Blame it on HGTV. After watching numerous House Hunters International episodes, I have an extensive list of BIBTOTC (Before I Become Too Old To Care) cities that I want to visit. One of those places was Buenos Aires. It’s always been a dream of mine to sample the Malbec and tango—or at the very least watch someone who actually knows how to dance the tango—in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The city seemed exotic, and worlds away enough to blast me fresh out of Frisco, TX, and into a different reality.
Our Summer is Their Winter
Just in case you had not paid particular attention during your middle school geography class, all of the countries in South America have their winter during our summer. This is perfect timing to explore another city, and as an added bonus, you can escape the Texas heat for a while. Their winters are mild (in the 60s during the day) but can tease toward freezing at night.
The country has a developing economy where poverty is in full view. But it is also a country full of history and culture, with people who love living there and carry a sure pride for where they are from, something seldom seen nowadays.
10+ Hour Trip
So, like two runaway teenagers, my husband and I excitedly booked tickets for a parents-only trip to South America and were there (after a 10-ish hour trip) before we knew it. After dropping our bags off at hotel Palo Santo in the Palmero Region, we were anxious to explore. We came across a few gems of information that might be helpful if you plan to do the same.
Travel Insurance & Declaration of Health
If you want to go to Argentina, you must have a copy of travel insurance and a copy of a signed declaration of health. Submit an electronic sworn statement within 48 hours before departure confirming vaccination status and absence of COVID-19.
Book a Personal Guide for the Second Day
Buenos Aires is a vast city, and there are around 15 million inhabitants. With high-rise apartments everywhere you look and countless people walking the streets, going about their business, it was bustling and overwhelming. So, we were glad we had booked a personal tour guide before we got there.
On the second day, our guide brought us around the sites for six hours, taking breaks here and there for coffee, etc. We shopped with him, and he showed us where we could snatch a bargain and find the best quality leather items, of which the city is famous for. This was the best part of it for me. Without this tour, we would not have gotten a sense of the pride Argentinians have or the little pieces of historic gems we learned from our guide. We booked Dario through Viator. He was a truly wonderful ambassador for his city.
Go to Boca
La Boca is a working-class area with a plethora of attractions near the Riachuelo River. Steakhouses (I highly recommend El Gran Parisio for its food and ambiance) and street artists surround Caminito, a narrow alley flanked by brightly painted galvanized shacks that evoke the district’s early immigrant days. This is a real tourist spot. Visit La Bombonera, the region’s most well-known soccer stadium where Boca, the city’s professional soccer team plays. It’s a sight to behold. Snap a few Insta gems on the steps of the famous Caminito streets.
We had booked a tango night before we left for Buenos Aires. It cost $99 each. It was a low cost considering what we got for that: a four-course meal, a bottle of Malbec, and a tango show. It does not matter which tango show you book (and there are many). They are all good and worth every penny!
This cemetery was $14 to enter for tourists. Locals can get in for free with proof of residence. Meticulous and well-thought-out, the details on all of the graves were impeccable.
We visited Eva Perón’s grave, among others. This place is well worth a gander! These monuments (calling them graves does not do them justice) will remain intact a further 100 years, after the immediate family has died. After that, the graves are demolished, and the remains are removed. The plot is then sold to another family wishing to reside there after death.
We were lucky enough to witness the changing of the guard for the unnamed soldier buried here. But even if you do not get to see this, the church itself is spectacular and well worth spending time there. Free!
Malbec, Cafes, & Restaurants in Bueno Aires
Malbec is made and produced in Mendoza, Argentina. There are many different grapes to choose from, but Malbec is what the Argentinians drink, so “when in Rome” and all that.
You must visit Cafe Tortoni, the oldest cafe in town, where waiters serve in black ties and give old-school service. While dining, we noticed that unless you call them, the waiters will not bother you. They wait until you are settled in your seat, have a chance to look over the menu, and relax. When you are ready, you call them over to your table. Sitting in their eateries is an experience that will take you back to a less hurried time.
You will not need to rent a car. The subway is well run, very clean, and great for navigating the city. Otherwise, Uber and Cabify are extremely inexpensive. Before we went, we noticed that on Google, the advice is not to use Uber. On the ground, however, it’s a different story. Our very helpful hotel receptionist clarified that Uber and Cabify are what most locals use. Whatever way you travel within the city, all transportation is safe and extremely cost effective.
Going Back to the U.S.
When returning to the U.S., it is worth noting that there are not one, but two levels of security. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time for this. We found that shopping at the duty-free store was not worth it. There was very little to choose from, and we were glad that we had shopped in the city before our departure.
Argentina is a poor country. While we were there, the exchange rate was $1 to roughly 200 Argentine pesos. The street stalls will take American dollars, but some shops may not. The pavements are generally uneven, and there may be more litter around than you are used to seeing. But even with these small infractions, Buenos Aires is a city rich in so many ways, and totally worth getting out of your comfort zone for. I’m certainly glad we did.