Cole and I just finished up our two-week trip to Argentina — like, we’re actually still in the airport — and are just itching to share all the details. We spent one week in Buenos Aires and one week redeeming our Price is Right prize in Bariloche (northern Patagonia region).
We spent a lot of time planning out this trip — as we do most trips — and we definitely have a lot of helpful insight into visiting these two areas. Our travel aspirations include visiting as many different places as we can in the world. When we get to a new place, we tend to go all out because we probably won’t be back for a long time, if ever.
That being said, though, we already want to return to Argentina.
Argentina, especially the Patagonia area, had been near the top of our list for as long as I can remember even having a list. It couldn’t have been more perfect that our flights and lodging (for Bariloche) were covered, and we knew we wanted to take advantage of this by adding a stop-over in our connection city: Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a beautiful, historic, European-like city that seems to be bustling and sleepy at the same time. The city was a breeze to navigate: its subway (called Subte), bus, taxi, Uber, and train system are cheap, safe, and clean. Even though our AirBNB was a little outside of the prominent areas, we never had more than a 30-minute subway commute to our destinations all around the city.
In the past, we have loved using AirBNB for a few reasons: there are thousands (millions?) to choose from, they are reasonably priced, they usually come with fully-stocked kitchens and free wifi, and hosts are often great resources for arriving in a new place. In Buenos Aires, this couldn’t have been more true. Our apartment in the city (which we had to ourselves) came out to about $35 per night, including taxes, fees, and cleaning. It was on the 8th floor with amazing views, and our hosts, who lived across the street, were able to point us in the direction of restaurants and other attractions. (Here is the link if you are curious!)
Buenos Aires is full of some fascinating sights and activities, most of which are free or very affordable. Check out our 7-day itinerary:
Day 1: Arrive in Buenos Aires
- Take the ARBus from the EZE Airport to downtown ($180 AR / $11.50 USD each)
- Walk around until time to check into our AirBNB
- Grocery shopping
Day 2: Recoleta + Tigre Delta
- Subway (Subte) from our AirBNB to the Recoleta Cemetery (free)
- Train from Retiro to Tigre ($24 AR / $1.50 USD each round-trip)
- Half-day kayak tour with El Dorado ($600 AR / $38 USD each)
This was our favorite day trip from Buenos Aires. Tigre is located only an easy 1-hour train ride from downtown B.A. and is a popular destination for locals, not so much for foreign tourists it seems. People go to the Tigre Delta area to boat, jet ski, kayak, and relax along the river. After looking into it, we knew we wanted to visit, and after further investigation (looking at boat tours, etc.) we landed on kayaking as our recreation of choice. We were able to connect with a company called El Dorado Kayak and joined their afternoon tour this day, and we look back on it as one of our favorite days in the city.
Day 3: Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
- Subway from our AirBNB to Buquebus Terminal
- Buquebus ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia
- Explore Colonia historic district
- Ferry back to Buenos Aires
Another highly-recommended day trip from Buenos Aires is ferrying over to the nearby port city of Colonia del Sacramento (known locally as just Colonia) in Uruguay. We thought it would be fun to visit an additional country — in fact, the country’s oldest city — while in Argentina, so we booked a ferry trip through Buquebus. The ferry was very comfortable, with concessions and a gift shop, and flexible with timing. We explored the historic district of Colonia: its cobblestone streets, old fort walls, lighthouse, beaches, and of course those helados! The town was picturesque and I was crushing hard on its colorful streets, but in retrospect we may have saved our splurge for something else.
Day 4: Free Walking Tours with B.A. Free Tours
- 11:00 a.m. City Center Tour (2.5 hours, including the Congress Plaza, the Pink House, Florida Street, the Obelisk, and much more)
- 5:00 p.m. Aristocratic Tour (2 hours, including the San Martin Plaza, Evita’s story, and much more)
- Dinner at Gran Mosquito
Like I said before, there is so much to do in Buenos Aires for free. Joining a free historic walking tour around the city is an absolute must-do for your trip. There are two main companies that offer tours, and at a glace they seem very similar. Between the two companies, which are fully in English and function on tips, there are tours Monday-Saturday at 10:30, 11:00, 3:00, and 5:00. This should make it easy to fit one or two into your schedule. We joined the 11:00 and 5:00 tours, offered by the same company and covering different areas of the city, and would highly recommend them both.
Day 5: Palermo
- Museum of Fine Arts (free)
- MALBA ($100 AR / $6.36 USD each)
- Thays Botanical Garden (free)
Palermo is probably the most popular neighborhoods for tourists to stay, and we’re glad we ventured over there for a day. We visited two art museums, the Museum of Fine Arts and MALBA (Museum of Modern Art) which are located a 10-minute walk from each other. MALBA seems to be on everyone’s must-see list for the city, but I would say that if you want to visit just one, or you’re not extremely into modern art, visit the (FREE!) Museum of Fine Arts. It has a contemporary section too. From there, we took a stroll around the area and stopped into the Botanical Gardens to round out our evening.
Day 6: Historic Neighborhoods
- Cathedral (free)
- San Telmo Sunday Market
- Street tango in Plaza Dorrego
- La Boca and the colorful Caminito
- Puerto Madero and the Ecological Preserve (free)
Our final day in Buenos Aires was full of walking, as we made our way from downtown, stopping into the beautiful Catedral (which Pope Francis once called home) through the San Telmo Market, to Caminito in La Boca, and finally looping back to the newer neighborhood of Puerto Madero. These are all important neighborhoods, and we felt like we got a nice — albeit quick — overview of each. Our favorite was La Boca, and we’d recommend heading there, especially if you are into photography (or even Instagram photography).
Day 7: Depart Buenos Aires
- Uber from our AirBNB to the AER Airport
Buenos Aires was one of the friendliest cities we have visited in terms of ease of navigation and sense of security, but it is a huge city! Planning ahead is key, especially if you want to be efficient in your time. We also were alerted by guides to be especially aware in crowded areas — San Telmo Market, Florida Street, etc. — of pick-pocketers.
A few more tips:
- We always do this with international travel, but if you don’t: Use your Google Maps app to “star” all sorts of things — your AirBNB, ice cream places, the meeting place for a walking tour, etc. Even when you can’t use data in foreign cities, the GPS function of Google Maps still works and tracks your location, so you can get around pretty easy this way.
- The current USD –> AR pesos exchange rate (Jan. 2017) is 1:15.7, and you can avoid some of the exchange fees by simply paying for things in dollars and getting change in pesos. We were never turned down from this type of payment (because dollars are usually sought-after), although some of our US bills had teensy rips in them and these were not accepted in Argentina.
- Wear comfortable shoes! The city is very walkable but also gigantic.
- Bring a water bottle or two. We encountered zero public water fountains, and of course no free water at restaurants. We were duped once into getting fancy bottles of water at a pizza place, and they cost more than the pizza.
- Embrace the siesta — a lot of businesses shut down in the middle of the day.
- Food notes: The ice cream at Nikolo was the most affordable + delicious. We thought medialunas — aka crescent rolls — were tasty but a little overhyped. We had a nice meal at a restaurant on our street called Gran Mosquito with a tasting menu — where you could just keep ordering as much steak, sausages, bread, fries, and these delicious fried cheese circles as you wanted — and doing this once was plenty. We mostly stuck to our neighborhood grocery store, which was very affordable, and cooked at home in our fully-stocked AirBNB kitchen.
Our week in Buenos Aires was perfect — filled with historic neighborhoods by day and cheap wine by night — and it is certainly a week we won’t soon forget.
Check back later for our Bariloche itinerary!