Your Trip to Argentina: The Complete Guide

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People come to Argentina for romance. Those in love with nature head to Patagonia for the unabated quiet of trekking around blueish-emerald lakes, surrounded by the majesty of hanging glaciers and mountains. Others, in love with the past, travel here to sit in the cafes of Borges or dance tango in a milonga. Those who love the wine come to bike around the hills of Mendoza, and vineyard hop, sipping on malbec along the way. The country has a charm unlike anywhere else. While many of its residents are known for being blunt and unafraid of debate, Argentines are also just as likely to share a mate (a loose-leaf highly caffeinated tea) with you and invite you to their family’s asado. Somehow being here will feel foreign and familiar all at once, and the intrigue of that will likely make you return, again and again.

Planning Your Trip

  • Best Time to Visit: Go in the spring (September through November) for lots of sun and balmy temps. This season is the perfect time for hiking and whale watching, or on the flip side, exploring Argentine cities by foot without heavy humidity.
  • Language: Spanish.
  • Currency: Argentine peso, though U.S. dollars, Euros, or Brazilian reales are sometimes accepted at businesses that tourists frequent.
  • Getting Around: In Buenos Aires, the Sube (subway), is quick and cheap, when there aren’t delays. In other cities, light rails or public buses will be the best option. In the countryside, self-driving or booking a remis (charter car) is the norm.
  • Travel Tip: Being late is culturally acceptable. If you are meeting an Argentine for lunch or coffee, plan on showing up about 10 minutes past the agreed upon time. If you are going to a house party (not a dinner) at night, it’s common to arrive at least an hour late.

Things to Do

Hike Argentina’s rugged mountains, cheer on a team at one of its soccer games, dance its sensuous tango, and write your memoirs in its cafes. Ski or snowboard down Patagonia's peaks, see penguins in Tierra del Fuego, or stand on top of the magnificent waterfalls of Iguazu. Explore its petrified forests or traverse the wilderness of the Gran Chaco. If you prefer indoor activities, check out a circus show, go to a concert at a cultural center, or go thrift store shopping, all in Buenos Aires.

  • Go to a national park for trekking, birding, or swimming. Los Glaciers is one of the most famed for its views of Mounts Torre and Fitz Roy, in addition to the moving Perito Moreo glacier.
  • Watch a soccer game. Whether you go to a match or watch one in a bar with a riled-up crowd, you’ll have good time, this is the land of Maradona after all.
  • See a tango show. In Buenos Aires, you can see several for free in Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo, or on Caminito in La Boca. However, if you want a show over dinner and a tango class before, try one of the companies that specialize in this, like Piazzolla Tango.

Find more city-specific activities with our articles on things to do in Buenos Aires, things to do in Mendoza, and things to do in Bariloche.

What to Eat and Drink

Argentina is known for meat, wine, and mate. To have the most traditional Argentine experience of meat eating, go to an asado (the Argentine version of a barbecue). Types of asados differ throughout the country, while Porteños will stick to steaks and choripans, those in Patagonia do asado al palo, lamb grilled on an iron cross. Argentines have their own version of pizza and take great pride in their ice cream, a product of its large Italian diaspora. There are many vegan and vegetarian options in the cities, but the countryside might be difficult for those wanting well-balanced meals without meat.

While micro-breweries have popped up in recent years throughout the country, wine and mate are the go-to drinks. (It’s harder to purchase bad wine than good wine here.) Low-cost brands like Bravo and Alma Mora are decent and can be purchased at grocery stores for the peso equivalent of just a few dollars. Try the spectrum, from the super pricey to the super cheap to find your favorite while here. Mate, a loose-leaf highly caffeinated tea, can be purchase at any grocery store. You will need to have a bombilla (filtered straw) and a mate gourd on hand to drink it (also available for purchase at grocery stores). Check with your host or hotel though to see if they provide these to guests for free. If you’re feeling friendly and walk by a group of Argentines drinking mate, simply ask them for a sip and they will mostly likely share it with you.

Llamas in the high desert
Kathrin Ziegler / Getty Images

Where to Stay

Argentina is the eighth largest country in the world and the second largest in South America. Where you stay will depend greatly on what you want to do and what time constraints you have. If you will be here for several months and want to see different parts of the country, base yourself out of Buenos Aires as you can fly most anywhere domestically from here and have several airport and bus carrier options. Those focused on hiking in Patagonia should stay in El Chalten if they want a small village vibe and serious trekking, while those wanting some trekking but also more amenities, like delicious chocolate shops, should go to Bariloche. However, if wine is your thing, plunk yourself down in the hills of Mendoza.

Explore the top places to visit in Argentina and our recommendations on the best hotels in Buenos Aires.

Getting There

By far, the most popular airport in Argentina is Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza Airport, with 85 percent of the flights in the country coming and going from EZE. If you fly into Argentina, you will most likely fly into Ezeiza, however, that’s not the only way to travel if you’re already in South America. Many long-distance buses come from Chile, Paraguay, Brazil, and Bolivia. For those coming from Uruguay, the ferry is the most popular way to reach Argentina, via the shores of Buenos Aires.

  • Ministro Pistarini International Airport (Ezeiza): best for flying internationally in general.
  • Jorge Newbery (Aeroparque) Airport: second largest airport in Buenos Aires, good for flying from Uruguay.
  • Malvinas Argentinas Ushuaia International Airport: a very small international airport, good to fly into for cruises to Antarctica.

Culture and Customs

Argentines don’t like people referring to themselves as Americans. Instead, they use the term “estadounidense,” literally translated to “United Statesian.” If you refer to yourself as an American, you might get a short lecture in Spanish, especially if you find yourself outside tourist circles here. To avoid this, simply say you are from the United States ("Soy de Los Estados Unidos") when asked about your nationality.

People eat dinner very late here, generally around 10 p.m. (and consequently, many things do not open until 10 a.m. in the morning). In Buenos Aires, a typical timeline of a night out might be dinner at 10 p.m., bar at 12 a.m., and arrive at the club at 3 a.m. until 6 a.m. Also, do not expect to easily find spicy food here, like you would in other Latin American countries. Argentines typically avoid spice. While restaurants with spicy food do exist, it is usually the ones selling foreign and not Argentine cuisine.

You do not have to tip all the time in Argentina, but a 10 percent tip will be very much appreciated if you do. If you go to a fancy restaurant, hire a tour guide, or participate in an activity primarily tourist-oriented, you should definitely tip 10 percent.

Money Saving Tips

  • Exchange money for the blue market rate (the unofficial rate), as you will sometimes get double your money. Bring dollars or euros with you to exchange in denominations of 50 and up. You will get a better rate here than in your home country and money changers give an even higher rate for larger denominations.
  • Wire yourself money via Western Union. You will get about the same rate as the blue market rate, and it is more secure than going to a blue market money exchange house.
  • In Patagonia, hitchhike. It’s very common and great for getting between mountain towns or to rock climbing spots.
  • Camp when you can. If no campsites are in an area, check with a hostel to see if they will let you pitch your tent on the property.
  • Sometimes it will be about the same price or cheaper to take a budget flight compared to a long-distance bus.
  • Buy a Sube card to ride the subway or take buses. These cards can be used in Buenos Aires and throughout the rest of the country.
  • Go to museums on Wednesday when they are free.
  • Check the websites of different centros culturales (cultural centers) for free concerts, art exhibits, and classes of all kinds.
  • Water from the tap is okay to drink. Most restaurants will give you a glass of tap water if you ask for it. You don’t have to buy a bottle of water, unless of course you want it the Argentine way: "con gas" (aka sparkling).
  • You can make a filling and cheap meal out of several empanadas or a choripan (sausage sandwich). Also look for "comida por peso" restaurants, where you can pay for take-out food by its weight.
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