Last week, our Roadie Dorothee posted about her struggles with finding her way through Buenos Aires. She is really happy to have chosen Road2Argentina for her internship in Argentina program which took her out of her comfort zone. Now she tells us what you should be aware of before coming to Buenos Aires in order to be fully prepared for a full immersion.
1. The first thing you should do is to learn how to read a map (mobile or a real map). Taking public transportation is the best way to get around in Buenos Aires but if you are not used to taking buses or trains, you might get overwhelmed at first. Therefore, it is best to familiarize yourself with taking buses and trains and getting around big cities; however, taking public transportation in BA is not that complicated once you get used to it. In my case, I had never taken public before coming to Buenos Aires but after a week of taking the bus, I had no problem getting around by Bus. One thing that helped a lot was this app called “como llego”, you put the address of your destination and it tells you which buses or train to take.
2. If your purpose to visit Argentina is not just touristic but also educational (e.g. for an internship or volunteering program), I encourage you to practice speaking Spanish a lot. This will also help you to prevent you from getting into trouble: pick pocketing is a big issue in Buenos Aires, so it is best to avoid speaking any other language than Spanish to avoid becoming an easy target. It also helps to speak Spanish when you go to a market or street fair so that you can bargain.
3. Do not attempt to drive in the city if you are not used to a more aggressive driving style. Most, if not all, of the cars in Argentina are manual so it may be hard to find an automatic rental car. But for safety, I would only use public transportation, the buses run all day and night and the “Subte” (subway) or train station closes at 11pm and re-opens early in the morning at about 6am, and the fare is only 6,50 Argentine pesos for the bus or 5,00 pesos for the train (which is like half a dollar).
4. This is related to the pickpocketing issue mentioned above: Avoid using your iPhone in public. If you need to, try to go inside a restaurant or a store to do so because there is always a security personnel in all stores and restaurants. Due to high taxes on iPhones in Argentina, there is a black market where they are sold for double the price. Therefore, if the opportunity arises someone could easily steal your phone without you knowing, so always be alert.
5. In Argentina, they measure distance in Kilometers and degrees in Celsius so it would be great to familiarize yourself with these systems. Thankfully, with any smart phones you can probably do the calculations a lot easier and faster but it does not hurt to get acquainted with kilometers and Celsius because there are many countries that uses that same system.
6. If you are of darker skin like I am, be sure to bring all hair and skin care products that you may need with you because you will have a hard time finding those products in BA. They do not have the market for it here because most Argentinian are of European descent so they are all lighter skin. Do not be offended by the lack of diversity in the African community, or if they assume that you are Brazilian, it is just not common here and that’s just the way it is in Buenos Aires. However, I have never felt treated differently because I am darker skin and I got a lot of comments from Argentinians about how much they like my skin color, so I count it as a blessing like always.
7. Lastly, unfortunately the economy of Argentina is suffering from high inflation so the cost of living can be expensive. So, plan accordingly when you are planning your trip to Argentina. It is best to create and stick to a budget while you’re in Argentina. Fortunately, the exchange rate from dollars to Argentinean pesos is rising too with inflation and is about 17,50 pesos for $1 American dollar at the moment.
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