I wasn’t sure what to expect when I got to Buenos Aires. It seems like a love it or hate it kind of place. The first impression I got wasn’t a good one. The view from my hotel showed lots of run down buildings and there didn’t seem like much action on the street.
Once I got out on the streets and started exploring, I slowly became impressed by the city and the people who live there. The architecture, food, barrios, parks, and interesting bits of history all came together to help me grow to appreciate and love Buenos Aires.
I flew Air Canada out of Santiago to Buenos Aires’ main international airport, Ministro Pistarini International Airport in Ezeiza. Getting through customs was a breeze. There’s also free wifi throughout the whole airport, a large duty free shop, and plenty of reasonably priced restaurants to choose from.
I should mention citizens of the US, Australia, and Canada need to pay a reciprocity fee online before going to Argentina. You can do this by clicking here. The fee depends on your nationality (I paid $160 as a US citizen), and you print the receipt and bring it with you on your trip. Once you clear immigration, at least for US citizens, the paid fee is good for ten years. Just don’t lose the printout of the receipt or some airlines won’t let you board! (UPDATE: As of March 24, 2016, US citizens no longer need to pay the reciprocity fee and can travel to Argentina freely.)
The airport is quite far from the city center and can take up to or in certain cases over an hour to get to there. I came in on a Saturday morning with no traffic and got to my hotel in a half hour. My friend Mike, on the other hand, got stuck in terrible traffic on a Wednesday morning and took 90 minutes to arrive.
The fastest way to get to the city is obviously by taxi. Taxi Ezeiza runs the official airport taxis into Buenos Aires with set fees depending on your destination. For example, I paid A$320 (about $40 USD) to get to my hotel. I paid at the Taxi Ezeiza booth just outside the baggage claim and they gave me a receipt. An attendant led me to the car and I was off to the city.
Another way is to take an airport bus. This was my first choice but I had just missed the bus and opted to take a taxi rather than wait for the next bus. The Tienda León bus service goes directly to Terminal Madero in the city center. It’s conveniently located across from Estación Retiro, a busy commuter train station in Buenos Aires, and Terminal de Ómnibus, the main long distance bus station. The ride cost A$120 at the time of writing.
There is another airport, Jorge Newbery, located in the Palermo district along the Río de la Plata. It handles mostly domestic flights, but also a few short-haul international flights, such as Brazil, Uruguay, and Chile.
Getting around Buenos Aires is cheap. The metro, called the Subte, is just A$5 per ride. It can’t take you directly to some of the biggest tourist destinations, such as La Boca or Recoleta Cemetery, but it’s easy to use and safe – just watch out for pickpockets! The cars are a bit old and worn down, however. I didn’t use the buses, so I can’t tell you about them.
Taxis are very cheap and I had mostly good experiences with them. The initial fare was A$11 and it didn’t go up much from there. For example, my group took taxis just about anywhere and never paid more than A$50 (Microcentro to La Boca). One driver took us for a ride and we ended up paying A$72 when it should have been about A$50, but between the four of us the extra US$3 didn’t make much difference. Also keep in mind you don’t need to tip your taxi drivers.
I was warned about safety in Buenos Aires. Not once did I ever feel threatened, but there were a few areas that seemed a bit dangerous near La Boca and El Centro, especially after dark. I made sure I was very careful using my camera in these areas by carrying it in a non-descript ratty old backpack at all times. In general, you have nothing to worry about.
On my first trip to Buenos Aires, I was lucky enough to be a guest of friends at the Sheraton Libertador on Av. Córdoba. This is not a place I would choose to stay at on my own, especially on a budget trip, but it was a nice change to say the least. One piece of advice if staying here – when you tell your taxi driver which hotel you are going to, make sure you tell him the street name as well. There is another Sheraton on Av. Libertador that can give the driver an excuse to rip you off by taking you there first.
On a long layover in Buenos Aires in June, I was supposed to stay at the Hostel Suites Obelisco on Av. Corrientes. Unfortunately, they gave my reservation away. They moved me to their sister hostel a few blocks away on Calle Florida. The staff was great, the room was nice and comfortable, and the location was excellent.
I don’t have much to report on regarding food. I tried to focus on steakhouses. The other restaurants I ate at were usually for quick bites. Three restaurants I can actually remember are Status, La Pérgola de San Telmo, and London City. Status had decent Peruvian food near Plaza del Congreso. Todo Mundo is located on Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo. The sandwich I had there was ok but the tango show was excellent. London City is a bakery and has a menu with a nice variety. I had a very good salad and sandwich. It’s located at the corner of Avenida de Mayo and Calle Perú.
As far as nightlife, visit Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Several locals said these areas were the place to be at night in Buenos Aires. My friend Mike and I checked them out one night and it was great. Plenty of places to sit outdoors and eat, lots of bars, and good people watching. The only thing we didn’t do was hit up a club. I also have no idea about the location. We reached it by taxi and told the driver to drop us off at Palermo Soho. I also met some Argentinian friends at the Pony Line Lounge. It’s located at the Four Seasons Hotel and it was a good time.