Assuming you’ve already made up your mind to visit or move to Buenos Aires, this article is designed to help you navigate your stay and assist you in getting settled into life as a “Porteño” (the Spanish name for people from Buenos Aires). In the following guide to Buenos Aires, I’ll be discussing practical things like where to live, how to get around, what to eat, how to stay connected, and how to make sure all that ice cream doesn’t make your jeans too tight.
[* Note: Given the rapid inflation that Argentina has been experiencing in recent years, any prices quoted will be made in U.S. dollars to avoid becoming completely irrelevant in a matter of months.
Where to live
My own experience has taught me that where you live in Buenos Aires can make a huge difference in your overall enjoyment of life there. The best place for you to live, however, will depend on your own preferences and your reasons for coming to Buenos Aires (to live, to work or for tourism, for example). In this section I outline a handful of the neighborhoods (in alphabetical order) that I see as suitable for living; together, these should cover the range of preferences you might have.
As a point of reference, I lived 6 months in Buenos Aires and spent at least one month in AirBnB apartments in the neighborhoods of Balvanera, Palermo and San Telmo. At present (August 2019), a large number of small apartments can be found in most neighborhoods (Recoleta being an exception) in the range of $600 to $700 per month on AirBnB depending on when you book and how far in advance. If you’re going to stay longer, though, you might consider renting your own place. I have no inside knowledge of this process, but did observe that reasonably sized and unfurnished apartments could be secured for about $400-$500 per month (usually requiring a 2-year lease). Some companies exist to assist in this process for foreigners, but you should expect to pay more for this privilege. Similarly, those apartments that you will find listed on specially designated Facebook pages will almost certainly have a gringo mark-up.
In general, I find that the main axis of life for an expat in Buenos Aires revolves around the neighborhoods of Palermo, Recoleta, San Telmo and the Microcentro. The one that ends up serving as the hub of your Porteño experience will depend on your own preferences and reasons for coming to Buenos Aires. Other neighborhoods that I mention below tend to derive much of their attractiveness by being located near some of these four neighborhoods (while at the same time perhaps being quieter and/or safer).
Why stay in Almagro? Almagro is not the most popular place for expats or tourists to stay, but it’s a neighborhood that deserves some serious consideration – particularly if you’re planning on staying in Buenos Aires longer-term. First, it provides a strategic location that would place you nearby to Palermo, Recoleta and the Microcentro. In contrast, those living in Palermo can find themselves quite removed from, say, the center and San Telmo (two places really worth visiting). Almagro also offers a nice “barrio” feeling, allowing you live in a community with more of a local vibe.
Why stay elsewhere? While it has a few solid bars, cafes and restaurants, Almagro isn’t nearly as lively as Palermo or San Telmo and doesn’t offer as many amenities. You also won’t be within walking distance to any of the main sights if you’re coming only for tourism. There also isn’t great access to parks, so it’s not ideal if you like running or cycling as a means of exercise or leisure. While I find the neighborhood to be perfectly safe, some might also feel less safe there at night.
Where to stay in Almagro. If choosing to live in Almagro, my general advice would be to avoid living south of Avenida Rivadavia. The best bet would be to locate yourself in the more northern stretches of the neighborhood, with my personal preference being to stay as close to Guarda Vieja as possible.
Why stay in Balvanera? Balvanera is definitely not a popular place for tourists or expats, so it might be a good option for those wishing to escape from that sort of environment. Additionally, there tend to be a number of reasonably priced apartments listed here on AirBnB and its location provides easy access to many of the major tourist sights.
Why stay elsewhere. There aren’t as many amenities here for expats/foreigners as you might find in places like Recoleta and Palermo. Much of the barrio can be quite dead on the weekends or evenings while also feeling more dangerous. Similar to Almagro, it also doesn’t offer great access to parks, making it more difficult to jog or go cycling for leisure.
Where to stay in Balvanera. In general, much of Balvanera is to be avoided for living purposes. Living near the area known as Once should absolutely be avoided as it’s primarily a maze of shopping with limited access to restaurants, cafes and bars (particularly at night and on weekends). The eastern portion north of Congreso offers some benefits such as the parts near Avenida Callao or Facultad de Medicina.
Why stay in Colegiales? Like Villa Crespo, Colegiales offers the benefit of being close to the bar/club/restaurant area of Palermo while also providing more peace and quiet and more of a “barrio” (neighborhood) feel. Possessing some solid local bars, cafes and restaurants of its own, the area can also provide enough amenities to keep you from needing to venture outside of its confines too often. There is also decent access to parks and the area is safer than most.
Why stay elsewhere? The biggest drawback to Colegiales is that it’s quite removed from the rest of the city. If you came to Buenos Aires to experience the things that make Buenos Aires famous, locating in Colegiales is likely going to stand in the way of your goals. (I often feel like I could be in some area of the United States while I’m there). Given its distance from the more authentic and historical areas of the city, it’s also a bit of a pain to access other locales from Colegiales. This is likely a better place to stay if: you are living in Buenos Aires longer-term; you have children; you tend to worry about safety; and it’s not too far from your place of work. If you are only visiting, you might consider staying elsewhere.
Where to stay in Colegiales. For convenience, I’d generally recommend the parts of Colegiales that are closer to Palermo Hollywood. However, if you don’t mind being even further removed from downtown Buenos Aires, the western region of Colegiales (around Avenida Elcano) can also be quite pleasant, offering nice (but quieter) bars, cafes and restaurants.
The Microcentro is not an officially designated district of Buenos Aires, but it is commonly referenced by Porteños and should roughly be considered as a 60-block area ranging from Avenida Cordoba to the North, Avenida de Mayo to the South, Avenida 9 de Julio to the West and Avenida Leandro N. Alem/Avenida de la Rabida to the East.
Why stay in Microcentro? For those that like cities, the Microcentro is the most urban area of Buenos Aires and the part that feels most like Manhattan. Here you will be able to submerse yourself in architecture and historic cafes and restaurants, while also having access to the theater district around Corrientes as well as a wide range of coworking spaces. Similarly, you would find yourself within walking distance to San Telmo, Retiro and Puerto Madero and not inconveniently removed from Recoleta. By staying here, you will regularly connect with the history and architecture of Buenos Aires in a way that many other neighborhoods can’t offer, while also being within walking distance to the majority of tourist attractions.
Why stay elsewhere? The negative side of staying here is that this is mostly an area for work rather than living and you would find the neighborhood lacking in terms of its sense of community. Additionally, it would be almost dead on the weekend, with most businesses closed and the visitors primarily being tourists. Given the lack of community, it can therefore feel a bit unsafe on the evenings as well. If you feel overwhelmed by the buzz of cities, this area should also be avoided.
Depending on whether you find this an annoyance or a unique cultural experience, this would also be the area that you would be more likely to regularly see protests. The Argentines love to protest and it can be a rather enriching cultural experience to see. But, it can get annoying if you find that roads are regularly being blocked to accommodate demonstrations.
Where to stay in Microcentro. In general, there isn’t a big difference across the areas of Microcentro. Staying closer to San Telmo could make it easier to access the benefits of that neighborhood, while staying closer to Plaza San Martin would give you greater access to the park located there.
Why stay in Palermo? Palermo probably represents the location of choice for most expats and tourists. Objectively, the benefits are that it is relatively safe and pleasantly designed. Areas such as Palermo Hollywood, moreover, offer the greatest density of bars and clubs, giving it the most vibrant nightlife in the city. There are ample amounts of amenities as well – particularly for those which expats tend to prefer – including co-working spaces, cafes, brunch locations, gyms and Spanish language schools. There is great access to parks as well, giving you the ability to more easily escape the noise of areas such as the Microcentro or San Telmo.
Why stay elsewhere? I wouldn’t argue against anyone’s love for Palermo, but prefacing what follows with the acknowledgment that we potentially like very different things, I will present my own personal reasons for why I wasn’t drawn to life in there. To begin, I think there is a very limited sense of community and diversity here. In the areas most popular with expats, there seem to be few long-term residents and I find that most people here tend to look quite similar (in terms of age, style, clothes, etc.). Buenos Aires is already one of the least ethnically diverse major capital cities in the world, so to further surround yourself with people who look and act the same sort of detracts from one of the things I really value about cities.
Additionally, if you came to Buenos Aires to really experience a foreign culture, my own feeling is that Palermo is going to be one of the worst places to do this. Most of the things that I find to be really cool about Buenos Aires aren’t located here and instead I feel like I’m living in some part of Los Angeles while I’m here. If you’re looking to live in Buenos Aires so you can enjoy the amenities of a city without paying western prices, this could be a good choice (and Palermo can be a lot of fun). However, if you want to experience a foreign culture, this is kind of a boring option.
As a side rant, I would also note that I think the bars here are overrated. There are certainly some really good ones, but in general I think that about 75% of all the places feel exactly the same. Craft breweries have exploded in Buenos Aires and can be found everywhere. The beers generally taste the same when it comes down to it and most of them seem to be exactly the same in vibe. Most places have jumped on the hipster movement and kind of employ the same played out gimmicks (like there are a number of speakeasies for example). Many of the popular bars, cafes, and restaurants are actually chains, with locations throughout the city. I tend to find places like this lacking in authenticity and charm.
One of the bigger problems with Palermo, though, is the fact that it can be quite removed from the rest of the city – or at least those areas that have more historical, cultural and architectural relevance. If you’re just visiting, you will have to taxi everywhere and if you’re living there, you might find that you seldom end up going to the center, San Telmo or La Boca (limiting your exposure to the really unique parts of Buenos Aires). Don’t get me wrong, I like Palermo: it’s pleasant and could easily be a place I ended up preferring if I lived in Buenos Aires for years. But, it’s not terribly unique and not the kind of place that contains a lot of cultural intrigue.
Where to stay in Palermo. Palermo is huge so where you stay can make a significant difference. If you’re looking for greater access to the bar/café/restaurant scene, you should consider finding a place in or near Palermo Hollywood. This would include most of the area demarcated by Avenidas Juan B. Justo, Raul Scalabrini Ortiz, Santa Fe, and Cordoba. Additional general areas include those neighborhoods around Plaza Unidad Latinoamericana and Plaza Italia.
Why stay in Recoleta? For me, Recoleta is a bit like Palermo only with greater historical architecture and cafes/restaurants. It possesses many of the city’s finest museums as well as the Centro Cultural Recoleta and, of course, its famous cemetery. This area also offers some of the same type of bars that make Palermo so popular (though with far less density), with the spots around the cemetery and centro cultural particularly popular. As the neighborhood tends to consist of really old people and college students it’s also a good match for people on either side of the age spectrum (whereas older visitors/expats might feel a bit more out of place in parts of Palermo).
Recoleta is also one of the safest neighborhoods in the city and offers good access to parks where you can escape the stress of the city and go for runs or leisurely strolls or bike rides. Moreover, it offers good access to Microcentro and isn’t terribly removed from San Telmo or Palermo.
Why stay elsewhere? Frankly, I don’t find there to be a lot of tangible negatives about Recoleta. I think it’s a great place to either stay or live and find it to be a solid compromise between the competing pulls of Palermo and San Telmo. One problem is that it’s a bit more upscale and tends to feel far less inclusive to people of different social classes than other parts of the city. This also makes it more difficult to find a reasonably priced AirBnB.
Where to say in Recoleta. In principle, the closer you can stay to the cemetery the better, but I don’t think any area south of that would be bad.
Why stay in Retiro? Given its location between Recoleta, Microcentro and Puerto Madero, Retiro offers access to most of the city’s main tourist attractions and museums. There are also some very nice places here that are worth visiting in their own right, with the area around Plaza San Martin offering some fine architecture.
Why stay elsewhere? Retiro itself doesn’t seem to have the neighborhood feel that you could find in neighboring Recoleta and, as such, may be mostly deserted on the weekends and evenings. Its proximity to the train station and Villa 31 (renowned as one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Buenos Aires – though I haven’t been and can’t confirm) makes some people feel more unsafe at times.
Where to stay in Retiro. Anywhere south of the train station would offer the same advantages. Being closer to Recoleta might be a bit better than staying in those areas closer to the Microcentro
Why stay in San Telmo? San Telmo is one of the most historic neighborhoods in Buenos Aires and maintains much of the allure that comes with this. Unlike more modern Palermo, one is more likely to find some typical Porteño experiences here, strengthening the feeling that you’re actually in a foreign country. Its wealth of bars and historical cafes (related: A Guide to Buenos Aires’ Cafe Notables) also make it more competitive with Palermo in this sense. While you will likely find yourself surrounded by tourists in certain parts (particularly on the weekends), it’s definitely possible to escape into more local spots once you figure out where to look. In this sense, San Telmo maintains more of a barrio feel than Palermo once you get out of the area around Plaza Dorrego and Defensa. In general, the local population is more artistic and more authentically Bohemian than Palermo, which, in my opinion, is much more derivative and corporate in its artistic expression.
Given that it is also within easy walking distance to Plaza de Mayo and Puerto Madero (as well as the closest livable neighborhood to La Boca), the neighborhood also places you close to most of the main tourist attractions. On weekends, though, you might want to stay where you are: on Sundays, San Telmo is the best place to be in the city in my opinion, with Defensa closed to traffic and the streets coming alive with tango and other street performances and stalls selling crafts and antiques.
Why stay elsewhere? While I personally find San Telmo perfectly safe, it would be nearly impossible to argue that it isn’t more dangerous than Recoleta and Palermo. At the very least, it certainly feels more dangerous – particularly in the evening. Its narrow streets and greater urban density can make it a bit more hectic than these neighborhoods and it doesn’t have the same wealth of green spaces. Furthermore, if you do find that you want to enjoy Palermo on a regular basis, being located in San Telmo makes it more difficult to access.
Where to stay in San Telmo. The symbolic and geographic center of San Telmo is Plaza Dorrego and you will likely get most of its benefits by being closer to that. The areas on the eastern edge lose a touch of the San Telmo vibe as do those south of Cochabamba. While not technically in San Telmo, the streets of Mexico and Venezuela should be considered San Telmo in spirit and could be equally nice places to live.
Why stay in Villa Crespo? Villa Crespo has been an emerging barrio of Buenos Aires for several years, taking on some of the spillover of people who want to live near Palermo Hollywood but who were unable to find anything suitable. Its proximity to Palermo Hollywood means you’ll have easy access to some of the city’s best nightlife, cafes and restaurants, while having the benefit of living in a quieter neighborhood with more of a barrio feel that offers a reprieve from the wear of the city. The neighborhood as well offers an increasing diversity of quality restaurants and bars.
Why stay elsewhere? Most of the criticisms of Palermo can be repeated here. In Villa Crespo, you won’t be overwhelmed with feelings that you’re in a foreign country or find yourself submerged in something uniquely cultural. It generally lacks much racial/ethnic diversity as well, depriving you of one of the unique benefits of living in a city. Additionally, you would likely find yourself quite removed from the main tourist attractions, making it less convenient for anyone visiting for tourism.
Where to stay in Villa Crespo. In general, you’d probably want to locate in the areas closer to Palermo.
One thing that might influence where you choose to live is your ability to get around. Depending on where you like to go and if/where you have to work, you might find that it is better to live in one neighborhood over another. Regardless, it’s useful to know your options for getting around Buenos Aires.
As a starting point, I strongly recommended that you download the BA Cómo Llego App (android; apple), provided by the city government. This app provides the most accurate routes for navigating the city (either by foot, bicycle, car or public transportation) and is far more trustworthy than Google in this regard.
By Foot. In general, Buenos Aires is an easy city to walk in. If you live in the more densely populated areas of the Microcentro or San Telmo, this may indeed be your preferred option – particularly given that many places of interest will be conveniently located close by. In areas such as Palermo, however, distances can be greater, making travel on foot more difficult. Depending on the neighborhood though, you’ll have to watch out for dog shit. It can be everywhere in the city, with richer neighborhoods like Recoleta and Palermo having less to avoid. (Seriously, in the 60 or so countries I’ve been to, I’ve never seen more dog shit on the streets).
By bicycle. Buenos Aires is actually a great place to cycle and I would recommend buying a bicycle if you are going to be staying longer-term. The terrain is flat and the government has made great strides in providing bike lanes throughout the city in recent years. While the bike lanes can be disjointed at times, the BA Cómo Llego App can instruct you on how to reach your destination by bicycle while sticking to designated lanes for the maximum amount of time.
A used bicycle could probably be procured for about $80 (check the website Mercado Libre or the Intercambio de Bicicletas on Facebook), while bike sharing is provided throughout the city by Itau and is accessible to foreigners. Bike thefts here are a serious problem, though, so make sure you invest in a good lock. You should note that parking garages (found everywhere) are required to let you park your bike and are really cheap. Rates are usually around $0.50 for a work day with hourly rates around $0.10. If you want to park full-time at a garage in your neighborhood, you may be able to secure a monthly rate, but it might not provide 24-hour access. Street parking is not ubiquitous, unfortunately, and your accommodation may not provide a dedicated space for your bike. I would always avoid parking a bike on the street overnight unless you are comfortable with it getting stolen. (I had a bike stolen during the day right outside my Spanish school).
By Taxi & Uber. Taxis are generally cheap in Buenos Aires and can be hailed pretty much everywhere with minimal wait. While its possible to use Uber, the service is technically illegal and the driver will almost certainly expect you to sit in the front seat so as to not arouse the anger of taxi drivers. Ubers can also take longer to get than a taxi since the supply is generally lower than what you are probably are used to in your home country. The bigger problem, however, is that they almost certainly will not accept credit card. If you try and arrange a payment for an Uber through credit card, you should expect the driver to cancel. Because Uber is illegal, the drivers do not have a way to arrange acceptance of payments made using credit, leaving them reliant on cash payments. An alternative is the use of the app Cabify, which is popular in Buenos Aires and which allows payment by credit card.
In general, if you’re only going a short-distance, it is not uncommon for a taxi to be about the same or even cheaper than an Uber. Ubers, however, will almost certainly be cheaper for longer rides (such as to the airport).
By Subway. While quite inexpensive (around $0.50), the subway in Buenos Aires (Subte) can be a bit of a nightmare (outside of January and February when much of the city is away on holidays). Unless you are boarding at one the initial stations, you should expect to stand and, probably, be crammed in among people. If you’re riding around the start and end of the workday, there is also a strong likelihood that you will not be able to board the first train that comes your way.
What makes the subway in Buenos Aires really inconvenient, however, is its relatively underdeveloped network. While they are currently expanding this, the current design makes the subway very inconvenient unless your starting and ending stations are on the same line. Line transfers often require you to go well out of your way, making bus a far more attractive option in general.
[*Note: both the subway and bus require use of a Sube card, which can be purchased at many subway stations. The card can be recharged at designated kiosks located in subway stations and at some shops (often near to metro stops). The card is good to have since it can also be used for public transport in many other cities in Argentina.
By Bus. Given the underdevelopment of the subway network, bus remains the most convenient public transport option in Buenos Aires, with a wide range of bus lines available to make it easier to reach your desired destination. While buses are often crowded in a way similar to the subway (also a good chance you won’t get a seat), there are a number of dedicated bus lanes that make transport flow more effectively. In the later hours of the evening, it should be easier to get around, with the prospects of landing a seat more favorable.
While it’s possible that you might not encounter any problems, the issue of money can be one of the most annoying aspects of life in Buenos Aires. Credit cards are commonly accepted, but you may find some widespread resistance. It’s certainly not the case, moreover, that a place will accept a credit card for all transactions, while many vendors may charge more for payments in credit card and/or may only accept credit cards for charges above a certain threshold. The biggest problem, however, is that Mastercard and American Express are seldom accepted, with most businesses only accepting Visa. So, if you don’t have a Visa card, expect some problems.
More so than in many other countries, it is often necessary that you carry cash on you. The problem, however, is that the banks in Buenos Aires charge outrageous ATM fees and place overly restrictive limits on the amount that you can take out in a single withdrawal. While public banks (e.g., Banco de la Nacion, Banco Ciudad, Comafi, Banco Patagonia, etc.) will charge lower ATM fees (around $7) than private banks (around $10), they typically restrict the amount that you can withdraw to around $100. In practice, however, you will often find that withdrawals of even that amount may be difficult as the ATMs of public banks will often run low or out of money entirely. As a result, you might find it particularly difficult to get money from these banks on weekends and evenings (and perhaps even Friday afternoons or Monday mornings). In general, if you’re running low on cash, you should make an effort to make sure you hit up an ATM before the weekend (preferably by Thursday). This is particularly true if a long weekend is approaching due to observance of one of Argentina’s many national holidays.
Private banks all seem to charge the same ATM fee for a withdrawal using your foreign bank card, with this tending to fluctuate depending on the dollar-peso exchange rate that day. In general, you should expect a fee of around $10-$11 per withdrawal. In contrast to public banks, though, ATMs at private banks tend to be less likely to run out of money entirely. As with public banks, some might only permit a withdrawal of $100 (i.e. a 10% withdrawal fee on top of whatever your bank charges), though I have found that most would allow me to take out about $150 per withdrawal. Sometimes I would be allowed to withdraw as much as $200, though there was no clear logic as to why the amount would vary on different days at the same bank. My advice is to just start by attempting to pull out around $200 and see if it’s possible. If that’s not possible, move down to $150. It might be that the ATM is just low on money; so, if you can’t get these amounts, you can consider trying another bank. I usually had greater success at ICBC and Galicia and lesser success at HSBC, Santander, Itau and BBVA. Your particular experience might differ depending on which foreign bank issued your ATM card.
I never bothered with trying to convert a foreign currency into pesos and can’t offer any advice on this. You’ll no doubt hear a number of people shouting “cambio” as you walk through the heavier tourist areas. These are obviously unofficial, though I understand that they can sometimes offer better rates. If you want to go this route, I’d suggest seeing what Google has to tell you about the process
Regardless of where you live, you should expect to be within walking distance to several supermarkets. Outside of the larger chains, many of these will be run by Chinese migrants who offer a standard range of basic products. Separate specialty shops are also quite common and will often be better for things like meat, fruits & vegetables, bread cheese and pasta.
I would strongly recommend familiarizing yourself with a place that makes and sells fresh pasta. Unless you’re from Italy, this is likely going to be some of the best pasta you’ve ever had and it can be had quite cheaply if you’re happy boiling it at home. The better ones will also make and sell a delicious array of sauces to further simplify the home dining experience.
There are a number of good options for healthy eating as well, with the city containing a large number of small health food stores that go by the name Dietéticas. These will offer bulk grain/legume items, nuts, dried fruits, natural/raw foods, non-dairy milks and other health food items. For fruits and vegetables, you should look around your neighborhood to see which produce seller offers the best selection/prices. These will usually be the best places to get such items, though you should know that Argentina’s trade policies tend to make it difficult to ensure a wide range of produce throughout the year. Really good fruit can be particularly difficult to locate during the winter months. Many neighborhoods will also have a handful of outdoor vendors set up on Saturday mornings selling fresh fruits, vegetables, cheeses and preserved meats from the outlying areas of the city. These will typically be located by a plaza or park and are good locations for getting harder-to-find produce items.
For organic foods, there are also a number of delivery options. Websites such as talloverde, jardim organico and panchama organicos provide a wide range of organic products which they will deliver to your door (though delivery may only be provided on several set days per week).
For delivery of prepared meals, there are a number of Apps you can use. PedidosYa is probably the most common but Glovo and Rappi are also quite ubiquitous. If you haven’t already installed these apps, you will likely need to be able to receive a text message on your phone for you to activate them in Buenos Aires.
Foods to eat
Building largely on the culinary heritage of its Italian immigrants, Buenos Aires offers a number of local delicacies that one can enjoy while there. While the local diet continues to place heightened emphasis on meat, the city is becoming more accommodating to vegetarians.
- Empanadas. These are a must. Typical fillings include beef (often ground), ham, and cheese, though other flavors are not uncommon – particularly at places that specialize in empanadas. Prices should be less than a $1 per empanada.
- Pizza. Buenos Aires easily has the best pizza in Latin America and is potentially rivalled only by Italy and the United States. A medium-sized pizza at a local pizzeria should be around $5, with some places offering individuals slices (al corte).
- Pasta. A wide range of pastas are available, many of which tend to be hand-made. I think the pasta here is surpassed only by Italy. Don’t miss out on the pasta frescas on sale at neighborhood pasta shops.
- Asado. Frankly, I think the legends of Argentina’s asado (Argentine barbecue) are overblown. Still, a visit for anyone who eats meat would be incomplete without going to at least one parilla during their stay to overdose on grilled meat. I’m a bit partial though to grabbing a quick takeaway choripan (grilled sausage on bread) at a neighborhood parilla (about $2.50)
- Ice cream. The ice cream here is incredible and one should never have to go far to find an heladeria (ice cream shop). I think there’s a genuine case to be made for Argentina having the best ice cream in the world. See the following map for a non-exhaustive list of heladerias that are popular with porteños. A cone with two flavors should go for around $2.50, with cheaper options available. Kilos for takeaway (3 to 4 flavors) can be had at many places for around $5 to $7. Prepare to get fat.
- Dulce de leche (sweet paste not too dissimilar form caramel used as a spread or as a filling/topping for desserts). It’s a bit too sweet for me, but I wouldn’t argue against anyone’s professed love for this spread/dip.
- Alfajores (cookies sandwiched together like an Oreo and filled and covered with dulce de leche, chocolate or other ingredients). I don’t really care much for alfajores. Don’t get me wrong: they’re not gross or anything, but I just think there are a number of better options if I’m going to eat something sweet that’s filled with useless calories. Still, these are a major part of the cultural experience here, so I’d suggest trying at least one to judge for yourself.
- Picada. These are usually servings of items such as cheese and preserved meat (salami, sausage, prosciutto, etc). They can be quite reasonably priced and go well with beer and wine.
- Wine. Argentine wines are some of the finest in the world. A nice Mendoza Malbec can be incredible – and extremely affordable (as little as under $3 in a market).
- Fernet. Fernet is a bitter Italian aromatic liquor, originally brewed for medicinal purposes, that has been adopted by Argentinians as a local drink. It is most commonly consumed with cola, with Argentina in fact having invented this combination. You’ll probably find it disgusting at first, but it grows on you.
- Mate. Mate is something you probably won’t like at first either. However, the ritual of it can be quite enjoyable and the cultural practice of drinking it is something quite unique to this part of the world. I went from hating it to owning three mates and drinking it every morning.
- Milanesas (Breaded and fried meats). Nothing special, but cheap and can do the trick if you’re hungry
- Tortilla. Of Spanish origin, the tortilla is a hearty snack that consists of potatoes and eggs slowly fried in a pan a somewhat resembling a frittata. Personally, I find it incredibly bland. The more exciting version, in my opinion, is the tortilla Española, which includes cheese and chorizo.
- Locro. A stew originating from the indigenous populations of northwest Argentina, this is a very hearty dish that can be quite satisfying on a cold day.
- Lentiles española. Another filling stew, perfect for a cold day.
- Pastafrola. A type of tart filled with preserved and sweetened quince. It’s not my favorite, but it’s a common accompaniment to mate and goes quite well with the bitter beverage.
For those working remotely in Buenos Aires, you will find that there are a number of options. Co-working spaces (espacio de coworking) can be found throughout the city, with several international chains (e.g., WeWork) operating . Monthly rates will generally range from between $100 to $200 for full time use of a hot desk. At present, the best places to find a co-working space tend to be Palermo (probably the best area) and Microcentro – with other neighborhoods offering only 1-2 spaces on average.
In addition to co-working spaces, the city’s cafes are generally laptop friendly and can be suitable places for work. Most cafes possess Wi-Fi (though the speed and reliability in Argentina isn’t great on average) and abide by the practice of letting you stay for as long as you want. In general, you should be able to tell if it’s the kind of place that’s not welcoming simply by the vibe it gives off. I haven’t tried spending a full day working in a café, but stays of 2-4 hours should be generally unproblematic if you order a coffee and the place isn’t extremely busy.
Phones & Internet
Since Wi-Fi is so pervasive throughout the city’s cafes, bars and restaurants, you should be able to get by fairly easily without an Argentinian SIM card (provided you, like most Argentinians, tend to use an app-based communication platform such as WhatsApp). I stopped using my Argentinian SIM card after about 3 months, for example, and didn’t find it to be very inconvenient (it’s particularly helpful to download a Google map of the city that you can access when offline while still having access to GPS).
You may find, however, that you would rather have a phone number that you can use as well as a phone plan with data. This will certainly help with things like ordering food through delivery apps and products from online retailers like Mercado Libre. The good news is that this is fairly simple to do.
A number of phone carriers provide service to foreigners. Without a DNI (documento nacional de identidad), you will only be able to use those providers that offer foreigner plans and will likely have to opt for a prepaid plan. For a breakdown of your options, I direct you to this site. Once you’ve decided which you’d prefer to use, bring your passport and some cash and head over to one of their main stores. They likely won’t have someone there who speaks English fluently, but you’d be surprised how easy this process can be if you recognize just a few words of Spanish. To help in situations like this, I’d strongly recommend downloading Spanish translation on the Google Translate app on your phone so that you can translate some basic words when offline.
Assuming you don’t have a DNI, you will likely have to arrange a prepaid plan. These SIM cards will likely only be valid for 12 months. Payments tend to cover 2 week periods, with the amount of data depending on how much you pay. Recharging can likely be done on your phone using your credit card if you have the Mercado Libre version of PayPal called “Mercado Pago”. Otherwise, it can be done by purchasing credit at a participating shop or kiosk, through pay stations (often located in stores), or at the service provider’s stores.
If you’re going to be spending more than a few weeks in Buenos Aires, you might consider learning some Spanish while you’re there since the rates for classes are extremely reasonable. I found, for example, a one-on-one class with a good teacher in a small school for only about $7.50 per hour. Rates will likely vary, but you should not expect to spend more than $15 per hour for one-on-one lessons (and I’d argue that’s on the expensive side given the market), with reduced rates for group classes. Options tend to range from schools to private teachers who will likely host you in their apartment or come to visit you at an agreed upon location.
Where you live will likely influence the available options. Those in Palermo will tend to attract teachers who charge more since they’re looking to capitalize on the perceived wealth of foreigners living there. For group classes, it’s a bit harder to find something that isn’t intensive (i.e. 4 hours per day, Monday-Friday). So, if you’re working and want to find a group class that meets only in the evenings, you might have some difficulty. Instead, you might need to find another foreigner on your level looking for something similar. This would generally lower the rates of whatever you would be expected to pay.
If you’re staying in Buenos Aires for a longer period and want to avoid all the weight put on by pizza, pasta, empanadas and ice cream, you might be interested to know what your exercise options are.
Fortunately, there are lots of choices. Gyms possessing the standard array of weights and machines are located throughout the city, with some also offering classes. The prices are generally reasonable, though the quality can vary quite a bit from gym to gym. Neighborhoods such as Palermo and Recoleta are likely to have better options, though they might be a bit pricier. One hitch is that you will likely be required to take a physical examination from a licensed medical doctor certifying that you’re not subject to any health risks from exercise. This can be a bit of a pain (particularly if you don’t speak Spanish), but can be done with sufficient time and money.
Alternatives such as cross-fit have also become quite popular and there are a number of “boxes” located throughout the city. Depending on the gym and the area, these can be quite reasonably priced. Other fitness classes such as yoga and Pilates also exist, with more options likely to be found in neighborhoods like Palermo and Recoleta.
When to visit
As a closing note, I wanted to provide some guidance on when to visit Buenos Aires if you’re not planning on going indefinitely. Personally, I made the mistake of first arriving in January, which in my opinion, is a terrible time to visit. Although it’s summer, the city is really missing its usual charm and energy since so many of the residents are away on holidays. It’s not like it’s empty, but it definitely doesn’t have its usual life and excitement. The city picks up again in late February/early March with the start of the new school year, so aim for this time if you have some flexibility.
Although Buenos Aires almost never
reaches freezing temperatures, it can get quite cold by late June or early
July. That the city isn’t as cold as those in Northern Europe makes it somewhat
less comfortable – the buildings aren’t usually designed to get and stay very
warm, making it difficult at times to ever feel particularly warm. By
late-August or early September, you should expect it to again get reasonably
 This is an identification number given to Argentinian citizens and permanent residents. This is required for a number of services. Unless you have residency through work, marriage or citizenship, you likely won’t have one. Don’t worry though; it shouldn’t keep you from doing things essential to survival.