You’ve arrived in Buenos Aires, guide book in hand and some basic research accomplished. Now what? How about some tips from the locals! Real, unbiased advice from expats that live in Buenos Aires year round!
Getting Started, Arrival
Ezeiza (EZE) airport is located about an hour from the center of Buenos Aires. The city itself is divided by a large highway called General Paz into two general sections, Capital Federal (where you will likely be the whole time) and Provincia. If you were to compare Buenos Aires to New York City, Capital Federal is to Manhattan as Provincia is to Queens, Bronx and Brooklyn.
Buenos Aires is massive. So large that it is unlikely that you will visit the majority of the neighborhoods within Capital Federal. The most traveler friendly areas and neighborhoods are: *Palermo (All subsections), Belgrano, Barrio Norte, Centro, San Telmo, Recoleta, Villa Crespo, Puerto Madero just to name a few. All neighborhoods that line the Linea D subte ( D subway line) are for the most part traveler friendly.
Each of these neighborhoods are known for their distinct onda (vibe), architecture and have various reputations regarding activities, nightlife and shopping. We have broken down each neighborhood by variables on scales of 1-10. Feel free to investigate each one to get the general idea about the neighborhoods.
Crime and Safety
Traveler friendly does not mean 100% care free and safe. Buenos Aires is a large metropolis and with big cities come a variety of crimes. The traveler friendly areas are sometimes targeted by petty thieves, pick pockets and scam artists. The vast majority of crime in Buenos Aires is non-violent. Some helpful vocabulary just in case:
Robar: To rob
Me robaron: They robbed me
Necessito hablar con un policia: I need to speak to a police officer
If you are a victim of a crime please contact your local embassy, the tourism police and/or your local police at phone number 911. Even if they do not recover your stolen items the crime is reported, helps statistics and assists in the deployment of police in crime hot areas.
Tourism Police of Buenos Aires: Corrientes Avenue 436 Tel: 4346-5748 / 0800-9995000
Crimes are highly preventable if you are aware of your surroundings and what the common scams in Buenos Aires are and basic safety measures for Buenos Aires. As our August-December of 2010 intern Elaine Tannous suggests, it is just like being familiar with a magician’s trick before the act- you’ll know what to expect.
Adjusting to Buenos Aires Life
Buenos Aires is one of the greatest cities in the world. Affordable fine wines, expansive lands, beaches, attractive people, a carnivore’s paradise, cutting edge fashion- the list goes on and on.
What the guide books won’t tell you is that Buenos Aires runs on a different clock- speaking generally that is. It is not uncommon to throw a party with a start time of 9 pm and not see one guest arrive until 11:30 pm. Clubs do not open their doors until 12 midnight and the crowd will not be present until 2 or 3 am. Restaurants will not be prepared to serve dinner until 8 pm- Buenos Aires has a very relaxed, take your time attitude when it comes to social events.
The general pace of life in Buenos Aires is much more relaxed. Offices open around 9:00 to 9:30 am and close around 5:30 pm. Lunch can sometimes stretch to be a couple of hours beginning around 1:00 pm.
To add some humor into your adjustment check out the “Good Gringo, Bad Gringo” article series about social faux pas in Buenos Aires. Also look into the popular local podcast BA Cast to get a mixture of expat life, language, humor and controversial topics in Buenos Aires.
Greetings always involve a kiss on the right cheek if you are female. Males greeting males will kiss the others’ cheek if they have an established friendship, are family or are simply trying to make the other feel welcome.
Argentinians generally speaking, do not drink as much as Germans, Russians, Americans, Australians, etc. However, they will outlast some of the best in the nightlife game. Getting drunk is not necessarily frowned upon, but it does tend to happen late into the morning at the end of a long night out.
Dating from a European or North American point of view can be very aggressive. Piropos (cat calls) are constant for women dressed to the nine, men will approach regularly in bars and women can (not always the case) be perceived as stand off-ish and even downright cold. If you were a woman brought up in Buenos Aires and dealing with constant piropos it would likely have the same effect on you! There is little advice we can offer for the gents other than to embrace your foreign factor.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to really integrate yourself into Argentinian life, check out How To Act Like A Local in Buenos Aires by The Real Argentina
Things to do
Buenos Aires is packed with great cultural events, activities, museums, restaurants, bars and opportunities to enjoy a great trip abroad. We have taken our time in narrowing the list down to some of the highest value excursions, lessons, tours and activities that the city has to offer. Be sure to give them a peak before your trip has become budgeted. Activities like polo lessons or tickets to Boca Juniors stadium are not cheap, but are highly rated and raved about. If you are already on a tight budget don’t worry we have a budget section just for you (coming soon in April 2012)!
Music, shows, theater Vuenos Aires
For general info read our Things you Must do in Buenos Aires article.
For a mixture of what is happening this week check out our weekly things to do post on the main page.
Spanish is the predominate language in Argentina, however, the variations of Spanish spoken in Buenos Aires can get unusual. Not only is the pace of spoken Spanish in Buenos Aires quite fast, but the slang is very much ingrained in everyday speak even amongst more formal officials.
Lunfardo, or Argentinean slang, is comprised mainly of tango lyrics, mixtures of Italian and Spanish immigrant influences and modern day pop culture. It can become very playful, for example, reverse lunfardo slang takes regularly used Spanish words and reverses them. Some are so commonly used that you can order items off the menu in what appears to be complete code to an outsider.
If you are interested in some of the more entertaining and embarrassing Spanish errors one can make while in Buenos Aires, please read the 3 part series Embarrassing Moments in Spanish.
Gestures have evolved into key components of everyday communication, especially in Buenos Aires. The Italians are known for their passionate and physically expressive forms of communication. The Argentinians are a close second. But please note that the gesture that the Italians made so famous in Romeo and Juliet does not mean the same thing in Buenos Aires!
Some of the more common slang words you will hear even within a day of walking around Buenos Aires are:
Boludo: Dummy (depending on the relationship of the people this word can be a friendly joke or insult)
Colectivo or bondi: City bus
Che: Hey, man, yo
Capo: Boss, chief
Galan: A playboy or cool guy that is good with the ladies
Langa: A guy who thinks he is cool, but is rather a blowhard. (Note the spelling. It is a good example of reverse slang- Galan/Langa)
Mina: An attractive female, a babe
Pancho: Hot dog
Rolinga/o: A fan of the Rolling Stones
Trucha/o: Fake, pirated or something made of poor quality
For a good starter’s guide on social categorizing lunfardo check out Glorious Lunfardo, where we take the classic 90’s show Saved by the Bell and apply Argentinean lunfardo. Or use caution when researching the many insults and curse words in the popular series Swears Translated.
If you are searching for a way to study abroad, group classes or to simply take a few lessons there are several schools that have good reputations for all around academics, programs and extracurricular activities. We would recommend researching:
Buenos Aires has a rich and tattered historical past. The city established itself upon the foundations of corruption, counterfeit goods and bootlegging and is now the leader in South American gay marriage, social welfare, healthcare and strong rights for all social classes. Buenos Aires is diverse, juxtaposing and simply interesting. Evita Peron to Diego Maradona, Juan Manuel Fangio to Jose de San Martin Argentina has something for everyone when it comes to its history and present state.
Your school will surely teach you a thing or two about Argentina’s past, but if you are hungry for more or would like an in depth, interesting private tour we recommend either the Jewish historical tour or LandingPadBA’s own city Tour.
Getting Around and Transportation
The city’s public transportation system is solid with bus routes covering the vast majority of the city, train lines that are very accessible and a subway that covers the most frequented areas. Coins and cash have been king until the government removed the general subsidy for public transport. If you want the discounted version you will need a SUBE card. It is a card that can be charged with credit and used on virtually every form of public transportation available.
The bus system can be a bit daunting to new comers or non-Spanish speakers. Other than paying attention to what buses run near your destinations you will need to buy a Guia T. Check this handy article on how to use the Guia T bus map.
Driving…we do not recommend it. With a plethora of taxis, buses, trains and the subway it simply not worth the hassle or the danger. Speaking of which, be careful crossing streets.
Biking can be a fun way to get around the city, but be sure to wear a helmet and pay attention. One Porteno (Buenos Aires resident) and I had an interesting conversation regarding the traffic here:
BsAs: “The U.S. is more dangerous to drive in.”
Me: “Excuse me??”
BsAs: “In the U.S. you expect everyone else to follow the laws of traffic. It is easy and calm. Accidents happen because someone is not doing what they should be doing.”
Me: “Ok, I’ll bite. How is that worse?”
BsAs: “In Buenos Aires you always have to expect the unexpected. You don’t know what anyone is going to do so you always drive defensively. It’s safer that way.”
I have to agree with him. You really need to pay attention here walking, biking or driving- the “Argentina is safer driving” part…not so much.
General Areas for Tourism
The most popular areas for bars, shopping, restaurants, etc are:
Good areas for general nightlife exploration and bar hopping:
Plaza Armenia (aka Plaza Palermo Viejo) in Palermo Soho
Plaza Serrano in Palermo Soho
Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo
Intersection of Niceto Vega y Humbolt in Palermo Hollywood
Intersection of Honduras y Bonpland in Palermo Hollywood
Recoleta Cemetery area
Have fun exploring Buenos Aires and contact us if you need anything!