Destinations: South America

6 Things I Wish I Knew Before Visiting Argentina

February 10, 2014
Planning a trip to Argentina? STOP and read this first before proceeding any further!! While traveling through Argentina for 2 weeks I learned a few things that I wish I had known before going. So here are they are for you to read about before you go!


1. You Have to Pay a Reciprocity Fee Online BEFORE You Enter Argentina

As of January 7, 2013 you have to pay your reciprocity fee online before you land in Argentina. Yes, BEFORE. This means you cannot even check-in and board your flight headed to Argentina until you’ve shown proof of payment (a printed receipt). I found out the hard way when I arrived at the airport and was informed I could not check in until I showed proof of payment. This incident not only taught me that I had to pay this fee ahead of time, but also that the payment site is buggy and goes down at 6am. I also learned that even once I’ve paid the fee, there’s NOTHING open at the airport for me to print my receipt at such an early hour! I did manage to get the situation sorted, but that’s a story for another time. Bottom line–pay your fees! You can do that here. This applies to anybody with an U.S., Australian, or Canadian passport. At the time of writing fees are as follows:

  • U.S. citizens: US $160 for multiple entry valid for 10 years
  • Australian citizens: US $100 for multiple entry valid for 1 year beginning on date of payment
  • Canadian citizens: 
    • US $75 for one-entry (with exit and re-entry from bordering countries: Bolivia, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, and Chile at no additional cost within three months 
    • US $150 for multiple entry valid for 5 years
2. Beware of Pick Pockets

This might be common sense, but there are plenty of pick pockets in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires where there are tourists galore! I’m a relatively smart traveler and even I <GASP> got pick pocketed! I was lucky and the guy only found a rotten brown banana in my backpack. Argentina isn’t dangerous, but like any situation, whether in the U.S. or abroad, you should practice safe travel habits. A few key tips:

  • Carry your backpack in front and never store anything valuable in outside, easily accessible pockets.
  • Keep your wallet and cell phone in front pockets–don’t carry it in your hand at all.
  • Always keep the camera strap on your wrist when taking a picture. It’s common for a robber to run by and take the camera right out of your hand as you’re taking a picture.
  • Though not a pick pocket scenario, do pay attention when paying your taxi driver. You’ll pay with a 10 and he’ll claim you gave him a 5, then start arguing with you. It’s good practice to verbally count the money out in front of him before handing it over.
3. Save Those Coins! They’re Rare!
Planning to take public buses? You’ll need coins and it’s difficult to get change anywhere. So when you come across coins, save them for when you really need it.
4. The Not-So-Underground Black Market Exchange Is Legit

For the best exchange rate, bring U.S. dollars and exchange it on the black market. I was hesitant at first, but found that it’s relatively easy to do and actually quite common. So common that the black market exchange rate, known as the blue dollar, is printed daily in the Buenos Aires newspaper, El Cronista, and is updated live online! During my trip in November 2013, the government rate was 6 pesos to the U.S. dollar, while the blue dollar value was 9.5 pesos to the dollar. You won’t have to look far to find a place to exchange–the money exchangers will approach tourists in the streets. Note: Make all exchanges Monday thru Saturday. Banks are closed on Sunday and even the money exchangers will have left their street posts on Sundays for a day off. 

5. Long Distance Bus Travel is Luxurious
If you plan on traveling long distances, whether in Argentina or to neighboring countries, consider traveling by bus. Not only will you save on a night of lodging, but the buses are super luxurious with fully-reclining seats, personal TV screens, Wi-Fi, full meals, and all the wine you can drink! You also get a discount for purchasing early. I bought my bus tickets through Plataforma10. Use Google Translate if you can’t read Spanish.

6. Relax! You’re in Argentina!

Everything is slower-paced and things happen later in Argentina. Dinner at 9pm is normal. People tend to run late and go at a slower pace. So while you’re in Argentina slow down, relax, and enjoy a glass of Malbec as you wait for the waiter to bring your meal or for the hotel clerk to help you check in. There’s no rush! Cheers!

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