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!