Buenos Aires, my Favorite City in the Whole World!

Initially we were only supposed to stay one week in Buenos Aires and then travel on to Uruguay, but after just a couple of days in Uruguay we turned back to stay another week in Baires. With the very favorable economic situation for tourist here at the moment, we have lived like kings spending almost a two month budget in just two weeks, mainly on shopping, wine and good food. The city has just so much to offer and to experience it all I would reccommend spending at least ten days, but if you just want to have one perfect week I have put together an itinerary which should not dissapoint!


Monday – La Bomba de Tiempo is a drum show/concert only running on Mondays, and is something that should not be missed. Most peope at the show are hippies and at the entrance you will see lots of people selling hash brownies/space cookies but it is still not a very shady or scary place. The drinks inside are really cheap (6US for a liter of wine) and the athmosphere is great. A must do when in BA on a Monday!
Tuesday – As Sundays and Mondays are the best days to go out you will probably be a bit reduced today and need some fresh air. If so, there is a great bike tour with BA bikes (23US) that will take you on the Southern route to see the main attractions of Buenos Aires like the colorful and lively La Boca, Puerto Madero where there is a new expensive bridge that is supposed to look like a couple dancing tango but really does not, and San Thelmo which is considered downtown and is the oldest part of BA.
Wednesday – Going to a football match is something everyone told us was a must do in Buenos Aires, but everytime there was a match on we had other plans. We went to the Boca stadium though, which is quite small but is supposed to be the wilderst experience as they have the craziest supporters. River and Velez have the biggest stadiums though and should be a bit easier getting tickets to.
Thursday – Cycling is the best way to see a city, so today you can do the northern route with BA bikes to see the rest of the city including Ricoleta with the Worlds most impressing cemetary, the upscale Palermo where all the rich people live and more. There is also free tango lessons at 8PM in Milhouse Hipo to prepare for the saturday tango class.
Friday – You will need to dedicate a full day to shopping in Buenos Aires walking along Florida/LaValle in the morning and heading North of Palermo for lunch and afternoon shopping. In the evening you should head back to Milhouse Avenue at 8PM where there is a Rooftop barbeque for 8 dollars (wine at own expense).
Saturday –  Go to a tango class and tango show (39US$) where you can learn some basic steps and afterwards see how the professionals dance. The price includes a three course meal selected from a menu and all you can drink with soda, beer and wine, so you will probably see a lot of people choosing to stay out in the city after the show is over, even though most Argentineans do not go out before 1-2 in the morning.
Sunday – The market at Defensa street is huge and is something you cannot miss if you are looking for souveniers to bring home. Here there are mainly collectors and handicraft makers gathered on nearly fifteen blocks to sell their stuff. Also there is a cultural event close by, on Avenida de Mayo where they have music concerts and food from a new country every week. Many restaurants and shops are closed, but these events plus the good night life and weekly football games makes sundays great in BA.

Tomorrow morning at 6AM we will be leaving Argentina and spend the next few days in San Ignacio and Iguazu Falls, and I am sure that as soon as we leave I will start missing the beautiful city of Buenos Aires!

Dining in Buenos Aires, the Paris of South America

Normally I would not even mention food in my travel blog, but for our stay in Buenos Aires our restaurant meals deserve a chapter to themselves when talking about our travel experience in this city. Here we have eaten like never before on our trip and would like to share our reccommendation of some of the restaurants we visited:Aramburu, will by far be the most memorable meal and the most expensive meal we had. The restaurant is really small, with just room for twenty people who are sepparated from the small kitchen with just a glass wall. In order to get a table you have to call a few days in advance, and when you get there you will have to knock on an almost hidden door to get in. The menu is the same for all guests, just varied by seasons and consists of 12 courses with accompanying wines. Even though the food arrived quickly after each course was finished, it took us four and a half hours to get through all the meals. The visit to the restaurant was just as much an exiting experience as it was about the food itself, as most of the meals came with surprises such as aroma with liquid nitrogen, creating a smell to accompany the tasting of the meal, a meal served on rocks and a big selection of of topping to be tried with one of the desserts. With wines and tips we paid around 700 pesos (70dollars) for our meal, which anywhere else would have cost a fortune. It will be worth only eating pasta for a week to get this experience once when in Buenos Aires.

 

We found a place right next to Hotel Carsson in Viamonte Street where we ate lunch almost every day, as they had a huge selection of meals that you could pick from at a price of only 60 pesos per kilo! It was our best value restaurant in Buenos Aires, and it was not possible to get tired of it since they had every dish imaginable.

We also used the Buenos Aires Delivery app a lot to have sushi, and even ice cream sent to our hostel, Milhouse (which btw also served good food, but only until 6pm).

Argentina is also known for its quality meat from happy cows fed on green grass in the Pampas, and almost every other day of our two weeks in Buenos Aires we have gone to different restaurants to try to find the best beef in South America. We have narrowed it down to the three places we liked the most and can truly reccommend:

La Brigada: I dare calling the best beef I ever had, and ever will have. When the waiter served us our steak, he cut a little piece of with a spoon to ask us if we wanted a new one, less or more well done. A normal soup spoon! I honestly never thought it was possible to cut meat with a spoon, but when I put the piece of meat in my mouth it almost melted in my mouth and chewing it with my tongue would have been enough.

La Cabrera: was also a place where we got served real tender Argentinean beef. The best part of this place except from the delicious food, was that they had happy hour between the hours of 7 and 8 where the first ones showing up got 40%. There was a line outside and you pick your meal while waiting for them to open, then you pay upfront and get your meal served really fast so that you can leave before other guests arrive around 8, as Argentineans wont even consider calling it a dinner if the meal is served before 8 and on weekends they would sometimes have their dinner as late as around midnight! Great for us who could enjoy a luxurious beef meal with wine for around 300 pesos per person (at happy hour)

Siga La Vaca is a really good “tenedor libre” (all-you-can-eat) restaurant which was great for us to do in the beginning of our Buenos Aires stay, as we then could try a littlebit of all kinds of beef to find our favorites. The meat and prices were good which clearly was reflected in the long line of people waiting to come in around 9 o’clock when we left. A bottle of wine was also included in the buffet price at 180 pesos per person.

You will also get a good steak meal for around 100 pesos pretty much in every restaurant, and even at our tango lessons/ dinner show that we went to (link) only cost 390 pesos and included a quality steak with unlimited wine. There are still endless places where we have not visited, plenty of restaurants that you would have loved as well, and if you go to Buenos Aires you have to be careful so that you dont end up rolling back to your own country.

 

 

Get Everything Half Price When Traveling in Argentina!

It is no secret that the economy in Argentina is not going so well at the moment. For the tourists going to Argentina this is good news as everything gets cheaper, but locals are loosing their money from inflation and jobs from poor company turnover. Some people make protests in the street and are not happy with the foreigners exploiting the situation even more by the three steps I am about to tell you, and maybe you will understand after some background information.

Ever since the Argentinean Peso started to drop significantly in 2012, people started to change their whole savings into other currencies to secure themselves against their money becoming worthless. The government was then quick to put a ban on the US dollars and other currencies, and as a result the Argentineans could not withdraw foreign currency or change their currency, even when going abroad. And just like all other illegal things it became available in the underground at much more expensive prices. The profits were big as well, which probably is the reason why you will find (probably) hundreds of people in Florida Street and LaValle Avenue shouting “Cambio”, “Dollars, “Euros” etc in hopes of buying some dollars of you that they can sell to the Argentineans afterwards.


Therefore; when travelling to Argentina bring as many dollars as you can get as you can sell them to as much as 10-12 pesos when they at the official market rate are only worth around 7-8 Argentinean Pesos. Even restaurants and hotels will sometimes accept dollars at the “blue market rate”, which would save you/ give you around 30% extra on everything you buy! If you cannot get dollars at home you can just take a ferry over to Colonia in Uruguay, which costs around 60 US dollars round trip (market rate) where you can withdraw as many dollars as you want from all ATMs. When exchanging on the street you have to be careful to get real notes (not fake ones) be descrete and jump into a taxi once you have done the exchange. How much people offer you for your dollars also depends a littlebit on the amount and shape of your dollars (crisp hundreds are the best), but this link will show you daily updated rates of the dollar on the blue market.

Once you have the money changed you should go crazy when shopping as Buenos Aires is the perfect city with good selection of stores and cheap prices. Argentina, unlike most other South American countries is not a place where bartering is common. But, the economy is not going too well and the shops are very eager to get you to buy from them, so there is some leeway, namely asking for a cash discount, which many places is around 10% which can save you some money if you are shopping a lot. And hey, you already have all your money in cash from exchanging money from dollars, so why not ask for it?

On top of that, all tourists have a bonus when shopping abroad. Namely that they are not obliged to pay tax on the things they buy as long as they are leaving the country for good within three months of the purchase. When shopping we asked for tax free/ tax refund forms so that we could get 17% of everything we bought refunded upon departure from Argentina. We got refunded our tax both at the harbour when leaving to Uruguay and at the border post when leaving to Brazil and if you are planning on flying you can also go to the tax office at the airport to get it refunded there as well.

So if you if you are planning on going on a shopping holiday soon, make it Buenos Aires in Argentina- the Paris of South America, as you will not find as good selection for as cheap anywhere else than here at the moment.

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Salta in the Argentinean Northlands

About two hours after passing San Salvador de Jujuy by bus, we arrived at Salta, our first stop in Argentina. We had absolutely no impression of the city prior to our arrival, and that might have helped us getting the good experience as we had when being there.

Salta was our first big city since La Paz, and it was also the most western city we had visited so far on our travels in South America. Our hotel was located right next to the main shopping street, which was pretty much where we spent most of our time in Salta.

For the evenings we also went to the Balcarce street, where most of the restaurants were Peñas, traditional Argentinean restaurants with folkloric live music. All of the bands playing did quite a bit of talking to the restaurant guests and invited them up for dancing with their dance performers. One of the dances also ended up in the whole restaurant getting up and dancing bologne out on the street. A visit to a Peña is definately something that should not be missed when going to Argentina.

Photo: Harwin Gill

The Wine Region of Cafayate

Around 200 kilometers south of Salta is a valley called Cafayate which is known for its good conditions for growing wine, having around 240 sunny days a year. I had booked a 12 hour day trip that would take me there starting with an early hotel pickup at our hotel in Salta around 7 o’clock. The first part of the trip we were just people up more and more old spanish speaking people, that snored the first hours of the drive. Our guide had not made it any easier either, speaking non stop for the four and a half hours it took us to reach Cafayate. The second half of the drive was through some pretty spectacular mountains as well, but with her pointing at every rock, telling us that they looked like frogs, munks, seals, ships, castels etc it was also a bit hard enjoying even that.It was first when we went down the mountains and into the small town of Cafayate that things looked a bit more promising. Our guide told us that she was not licenced to guide in wineries so she let us off the bus, free to do a wine tour of Domingo Hermanos and to explore the town by our own for a few hours. Since everyone but me and a Taiwaneese guy were Spanish native speakers, the tour was done in Spanish only. We were shown the whole process of producing wine, from the wine yard where the grapes grow, through the machinery, storage tanks and finally to the highlight that everyone had been looking forward to: the wine tasting. The tasting was not like I have tried before where we would get a littlebit in the bottom of the glass, but here they poured three almost full glasses for each to drink, one white and two red.

The Taiwaneese guy had been sitting next to me on the bus the whole day without saying a word, but after the tasting he suddenly had gotten the curage to come up to me and ask if I wanted to look around the town and have dinner with him, and with a new gotten friend the long ride home went much quicker taking me back to our group in the evening for a last night out in Salta.