Buenos Aires

One more city to add to the amazing list - so much to see in Buenos Aires, great food (beef, beef, and beef), incredibly clean city, lots of green spaces, and good transportation.

Short takes and tips for travelers to Buenos Aires. There are many web sites with information, so this is only the list of things I did not find at other web sites after a web search, or things that were really interesting.

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You can get by with English, but note that most people will only be able to speak in Spanish, so knowing a bit of Spanish is recommended.

Arrival: After a long flight from the US, you want to get to your room with least amount of trouble - take the taxi if you are in a hurry, or take the Manuel Tienda Leon bus. The bus is air-conditioned and quite comfortable, but requires a transfer to another bus to get to your final destination. The bus is half the price of the taxis, so if there are two or more people, taxi is a better option. There are many stalls selling taxi/remis services, but the best option is at the Taxi Ezeiza's blue/white circular, stand-alone booth, just outside the exit from the customs area. For the return trip, call their number (+54 11) 5480-0066 to reserve a taxi. Airport to the City costs under AR$65, while City to the Airport is under AR$55 (this includes tolls). [2007 Prices - factor in 10%-20% inflation! In 2008, the prices were AR$88 and AR$60 respectively!]. They also respond very quickly to email at their info@taxiezeiza.com.ar address, you have to communicate in Spanish - use the free translation services available on the web if you need it!

Bidet: This is very common in Argentina, the number one country in bidet availability, in the world. So, read about it before going! The Argentinos must have a tough time when they travel to the US where there are no bidets!

Walking is a very good way to explore the barrios. But as you may have been warned by the tourist guides, look before you step - dog doo-doo is a lurking danger on the streets. Porteños either do not have to or do not believe in cleaning up after their dogs, so while the city tries valiantly to keep sidewalks clean, there is no way to keep with the owners and their dogs, so be careful where you step! This is a bigger issue in the residential barrios, Microcentro shopping and theater areas are pretty safe. In any case, even with this, it still remains a pretty clean city, which tells you how well they maintain this place - it is a pleasure to hang out in Buenos Aires.

Cell phone: If you need to use a phone, buy a Quad-Band Unlocked GSM phone in the US, easy to buy one on eBay for example. Then buy a SIM card at any of the numerous official phone agencies which are numerous in the city. Charge up the card with AR$20, or AR$50, with the higher amounts getting free extra air time. In 2008, a AR$50 refill provided talk time of AR$90. Local calls, as well as calls to the US were quite cheap - under AR$1/minute, as far as I could tell. But calls to cellphones in Buenos Aires were far more expensive.
Phone numbers in Buenos Aires are complicated, do a web search to get the gory details, in short: Buenos Aires area code is 11, Argentina Country Code is 54. When making local calls, neither needs to be used, just dial the 8 digit phone number. But since the caller pays for calls to cell phones, they identify cell phones with the 15 prefix for local calling, and the 9-11 prefix when calling from outside Argentina. Example: if local number is xxxx-xxxx, calling from abroad dial +54-11-xxxx-xxxx. Locally, just dial xxxx-xxxx. If local cell phone is 15-yyyy-yyyy, calling from abroad dial +54-9-11-yyyy-yyyy. Locally, dial 15-yyyy-yyyy. [The + sign is the international access code. It is 011 when dialing from the USA, and it is 00 when dialing from Argentina.]

Departing: Lots of lines to wait in at the airport. Most US-bound flights depart late evening. At least two hours advance arrival, if not more to account for traffic jams, would not be out of place. First, checkin to your airline. Then, stand in the airport tax line - pay with US$ cash, or AR$, though you can use the credit card (plus upto 5% fees charged by VISA/MasterCard). Then, if you bought any Tax-Free items in the country, stand in the long customs line to get paper work stamped - this line can be skipped if you did not buy any tax-free item in Buenos Aires. Then you can go and stand in the passport control line, another long line. Finally, there may be a another line for security checks just before boarding the plane bound for the US.

Tourist Guide: There are official tourist help kiosks around main tourist spots, they have a small blue i sign, get a city map from there, it is pretty good. The web site is Turismo BsAs and they have online tourist information, and guides in multiple languages, here's the Guía de Buenos Aires in English (PDF file).


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