I had 4 days in Buenos Aires before I had to meet the rest of the Expedition team! I had booked a dorm at the Art factory hostel and was pretty excited about my first international hostel experience. I used to be someone who could never share my personal space with others (specially strangers) but over this last year as I’ve travelled I’ve learnt to let go a bit.
I reached the airport and had been warned by people that cab drivers often try to scam you while you’re leaving. Thankfully I had planned to take the bus into the city. The airport is about an hour away from the city (So incase you’re travelling here – plan your travel to and from the airport wisely!)
I arrived at the hostel to find cheerful staff members and extremely colorful walls! A bright and spacious common room is always a plus point for hostels! The only downside was the tiny bathroom! Luckily I spotted a large bathroom on the ground floor which I conveniently used for the next 4 days!
The great thing about hostels is that they always advise you on the things to do and are always updated with city happenings! The day I arrived they had free tango lessons at night in the hostel itself. When I say “free” it means that these lessons/classes work on tips/donations – you give however much you want to at the end of the class. There are a lot of such tours and classes in Buenos Aires! Im glad I went for that class despite having two left feet because that’s where I made my first three friends. One of them was Jessica – she has been travelling for the last 8 months and we hit it off instantly! We hung out together for the next few days. Her stories about sky diving in Australia, visiting temples in Cambodia and Road tripping in New Zealand were so fascinating! Definitely a travellers dream come true!
Quick/fun facts about Argentina (specifically Buenos Aires) for anyone travelling here soon! And some important information!
1) Money! The currency used in Argentina is called “Pesos” its better to carry US dollars and get a little exchanged at the airport. The rate at the airport might be higher than other places! There are lots of places in the city where you can get money exchanged but be careful of counterfeit notes! Its best if you ask your hostel or hotel to give you the name of a legit place to change money. I changed mine from a roadside vendor and got the best deal in town (1USD = 16 Pesos) and didn’t get counterfeit notes!! Got super lucky
2) Brush up on your Spanish before heading down there! The number of people who speak and understand English is extremely less. So instead of wasting time getting frustrated and trying desperately to use Google translate – learn a few basic words and phrases and you’ll have a more pleasant experience! By the end of my two weeks I could understand a lot of words, numbers and even recognized words on signboards! Duo lingo is a great app to learn different languages!
3) If you’re a vegetarian then good luck! This country thrives on meat (Carne) – Beef, Pork, Chicken (Pollo) and for vegetarians the options are next to nothing. If you’re Vegan then its even more difficult! Imagine a vegetarian reading a Spanish menu and not knowing or understanding a word of Spanish! Its not the best situation to be in. Learn how to tell the server that you are vegetarian in Spanish and get ready to get cheese and bread for the rest of your trip!
4) Before heading to Argentina I was repeatedly warned about petty thefts and scams so I tried to be extra careful. Make sure you take off all flashy rings, bracelets and watches. Don’t walk around with fancy cameras or phones in your hands (specially in the La Boca neighbourhood)
5) The above point being made – I found most locals friendly and helpful. Some would of course turn away because of the language barrier but more or less they tried to help! So don’t be shocked or surprised when locals lean in to give you a kiss on the cheek. It’s a part of their culture. It’s how both men and women greet each other and its just one kiss (unlike the European style of kissing both cheeks)
6) You’ll see people constantly sipping out of cups. They’re drinking something called “Mate” it’s a local herbal tea that contains Caffeine. The tea leaves are soaked in boiling hot water and left there after which the tea is sipped through a silver straw called Bombilla. If you see a local person without Mate in their hands something is definitely wrong!!! What I really liked about this drink and the style of drinking it was that they used re usabale cups and straws. The one time use and throw culture which is so prevelant in the States as well as the UK has not yet come through here as yet! And thank god for that – can you imagine the number of straws and cups that would be thrown every single day!
7) Tango! If you dance this dance form then you’ll be in heaven. A dance form said to have been brough in by the immigrants back in the day is a well respected and highly powerful medium of expression in the country today. If you don’t dance (like me) you can always go and take classes and go to watch perfomances. There are Milonga (Milongas are informal/ formal evenings where people come to show their Tango dancing skills) every evening but make sure you read up on the codes of conduct – you don’t want to find yourself in the middle of the dance floor with an experienced dance partner and make a total fool out of yourself!
8) The walls of the city are covered in Graffiti and these aren’t just random pieces of art work. A lot of them have deep meaning behind them and the graffiti tours are worth going for if you want to understand the history and meaning behind these various pieces of art.
Apart from these fun and interesting things I noticed – The city is an extremely lively place. Football is considered a religion in the country and even though I couldn’t catch a match this time it’s definitely on my list of things to do next time. The city has different neighbourhoods each with their own personalities and characterisitics and each worth a visit. While its okay to explore different pockets of the city during the day – make sure you stay in a good one as it can always get a bit risky at night. I stayed in San Telmo which is said to be the backpackers paradise with all the shops and cafes lined up along the streets.
Read my next post to see how I spent my first 4 days in the city!
Exploring eating and experiencing!!