For travellers Argentina offers a mix of the culture and cosmopolitan feel of the amazing Buenos Aires and the stunning array of natural attractions throughout the country.
Buenos Aires is the Capital city and cultural heart of Argentina, it pulses with a wild and off centre version of european culture. The city is a ramshackle combination of architecture, shopping and cultural attractions with many fine resaturants and always plenty to do. The people are passionate and love to talk, argue, dance and eat, they are an attraction in themselves.
The natural beauty of Argentina is hard to overstate. The Iberia Wetlands is a nature reserve with an area of 13,000 Square Km. Another must is to visit El Calafate in the Glaciers National park, The Perito Moreno Glacier and The Iguazu Falls, that some claim is the most spectacular waterfall in the world. The Andes in this part of the world has the highest peaks in South America.
Where is Argentina?
Argentina is located on the south-east of South America. The country is the second largest on the continent with an area exceeding 2.60 million Sq Km or about one-third the size of the United States. It has a long coastline along the Atlantic stretching all the way to the very southern tip of South America. There are several very high mountains including Cerro Aconcagua at 6,960m, deserts, wetlands, salt flats and impressive forests.
History of Argentina
Argentina derives from Argentum, the Latin word for silver. When Spanish explorers first reached South America in the early part of the sixteenth century, silver is what they were looking for. Argentina achieved independence from Spain in 1816 and has had some highs and lows since then. Political conflict has been evident in the country, however democracy has been in place since 1983. Argentina suffered a major economic collapse at the dawn of this century, however the political and economic enviroments have stabalised since 2006 and an economic recovery is underway.
Argentina Visa Requirements
Citizens from many countries do not require a visa to enter Argentina for the purpose of tourism for stays of up to 90 days. These countries include Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, Great Britain and Ireland, countries from the EU as well as many Latin American countries.
The period of stay can be extended only once for the same duration as the period originally granted. Application for this extension must be made prior to the expiration of the original term of stay.
Passports must be valid for at least 90 days from the date of arrival in Argentina.
Children under the age of 21 when travelling alone or with only one parent may be required to provide a letter of consent to travel from both, or the other, parent. Details of these requirements should be confirmed with your local Argentine embassy or consulate prior to making travel arrangements.
When entering Argentine Territory, the nationals of the following countries must pay the following “reciprocity fee” – Australians: US$100, Canadians: US$70, Americans: US$131.
Also be aware if you intend viewing The Iguaza Falls from the Brazilian side of Argentina and cross the Brazilian border you will need a Brazilian visa.
Passengers coming from countries not bordering Argentina are exempted from the fee on luggage content and on new products under US$300, plus an additional exemption of US$300 for goods that were bought in “duty free shops” authorized in the national territory.
Travellers arriving from countries where Yellow Fever or Cholera are present will need to provide a vaccination certificate.
As entry requirements may change from time to time it is strongly advised that you check with the department of foreign affairs or your local consulate or embassy for the current requirements.
The current status of reciprocity fees for Australians, Canadians and US citizens should be confirmed prior to travel and can be checked at http://www.argentina.gov.ar/argentina/portal/paginas.dhtml?pagina=345
Argentina Travel Health
Argentina‘s Medical facilities are of a reasonable standard. Private medical clinics often require cash payment prior to providing service, including for emergency care. Emergency numbers to have are Ambulance: 107: Firemen: 100 Police 101. Argentine police operate a 24-hour police helpline in English for tourists in Buenos Aires. These Ph Numbers are Tourist Police: (011) 4346-5748 / 0800-999-5000 Emergency numbers.
No vaccines are required for Argentina, but a number are recommended. The high levels of air pollution in Buenos Aires may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. Yellow Fever vaccinations are recommended for those visiting the Northern forests. Malaria is a risk in rural areas along the northern borders with Bolivia, Brazil and Paraguay. The high levels of air pollution in Buenos Aires may aggravate bronchial, sinus or asthma conditions. It is strongly recommended that you take out comprehensive travel insurance.
The Plaza de Mayo and Congreso areas in Buenos Aires are often the focal points for protests and demonstrations. For your safety you should avoid all protests and demonstrations as they may become heated or even violent. It is recommended you use only official taxis. Radio taxis and chauffeured cars can be booked by telephone or at the airport arrivals hall. Criminals are known to pose as taxi operators at the airport and may operate in collusion with other taxi drivers. Official taxis are clearly marked as ‘radio taxi’ with the taxi firm’s name and telephone number visible.
If hiking in the high country or mountainous areas, you should register your details with park authorities. Domestic flights can be overbooked and technical problems at the airport can result in significant delays and missed connections.
What is Argentina Local Currency?
The Argentines currency is the Peso. Prices are quoted in Argentine pesos. Notes come in denominations of two, five, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos. One peso equals 100 centavos; coins come in denominations of one, five, 10, 25 and 50 centavos, and one peso. US dollars are usually accepted in many tourist operations, but always carry some pesos in case. Changing large denomination bills can be an issue throughout the country. Whenever you can, change your AR$100 and AR$50 bills at the bank. You may find yourself out of luck if you try to use large demoninations with small stores, in taxi’s or at kiosks.
US dollars are by far the preferred foreign currency, although Chilean and Uruguayan pesos can be readily exchanged at the borders. Cash dollars and Euros can be changed at exchange houses in larger cities, but other currencies can be difficult to change outside Buenos Aires.
Carrying cash and an ATM card is the way to go in Argentina. Visa and MasterCard are widely accepted although some businesses add a (surcharge) of 5% to 10% toward credit-card purchases. Some smaller hotels and private tour companies may be cash only. You can usually get a cash advance from a MasterCard or Visa at Argentine banks and most ATMs.
Under limited circumstances, visitors may obtain refunds of the IVA; value-added tax on purchases of Argentine products upon their departure from the country. A ‘Tax Free’ window identifies merchants participating in this program. Keep your invoice and you can obtain refunds in Buenos Aires at Ezeiza, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery and the Buquebus terminal at Darsena Norte. Very high commissions are charged on traveller’s checks, they are also hard to cash almost anywhere and you will be better off not using them for travelling in Argentina.
What is Argentina’s Weather?
Because of these great differences of latitude and altitude there are many differences of weather and climate within Argentina.
Argentina can be divided into four broad climatic regions.
East Central Argentina or the Pampas It is well outside the tropics and has an adequate rainfall of between 500 mm/20 in and 1,000 mm/40 in per year. Winters are mild and summers warm, with more rainfall during the summer months.
The North-eastern Interior temperatures remain quite high around the year. For much of the time, conditions are sunny and dry. Occasional cold spells in winter may bring temperatures near or below freezing for a few hours but the winters are generally mild or even warm.
Western Argentina Western Argentina, including the northern Andes, is a dry, semi-arid region and the lowlands are a virtual desert. Rainfall is more frequent during the summer months, which are generally hot and very sunny. Sunshine hours average as much as ten hours a day in summer and between seven and eight in winter.
Patagonia or Southern Argentina region has a typical cool, temperate climate, rather similar to that of the British Isles; but the dryness is unusual for such high latitude.
Flooding, particularly in the northern provinces of Argentina, is seasonal and may disrupt local transport and the provision of essential services.
Culture of Argentina
Argentine culture has a strong European influences. The capital, Buenos Aires, is often said to be the most European city in South America. Many of the residents of the city are of european descent and there is a strong european influence of design and architecture.
Argentines are very engaging people .Cheek kissing is very common between women and men. Argentineans take a somewhat relaxed attitude towards time. To them it is normal to be at least 10 to 15 minutes late. Business meetings are an exeption to this custom. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude especially if you are an obvious foreigner.
Dancing is a classic part of the Argentine culture, there are many dance venues that are extemely popular, particularly on weekends. The Tango is the best known of these and visitors should at least try to watch some dancing, if not partake!
Argentines are extremely die-hard soccer fans. If you want to wear a jersey, the safest plan is to wear an Argentina world cup jersey. The official national sport of Argentina is pato, played with a six-handle ball on horseback.
Argentinian authorities take a dim view of offences committed against national symbols. These can carry severe penalties including up to 4 years in jail. This penalty may even be increased if the act is committed in conjunction with another offence for example defiling a national flag.
Penalties for drug offences, even possession of small amounts, are severe and include lengthy imprisonment in local jails.
What Languages Are Spoken In Argentina?
The official language is Spanish. But as you travel you will find a regional dialect, better known as argentino, is subtly different from both the language of Spain and that of Central America.
For your Mobile you can pick up a prepaid SIM from Movistar at phone shops, expect to pay about 20 Pesos or about 7 US-Dollars for some initial credits. Inserting the SIM card into your American or European mobile phone will work; you then have your personal Argentinean phone number – perfect to keep in touch with other travellers. Credits are used up at around 1 Peso per minute. To reload you can buy small cards with secret numbers at many kiosks. They work by dialling *444, pressing 2 followed by 1, and then entering the secret number.
You can do a similar thing for international phone calls, purchaase a card at a shop called a ‘locutorios’ , where you can also use the phone booths. You dial a toll-free number to connect to the service, then your secret number followed by the international phone number you want to call. As a guide a one hour call to europe would cost around 10 pesos or 3 US Dollars.
All 2 and 3-digit numbers are free, except the official time service (113). All 0800 numbers are toll-free numbers.
Argentina Transport Options
The Main airport is called Ministro Pistarini International Airport. Their website for more information is http://www.aa2000.com.ar. There are two terminals they are within walking distance of each other. If you wish to hire a car there are four car hire companies at the airport in Terminal A Arrivals. A number of bus services operate to Ezeiza, Buenos Aires and the surrounding areas. The airport has a 24-hour information phone number, which also provides information for the nearby Aeroparque Jorge Newbery for internal flights. Representatives from Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 are available to provide assistance and information.
In recent years the government has established long distance passenger trains, although most lines still operate at one or two departures weekly.
Local travel in the Buenos Aires province is by bus and by local trains, with fast trains being the quickest way to get through the traffic around the Capital Federal. The two largest train terminals in Buenos Aires are Once and Retiro.
An amazing train ride is the Tren a las nubes (Train to the Clouds) in the north-western province of Salta, but some people may get altitude sickness.
Argentina has an excellent bus network for both short and long distance travel. Buses are the most common way to travel between cities in Argentina since train services are limited and plane tickets are quite expensive. The hub of this network is Buenos Aires’ Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro.
When renting a car you will need a valid drivers’ licenses from your home country. Drivers must be over 21. In the provinces bordering other countries, the police frequently stop cars to check insurance and registration papers and drivers’ licenses. Traffic regulations in Argentina are generally the same as in the U.S. or Europe, maximum speed: 60 km/h in the city and 100 km/h to 120 km/h outside the city on highways. Be aware in small towns, particularly in the north, they may ration gasoline to ensure they have enough to sell until the next refuelling truck arrives; It’s advisable to fill your tank at regular intervals. In the Andes, petrol consumption is high.
Regular hydrofoils link Buenos Aires with Montevideo and Colonia in Uruguay.
Argentina Travel Tips
In the northernmost provinces–Misiones, Salta and Jujuy—January and February are usually very hot months, with temperatures reaching up to 40º C.
In these months you can enjoy Patagonia which has a temperate weather and blue skies. Also many people do visit in winter to practise skiing or enjoy staying in snow covered cottages.But remember in wintertime, some areas become inaccessible by land and the cold weather may hinder sightseeing activities.
Argentina Local Food
The cusisine in Argentina has similar european influences as the rest of the culture, Spanish, French and Italian influences figure prominently. There are a large variety of restaurants of the european variety around the cities. Beef is the central meat in the Argentine diet and the quality of the beef is renowned and visitors should try an argentinian barbeque or parrillada.
Lunch is the main meal of the day and is usually taken in the early afternoon, this meals needs to last to dinner time which may be a bit later than in most cultures and usually will be eaten around 9 or 10 pm.
Argentina is renowned for its excellent selection of wine. The most popular being Mendoza which is rated amongst the world’s most popular regions due to its high altitude, volcanic soils and proximity to the Andes Mountains.
Fernet is consumed by Argentineans, It’s a bitter drink mixed with coke if you go to an argentinean’s house they will have fernet and coke to offer you.Fernet is 40% alcohol by volume and is dark brown in colour.
Mate is probably the most common national drink, it is a herb based brew usually served hot. The drinking of Mate with friends is a part of the culture, it can be taken with sugar for those who wish to tone down the bitter taste a bit,
Tap water is generally not safe to drink. Vigorous boiling for one minute is the most effective means of water purification. At altitudes greater than 2000m, boil for three minutes.
Argentina Local Timezones
Argentina is east of the International Date line. It is 3 hours behind Greenwich Mean Time (GMT -3).
Argentina does not use Daylight Saving time.
Argentine electricity is officially 220V/50Hz. Adapters and transformers for North American equipment are readily available. Both the continental flat three-pin and round two-pin plugs can be used.
Argentina Dutyfree Limits
Travellers over 18 years of age or residents returning to Argentina after less than one year may import the following quantities of these: US$300 in gifts, 400 cigarettes and 50 cigars, 2lt of alcohol. 2 bottles of perfume. Travellers under 18 may import half these totals.
Prohibited Imports, Animals and birds from Africa or Asia (except Japan) without prior authorisation, parrots and fresh foodstuffs, particularly meat, dairy products and fruit. Explosives, inflammable items, narcotics.