After my travels last year, I promised myself to spend more time in the places I visit. Travel and work can go hand in hand if you approach it in the right way. At the end of last year I decided that moving around from place to place too much whilst working can wear you out. What I needed to do was slow down and soak up the local way of life a little more, try and see it from the inside out, blending in my working day for a more comfortable mix.
I’ve now been in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a little over a month. It’s amazing. Buenos Aires is an upbeat, exciting rollercoaster of a city. It keeps you on your toes, keeps you guessing and keeps you coming back for more. Hence, why I’ve been a bit quiet/slack on my content.. it’s been a busy month. My aim was to fully integrate myself into the Argentine way of life, not missing any tricks. So far I’ve eaten around 3,000 empanadas, drank 2,000 glasses of wine, watched many street tango sessions and I’m now learning Spanish. We are go go go here in BA.
It’s taken some time to settle and find my rhythm in this city. The first few days were a shock to the system. The Argentine way of life is very different to the Southeast Asian way of life and I felt a bit lost. After a few overwhelming, stressful days. I got my shit sorted.
I would highly recommend you visit this beautiful country, but here’s a few things to know before you land.
The Argentinian economy is constantly changing, it’s hard to keep up with the latest rates. How much are you actually getting for your bucks? Make sure to bring American dollars with you, you can change this to Argentine Pesos with a better rate at Money Exchanges or with the ‘Cambio’ people who line the streets. Western Union will also become your best friend, luckily it’s easy enough to send yourself money, but if you’re planning on getting a hefty amount of money paid out, arrive at the Western Union store before it opens. There’s normally a queue of people lining up, so get comfortable. The earlier you are the better, you’ll hopefully receive a wider and higher range of bank notes (you don’t want 20,000 Peso in 100 notes, stacks on stacks on stacks).
It’s super easy to get around the city. You can hail down a taxi, but the majority of the cabs go off of the meter and you may not have enough cash. No need for stress. Download Cabify or Uber before you leave and include your bank details. Once you arrive, upload your Argentinian phone number to your account and you are all set to whizz around the city. You can also jump on the subway or the bus, but I’ll talk about this a little later on in the post.
I was naive. I thought ‘Oh Buenos Aires is a massive city, everyone will be talking English, it will be super easy’. Oh how I was wrong. I sometimes forget how lucky I am that I speak English, it’s a language that a lot of people speak and because of that I’ve become lazy in learning other languages. I knew the very very basics before coming out to BA and that really helped! Make sure to memorise some useful phrases if you really are starting at zero. The people of Buenos Aires are extremely patient and appreciate it massively when you try to speak with them in Spanish, so don’t be put off and get that Duolingo membership before you fly.
So, there are a few things you need to prep/think about before you fly, but what about when you land? Here’s what you need to be aware of and get sorted once you’ve landed in BA.
Every country I go to, one of the first things I do is buy a sim card. Having a sim card and instant access to the internet automatically removes some of the stresses of travel. Before leaving for BA, I was told not to buy a sim from the airport as the deals weren’t very good, they were expensive and the service just couldn’t be trusted. On my second day I headed to Claro (a trusted telecoms provider) and paid for a three month sim card, this cost me around £20.00 (at the time of purchase). BUT, I couldn’t pay on card, so I had to find a Money Exchange, change some Dollars into Peso and head back to the Claro store before I could finally have access to the internet (keep this in mind).
Once you’re up and running with a sim card. Join as many Whatsapp groups as you can. For events, meetups, classes, courses, you name it there is a Whatsapp group. I’m currently a part of two different BA Digital Nomad groups and these are great to find out about what is actually happening in Buenos Aires and how it all works. It’s also nice knowing that there are so many other similar people out there who are just trying to figure it out.
Buenos Aires has a brilliant subway system called Subte. It’s so easy to navigate and not as stressful as the London tube. The kicker here is that you need a ‘Subte’ card to be able to hop on the subway and the bus. These cards are like gold dust. When I first arrived, Buenos Aires was facing problems with their print production, so it would have been easier to find a piece of actual gold than getting my hands on one of these cards. After a week or two I decided that I needed one, paying for taxis (even though cheaper than home) really adds up. I was determined. I had heard about people visiting 15 kiosco’s before finally finding one of the Subte cards. In the Whatsapp groups people were sharing the locations where they managed to find cards, many people turned up and then BAM, the cards were gone. I was extremely lucky. There was a Lotería de la Ciudad next to my hostel and I saw that they had a Subte sign on the outside. I went straight in and managed to get a card. I was chuffed. So prepare yourself for this, it can either be super easy to get a card or it can be a headache, but it’s worth it.
Before I left, a few people told me to be extra careful. South America seems to come with a bit of a warning. It’s not safe, be scared etc etc. Of course, some areas aren’t safe and there are places I won’t be visiting (in BA, It’s general knowledge that you shouldn’t be in the La Boca area at night and definitely not by yourself). But so far in Buenos Aires, I have felt extremely safe. Don’t get me wrong, I have my wits about me. I don’t walk alone at night, when I’m out in the evening I get a taxi or know my exact subway route home. I carry my goods in a bum bag and don’t show off/splurge. You can’t get too comfortable. The people who asked why South America? Aren’t you scared? Are the people who have never visited. The people who I have met here so far have all said they have felt safe and comfortable whilst travelling and have loved it. Basically, don’t be daft and you should be ok! It’s an amazing country and I’d be sad if people were put off by a clouded prejudgement of the continent.
People really do make the places. The Argentinian people are full of cheer, passion and determination. You’ll feel welcomed into the city straight away. Get ready for some unclear, lovely chats with your taxi drivers, beers with the locals and laughs with the waitresses.
I hope the above helps you with your trip. It takes time, but you’ll figure Buenos Aires out. It’s a complicated, beautiful, unique city that you won’t want to leave, so enjoy it all.
Hasta Luego x