What attracts many to Argentina is Patagonia and the wine, but the country has so much more to offer. Buenos Aires is full of culture, Puerto Iguazú has one of the Seven Natural Wonders, and the high-altitude desert region of Jujuy might be one of the most underrated places in South America. Here are the 10 most important things to know before visiting Argentina!
1. Bring Dollars or You’ll Find Argentina Very Expensive
This is the most important thing to know before visiting Argentina and it’s a lot to cover, so I wrote a separate article with all you need to know. Essentially, Argentina has a very unstable economy and restrictions on their citizens buying foreign currency have created a black market for dollars. The value of the dollar doubles on the black market, but you can only get this rate by changing money on the street or going to Western Union.
2. Tip the person loading your suitcase into the bus luggage storage
When the luggage guy said “cien pesos” after loading my bag, I thought he was just looking to make extra money off a foreigner. I later learned that they don’t have a salary and are completely reliant on tips. Be sure to have small bills before boarding a bus.
3. The prices of buses and flights are sometimes similar
It’s worth a shot to check flight prices before buying your bus ticket. Buses in Argentina can be very long and expensive, especially in Patagonia. The most notorious is the $95, 29-hour bus ride from Bariloche to El Calafate, where you will almost certainly pay less for a direct flight. Flight prices vary, but I paid between $35-70 for each of my flights. Aerolíneas Argentinas and FlyBondi are the two main domestic airlines.
4. Buy a SUBE card to use public transportation
5. You may not stand out as much compared to other South American countries
Argentina is a multi-ethnic country and a majority of Argentinians are of Italian descent. There is also a significant portion of the population with Middle Eastern heritage. I got asked for directions more than a few times in Argentina.
6. Argentinian Spanish is hard to understand
Even as a competent Spanish speaker, I had trouble communicating at times. I even had a couple of people tell me they don’t speak English after I spoke to them in Spanish, which was a blow to the ego. The heavy accent, pronunciation of certain syllables, and differences in vocabulary compared to other Latin American countries make it difficult to understand. It will take a couple of weeks to adjust.
7. 10% is the standard amount to tip
In Buenos Aires, the servers are more direct about this and usually write on the check how many pesos a 10% tip is. Don’t be surprised by a cover charge (servicio de mesa) added to the check, but this is almost always accompanied by bread.
8. December to February is the best time to visit Patagonia, but it’s incredibly hot in the north during these months
The long summer days in Patagonia are usually quite pleasant, except for occasional high winds. If you plan on visiting northern Argentina during this time, get ready to sweat. In Buenos Aires, Córdoba, and Puerto Iguazú it often hits 100°F.
9. Argentinians aren’t the most punctual people
South America gets a bad rap for the lack of punctuality. In other countries, I found things to be a few minutes slower, but nothing dramatic. Argentina was a completely different story, and at times I was pulling my hair out. The occasional 2-hour dinner or a long wait for the property manager to come and let you inside your Airbnb will test your nerves.
10. Argentina is famous for its wine and you can also find great craft beer in Patagonia
German immigration has led to quite the beer scene in Patagonia, most notably in Bariloche. Taprooms and beer gardens are also plentiful in the trekking capital of El Chalten. Like the wine, it’s incredibly cheap and you can get a pint for $2.
That wraps up the most important things to know before visiting Argentina! Click here to read more articles about visiting Argentina!