Sunday, July 10, 2011

First days in Argentina

Again, in the informative vein of trying to help any other travellers, I wanted to finish the rest of my trip to South America. I also want to keep this as kind of an electronic diary so I won't forget the trip.

When you first fly into the Buenos Aires International Airport, you will have to pay a $140 "visa fee" if you are American. Check for other nationalities. You wait in the customs line and when they see your American passport, they will direct you to another line where to pay. They do take credit cards at least, and no, I don't know of any way around this fee.

When you exit customs, my advice is not to take a cab (especially if you don't speak the language). They have several booths right outside customs where you can book a private driver or get on a bus. I used Manuel Tiendo Leon exclusively. When I first stumbled off the plane at 6 a.m., I booked the private driver, which at about $60 was a bit pricey but I would recommend it until you get your bearings. I also got fabulous views of the city waking up. Later, I would only take the bus (a nice Greyhound style bus) to the airport (about $10) but until you know where you're going, shell out the extra $50 and get a driver.

I rented a studio apartment in the Palermo district which is very close to alot of museums and touristy stuff, as well as the Subte (subway--which at less than $.50 a ride can't be beat).

I used the rental agents ByT Argentina and have nothing but great things to say about them. They speak English and you can do the rental contract in English as well. I met the owner of the apartment I was renting and we chatted for awhile before the rep came to sign the papers.

The apartment was in a 12-story building and there was a cafe/bar on the ground floor. I can't remember the name but it's a super popular (and pricey) chain. They give free wi-fi so that was the main reason I went there. There was also Spring, one of the handful of vegetarian restaurants down ther street. The only thing I don't like is that it was buffet and kind of heavy on cheese, but a nice option.

Renting a studio or an apartment for an extended stay is definitely the way to go. I compared what I was paying with a girl in my Spanish class who was living in a hostel in not so good an area of town and we paid almost the same. Plus, you have your own kitchen and can go to the grocery store, which is named Disco, so not sure why.

You do have pay cash up front, which is the norm in Argentina but it was still scary carrying over $2,000 in cash on me from Panama!

The only downside was the superintendant lady for our building was this crazy troll who wouldn't let you hang out in the hallway (I was trying to get wi-fi) and she would give you the stink-eye when you came in. When she kind of yelled at me and friend Danielle, who had come down to visit, I had enough and complained to ByT who told the owner of the apartment. They had some words with her and she calmed down. But she would still pop out of the basement when she heard people going up the stairs, lol.

My first few days, I just settled in. BA is really a beautiful, modern city but beware the dog poo! Apparently, the idea of curbing your dos hasn't really caught on in Argentina.

I did live very close to one of the biggest shopping malls in the city, Alto Palermo and while I'm not super into shopping, did make for a cheap lunch at the food court

It's so funny when I hear people complain they don't have $ to travel and yes, I know it does cost money but there are so many ways to travel on the cheap. I don't know why people think you have to go to expensive restaurants and stay at expensive hotels. One of my coworkers is considering letting 2 weeks of vacation go to waste (we have a use it or lose it policy) because he has no one to travel with and ,he says, no money. For shame! I'm planning a trip to England in the fall and none of my hotels are over $60---many are much lower. You just have to do research.