Buenos Aires – An ‘It’s A Beautiful Life’ Guide

I visited Buenos Aires for the first time over December and January, 2010.  In a word – Amazing!

How I got there and how I made my moves:

I booked my trip with Azzurro Travel 800-835-8234.  My agent, who is also the owner of the agency, did me solid!  Great service and was able to answer all of my questions with a smile, even when I was being a “I’m about to get on a plane for 13 hours” pain in the ass.  Flight path – Raleigh, NC -(2hrs)-  Maimi, FL -(3hrs)-  Mexico City, MX -(13hrs)- Buenos Aires, AR  (Same path on the way home) $659.24 Tickets + $202.16 Tax/Fees = $861.40 Total

**As of January 1st, 2010 Argentina has installed a reciprocal entrance fee for US citizens – Cost $131 Click here for embassy information.

A weekend trip to Mar Del Plata was lovely and just the right distance.  Many reviews suggested that the train was subject to frequent theft, so I opted for the bus.  I bought tickets the day before at the Retiro Terminal during the peak of high beach season with no troubles.  The 5.5 hour ride took place in a great big EZ chair style seat that reclined to sleeping position (I could even stretch out and I’m tall) and they gave out snacks and water at the start.  Sweet! Cost – $46 round trip

Getting around was easy in taxi’s and the fare was almost never more than $5.  The only time I really got burned was on the ride from the airport, as it should have been about $30 and I paid closer to $70.  Read the guides here and here on how not to be Mr. Magoo.  The Subte (Subway) was good for the places I was visiting, but may have proved to be a bit inadequate had I been traveling to other parts of the city -$.80/ride.

I like to ride bikes, but it was like pulling teeth to find a decent used one for under $100.  I found ‘Blue Thunder’ for $60 on Craigslist, but it needed a couple wheels ($20) and the bike shops were a thorn.  I found it fun to ride the town, but a lot of the side streets are cobble stone and the drivers could care less that you exist.  All in all, pretty dangerous and exciting just the same.

Miscellaneous musings:

I brought cash (US Dollars), but also a few American Express Travelers Cheques.  They are good measure when traveling abroad, but ultimately unnecessary this go round.  The only place to cash them that I am aware of is the American Express office.  They close at 3pm and it was crowded.  Don’t forget your passport.  ATMs proved to be the best resource for getting money.  The bank charged me $1.50 and my bank (Bank of America) charged me $5.00 “International Fee”.

Couchsurfing.org was an incredible resource for finding other travelers to do things with.  The Buenos Aires ‘group’ within the site is the most active of all the city groups globally.  Free or $25 Donation to be verified..bonafied 😉

I bought a simple Nokia phone and went with a Personal pre-paid option to stay connected.  I found a local gal to record a voice mail message on my phone instructing callers to text instead of leave voice mail, as I had trouble understanding the dialect and texts were unlimited and free.  Phone – $40 Pre pay SIM Card – $5

**Note for future travels – It would make more sense to travel with a wifi equipped phone and use public wifi than to purchase and deal with a local cell phone.

I spent almost my entire trip in Palermo, Recoleta, and San Telmo.  It was safe, friendly, and easy to get around.

Where I hung my hat:

El Sol Hostel – Beautiful old building with dorm, shared, and private rooms in central Recoleta. $12/night

Rented a room with a local couple via Craigslist on the cusp of Palermo and Recoleta on Avenida Santa Fe for 3 weeks – This proved to be a wonderful choice over living alone, as they were connected to the city and wonderful company. $500

Urban Suites – New, modern boutique hotel beside Recoletta Cemetary. $120/night via priceline.com

Hotel Peninsular – Remodeled, chic, and family owned boutique hotel + restaurant about 4 blocks from the beach in Mar Del Plata. $50/night

Ostinatto Hostel – Redone, modern hostel with dorm, shared, and private suites. $21/night

Where my boots went a walking:

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) – Incredible modern art museum. $3 – 3 hours

El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) – This place was great for a lazy day.  BIG open galleries for the permanent collections and a wonderful visiting exhibit. Free – 3 hours

Recoleta Cemetary – Unreal.  They say that is cheaper to live an extravagant life than be buried here. Free – 1.5 hours (could spend 3 hours)

Club Champagnat – A wonderful rugby club with beautiful grounds and club members that are superb.  Priceless – 1 full day

Parana & Tigre Delta – Sailing and relthing galore. Priceless – 1 full day

Reserva Ecológica – Huge, vast nature preserve on the edge of the city.  To big to walk, I put a tons of miles on my bicycle getting around this baby. Great for picnics and reading. Free – 1/2 day

Puerto Madero – A bit commercial for my tastes, but worth visiting..it’s right beside the Reserva Ecologica and a stroll on the water front is delightful. Free 1/2 day

Jardín Botánico – Public botanical gardens. Great for reading/writing and watching lovers of all ages convey their passion.  The PDA police would’ve had their shorts in a tight.  Free – 1/2 day

El Ateneo Grand Splendid – The book store to end all book stores.  What was an amazing theater in the 1920′s is now the most beautiful book store i’ve ever visited.  The old stage is now a cafe, with wifi 😉 Free to browse/Coffee – $2 – 6 hours

San Telmo Market – Every possible curiosity you can imagine is sold here.  From Spanish yoga books to brass boat lanterns to feather dusters.  Great street performers. Free – 6 hours

Sivananda Yoga – Spanish taught classes in a small, but comfortable studio. Free on Saturday’s @ 5pm – 90 minutes

El Fango Taller de Alfareria – Small, intimate clay sculpting studio.  Totally hands on.  $12 – 4 hours x 3 (to paint and kiln)

Additional Resources:

U.S. Department of State – Argentina Country Specific Information

Wikipedia – Buenos Aires, Argentina

WikiTravel – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Turisimo Buenos Aires – Official Tourism Site of the city of Buenos Aires

“…I enjoy BA not just because of its beauty, affordability, food, wine, carino, dancing, music, night life, intelligent conversation, ease of transportation, and the excellent relationship with family.  I very much also love the City because it’s like getting two days for the length of one.  It’s a lifetime-extender. …” – Bernie Dworski Alexandria, VA