Buenos días! I’m currently on a business trip in Argentina and I’m totally enjoying it! I love practicing spanish everyday and having the time to semi-live like a local (ok, I’m in a hotel, but still – it’s better than filling up my days touring every last known attraction to man). I’ve even had a couple of really delicious meals so far so I’m quite happy!
Even though I’ve only been here for a few days, the culture here is so different from the United States. For one, there is a huge cafe culture here. People pack the cafes from 4pm-7pm and beyond (must be a social thing) and just sit around with their coffees, cakes, and catch up with their friends. Another observation is that the restaurants don’t even open until 8pm and are open until 1am or 2am! Talk about a late dinner! The cities outside of Buenos Aires actually still practice siesta too (they learned that from the Spanish), which I’ll admit, I wouldn’t mind partaking in… Other quick things/tips I’ve noted:
- The taxi’s only take cash here and you can only pay in small bills. I had to get change from the hotel today because I didn’t have the bills to pay my taxi!
- The taxi drivers use the lanes and stop signs as “suggestions”.
- You need an ID if you want to pay with a credit card at the grocery store (btw, instant noodle costs about $3-$4 here).
- When I came to Buenos Aires many years ago, I ate for $3-$10 per meal. Now my meals cost considerably more – and I’m paying prices comparable to the U.S. There is some massive inflation going on in Argentina right now especially after they decided to decouple the peso from the dollar.
- You’re better off paying US dollars to any vendor that will take it AND you’ll get a significantly better exchange rate. I wish I knew this before coming because I got screwed on exchange rates when a tour company charged me more than they quoted because they used a different (i.e., less favorable) exchange rate to convert the quoted dollars to pesos (I should have just given her cash in dollars!).
- ATMs can only dispense about a max of 1,000 pesos per transaction (unless you find a Citibank one where you can withdraw around 2,500 pesos – so I’m told anyway). This sucks because you have to pay 19 pesos in ATM fees per transaction (again, I should have just brought dollars).
- Restaurants expect a tip of 10%. They also expect it in cash even if you’re paying the bill with a credit card.
Overall, though, everyone is so friendly! The vendors I’m working with literally walk me to the cab every night to make sure I’m safe, and the cabbies love to have random conversations with me (en español, obviamente) if I let them. My cabbie last night told me his life story and his theories on current world events – all in the 20 minute ride. It was pretty entertaining – plus, it’s just such a great experience to interact with locals when I can. I’m hoping I can soak up as much as I can while I’m here.
This weekend I’ll be doing a short weekend trip to Salta in northwestern Argentina, and then next weekend I’m planning to take the ferry to Uruguay before I head back home. I hope I’ll see some stuff worth posting!
Below are a few quick pics I took from the two days I had to explore so far. The pics were taken in Buenos Aires and San Antonio De Areco about 100km outside of the city: