A Family RTW Travel Adventure (2008-2009)
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In A Nutshell

Argentina rocks.  There’s really no other way to put it.

The country has so much to offer: A wide variety of landscapes and destinations, great food, friendly people, and solid tourist services.  Best of all, it is a a very affordable destination, not as cheap as Ecuador, but a much better value than Peru (based on our experience).

We spent seven weeks in Argentina, visiting Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Salta and Mendoza.  We didn’t make it to Bariloche or Patagonia, but that just gives us a good reason to return.


A smart cash management strategy is essential for travel in Argentina.

Most every business in Argentina prefers cash – or as they refer to it “effectivo.”  Places that do accept credit cards often add a 5 – 15% surcharge to the bill to cover credit card fees.

The challenge is acquiring and managing your cash without running up exorbitant bank fees.

Most ATMs have a daily withdrawal limit of $900 AR pesos – about US$350.  To further complicate things, most ATMs have a withdrawal limit of $300 AR pesos per transaction.

To withdrawal the daily limit, I had to make three separate withdrawals ($300 x 3), incurring three ATM fees in the process.  These fees add up.  I have to admit, I never really found a good way around this.

The best thing I did was get a Capital One Direct Banking Account which does not charge any extra fees for international withdrawals or currency transactions.

Visa and MasterCard tack on an extra 3% charge to every foreign charge and withdrawal.  That hurts.

Keep in mind that when making large transactions – like renting an apartment – payment is expected in full in cash at the time you sign the lease.  Payment can be made in pesos or dollars or a combination thereof, but it must be made in full (including the security deposit).

Some rental agencies accept PayPal transfers or Western Union wires – but those involve various fees too.

I don’t have any definitive advice on this front – but beware you will need lots of cash to rent an apartment and you should plan for it.

Buenos Aires

We spent five weeks living in Buenos Aires, and loved every minute of it.

BsAs is a great city with lots to do.  It can be very affordable as well.  If you plan to stay there for a week or more, you should definitely look into renting an apartment.  We used an agency: BYTArgentina. They had lots of choices and a wide price range.

Our apartment was in Palermo Viejo, a great neighborhood with many parks, restaurants, mercados, and shops.

But BsAs is full of great neighborhoods.  Those who choose to rent an apartment should also consider San Telmo, Barrio Norte and Recoleta in addition to Palermo.

Those areas, along with Belgrano, are where most of the expats live.

The city’s subway (Subte) is an inexpensive way to get around town.  We rode it everywhere.

BsAs (and Argentina) is a great place to eat; here’s a few recommendations:

  • Eat lots of Freddo ice cream – it’s the best I’ve ever tasted – you’ll see the shops all over town.
  • Eat lots of Dulce de Leche – it’s a kind of caramel sauce that Portenos put on everything – fruit, bread, pastries, pancakes – it’s delicious and addictive.
  • Eat lots of media lunas – a kind of croissant – the best are the jamon and queso media lunas for lunch – and they are very cheap too.
  • Make lunch the main meal of your day – most every restaurant has a well priced menu del dia (menu of the day) that usually includes a starter, a main course, a drink and a dessert.

There’s also lots of low cost fun; some things to do include:

  • Visit the Recoleta Cemetery where Eva Peron is buried
  • Go to the San Telmo Sunday market (they close Defensa Street and turn it in to a ten block outdoor festival and market)
  • Take the train up to Tigre (it takes an hour to get there on the train; the train costs about 2 pesos per person
  • Visit the Boca neighborhood to watch Tango in the streets for free

Long Distance Buses

The long-distance bus system in Argentina is excellent.  If you are taking a long distance bus, we have one piece of advice – travel cama service.

The different long distance bus lines tend to have three levels of service: semi-cama, cama and first class.

Cama is much, much more comfortable than semi-cama and it only costs about US$10 more than semi-cama.  If you really want to go crazy, buy a first class ticket and you’ll be traveling on a seat that folds into a bed.

What We Did

In Buenos Aires:

  • Explored BsAs’ many neighborhoods, including Palermo, Recoleta, and San Telmo
  • Visited the surreal Lujan Zoo
  • Paid our respects to Eva Peron in Recoleta Cemetery
  • Took a day trip to Tigre
  • Enjoyed the San Telmo Sunday market
  • Toured an estancia outside BsAs
  • Saw the sights on a city tour
  • Experience a Tango show

In Puerto Iguazu:

  • Saw Iguazu Falls under the full moon
  • Hiked the trails all around the falls

In Salta:

  • Took a road trip to see the Quebrada Humahuaca
  • Rode the teleferico to get a great view of the city and surrounding area
  • Explored city and enjoyed its architecture
  • Relaxed for a night at the Salta Sheraton

In Mendoza:

  • Took the Bike and Bodega wine tour
  • Soaked in the hot springs at Termas Cuchueta
  • Wandered the wide streets and sunned ourselves in the city’s plazas

Where We Stayed

In Buenos Aires:

  • We rented an apartment in Palermo Viejo through BYTArgentina

In Puerto Iguazu:

  • We stayed at the delightful Hotel Riotropic.  It’s off the beaten path, but it’s a nice, new, clean hotel with a swimming pool.  And Remy, the owner is extremely helpful

In Salta:

We cashed in some Starwood Preferred Guest Points to stay at the Salta Sheraton, then moved to the Las Rejas hostel.

In Mendoza:

  • We stayed at Los Varietales, a basic, clean, comfortable and friendly B&B.  It’s not posh, but it’s got to be one of the best values for the money in Mendoza.

Some Things We’ll Remember

  • Incredible Freddo ice cream – the best we’ve tasted
  • Dulce de leche – we ate it by the gallons – it makes everything taste better
  • Rueben our friendly building super and Daniel our landlord in BsAs
  • Hanging out in San Telmo on Sundays
  • Seeing Iguazu Falls under the full moon
  • The great medical care we got in Salta for Caroline’s rash
  • Our final, wonderfully mellow days in Mendoza, Argentina
  • The incredibly friendly, welcoming spirit of the Argentine people

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