Whenever you travel to a new place for the first time, you need to do a little bit of research. Investigation is important because you might find that certain individuals try to take advantage of your lack of knowledge and your immediate disorientation, especially when landing in a foreign place after a very long plane journey.
It is important to stress here at this point that Buenos Aires is not a place to be feared or a place to be wary of per se. Buenos Aires, like any other capital city in the world, has the potential to be dangerous whether you are a tourist or a resident. Like all other capital cities in the world, unless you come prepared, Buenos Aires can feel daunting, confusing and you can end up making foolish choices simply because you arrived without having done any kind of preparation whatsoever.
The purpose of this short article is to outline a number of important things to bear in mind when arriving to Buenos Aires for the first time so that you can be ready and prepared for what you will encounter before you step off of the plane. It is also an article which shares some important “insider” information on how to get the best out of your stay, whether you are going to be staying for a number of months or just a matter of days.
Airport arrival and Manuel Tienda Leon
Without a doubt, the Manuel Tienda Leon service, a bus which takes you from the International Airport at Ezeiza to the center of Buenos Aires (close to Retiro Bus Station at Puerto Madero), is the BEST option for all tourists arriving for the first time in Buenos Aires. (Incidentally, the same service operates from the National Airport, Jorge Newberry, too).
It’s cheaper than a taxi, your bags and suitcases are safely stored under the bus and you have a ticket to pick them up when you arriving to the city center (which means everything is safe) and the buses are incredibly comfortable.
As soon as you go through customs and step out into either airport in Buenos Aires, you will see a Manuel Tienda Leon office where you can buy a ticket, but if you miss it for some reason, head to the information desk and inquire. Buses normally leave every half hour and they take between 30 and 40 minutes to get to the city center (depending on traffic) if coming from the International Airport. If arriving to the National Airport, you’ll be at the city center stop in Puerto Madero within 10 minutes.
The only problem with Manuel Tienda Leon is that between midnight and four in the morning the service stops running. This can be slightly annoying for those people who need to travel back to the airport for an early morning departure. Hopefully, at some point in time, the service will change and it will be offered 24 hours around the clock. Hopefully!
From the International Airport at Ezeiza, there are a number of official taxi companies where you can order a taxi to take you to the center. At the time of writing, a taxi costs about 225 argentine pesos. However, prices go up every few months, so it is best to inquire beforehand to check that you are being offered a good price when you arriving. Connecting Worlds would be more than happy to ask around for you before you fly so that when you arrive you can be sure that you are being charged correctly.
If you arrive to the National Airport, Jorge Newberry, it’s a better idea to go outside onto the street and hail a taxi down. The companies tend to overcharge and as you are already in the actual city of Buenos Aires when arriving to this airport, it makes no sense to pay extra.
However, one very important tip here. Make sure the taxi driver puts his or her meter on and make sure that you know the route to take. If you don’t have any idea about Buenos Aires and how to travel around, the taxi driver could end up taking you on a long route to your destination in order to charge you more. PLEASE UNDERSTAND that this is NOT something that happens a lot. This is just something that happens on rare occasions and to a number of tourists all over the world. It’s NOT something that applies solely to Buenos Aires and Connecting Worlds is not in the habit of scaremongering.
This also applies to using taxis when you are out and about in Buenos Aires during your stay. Make sure you know the route. Tell the taxi driver which route you wish him or her to take too if you wish. Be confident, act like you really know the city and fewer people will even consider making a few extra pesos out of you, but WE REPEAT… Buenos Aires is not full of taxi-driving con-artists. The world is subjected to them and this advice is general advice for how to approach taxis in general.
Buses, trains, the subway and “SUBE”
If you are in Buenos Aires just for a few days or a few weeks, you’ll probably just put up with paying extra on all forms of public transport. Let us explain…
About two years ago, the SUBE was introduced to Buenos Aires. It is a plastic travelcard which you put money on and then use to pay for your travel on buses, trains and on the subway. When you pay using the SUBE, no paper is wasted (good idea Buenos Aires! we like it!) and you pay less… quite a bit less too.
Without a SUBE, you end up paying at least one peso more every time for your journey and YOU HAVE TO PAY USING COINS on the bus. On the subway and on the trains you can normally get change when you queue up to pay at a booth, but on the buses the machines can only take coins, which can be a bit of a pain sometimes. However, if you are visiting for a few weeks, it’s doubtful you’ll want to bother getting yourself a SUBE.
If you are studying or on a working holiday in Buenos Aires, get a SUBE. You’ll save lots of money, lots of time and travelling around will be so much easier for you. The process is fairly simple. You will need your passport and a copy of your passport in order to get one, but you can begin investigating into the subject by visiting the SUBE webpage here.
The site is in Spanish. If you need help, get in touch with us here at Connecting Worlds.
Always change your money at an official money exchange booth (there are lots at both airports) or at a bank when you arrive to the city center. When you make these transactions, you will be given a receipt and should you find you have been given false bills, you will be able to get your money back.
Operating via the black market leaves you out in the cold. At present, the black market is stronger than it has been in the past few years because there is now a control on the amount of dollars Argentines are allowed to buy, which has sent the population a little crazy looking for alternative ways to buy dollars. It’s a situation which is liable to change like the wind, which is why you should contact Connecting Worlds directly before you arrive if you wish to know anything about the current climate and how to operate upon arrival.
Again, tourists are always at risk of receiving false bills in many parts of the world, not just in Buenos Aires. It is common sense to stick to official money exchange spots, regardless of how inviting the black market exchange rates might be.
Asking for help
Buenos Aires is fullof incredibly helpful and friendly people. It is one of its charms and one of the reasons that so many foreigners choose to make it their home. If you’re lost, ask! Lots of people, not all, speak a little English if your Spanish isn’t that great and if you are really stuck and worried about something, contact Connecting Worlds. We will be able to help you at any time.
In short, tipping is important. Sometimes the tip is included in the final price, so check the bill well before you pay, but the standard 10% at a restaurant will really go down well with your waiter / waitress.
Tipping at bars is not really expected at all. It is not part of the culture in Buenos Aires in any way. Some bars have a huge jar placed on the bar and the staff share the tips from that bar at the end of the night, but unlike New York, the barman / barwoman does not live off of his or her tips, so feel free to contribute or not, as you wish.
It is a good idea in a restaurant, however, to make sure you give the tip directly to your waiter / waitress and not leave it on the table or include it in the credit card bill, because it might never make it into the hands of the person who should be receiving it. Again, NOT always the case, but true sometimes. Enough for us to want to make you aware of it, at least.
If you are looking for Immersion programs or Responsible Tours in Argentina, visit our official website
Join our Facebook FAN PAGE to stay updated, interact with the other fans and much more!