Don’t cry for Argentina; take pictures instead

Argentina, the eighth largest country in the world by land mass, has a bit of everything: thick jungles, deserts, mountains, vast plains, and glaciers. Its capital Buenos Aires has been called the “Paris of South America” with good reason since it boasts a broad array of cultural activities and European style architecture. Fine wines, gorgeous waterfalls, and a train trip into the clouds await you on this fine vacation.

Getting in and out of Argentina

As far as visa and passport requirements go, entry into Argentina is fairly simple. You do not need a visa for stays of up to 90 days; a valid passport that remains valid for the duration of your stay is all that’s necessary. You will have to pay a fee of $160 for entry into Argentina, however. This is called a reciprocity fee since the US charges a similar fee for Argentinian travelers to come to the US. It’s best to pay for this fee before you travel there and make copies of your receipt, which you will need to show upon arrival in Argentina. The good news is this reciprocity fee is good for ten years and covers multiple entries into the country.

Popular cross border excursions into Brazil and Paraguay at favorite tourist spots such as Iguazu Falls require that you get an entry visa into Brazil or Paraguay in advance. With this in mind, plan accordingly if you wish to take trips across Argentina’s borders.

There are no currency restrictions for entry or exit, and while there are no required vaccinations, you should consult with your doctor about any vaccinations that would be appropriate for your plans. Some of the more common vaccinations that Center for Disease Control recommends are the Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccines. It might be advisable to take vaccinations for Hepatitis B, Malaria, Yellow Fever, and Rabies. The need for these is based upon what parts of the country you plan on visiting and what activities you plan on doing.

Electrical outlets in Argentina differ from what you will find in the US. Like European countries, Argentinian outlets use 220 volts instead of the 110 V standard for US outlets. While some electronic equipment is capable of using both, you should make sure yours are compatible. A mistake can result in shorting out your electronics or, even worse, it can start a fire. You can find transformers available at most Argentinian electronics stores for relatively low prices. You will also most likely need a plug adapter as well.

The traveler’s tongue

Spanish is the official language in Argentina, although the local dialect, known as Castellano Rioplatense, differs in pronunciation from the Spanish spoken throughout the rest of South and Central America. For example, the double ‘L’ sound, pronounced elsewhere with a soft ‘y’ sound, is pronounced with a hard ‘sh’ sound, such as a ‘zha.’ The word for chicken, pollo, is pronounced PO-ZhO instead of PO-YO, as it is heard throughout the rest of the continent.

Italian has had a huge influence on Rioplatense Spanish, having lent words to many colloquial phrases. It’s not uncommon for younger Argentineans to ask for birra instead of cervesa, for example.

In addition to Spanish, many locals, particularly in the tourist areas, speak a small degree of English. Other languages you’ll find spoken in Argentina include French and German, and even Welsh in some of the towns in the Patagonia region of the country.

Travel costs and money concerns

Getting a handle on how much a vacation in Argentina can cost is difficult because the Argentine peso has fluctuated in value over the past decade leading to drastic bouts of inflation intermingled with huge drops in prices. The tendency, regardless of how the currency and prices have fluctuated, is for things to become more expensive the further south you travel in Argentina.

For mid-range to high-end travel, expect to spend around US$250-$500 a day. Since prices can vary, you may find your travel costs much less expensive than this, but it’s hard to predict. Still if you budget with this expense level in mind, you should be alright.

For more of a low-budget, backpacker experience, where you sleep in hostels and spend minimal amounts on food, travel, and sightseeing, you can make it on US$75-$100 a day. When traveling in this fashion, look for the best deals for your traveling needs. Sometimes a daily pass for transportation around a city will be your best bet. Other times, a single ticket will suffice. Hitchhiking is a viable means of travel from town to town, and Argentina has its own hitchhiking club, called Autostop Argentina.

Changing money in Argentina is tricky. It’s widely available at various banks, agencies, and ATMs, but there are two separate markets for money changing: the official market and one where you get a better exchange rate called the blue market. Websites such as http://www.dolarcotizacionhoy.com.ar/dolar-paralelo-argentina/ give you the blue market exchange rates, but in order to change money at this rate, you have to find an illegal money changer, known as arbolito, in their location, which is called a cueva. Using these terms with locals will give them an idea of what you are looking for, but keep in mind that this is considered illegal activity.

Regardless of where you convert your money, you should invest in a low cost fake bill detector, usually a marker that will mark real money differently than fake money. Passing counterfeit money is a common problem in Argentina.

Most businesses in the larger cities take credit and debit cards, although cash is more common in the more rural areas. Traveler’s checks are not recommended for travel in Argentina because few places accept them, and those that do so charge a high fee for cashing them.

 

Things to do in Argentina

Argentina covers a wide variety of terrain so there are numerous activities you can do when you travel there. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Ski the Andes: There are numerous ski resorts that open in the winter in the Andes Mountains. These are perfect for skiing and other winter sports. Keep in mind that in South America, the seasons are the opposite of what they are in the Northern Hemisphere. When it is winter here, it is summer there, and vice versa.
  • Take a train ride into the clouds: In the Salta province in Northern Argentina is the Tren a las nubes (Train to the clouds), a world famous train ride that takes you into the Andes. This train operates seasonally, so make sure it’s open if you incorporate this trip into your vacation. Also, since the train takes you into high altitudes, altitude sickness is a possibility.
  • Learn about the Incan past: The Quebrada de Humahuaca is a valley in Northwestern Argentina where the Rio Grande flows through. It also houses many Incan ruins because it was part of that ancient empire’s highway system.
  • Travel to the southernmost city in the world: In the Argentinean region of Tierra del Fuego is the city of Ushuaia, your last land destination before embarking to Antarctica. With numerous museums and beautiful architecture, this city is perfect for photographing.
  • Visit a glacier: In Los Glaciares National Park is the 200 foot tall Perito Moreno glacier, a great place for hikers.
  • Enjoy the culture of Buenos Aires: Buenos Aires has often been called the “Paris of South America.” With numerous cafes and a vibrant night life, it’s a hotbed of entertainment. If you haven’t learned how to dance the Tango, this city offers you the perfect opportunity because the national dance is ubiquitous.
  • Take in the famous Waterfalls of Iguazu: This is a perfect one day trip to take out of Buenos Aires. The waterfalls are higher than the Niagara Falls in North America, and twice as wide.
  • Taste delicious Mendoza wine: Argentina has one of best regions for wine growing in Mendoza. An annual festival is held there throughout March and April. The atmosphere stays festive with hundreds of dance performances and massive fireworks.

Whether you come to see the fabulous remains of the Inca Empire, enjoy the culture in Buenos Aires that created great authors such as Jorge Louis Borges, or learn about the gaucho (Argentinean cowboy) culture of the plains, Argentina offers a phenomenal vacation that’s anything but run of the mill.