The insider tips you need for your first trip to Argentina

15 January 2018

Home to stunning natural wonders, famously friendly locals and one of the most exciting capital cities in the world, Argentina should be on every traveller's must-visit list. One New Zealander who’s travelled there over ten times shares her top tips.

A street scene in Buenos Aires: Photo: Pixabay

Know the local etiquette

To avoid awkward first encounters, you should know that in Argentina, you’ll typically be greeted with a single kiss on the cheek. While this won’t be the case in formal business situations, you can expect that every local you meet in a social setting will lean in to greet you this way. For many Kiwis, this custom can feel slightly outside our comfort zone. If it makes you particularly anxious, you can always preempt the introduction and go in for a handshake instead. While you’ll instantly be giving yourself away as a foreigner, it won’t be considered offensive. However, embracing the custom will earn you kudos from the locals, and rest assured it’ll begin to feel like second nature after a while.

A choripan (Argentinian chorizo sandwich) vendor in Buenos Aires. Photo: Nicola Carroll

Grab a bargain at the Feria de Mataderos market

The Feria de San Telmo is a popular tourist destination which you’ll find well documented in all Buenos Aires guide books. The market attracts over 10,000 visitors every Sunday, most of which are tourists. But if you’re looking for something slightly more authentic, check out the Feria de Mataderos where you’ll find a multitude of traditional foods and handmade crafts without the tourist markup. You’ll also discover an array of local entertainment, from gaucho contests to pato, a blend of polo and netball which is Argentina’s national sport. The market is open Sundays and public holidays, and is accessible by public transport.

Performers in Buenos Aires. Photo: Nicola Carroll

One of Buenos Aires’ best bars is hidden in a florist shop

Named the best bar in Latin America and one of the top 50 bars in the world, Florería Atlántico is situated in the heart of Buenos Aires’ business district. From the street it appears to be your typical flower shop, but inside you’ll find a secret freezer door which leads down to the basement where the bar is located. With intricate craft cocktails and local cuisine, we guarantee you’ll be charmed by this speakeasy-style venue. This is a popular spot among locals, so reservations are recommended. 

An outdoor cafe in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires. Photo: Getty Images

Spend a Sunday at Plaza Francia

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, there’s no better place to be than Plaza Francia in the Buenos Aires district of Recoleta. The park fills up with locals who go to hang out, enjoy the sun and share the traditional ‘mate’ drink. There’s free live music as well as a wonderful craft fair frequented by local artists and vendors. The park is also surrounded by several bars and coffee shops with great terraces. Head in around midday and experience Buenos Aires like the locals do.

Mount Fitz Roy, Patagonia. Photo: Nicola Carroll

Take advantage of the world class bus system

Argentina has a well-established long-haul bus system which makes getting yourself around the country simple and affordable. Every town has a central bus terminal where you’ll be able to find transport to almost anywhere in the country. For a comparatively small fee, you can even find options with fully reclining seats and meal service included. Just make sure you don’t underestimate the size of Argentina: if time is an important factor for your trip, then flying might be your best option. Another solution to long bus rides are night buses. Not only will the journey feel quicker, you’ll also be saving on a night’s accommodation.

The Iguazu Falls from the National Park walkway. Photo: Nicola Carroll

Do the moonlight tour of Iguazu Falls

Bordering Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazu Falls are the largest waterfall system in the world and not to be missed. These falls are stunning during the day, but seeing them at night is an experience you’ll never forget. If your timing coincides with a full moon, then be sure to do a moonlight tour of the park. This is one of the few places in the world where ‘moonbows’ (lunar rainbows) are frequently seen. Experiencing this natural phenomenon in a place of such immense beauty is unforgettable.

A view south from the Martial Glacier to the town of Ushuaia, at the southernmost tip of Argentina. Photo: Nicola Carroll

Don’t miss the picturesque mountain towns

Argentina’s majestic Andes mountains offer world-class skiing for a fraction of the cost of their European and North American counterparts. Lift passes can be as low as $10 a day, and with fourteen ski resorts dotted along the range, there’s something for everyone when it comes to a winter holiday. Not only do these mountains offer some world-class skiing opportunities, they also offer breathtaking scenery to complete the experience.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia. Photo: Nicola Carroll

Pack for all seasons

Don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s always warm in South America. From the tropical heat of Iguazu to the near arctic temperatures of Patagonia, it’s important to do your research and be prepared for all seasons. Argentina’s climate changes drastically depending on the time of year, ranging from over 40 degrees in some regions to -15 in others. Even Buenos Aires, known for its hot and humid summers, can get brisk in the winter time. Plan ahead and enjoy the diversity of this incredible South American country!

 

Nicola Carroll

Originally from New Zealand, Nicola Carroll has lived and worked across North America, Latin America and Europe. She's currently based in Canada where she works as a writer and digital marketer, and spends her time exploring beautiful British Columbia.