unmarked US dollars and change them on the street or in dedicated shops and pharmacies. US dollars and Euros are accepted in many establishments, although it’s always wise to carry smaller peso bills with you. Beware of counterfeit notes being given to you as change as this is a growing tourist scam. Credit cards are accepted in many bigger shops, restaurants and tourist attractions, although cash is king in Argentina and the best deals are found when paying with it.
Tipping is not obligatory in Argentina but appreciated as a gesture of thanks for good service and is best done in pesos. Adding 10% onto your bill for service at a restaurant is usual, a tourist bus driver can expect the equivalent of £2 as a tip, porters around £1 for every bag carried and a tour guide around £5 to £8 per day. Tipping taxi drivers is not required or expected, although it’s considered polite to round up to the nearest peso.
Argentina is a nation of night owls and most restaurants open from 8pm, with locals not eating until 9pm or 10pm as standard. Tap water is not served in restaurants, water is always bottled and paid for. The nightlife is legendary in most cities with bars open until the morning, but not much else – late nights lead to slow starts and you’ll often find nothing open until after 9am.
While Argentina is one of the safest countries in Latin America, pickpockets do abound in busy areas of Buenos Aires and other cities, and areas like transport hubs, buses, subways and shopping markets are popular with opportunistic criminals. Avoid wearing expensive jewellery or watches that will draw attention to you, be discrete with electronics like phones, laptops and cameras, and if you carry a bag, secure any pockets or openings and keep it close to you at all times.
Must sees in Argentina
An Argentinian holiday is a dreamlike stay filled with wonderous experiences – whether it’s seeing the icy turquoise glacier of Perito Moreno; letting loose at glamorous parties in Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world; viewing spectacular wildlife at the Valdes Peninsula in Patagonia; or watching the fiery tango danced in the historic neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires. Give your heart to Argentina during your stay and there’s a good chance it’ll be captured forever.
- Entry to the country’s many beautiful national parks must be paid in Argentine pesos only – US dollars and credit cards are not accepted.
- If your trip to Argentina includes a jaunt to Patagonia, it’s essential to pack the right clothes and equipment – include both waterproof, breathable and thermal items that can be layered, as you’ll often experience all four seasons during one hiking trip. Good quality hiking boots, sunscreen and a sunhat and a decent-sized hiking back to carry essentials for your adventure are also a must.