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USEFUL ADDRESSES AND NUMBERS
Should you run into problems, the following numbers may come in handy:
Tourist Information – 011 4313 0187, or the most useful Tourist Kiosk located in the centre on Av. Diagonal Roque Saenz Peña and Florida (Monday-Friday 9am-6pm, Sat 10am-3pm). The kiosk and helpline staff do not usually have much specialist knowledge but can ply you with a wealth of glossy leaflets and maps. If you are planning to stay in the city for a while and to use public transport it would be worthwhile buying a Guia T, a combined street map and bus guide, from any of the magazine/newspaper kiosks dotted along the streets.
The Ministerio de Turísmo provides a website with the most comprehensive tourist information. Visit www.turismo.gov.ar
Embassies: Buenos Aires is a ‘world city’ and most countries have an embassy or consular presence here. Below are a list of a few of them…
Australia: Villanueva 1400, Palermo, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011 4779 3500
Canada: Tagle 2828, Recoleta, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011 4808 1000
Ireland: Av. del Libertador 1068, Recoleta, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011 5787 0801
New Zealand: Carlos Pellegrini 1427, 5th Floor, Retiro, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011 4328 0747
South Africa: Marcelo T. de Alvear 590, 8th floor, Retiro, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011 4317 2900
UK: Dr Luis Agote 2412, Recoleta, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011: 4808 2200
USA: Av. Colombia 4300, Palermo, Buenos Aires. Tel: 011 5777 4533
You will be able to use the ATMs here relatively problem free. Cash machines operate differently, but usually you will have to insert your card and follow the instructions and take your card back at the end of the transaction. Some, however, will ask you to insert and retract your card at the beginning and therefore you should ensure that you have completely finished the transaction before you walk away from the cash point!
Some banks impose limits on how much you can take out in one go and others will charge around $11 (pesos) for the transaction and this is totally separate to what your bank at home may charge you for taking out money abroad.
Banks are only open from 10am-3pm, Monday-Friday if you need to do an over-the-counter transaction, be sure to head along during those hours. Just after closing at 3pm, most banks refill the ATMs, so don’t be surprised if between 3 and 3.30 you find it impossible to get money anywhere.
If you want to post something you can go to either the post office, Correo Argentina, or if it is a letter or some paper work, there are authorized kiosks where you can send things from. However, to send packages you will need to go to the post office. Here you will be offered different sized boxes to place your item in. It is advisable to pre- wrap items that are fragile before sending them in the boxes.
Beware if you want to send expensive things as they tend to get ‘lost’ or arrive a lot later than expected to the final destination. A safer option is to use a private courier system but this is infinitely more expensive.
Electricity leaves the mains at 220v so you may need a transformer if your device uses a different voltage.
Buenos Aires is a city full of transport options for all budgets. Occasionally you have to weigh up the option between crawling along in a bus or taxi at rush hour or trying to survive the heat on the subte, but you can always get to where you want to go.
There are two cards which can be used as electronic payment cards, which can be ‘topped-up’ at most kiosks, and can also be used for bus and Subte trips. SUBE cards can be bought at the post office, kiosks, at various Subte stations, and online at the official government website (www.sube.gob.org). The cost to purchase a card is usually around $20. Another card is the Monadero and can also be used on all Subte. It is a worthwhile investment to put $10 or $20 credit on at a time to save long queues at peak times.
Buses (AKA ‘colectivos’ or ‘el bondi’)
Running 24 hours a day, there are 140 bus lines connecting the city.
Argentina is very unique in that people queue for the bus; don’t go upsetting anyone by cutting in line as everyone knows when they arrived and in front of whom. Tell the bus driver where you want to go, he will program it into a machine which will be just past him into the bus on the left or right hand side, pay with either your SUBE or put your money in the slot and a paper ticket and change will come out. Fares with the SUBE are $2.50, $2.85, $3.90 or $4.50 depending on length of journey. Without the SUBE card, fares are almost double the amount, so it is worthwhile to invest in one. If you don’t have a SUBE, you need coins (or ‘monedas’) for the bus. If in need, pop into a kiosko and buy something small to get the change.
A few extra tips:
The bus drivers act super efficiently, they will not wait for you to be comfortable before moving.
The Buenos Aires city government hosts a super useful website called Mapa Interactivo de Buenos Aires (at mapa.buenosaires.gob.ar) which allows users to plan their journeys from point of departure to point of arrival. You can filter your mode of transport (foot, bicycle, car, public transport) to find the best and quickest route throughout Capital Federal. Another option is www.comoviajo.com, which is also extremely useful.
The Guia T has become many people’s best friend though there are days when it will upset you and you’ll never want to see it again.
Bought from road-side magazine stands (a more than adequate pocket size edition is currently from $10) it contains the best map you will find of the city split over 36 glorious technicolour pages with every bus and subte route detailed inside. The hard part is trying to use it…
N.B. you still don’t know where the bus stop is along the road, you just have to walk until you find it (every three blocks or so as a rule). There will normally be a sign on a shelter but occasionally it’s a sticker on a wall or a tree or…
It’s not fun and it will take you weeks to master. And it’s not just you, it is a ridiculous way to map the city but indulge in the pretty pictures of bus designs in the back (every one is different after all!) and stick with it, soon it will never leave your side.
Fares are a flat rate of $3.50 for the underground train, pay for tickets from the booths in any station with cards available for 1, 2 or 5 trips (a multi-journey card can be used by more than one person at any time) or directly with your SUBE or Monadero card. Sometimes if it’s busy and you’re super lucky, staff will wave you through the barrier without you having to pay.
It’s pretty easy to navigate, stations are easy to spot above ground, just note that two stations at an interchange will have a different name for each line that they run on.
Buskers (some extremely good) and people selling things are very common but if you don’t want to give money, there’s no pressure (though you may want to join in the clapping after each song of a busker which is extremely respectful to see).
To visit outlying neighbourhoods, trains leave from Retiro, Constitución, Once and Federico Lacroze. Buy tickets from the relevant station and price varies according to distance of journey. www.tbanet.com.ar or www.ferrobaires.gba.gov.ar
Trains also leave from these stations a few times a week to head to far flung provinces on the decrepit national railway network that has been left to rot due to underinvestment. But if you have more time to travel, it is a novelty and will show you places you would never see from motorway aboard a luxury inter-city bus. The system is not particularly organised and it is slow, but go to each of the stations to ask for details as to where they go and when. The locations of the stations in the city are something of a clue – Constitución tends to have trains heading south, Once and Federico Lacroze west, and Retiro north.
Long haul buses and local bus terminal
Intercity buses are by far the most common way to travel long distances in Argentina, and they are good. Unlike many other things in Argentina, they leave on time and are extremely efficient. Meals are included (although to avoid scurvy it may be an idea to take some fruit or juice with you, as you can expect soft drinks, extremely sweet coffee and lifeless, carbohydrate based cuisine), as is entertainment, which tends to depend on the taste of the driver and crew – anything from pirate versions of the latest blockbuster to some straight-to-video action flick from the mid-80s could be on the agenda. On some carriers, on-board bingo is standard.
The bus terminal at Retiro should have you all you need. Av Ramos Mejía 1680, www.tebasa.com.ar
Aeropuerto Internacional Ezeiza Ministro Pistarini (or often referred to as simply Ezeiza) handles international flights. It is a 45-minute taxi ride from the centre, expecting to pay around $200-250 one-way.
Some branches of bus number 8 (check the sign in the front window), that run through San Telmo, Plaza de Mayo and the length of Avenida Rivadavia, also go to the airport at a cost of $1.75, but leave upwards of two hours for the journey.
Other alternatives ways to get to the airport, from shuttles and minibuses, can be found here.
Aeropuerto Jorge Newbery handles domestic and some South American flights and is located by the river in Palermo. It is a quick taxi ride, and some buses go there.
Although possible to catch a 8hr bus from Retiro to Montevideo in Uruguay, many people prefer to go by sea. Choose from 1hr to 3hr trips to Colonia or Montevideo and boats leave from the Buquebus terminal near Puerto Madero and the Colonia Express terminal in La Boca.
An easy option to get around, you can flag one of the 32,000 official taxis down from any street corner any time of day and night. There is an initial charge and then the price increases over length of journey. If you would rather reserve one for that important trip, get in touch with …
The fast pace and confusing network of one-way streets should put a lot of people off renting a car in Buenos Aires – it is much easier to go by public transport. However if you wish to take the plunge and take advantage of the ease of visiting outer towns and provinces, a plethora of national and international companies are at your fingertips.
VISAS AND WORKING
Tourist visas last for 90 days so if you are planning to stay for longer you have several options. A day trip to Colonia will provide you with a nice day out and a new 3-month tourist visa. Alternatively, you could travel to Chile by bus or plane.
The border crossings are;
Argentina and Uruguay, you can take a boat from either Puerto Madero to Colonia or Montevideo or from Tigre where you will go to Carmelo. There are also crossings from the Entre Ríos province to Uruguay but one of them is blocked due to an on going feud between to the two countries over a new paper mill which has been built which may be polluting the area. If you do over-shoot your stay the fine is a set 300 pesos.
You can also extend your stay for a further ninety days by presenting your passport to the main immigration department, Direccion de Migraciones, at Av. Antartida Argentina 1350, Retiro, in Buenos Aires (Tel; 011/4317 0237). This costs $300 and can be done on weekdays between 8am and 1pm.
US, Canada and Australia: If you are entering Buenos Aires from Ezeiza Airport, you will be charged a reciprocity fee of US$131, which is valid for entry into Argentina for ten years. The fee will be collected at the Passport Control checkpoint.
Working and Study Visa
These must be obtained from your consulate and then you will need to get the documents legalized in your home country. Once this side of the border, you will have to process the documents here. For more details, contact your consulate, and expect a bureaucratic nightmare that will take some time to get done.
Jobs and Volunteering
It isn’t as easy as some people presume to find a job in Buenos Aires. Work visas are often required and fluent Spanish and even then they are hard to come by. Generally foreigners in search of work should try their hand at teaching English (there are several institutes around the city where the provide English classes to corporate employees), finding a work in a trendy bar or restaurant (it is considered chic here to have a foreigner working in a bar), call centres or perhaps looking into volunteering.
There are NGOs which will take foreigners and a good source in which to look for these is Craigslist. This website has an extensive list of different jobs and sections ranging from Finance to Web Design to Lab work. Zona Jobs is another place to begin your search and has a huge amount to offer.
To help you work out how much your pennies are worth, and have a realistic guide to how much you are spending, these are the current conversion rates:
Empanadas are an Argentine specialty and are perfect for a quick, cheap meal on the go. The priciest of empanadas will cost about $11, but most will cost between $6-9.
Litres of beer also come by extremely cheap, you can get a litre of Quilmes, the Argentine brew, for about $15. Beer in a bar, also usually in a litre, will cost between $30-$50.
A glass of wine will set you back anything from $25-30, but in supermarkets you can get a good bottle for around $40.
For main courses, typical Argentine parrilla dishes will cost about $50-60 for a filling slab of meat with a side order, with more expensive restaurants or cuts going up from $90 and beyond.
Most cafes will charge between $11-16 for a coffee, but you can pick up a to-go coffee on most street corners for $10.
If you want to learn Spanish, do it here: a one-hour private class class typically costs around $60-$90.
For a night in a hostel, expect to pay between $55-100, depending on your location and level of luxury.
A cheap ticket to a River Plate or Boca Juniors football game will run about $80, although some tours will include a meal and door-to-door transportation, charging upwards of $330 to $600.
Expect a tango lesson to set you back $40.
Travel to Argentina doesn’t raise any raise any major health worries and with a small does of precaution and a handful of standard vaccinations (tetanus, polio, typhoid and Hepatitus A) you are unlikely to encounter any serious problems. It is best to ease yourself gently into the local diet – the sudden ingestion of generous quantities of red meat, beefy wine, strong coffee and sweet pastries can be very unsettling for a stomach used to gentler repasts.
Water is generally safe to drink, perhaps you should take more precaution in rural areas in the north of the country.
Pharmacies are scattered all over the city, the big chain Farmacity being open 24hrs long. The best way to find a doctor if you are not in an emergency situation is to ask in the local pharmacy for a doctor’s details. Most embassies have lists of English-speaking doctors.
For more serious ailments the easiest way to get treatment is to attend the outpatients department of a local hospital where the treatment will usually be free. In Buenos Aires, the Hospital de Clinicas, José de San Martín, Av Córdoba 2351 is a particularly efficient place to receive medical advice and prescriptions. You can work in and usually receive an on the spot appointment for a small fee.
Chagas’ Disease: This disease is transmitted by a small beetle and contact is most likely to occur in poorer, rural regions. Symptoms are fever , hard swelling on the skin and occasionally around the eyes. At this stage the disease is treatable and only in very few cases it proves to be fatal.
Where possible you should avoid camping in these poor regions and if you do sleep in an adobe hut, you should use a mosquito net and sling yor hammock as far away from the walls as possible. If you suspect you have been bitten, bathe the wound with alcohol, don’t scratch and seek medical help.
Dengue Fever: Dengue is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitos. The symptoms are high fever, headache, eye and muscular pain. It occurs in urban areas in the north of Argentina but unlike Malarial mosquitoes, the Dengue Mosquito bite during the day. The best way to avoid the slim chance of infection is cover up during the day and use mosquito repellent.
Malaria: Malaria is a minor risk in Argentina and confined to parts of Salta and the Jujuy provinces and the far northern borders of Corrientes and Misiones from October to May. To avoid this, cover up after dark and take the anti malarial drug Chloroquine and where possible using mosquito nets.
Getting around and road safety
Buenos Aires is reasonably safe to walk around, the dark spots in the centre are La Boca, San Telmo and around Retiro station, be careful day and night as pickpockets are especially rife. Otherwise, most neighborhoods are safe to walk around in at all times but be careful not to become the drunken tourist roaming the streets! Be wary at all times when crossing roads; if something doesn’t look like it’s going to stop, it probably won’t! (Especially bear this in mind when on 9 de Julio, one of the widest roads in the world, at 140m.)
If you need a taxi, it is advisable to call one rather than hailing one in the street and therefore you should have a few taxi numbers with on you around the city. However, it is perfectly safe to hail a Radio taxi, as this is the most trusted taxi company. Taxi drivers often take advantage of the fact that tourists don’t know their way around the city in order to drive that little bit further to make more money. Most locals will aks the taxi driver to take them to a particular intersection, and it’s advisable you do the same rather than give an exact address. Try to show him that you know exactly where you are and sound confident. Also, look out that they turn the meter on as sometimes they’ll try to pretend it doesn’t work and charge you some made up price at the end of the journey.
Many women travel alone in South America and are reasonably safe to walk in the city, taking obvious caution at night. The machista culture in Argentina leads to men frequently making comments to women in the street but either ignoring it or acknowledging it (maybe with an unbelieving laugh at the extent of the chat up line) will be the end of it and there’s rarely any pressure or threat meant by it. However, in the bars and clubs, Argentine men are especially aggressive, so be wary of your drink and of very forward advances.
Protests and demonstrations
The city has more than its share of demonstrations and protests in the city centre, happening almost on a daily basis. These are very rarely violent so it is safe to stand around and observe.
Petty crime and scams
There are some basic precautions you should take to reduce the likelihood of being a victim of crime. You should only carry with you what you need for that day and conceal valuable items such as cameras and jewellery.
When eating out or taking advantage of Buenos Aires’ café culture, always ensure you keep your bag on your lap. Never hang it on the back of the chair or leave it where someone could swiftly walk past and grab it.
A well-known but often used scam is one which thieves use in order to steal your bag. The thieves target backpackers and will tap you on the shoulder to kindly inform you that a bird has pooed on your shoulder or back. Often the thief will have put something like mustard on your clothing as a disguise. When you put your bag down to have a look, they will run off with your bag.
Fake notes are in abundance in Buenos Aires. Beware when you are changing money or receiving change from people, especially taxi drivers, that the notes aren’t fake, the notes should have a shiny, divided metal line down the left hand side and look out for notes that have simply been photocopied, sometimes the fakes are really obvious!
If you are unlucky enough to be the victim of a robbery or lose anything of value, you will need to make a report at the nearest police station for insurance purposes.