Buenos Aires is a type of city that can polarize travellers – but we guess it is true for all capitals. The capital of Argentina is a city you either love or hate – although we can’t imagine feeling the latter! For us Buenos was a place where our South America began. We loved being there so much that we stayed way longer than planned even though we usually don’t like the cities. Buenos Aires surpsised us in many ways (mainly positive ones) so we would come back there with pleasure. We secretely hope that we will be back there again, not once. Below we present a list of things that have surprised us the most about Buenos Aires with a bunch of useful practical information. They will make your Buenos Aires trip easier and much more enjoyable.
What surprised us in Buenos Aires?
Over the years we got used to the capitals being more expensive. In Europe renting a place or having a meal out can sometimes cost a little fortune. Not in Buenos Aires though! Going out will not set you back much when you know where and when to go. The prices in restaurants are smaller than in European capitals, with a really great quality. Grabbing a beer in hippie chic Palermo Soho district can be as cheap as 1,5 euro. Decent vegan burger with a side of fries – 4,5 euro. Reasonably sized aperol spritz in one of the better districts – 3 euro. These prices make people like us very happy! A place to stay, especially on airbnb, can also be found in a really great price. For instance, we managed to rent a cute, two-bedroom apartment in a central location for about 20 euro per night.
Awesome public transport system - SUBE
If you are wondering what is the best way of getting around Buenos Aires, the answer is easy – by bus! The public transport in Argentina’s capital is very well organized – we have never experienced something like this! There are many buses on a street all at once, all of them ready to take you to every corner of the bustling city. If you like to try riding a bus in Buenos Aires, you need to get a SUBE card first. The card you can buy in kiosks. Look for a blue sign with “Obtenga aqui SUBE” words. Moreover, the SUBE card can also be used in other cities across Argentina – we for instance used it in Bariloche. The ticket price is around 0.3 euro and depends on the number of stops you wish to ride. You need to tell your final destination to the driver when you are embarking on the bus. If you run out of money on your SUBE card and you can’t find a place to top it up, don’t worry, you can still ride a bus few times.
Fast public wifi
Internet abroad is always a bit tricky. If you are one of the people that always need to stay in touch with their social media you know what we are talking about. In Argentina you can obviously buy a prepaid card with data, but to be honest – there is no need for that in Buenos Aires. There are many public wifi spots across the city – mostly around tourists attractions and parks where people like to hang out.
Legit happy hour in great places
How many times have you seen an advertisment for a happy hour deal? And how many times have you left the cafe or a restaurant a little bit disapointed? If the answer is similar to ours – many – try happy hour in Argentina. They take it seriously in Buenos Aires! In almost every pub or cafe you can drink a cold beer or have a snack, usually between 6:00 and 8:00 pm. Sometimes also in the middle of the day – check our Buenos Aires food guide for some examples!
We usually don’t use taxis, but sometimes there is no other option! Million degrees, three bags on your back – you know what we mean! Luckily in Buenos Aires taxis are riddiculously cheap to use and they can easily compete with public transport fares in some cases. Especially when travelling in a group! We used taxis several times all over the city and we never paid more than 5 euro. In Buenos Aires you can also use the app called BEAT that works similarly to UBER.
Lots of police on the streets
You can find a police patrol on nearly every crossroad in the city! This kind of makes you feel safe. At least it made us feel safe, especially after all the things we read online about Buenos Aires being really dangerous. Obviously it doesn’t mean you can let your guard down and stop playing safe! Beware of pickpocketers especially – the ones in Buenos Aires really do have some sneaky ideas. Example? One person “accidentally” pours a liquid on you and while they apologize, the other is already looking through your pockets.
Cash and high ATM fees
We usually don’t use cash too often when we travel – we have our revolut card that we trust to give us the best rates. In that case Argentina is a slightly different country though! In some places card payments were not possible (we had some problems mostly with our MasterCard!). This means that you always need to have some cash on you. There are three ways to get it. First – bring some euros or dollars with you and exchange them in a bank – remember that as a foreigner you won’t be able to exchange it the other way round (pesos back to dollars or euros). With dollars there is also on option to exchange them on the streets for a higher rate – we know people do that but we were too scared of getting fake money. Second option is the obvious one – get some money out of the ATM. The withdrawal fees are very high in Argentina though (up to 10$). Third and best option is Western Union – keep reading this post!
Amazing Western Union deal
We had never used Western Union before Argentina because it usually doesn’t offer the best deal. But it is the best way to get your money while in Argentina! Why? Because it offers a rate that is 30% higher than an official one. We have no idea how this works, but we love it. And this makes the prices in the country even more wallet-friendly! And it also means that paying with cash is most cost-efficient in Argentina!
Unsual rules for card payments
We never thought card payments are an unusual thing but it turned out it wasn’t that obvious in Argentina. If you want to pay with a card you always need to show your ID or your passport. Without it, you won’t be able to pay. In neighbourhood Uruguay they didn’t have that rule (if you are heading to Uruguay, check out this blogpost with the awesome coastal itinerary). Overall card payment is possible in most places in Argentina although we sometimes had problems with our MasterCard in some cafes and bars. This means you better always have some cash in your wallet – especially that we have shown you with the last paragraph that it is also more cost-effective to pay with cash in Argentina.
Good meat for omnivores and lots of veggie options for vegetarians and vegans
We assume everyone heard about the Argentina’s prime beef which is supposed to be the best in the world. Argentine people love their meat. No Sunday is full without the asado and traditional parrillas (BBQs) can be found around every corner. But if you are like us and you usually stay away from meat – you won’t get disappointed in Buenos Aires. There are lots of plant-based cafes and restaurants there that will make every vegan and vegetarian really happy. We even managed to try out a real vegan barbeque that was exquisite – check out our Buenos Aires food guide to learn more!
If you, just like us, hate buying water in plastic bottles only to throw a bottle away hours after, Buenos Aires is the right place for you! Tap water there is totally drinkable. It’s clean, safe and it tastes good. It is free and you don’t produce more waste – it’s a win-win!
Real night life
Coming from Poland, it was a huge surprise for the both of us! Finding an open decent restaurant to have dinner before 8:00 pm was nearly impossible. Argentinians love having their dinner late at night so when you go to a burger joint around midnight don’t be surprised when you can’t find a free table. Lots of restaurants open late and only for a few hours – it is not bizarre for place to have 8:00 pm until 2:00 am opening hours. Dancing in a club also starts way past midnight. It is probably the main reason why people wake up quite late in Buenos Aires. This nighttime activity doesn’t end on restaurants and clubs though. You think that going to Carrefour at 1:00 am will let you avoid the queues? Think again.
Love for fitness
You have probably not once heard that exercising outside is the healthiest way to do it! And people in Buenos Aires really do live by this rule. In the evening every green area in the city is full with poeple running, playing badmington, doing yoga etc.
Love for mate
You will see a person with a huge thermos under their arm and a typical mate cup in their hand very often in Buenos Aires (though the biggest mate freaks are the people from Uruguay!). In Argentina people gather in the evenings together, sit on a blanket in the parks and share a mandatory mate. Just like that. No alcohol, just mate. If you never had yerba before, you defnitely won’t leave Argentina without trying it!
We hope this post allowed you to learn some new interesting things about Buenos Aires and Argentina. We hope all the practical information will make navigating through the city even easier. Remember to also check out our post with the best things to see and do in the Argentina’s bustling capital!