If you’re getting ready for your ultra-cheap, friendly trip around Buenos Aires, hold fire until you read my 5 things you need to Get Over!
- It’s expensive
Reckon South America is cheap? Parts of it are but none of those parts are Buenos Aires. The old ‘blue market’ that meant you could buy ARS Pesos at a better rate from a dodgy man near the station than at a bank is over. The rate is not great for USD and GBP.
Eating out anywhere that looks half clean costs $2-300 pesos, sticking with one main course and a bottle of water. That’s £10-15 or $13-19 for a hot sandwich or a salad or a burger in a mid-market cafe. I know I get better value than that in London. Then again, I don’t the offerings here so well.
So if you have an expectation it’s cheap, forget it!
- Waiters and servers are rude. Ruder than Paris.
Maybe people on the street or in libraries are super sweet, but most tourists interact with waiters/servers three times a day. It’s a sweeping generalisation, but once you find somewhere to sit (often on your own steam power), you might wait 10 minutes for someone to show up with a menu and then they might well throw it down and not return until you wave. Even then they may not come back.
Prepare to do a lot of waving and forget about it.
- The noise. Whoa, the noise.
It’s noisy. Noisy on the streets, noisy in your hotel room, noisy in the room beside your hotel room.
On my first night, my hotel neighbours started a party on their balcony and in their room at 11pm. Most Porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) eat out after 10pm so this might be reasonable to a local. The party carried on until around 2.30am. Hotel reception shrugged (I imagine) over the phone, saying that the occupants weren’t old people, so of course they were having a party?
The next night, the restaurant opposite chose to put up scaffolding and start fixing their shop front at 4am. Seemed reasonable to them, but I imagine not to everyone asleep along the strip. Hotel reception shrugged, saying it’s a good time to put up scaffolding, fewer people on the streets.
Bring ear plugs, noise-cancelling headphones and a bagful of anti-shrug powder.
- Restaurants MAUL anything that isn’t beef
Buenos Aires restaurants are AMAZING at beef. Beef with salad, with fries, with tasty rice? They’re all over it. It even (sometimes) fits into the $200-300 budget.
However, almost everything else I have tried (chicken, pork, vegetarian, Mexican, salad, bread) has been utterly mauled, overcooked, wet, tasteless, meh. It’s as if there is a collective shrug to non-beef options. “Fuck it, it’s not beef. Don’t bring them a menu. Schedule some DIY for 5am”.
Prepare to eat lots of steak. Even if you’re vegan.
- Speak Spanish
I have a few phrases of Spanish and I really try to use them. If I didn’t, I’m not sure what I’d do. Elsewhere, I’ve read that most people under 35 speak some English. To be honest, they don’t. When I’ve used up all my Spanish and sweetly ask if they speak any English, it’s usually a shrug.
Those who do speak a little have been lovely, including a wonderful assistant at Movistar, the mobile phone company and Tienda Leon, the remis/taxi company.
I’m sure that people are sick of tourists (that’s how it comes across) but I guess tourism does contribute something to the economy. I reckon there’s a happy medium, where you use as much Spanish as you can and service providers at least try to be patient when sign language is used!
Prepare to learn at least a little Spanish to get by. You’ll need it.