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Buenos Aires like a Local

When I first announced I was moving to Buenos Aires, people got so excited! General consensus seemed to be that it’s a beautiful, awesome city, and that many people would love to live there. “It’s one of the few international cities I could see myself living in,” one travel writing friend told me.

It IS a beautiful, awesome city, but after three months of living in the city, I’m not so sure I’d pick up and move here permanently. Argentina is a difficult place to live for a lot of reasons (see: inflation, absurd import taxes, ridiculous bureaucracy etc.). For a few months, awesome, for a lifetime, no thanks.

That being said, I can definitely put the experiences of the last few months to good use and share with you my wisdom on how to enjoy Buenos Aires like a Porteño (a local).

Rent an Apartment

If you’re going to be in the city for at least a week I strongly recommend renting an apartment. You won’t regret it. Hostels in Buenos Aires are overpriced and not very nice. Two people can rent a very comfortable studio apartment for a week for nearly the same price. You may even save money since you’ll have the ability to cook your own food. Eating out in this city is crazy expensive.

More importantly, renting an apartment will give you a local experience you might not otherwise get. You’ll be in a neighborhood, all the better for establishing your local bakery, wine store and pizza place. Your experience will be influenced by the area you stay in: most expats and visitors find places in pricey Palermo or working class San Telmo, but we thoroughly enjoyed living in Monseratt, near the city center.

Forget Healthy Living

Argentinian food can be really delicious, but healthy it is not. Forget salads as you once knew them (anything other then limp lettuce, tomatoes and onions with a little bit of oil). On the off chance you do see a local tucking into a salad it’s most likely been drenched in salt (I am not exaggerating, I once saw a woman pour salt into her salad for 5 seconds straight).

It’s not worth it. So spend your time eating pizza, pasta, ham and cheese sandwiches and meat. Lots of meat. It’s not the healthiest existence, but if you can survive, it’s pretty tasty. Especially that meat, everything you’ve heard is true. SO good.

Load Up on Ice Cream

As an addendum to the last point: Argentines have a major sweet tooth. No, I don’t know how everyone in the country isn’t morbidly obese.

In the past I’ve covered alfajores and mentioned the amazing pastries, but the real dessert highlight here is the ice cream. It’s amazing. I could eat it everyday, and while that’s not really saying much, I bet you could too.

You’ll find a decent ice cream shop on nearly every street corner in the city. These places don’t kid around either: we’re talking 30+ flavors (probably 10 different kinds of chocolate alone). Mike and I usually split a quarter kilo which allows us to try three different flavors. Whatever you pick, you will want to try at least one kind of dulce de leche.

Drink Your Mate

As I mentioned before, mate is more than just a beverage here, it’s a way of life.

Hoard Your Small Change

A funny quirk of Argentina’s weird currency issues is that any and all coins are treated as more precious than gold. This is because the bus system, incredibly cheap and efficient, only accepts coins, yet for some reason there are way too few in circulation.

Why don’t they just make more coins? Hell if I know. But if you’re lucky enough to receive some hold on with all your might.

Don’t Sit on the Grass

I know it looks inviting but that grass is not for you! No unless you want to get chewed out by a whistle blowing security guard.

 Catch a Demonstration

Porteños love love love to get riled up. In the time we’ve been here there have been at the very least biweekly political marches going on on the street outside our window. s I type this now I can hear drums beating outside. What are they protesting? Whatever you’ve got: pro-government, anti-government, communism, anarchism, peronism (link). There was even a fairly massive, somewhat destructive one having to do with kids needing more buses.

 

If you’re here for any length of time chances are you will stumble across some sort of demonstration. They are big, loud and usually totally shut down the cities public transportation system. However they are generally peaceful and nothing to be alarmed about. That is as long as you…

Don’t Mention the Falkland Islands

First of all, they are called the Islas Malvinas over here and don’t be caught referring to them by their “colonial name”. I won’t go into the long drawn out and convoluted history, but I will say that the Argentineans are still very irate over Britain’s possession of the Falkland Islands. In dumb layman’s terms think of it as equivalent to China’s obsession with Taiwan. Better to just not get into it.

On that note I haven’t heard of any aggression or issues for British tourists to Argentina but I would definitely be aware.

Worship at the altar of Futbol

Like much of Latin America, soccer is more than just a sport here, it’s almost a religion. Locals are extremely loyal and extremely proud and passionate about their team. There are clothing, songs, an entire culture surrounding your team.

 

Actually attending a game can be a bit of a challenge. If you want to see Boca Jr. play, as we did, you will need to take a tour (not very local, I know). Tickets are only available to club members so a your can help you skirt that requirement. The games themselves are loud and crazy affairs full of singing, chanting and (if things go wrong) crying.

 

 

So there you have it, just a few guidelines to help you enjoy wonderful Buenos Aires. While I’m ready to move on for now, I have enjoyed my time here pretending (failing) to be a local. I’m moving on for now but I’m sure I’ll be back, if for nothing else but to eat some more amazing steak!

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24 Responses to Buenos Aires like a Local

  1. John of Travel Rinse Repeat April 15, 2012 at 9:42 AM #

    I loved the ice cream in Buenos Aires….I found a great spot in San Telmo where I’d get a cone of dulce de leche ice cream almost everyday.

  2. Terri April 15, 2012 at 11:36 AM #

    Just got back from Buenos Aires, and I totally hear you on all of these. I would add that it’s a little hard to get used to the later dining times as a North American. Also B.A. needs some serious pooper scooper laws. There is so much dog feces on the sidewalks, especially near parks. I was in a state of perpetually being full of food in Argentina. Seriously.

  3. Christine April 15, 2012 at 11:52 AM #

    Don’t know if I could give up salad that long but I’m totally on board with the sweet tooth part 🙂

  4. Camels & Chocolate April 15, 2012 at 12:02 PM #

    THAT ICE CREAM. Oh my Lord.

  5. Dave April 15, 2012 at 12:15 PM #

    The ice cream is definitely the best I’ve had in South America, by a long shot. My favorite so far is Dulce de Leche Granizado. Soooooo good.

  6. Hogga April 15, 2012 at 1:15 PM #

    I think I’ll just pack up my life and more there… the ice cream did it lol.

  7. Alexa April 15, 2012 at 4:07 PM #

    You’re absolutely right! They’re all so true. The coins issue should be getting better since they’ve introduced those pre-paid cards that you can use on some buses, but maybe that’s not taking off as much as I thought it would. Great post overall!

  8. Heather Stearns April 15, 2012 at 9:28 PM #

    Buenos Aires is on our list of long-term travel destinations so when we go there, we’ll be well prepared. Thank you! My husband is an ice cream aficionado so once I tell him about this post, he’ll want to get going immediately.

  9. Maggie April 15, 2012 at 9:44 PM #

    I thought I would lose a little weight on my rtw trip. And then I hit Buenos Aires and started packing on the pounds. I totally blame the ice cream.

  10. wftristan April 16, 2012 at 4:42 AM #

    Argentinian food is amazing – I have never been to Argentina but I did live near one of Londons best Argentinian restaurants in Battersea. this is going on my Bucket List.

    Tristan

  11. Audrey | That Backpacker April 16, 2012 at 10:38 AM #

    SO TRUE about the protests! I wasn’t even there for that long during my last visit, but I came across several. They sure like to hit the streets with their drums, banners and firecrackers. 😉

    p.s. When I went to school in Argentina as a kid I was taught that the islands belonged to us – this stuff was in the textbooks! You could imagine my surprise when I left the country and learned otherwise! HAHA

  12. Jenny April 16, 2012 at 11:03 AM #

    I can’t wait to hit Argentina. Thanks so much for sharing your experience!

  13. Laura April 16, 2012 at 11:05 AM #

    Not sitting on the grass… it reminds me of Germany. I would love to go to Buenos Aires one day and that ice cream looks amazing!

  14. Elizabeth Bird April 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM #

    Wow. This post really made me want to visit Buenos Aires. Sounds like you are having a ton of fun!

  15. Verge Magazine April 16, 2012 at 3:15 PM #

    It makes me so sad to hear that you can’t sit on that pristine green grass! (It is also super weird about the currency. I feel like that’s the case in a number of countries, though–either there’s not enough coins or there’s not enough of a particular bill. Even in Canada, $10 bills seem harder to come across.) Great post.

  16. Runaway Brit April 16, 2012 at 6:54 PM #

    You are so right about the food. I honestly didn’t like steak until I tried in Argentina! Plus the small change thing really is a complete NIGHTMARE!!

    And when it comes to the Malvinas, I have the misfortune of bearing the surname Thatcher 🙁 Thankfully on the times when I handed over my passport they merely grimaced but mainly refrained from commenting!!

  17. Natalie T. April 17, 2012 at 6:26 PM #

    1. Where is that ice cream from? 2. Falkland Islands? REALLY?! Random. Great tips. You’re right. I’m excited. A lot of people I know are very interested in going to Buenos Aires (including myself!). Just gotta save up those funds. 🙂

    • Steph April 17, 2012 at 10:42 PM #

      I think that particular ice cream came from a Cremolatti on Belgrano, but really, you can’t go wrong anywhere with the ice cream. It’s ALL amazing.

      And yeah, the Falklands… I can’t even understand why they care SO MUCH but they really, really, really do.

  18. Kate April 19, 2012 at 10:37 AM #

    Just getting an apartment is indeed better than hostels if one is planning to stay longer in a place.My friend Tom did it in Phuket and he was planning to stay in one in Kenya as well but missed his flight due to China airport regulations. Oh well. Enjoyed the BA post and that there’s tons of meat and ice cream (not mixed, I hope). Perhaps I might try renting an apartment route and staying and getting to know a place. Reading this entry sounds like it’s a lot of fun

  19. lilo May 6, 2012 at 8:48 PM #

    Buenos Aires and Argentina is full of paces where everybody sits on the grass. It’s rare that some park or square doesn’t allow to sit on the grass.

  20. matthew September 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM #

    Thanks for your comments. I read many blogs from foreign visitors to argentina, mainly from the US…and i cant get over the way you guys in general seem to observe argentina. it may be cultural. i agree with your views but at the end of the day, dont you have protests in the US to catch? you have one of the highest level of obesity in the world, your food isnt that healthy neither unless you are educated and wealthy enough to get it.
    i say all this with respect.
    i dont know your knowledge of argentina, or south america in general, since your connection with latin america is mainly thru mexico.
    if you knew a bit more than the cliche history, if you had some world knowledge, then you would get a different analysis of this country…
    it’s just my 2 cents.

    greetings from melbourne.

    • Steph September 7, 2012 at 12:36 PM #

      My analysis of the country comes from living in Buenos Aires for months and from talking to my boyfriend’s family, who have lived there for decades. The point of the article isn’t to compare Argentina to the US, it’s simply to portray what it’s like to be there- maybe not as a local you’re right, but at least as an expat.

      If I wrote about how to experience DC (my hometown) like a local, it would probably involve a lot of observing politics at work as well.

  21. yenny January 31, 2014 at 9:13 PM #

    where do locals find their apartments??

    • Tatiana September 22, 2015 at 6:37 PM #

      Hi, Jenny. If you are interested in finding temporary rental places in Argentina, I can offer you some advice. Check out my website for more info!

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