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Argentina

Photo © Utrecht

Travel Guide South America Argentina

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Introduction

Iguazu falls - argentina side

Iguazu falls - argentina side

© All Rights Reserved geranddebs

Breathtaking waterfalls, great desert expanses, stunning Andesean peaks (including the highest peak in the western hemisphere), desolate glacial lakes in Patagonia, the haunting steppes of Tierra Del Fuego - Argentina's geography is varied enough to offer a lifetime of delight for the keen traveller. Even the nation's capital city, Buenos Aires, is acclaimed for its elegance.

After a period of unrest at the start of the 21st century, Argentina is currently enjoying a period of significant economic growth and political stability, making it an attractive option for travellers.

The south of Argentina, especially Ushuaia, is also the starting point for most tours to Antarctica.

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Brief History

Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires

Casa Rosada, Buenos Aires

© All Rights Reserved Davelanky

Human presence in the Argentine region of Patagonia can be traced back to as far as 13,000 BC through cave art found at Cueva de las Manos.[1] By around 1000 BC, these nomadic groups had grown too large to survive on hunting alone and made early attempts at agriculture, predominantly focussed on maize and potatoes. From around 650 AD the culture of Tihuanaco from Bolivia started having an influence, evidenced by fine metal objects and ornately decorated ceramics found in throughout the country's north-west. From around 850 AD small groups of settlers formed communities with individual dwellings and developed more sophisticated agricultural practices. Textiles were first woven around 1200 AD, examples of which can be seen in Salta's archaeological museum.

In 1480, the Inca Empire led by emperor Pachacutec, conquered northwestern Argentina.

European explorers arrived in 1516, and in 1580 Spain established a permanent colony on the site of Buenos Aires, before eventually creating the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776. Many Spanish settlers arrived during this period. In 1810, after King Ferdinand VII had been overthrown by Napoleon, the citizens of Buenos Aires seized the opportunity to create the First Junta during a week that is known as the May Revolution. Immigration and investment from Europe helped modernize agricultural techniques. In one of the sadder points of Argentine history, the indigenous peoples of Patagonia were wiped out by the military during a campaign known as the "Conquest of the Desert".

At the turn of the 20th century, Argentina prospered into one of the richest countries in the world, largely through agricultural exports. The first free-elections was won by the Radicals in 1916. In 1930 they were forced from power by the military. Political change led to Juan Perón's election in 1946, a president who worked to empower the working class. He was deposed during the Revolución Libertadora of 1955. Political unrest continued throughout the next few decades, despite economic growth. Perón, who had been living in exile, returned to his presidency in 1973, but died a year later. His wife Isabel, the Vice President, succeeded him, but was removed by another military coup in 1976. A military dictatorship was in place until 1983 at which point they had lost credibility after losing the Falkland's War, causing economic crisis and abusing human rights.

Economic instability plagued the country for the next two decades until the end of 2002. Since then, the country's economy has enjoyed high growth and political stability. In 2007 Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was voted in as the country's first female president, replacing her husband Néstor Kirchner who had decided to retire.

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Geography

Onelli lake with icebergs

Onelli lake with icebergs

© All Rights Reserved monkyhands

Argentina is one of the biggest countries in the world and as a consequence, its geography is as diverse as you could wish. Travellers will find different sorts of landscapes and geographical zones, from north to south as well as from east to west.

In the west, for example, the Andes mountain chain run for the entire length of the country. The higher parts are in the north and centre, with the Aconcagua being the highest point at 6,959 metres, and elevations in the south are more in the 2,500- to 4,000-metre range. Although there are some perfect and challenging peaks to climb, you can also visit some parts of the Altiplano in the northern parts of the Andes in relative comfort. Here you will find salt flats and lakes teeming with flamingos and of course the occasional condor with a wingspan over two metres. Most of the Andes is shared with its western neighbour Chile and also some parts of the border with Bolivia are in the mountains.

In the north-east are the other three neighbours of Brazil, Paraguay and a bit more south Uruguay which is just an hour away across the wide rivermouth of the Rio de la Plata from the capital Buenos Aires. Things can get tropical at times in the north-east, with lush and green vegetation, for example, at the Iguazu Falls.

In the north-west you will find semi-desert areas, especially around Salta. Part of this desert is preserved in the Ischigualasto National Park and Talampaya National Park, home to amazing canyons and fossils.

The majority of Argentina is either low-lying land or midrange mountains, like most of the Pampas and Patagonia. The Pampas are mostly in the northern and central parts where most of the bigger cities, like Buenos Aires and Córdoba, are located. South of the Pampas, crossing the Rio Colorado, you will enter Patagonia, although sometimes Patagonia is also considered that part south of the 40 degrees south line, and therefore also parts of Chile are considered Patagonia. This means that although the stereotypical view many people have of Patagonia is as a flat and cold area, the lower areas of the Andes are also part of Patagonia. In the deep south is Tierra del Fuego, with the most southern city in the world Ushuaia, where boats to the Antarctica leave, part of which is Argentinian as well.

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Regions

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls

© All Rights Reserved jza80

Argentina's 23 provinces and one autonomous city (Buenos Aires) are often grouped into these six geographical regions.

NorthwestJujuy, Salta, Tucumán, Catamarca, La Rioja
Gran ChacoFormosa, Chaco, Santiago del Estero
Mesopotamia (or Littoral)Misiones, Entre Ríos, Corrientes
CuyoSan Juan, Mendoza, San Luis
PampasCórdoba, Santa Fe, La Pampa, Buenos Aires
PatagoniaRio Negro, Neuquén, Chubut, Santa Cruz, Tierra del Fuego

The portion of Antarctica claimed by Argentina is known as Argentine Antarctica.

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Cities and Towns

Below are some of the bigger cities or most relevant towns for travellers.

  • Bariloche - small city in the Andes, good for skiing in winter and hiking in summer;
  • Buenos Aires - Argentina's capital, largest city and home of the tango;
  • Cafayate - gateway to wine region in Salta Province;
  • Córdoba - great colonial architecture and cafe culture;
  • El Calafate - gateway to the Moreno Glacier;
  • La Plata - capital of the Buenos Aires province, just an hour from the capital;
  • Mar del Plata - beachside city;
  • Mendoza - great wines and views of the Andes;
  • Puerto Iguazu - near the famous Iguacu Falls;
  • Rosario - northwest of Buenos Aires;
  • Tucuman - in the northwest of the country;
  • Salta - in the northwest;
  • Ushuaia - the world's southernmost city;
  • Puerto Pirámides - a unique place in the world for sightseeing marine fauna: whales, sea lions, orcas, dusky dolphins, penguins and many more.

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Sights and Activities

Aconcagua

2008-02-19 Aconcagua

2008-02-19 Aconcagua

© All Rights Reserved flavienc

The Aconcagua is the highest mountain of the Andes, and the highest mountain outside of Asia, making it the highest peak on the Western and Southern Hemisphere. There is some debate whether the ancient Inca's have climbed the mountain or not. Remains of a guanaco were found on a ridge between the south and north summit, and it seems unlikely that the animal got up the mountain that far on it's own. It is however proven that the Inca's climbed other mountains in the same region. The first modern successful climb of the mountain was done in 1897 by the Swiss Matthias Zurbriggen. For climbers the altitude of the mountain is the biggest opponent as the climb itself is not as technical as on other mountains.

Cerro Chaltén / Monte Fitz Roy

Fitz Roy peak

Fitz Roy peak

© All Rights Reserved Flav-Greg

The Monte Fitz Roy, also known as the Cerro Chaltén (meaning smoking mountain) lies on the border of Chile and Argentina. It became known as the Monte or Cerro Fitz Roy, named after the captain of the Beagle, Robert Fitz Roy. The mountain was first climbed by a the French duo Lionel Terray and Guido Magnone. Despite the low height of the mountain it is listed as one of the most technical climbs in the world, because of the almost vertical granite faces. There are years that none of the expeditions that attempt to summit, actually makes it.

Iguazu Falls

One of the most impressive and biggest waterfalls in the world, Iguazu Falls probably has the best subtropical setting you could ever imagine. The Argentinian side of the falls are located in a national park where you can walk for hours: seeing, hearing and feeling the falls up close. There are even some predators like the puma living in this park.

Patagonia

Patagonia, the southern part of Argentina (and Chile!) has many beautiful parts, mainly consisting of outstanding natural sites, like the Perito Moreno Glacier, the Fitzroy Mountains (popular with mountain climbers) and ski resorts like Bariloche.

The Patagonian desert might not be as well known as many other mentioned above, it is the largest desert in the Americas and covers a huge area between the Andes Mountains in the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. It mainly covers a good part of Southern Argentina and some areas in Chile as well. The Andes Mountains and the cold Falkland current are the main reason that Patagonia is so dry, preventing most of the rain that falls on the other side of the mountains, to fall down here. There is also not much snow, even during the colder winter months. Temperatures are cold during winter and even during the cool summer frost at night is still common. Temperatures can exceed 30 °C during hot summer days though when the wind blows directly from the north or north-east but these days are not common. Some areas are easily accessible with good roads and connections by buses between major towns and cities. Although the landscape is impressive, it is not where most travellers visiting the south of Chile and Argentina go though.

Peninsula Valdes

Peninsula Valdes - 4

Peninsula Valdes - 4

© All Rights Reserved dontrobus

Peninsula Valdez is a large natural paradise with signficant numbers of mainly marine animals. It is located along the Atlantic coastline of Argentina in the Viedma department, northeast of Chubut province. Most of the peninsula is barren land with low lying salt lakes, even up to 40 metres below sea level. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Animals include sea lions, elephant seals, fur seals, souther right whales (May to December), orca's (a little further on open sea) and mainly guanacos and maras on the central parts of the peninsula itself. The nearest large town is Puerto Madryn. The only town on the peninsula is the small settlement of Puerto Pirámides. There are also a number of estancias, where sheep are raised. This has to be one of the best places in South America and probably in the whole world to watch whales. For more information (especially on whalewatching) check the information on the Puerto Piramides website, the main small settlement on the island, together with some sheep farms where you can sometimes stay.

Plaza de Mayo

Ever since the Plaza de Mayo was the scene of the 25 May 1810 revolution that led to the Argentinian independence, this is the focal point of many Argentinian political events. The square dates back to the earliest dates of the Spanish colonization. Located in the center of the Plaza de Mayo is the Pirámide de Mayo, which rather looks more like an obelisk. It was ordered in 1811 to commemorate the first anniversary of the May Revolution, making this is the oldest national monument in Buenos Aires. Also around the plaza is the Casa Rosada (The Pink House) which is home and office of the President of Argentina, the National Bank, Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral, and City Hall.

Talampaya National Park

Talampaya National Park is a national park located in La Rioja Province, north of Mendoza. The park covers an area of 2,150 square kilometres. It has landscapes of great beauty, with flora and fauna typical of the mountain and desert biome. You can do mountain biking and walks with a guide.

Tango

Argentina - Buenos Aires in particular - is renowned for the tango, a dance birthed in 19th century Argentina. While it isn't practised widely by Argentines anymore, the tango is still a major drawcard for tourists. There are two primary ways that tourists can experience this beautiful dance. One is to attend a milonga, a dance club for tango dancing, and the other is to attend a tango show in Buenos Aires which typically includes a 2-hour dance performance and dinner. Far from being a clichéd dance style, tango has a depth of character and innovation that will draw you stepping and spinning into its soulful world.

Tierra del Fuego

Ushuaia 2

Ushuaia 2

© All Rights Reserved capibara

Apart from Antarctica and some islands, Tierra del Fuego is the southernmost point you can reach by travelling on public transport. Ushuaia is the southermost city in the world and can be reached by bus or plane. The road up the mountains to Ushuaia is beautiful and arriving by bus is the most satisfying way. Tierra del Fuego National Park is a perfect place to make some serious day or overnight hikes and there is even a short railway line, known as the southernmost railway line (logically), albeit a bit touristy and not meant as serious public transport. Also, a boat trip on the Beagle Channel is very rewarding and you will get the chance to see seals, sea lions and different species of birds.

Tren a las Nubes

Tren de las Nubes - Salta

Tren de las Nubes - Salta

© All Rights Reserved JOSE_MARIA

The Tren a las Nubes (or in English: Train to the Clouds) is a train that runs in the Salta Province, connecting the Argentinian northwest with the Chilean border high up in the Andes mountains. The train travels over 4,220 metres above sea level, making it the third highest railway in the world. Originally built for economical and social reasons, it is now of primarily tourist value as a heritage railway. The train leaves Salta station usually once a week for the 15 hour, 434 kilometre-long round trip to the viaduct La Polvorilla, located at 4,220 metres The curved viaduct is 224 metres long and 70 metres high. From Salta, the train enters first the Valle de Lerma and then the Quebrada del Toro before reaching the Puna. It is known as the Train of the Clouds because clouds can be often be seen around and under the bridges and slopes of the landscape the railway passes through.

Wine tasting

Several places in the country are perfect places to taste some world-class wines. Probably the best and most famous areas are those around Cafayate (a couple of hours south of Salta in the north-west) and around Mendoza, in the central western part of the country, a day by bus from the Chilean capital Santiago. Mendoza is also a good place to base yourself as a serious mountain climber. The Aconcagua is nearby.

Other sights and activities

  • Argentinian Altiplano - Just as beautiful as its Chilean or Bolivian counterparts, the Argentinian Altiplano contains the higher parts of the Andes range in the northwest of the country. There are several salt lakes teeming with flamingos and there is even an option to travel by train to the border area with Chile once a week.

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Events and Festivals

Sport

Football (soccer) is by far the country's most popular sport. The Argentina national team features some of the most talented players in the world, many of whom play in Europe. Names like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tévez are well-known to football fans, as is the country's most famous footballer: Diego Maradona.

There are several divisions within the domestic competition, with the Primera División at the top of the rung. It features the country's 20 best teams, including Independiente, River Plate and the infamous Boca Juniors.

There are two single-round tournaments each year. The Clausura runs from February to June while the Apertura starts in August and finishes in December.

If you would like to see first-hand what Argentine football is all about, nothing beats the derby between River Plate and the Boca Juniors, the country's two largest teams. Tickets can be bought online at Ticketek.

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Weather

Argentina has one of the most varied climates in South America. Both the highest as the lowest temperatures ever recorded in South America were in Argentina.

The summer months are from December to March, with winter from June to September. Even in summer, temperatures in southern Patagonia (especially Tierra del Fuego) rarely reach more than 15 °C. Meanwhile, in the north temperatures can reach 40 °C or more - even Buenos Aires can be close to 40 °C on some days. The area around Iguazu Falls has a steady climate throughout the year. Seasons are more a matter of dry or wet, with the hotter summer months being the wettest as well. The Altiplano rarely has days above 20 °C, but it's usually dry and sunny year round. The central parts of the country enjoy hot summers and very cold winters, especially at night. That said, the temperature can vary remarkably within the span of several days. It can be as hot as 38 °C during 'winter' in Salta, but on summer days temperatures can drop to as low as 18 °C. Wind directions are one of the reasons for this.

Generally, the best months for visiting the northern parts are from October to November or between April and May. For the southern parts, the period from December till March is best.

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Getting There

By Plane

The gateway to Argentina when arriving by air is Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), more commonly referred to as Ezeiza International Airport. The airport is located in the town of Ezeiza, 22 kilometres from Buenos Aires. It offers connections with most capitals in South America and direct flights to major hubs in Europe, North America and Australia/New Zealand.

The national carrier is Aerolínas Argentinas and flies from here to Auckland, Barcelona, Bogota, Caracas, Córdoba, Lima, Madrid, Mendoza, Miami, Rome, Santa Cruz, Sao Paulo and Sydney. They offer codeshare flights to many other destinations as well. For codeshare flights, travellers can usually get better deals with the actual carrier.

Qantas is the main carrier to Australia and New Zealand. From North America, Delta Air Lines is a main carrier via its Atlanta hub. Main European carriers that service Argentina are Iberia (via Madrid and Barcelona), Alitalia (via Rome) and Lufthansa (via Frankfurt). From Asia, Malaysia Airlines fly from Kuala Lumpur with stops in Cape Town and Johannesburg in South Africa before continuing to EZE. Alternative routes from Asia are to fly via Australia or California. A few other cities served by different airlines are Mexico City, Toronto, Paris, New York, Dallas, London, Houston, Panama City, Havana, Atlanta, Rio de Janeiro, Quito, Doha, Montevideo, Brasilia and Washington, D.C..

There are several other cities/airports in the country with international flights, but usually only to one or a few cities in neighbouring countries. The main cities with some international services are Córdoba, Bariloche, Mendoza and Ushuaia.

By Train

Currently, there are no international train services to Argentina. There are talks of a Chile - Argentina line, but this is not expected to be completed until 2010. Although it is not an international connection, the Tren de las Nubes (literally 'train of the clouds') connects the city of Salta in northwestern Argentina with the border of Chile high in the Andean mountains. The train leaves once a week and the journey takes about 15 hours to complete. Due to several problems the train hasn't been running for a few years, but service is scheduled to be resumed in 2008.

By Car

Argentina's road system is quite good, and there are entry points by road from Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil, Uruguay and Chile. For a full list of the road entry points into Argentina, see this extended article about driving in Argentina.

Driving in Argentina, however, requires you to be a strong, assertive driver, since the Argentine style of driving is generally more reckless than that of the United States and Western Europe. In the countryside, the main roads are 2-lane roads, which can be unpaved, particularly in the south of the country.

See the Getting Around section below for more details about driving in Argentina.

By Bus

It is possible to get to Argentina by bus from Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Chile, using many of the border routes. Long-distance bus trips are much cheaper than flights, but they also take a lot longer. Depending on where you're travelling from, your bus trip could take up to 48 hours.

The most used crossing with Brazil is the Puerto IguazuFoz do Iguacu crossing and further south there is the Paso de los Libres to Uruguaiana crossing. Both are served by direct buses from Buenos Aires. From Buenos Aires, there are direct buses to Porto Alegre, Florianópolis, Curitiba, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. The latter takes 46 hours!

To and from Chile, the main crossings are Salta to San Pedro de Atacama, Mendoza to Santiago and Bariloche to Puerto Montt by a combination of buses and boats. In Patagonia, the most used crossing is between El Calafate and Puerto Natales and on Tierra del Fuego between Ushuaia and Punta Arenas you will cross borders north of Rio Grande.

Argentina's bus network is well-priced and quite comfortable, and there are many companies offering long distance services. There are several levels of service: Regular, Semi-cama (half-bed) and Cama (bed).

By Boat

There are boat connections with both Uruguay and Chile. Boats to Uruguay leave from Buenos Aires or Tigre, just to the north and make the journey to Colonia del Sacramento, the capital Montevideo and a few smaller places like Carmelo. One of the operators is Buquebus. The boat to Chile is in the far south, from Ushuaia to Puerto Williams on the Isla de Navarino, one of the southernmost permanent settlements in the world.

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Getting Around

By Plane

Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP), in Buenos Aires, is the country's main domestic airport. The two main airlines running domestic services are LAN Airlines and Aerolíneas Argentinas. Southern Winds is another option.
LADE, based in Comodoro Rivadavia, is a great alternative if you want to fly within Patagonia, with lower prices and regular services between most major cities in the south. Most flights also don't go via Buenos Aires, which is the case with many other airlines.

Flying is generally more expensive option than catching the bus, but it also saves a lot of time. If you want to travel to the far south of Argentina, flying can work out cheaper than the bus.

By Train

Buenos Aires is the central hub of the Argentina train system. The country's largest operator is Ferrobaires, which operates services in three "corridors":

  • Corredor Roca - with services between Constitución station (Buenos Aires) and Pinamar, Miramar, Mar del Plata, Tandil, Patagones, Olavarría, Bahía Blanca and Daireaux.
  • Corredor San Martin - with services between Retiro station (Buenos Aires) and Alberdi and Junín.
  • Corredor Sarmiento - with services between Once station (Buenos Aires) and Pehuajó and Lincoln.

Tickets range from $14 ARS to $60 ARS, with price dependent on distance and class. There are four main classes: Coche de cama, or the sleeper compartments, is the most expensive; Pullman is air-conditioned and has reclining seats; Primera is similar to pullman class, but has smaller seats; Turista class is the cheapest.

Furthermore, there are two great options for travelling by train in Patagonia, especially if you are a train enthusiast (it's not more comfortable nor faster than buses):

  • Tren Patagonico links Viedma along the Atlantic coast with Bariloche in the west of the country. It's a 17-hour trip and leaves twice a week in both directions.
  • La Trochita, better known and made famous by Paul Theroux as the Old Patagonian Express, links Esquel and El Maitén in the Chubut province on a regular basis. There are also onward special services towards Ingeniero Jacobacci across the Rio Negro province.

By Car

Main article: Driving in Argentina

Since the driving style in Argentina is quite aggressive, you should only attempt to drive there if you're a confident and assertive driver. Many local drivers ignore red lights, stop signs and speed limits. The further you get from Buenos Aires, the less developed roads become. In the south of the country, many roads are unpaved. When driving in the mountains, it's customary to blow your horn when coming around blind curves.

One of the most beautiful and rewarding trips you can make is a drive along Ruta 40 which takes you from La Quiaca near the Bolivian border all the way down south past Rio Gallegos on Argentina's mainland. The route further south to Ushuaia is officialy not part of Ruta 40 but many people drive further across Tierra del Fuego. Ruta 40 crosses most of the western part of the country, across altiplano, semi-deserts, pampa and great national parks and cities like Mendoza.

Renting a car in Argentina is not the most economical way of getting around and requires you to be over 21. Some car rental companies to check out include Avis, Hertz, Alamo, Dollar Rent-a-Car, and Thrifty Car Rentals.

By Bus

Getting around Argentina by bus is affordable, but it requires a lot of time. Buses go literally almost anywhere, from Iguacu to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego and up again to Salta and everywhere in between. Best to break up the journey sometimes.

There are three levels of service: Regular, Semi-cama (half-bed) and Cama (bed).
The semi-cama and cama services are offerend and recommended on night buses, which actually are quite luxurious. They have fewer seats, which can recline almost horizontally in the cama buses. Also, basic food and drinks are sometimes offered on longer hauls. Although it takes more time compared to flights, they are a great way to get around, as it's much cheaper and on longer trips it saves a night of accommodation as well.

By Boat

Travelling by boat is not an option for most travelers, and if you do take a boat is most likely to be part of a tour, like from Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego. There are however several river crossings throughout the Litoral region, for example Rosario with Victoria in Entre Ríos and Goya in Corrientes with Reconquista in Santa Fe.
More to the south, boats cross San Martín de los Andes' Lago Lolog to Parque Nacional Lanín and a passenger launch crosses Lago Viedma, linking Estancia Helsingfors with El Chaltén.

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Red Tape

All travellers to Argentina need a valid passport or, in case of Mercosur citizens, a valid identity card. In addition, you may be asked for proof of onward journey and/or sufficient financial means, although you will very rarely be denied entry on that basis.

Requirements for Argentina tourist visa have been changing frequently over the past few years. At present (2008), those with a passport from EU, New Zealand, Israel, Japan or USA do not require a tourist visa. For a full overview of visa requirements by country, refer to the Argentinian Department of Immigration website.

You will receive a Tarjeta de ingreso (entry form) stamped with your date of entry. A tourist visit to Argentina can last at most 90 days, after which one renewal is permitted. Renewals are issued by the Direccion Nacional de Migraciones in Buenos Aires at a AR$100 fee. Overstaying will result in a fine of AR$300 with little or no risk of deportation.

Although the system used to be far from fool-proof, this situation is changing rapidly now that more and more border stations have on-line access to the central database of DNM.

For visits with purposes other than tourism, contact your embassy in Argentina.

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Money

See also: Money Matters

Argentina's currency is the peso (ARS or AR$). Within Argentina the $ symbol is used to denote a peso. To avoid confusion, the symbol for the US dollar is often one of several variations including, US$, U$, U$S or U$A.

One peso is divided into 100 centavos. Coins come in denominations of 5, 10, 25 and 50 centavos and of 1 peso. Notes come in denominations of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos.

Exchange rates vary depending on where you try to exchange your money. Sometimes, the rate at the airport is substantially worse than the rate in the city. Regarding exchange, you'll have to be careful of where you do it.
There are what argentinians call "arbolitos": people who exchange AR$ for US dollars or another foreing money on the street, and they can take advatage if you don't speak spanish o if you don't know the exchange rate.
One problem you should be wary of is that there's many fake notes going around. If you get one, use it again. Don't throw it away. It's still money. You can change them for good notes at Banco National.

Also there is a massive shortage of coins in Argentina, which can be a problem with local buses, for instance, as they take coins. In some cities though, you can also pay with a tarjeta magnetica (it's like a credit card but made of paper and it can be bought at kioskos). But you have to be careful, the fare may be different in each part of the country and not all the buses accept the tarjeta magnetica. You will see signs at the kiosks that dot the streets saying "exact change only - no change available". It's not a massive problem but worth noting so that you can be strategic with your change. Hold onto those coins and try to pay with exact money in these situations.

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Study

Language schools where you can study Spanish are found all across Argentina.
This is a very non-exhaustive overview.

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Language

Related article: Spanish Phrasebook

Spanish is the official language of Argentina, which is called Castellano by Argentines. There are also sizeable German and Italian-speaking minorities, although most still revert to Spanish.

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Eat

Argentinian food takes most of its cues from the food of Spain, Italy and France, unlike the cuisine of other Latin American countries. Pizza, pasta and sausages are common in the national diet, as is barbecued beef. In short, Argentina is a carnivore's dream.
Things you must eat if you visit Argentina: "asado": meat cooked in a asador (it's similar to a barbaque), generally with meat of a cow, but it can also be "barbaqued" chiken, rabbit, fish, pork, and cordero patagonico.
Besides meat, bread is also in abundance, thanks to the fact that Argentina produces great quantities of wheat.
When dining in restaurants, the standard tip is 10%.

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Sleep

Argentina is a large and very centralistically organised country. Although the provinces are autonomous to a certain extent, most government agencies are based in Buenos Aires, as are almost all larger companies. There is a lot of business-related travel to and from Buenos Aires, and given the immense distances, these are typically not daytrips. All these officials have to sleep somewhere; as a result the hospitality sector in Argentina is very well-developed. You will find alojamiento (accommodation) in even the smallest towns.

A note on terminology:

  • A hospedaje is a boarding house, where you can get a room (in some cases, just a bed) and usually meals as well. These institutions typically cater for the group described above, and are not geared towards (foreign) tourists.
  • A hostal used to be an in-between category of lodging between hospedajes and hotels. Nowadays the term is used interchangeably with the English 'hostel', with no clear difference between the two.
  • A albergue transitorio or simply transitorio is a typically Argentine invention. It is not meant to spend the night sleeping, but to have sex (with your own partner: it is not a brothel). It's also called a 'motel', or in very informal language 'telo'.

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Drink

Argentina is the 4th largest producer of wine in the world. About 80% of this is grown in the provinces of Mendoza and San Juan. Reds are the national specialty, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. Salta province produces few but very good wine.

Mate is the nation's iconic hot beverage,also found in Uruguay. It is a very distinctive drink that is brewed in hot water (not boiling) and consumed socially. Traditionally, it is drunk from a gourd with a metal straw, although it is now possible to purchase mate in tea bags. it is made with a special herb called yerba mate.

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Health

See also: Travel Health

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Argentina. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Argentina. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended and vaccination against hepatitis B, tuberculosis, rabies and typhoid are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. A yellow fever vaccination is recommended when travelling the central north and northeast of the country, including the area around the Iguazu Falls.

Malaria is almost absent, except remote areas along the border with Bolivia and Paraguay. Chances are very slime to get it though and taking normal anti-mosquito precautions is sufficient. Dengue sometimes occurs as well. There is no vaccination, so buy mosquito repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net. Also wear long sleeves if possible.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.

Argentina's public health system provides free services for emergencies and non-emergencies, regardless of your nationality or immigration status. The level of care does vary, however, particularly outside Buenos Aires. [2]

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Safety

See also: Travel Safety

While Argentina may have had a reputation in the past for being somewhat dangerous, it is now no more dangerous than other countris in the world. Traffic accidents are a concern, so beware if you are a pedestrian or driving.

Crime, while not a huge problem, does happen. In general, it tends to be of the non-violent pickpocket variety, although some criminals will respond with violence if you try to resist. In order to stay safe, avoid wearing expensive looking jewellery or watches, since these only attract thieves' attention. Don't leave your bags or purses unattended.[2]

In Buenos Aires, local police patrol the main tourist areas. The Argentinian countryside tends to be very safe.[3]

Following are some key contact numbers:

  • Police – 101 (911 is a new number – available in limited areas only)
  • Medical emergency – 107
  • Fire – 100

If you have been a victim of crime, you can also contact the special Tourist Police Unit on its toll-free number: 0800-999-5000.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Internet cafes are still widely available in most places, even in smaller towns, though many people are connected through the internet at home or by mobile device. Many cafes and restaurants offer free WiFi with an advertisement in their windows. All you need to do is buy something and ask for the password. Apart from specific places, including soms airports and major stations, quite a few cities are offering free wifi, including Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Iguazu Falls.

Phone

See also: International Telephone Calls

The country calling code to Argentina is 54. To make an international call from Argentina, dial 00 followed by the country code and the rest of the telephone number. All 0800 numbers are toll-free numbers, except if you call from a mobile phone. Emergency numbers are available for Police (101), Ambulance (107) and Fire (100). Emergency dispatcher for Buenos Aires (city), Santa Fe (city), Rosario (city), Salta (province), Corrientes (province), and Buenos Aires (province) 911. In a mobile phone 112 forwards to 911.

You can get a prepaid Movistar / Claro / Personal SIM card for a few pesos / free at phone shops, all you pay is about 20 Pesos for your initial credits. Inserting the SIM card into your unlocked American or European mobile phone should work, although to register the SIM you have to enter your passport (or any 9 digit) number - you then have your personal Argentinean phone numbers. Calls cost around 1 Peso per minute. Receiving calls is usually free, except for international calls, and some cross network / inter-city calls - hence buying a SIM card purely to keep in touch with people overseas may not be worth it.

Without a cellphone, there are similar cards with credits for international calls. You get them at so called locutorios, where you can also use the phone booths. You dial a free number to connect to the service, then your secret number for the credits, and then the international phone number you want to call. Using these cards, a one-hour call to Europe will cost about 10 Pesos. Don't call without such cards or even from your hotel - it will be way more expensive.

Post

Correos de Argentina is the national postal service of Argentina. There are also two private carriers operating nationwide (OCA and Andreani) and a number of regional ones though Correos de Argentina will be the one most likely to be used by travellers. Post offices are mostly open between 8:00am and 8:00pm Monday to Friday and 9:00am to 1:00pm on Saturday, though there are regional variantions with longer hours in central post offices in big cities and shorter ones in small towns. Services are pretty reliable but slow, mostly taking about two weeks to deliver a postcard or letter to the USA or Europe, but usually within a few days sending it domestically. There is also a more expensive express options. You can track a package online at the Correos de Argentino website. Parcels take at least 3-5 days domestically and weeks internationally. Otherwise try international companies like FedEx, TNT, DHL or UPS to send parcels. It is probably more reliable as well as faster.

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References

  1. 1 UNESCO World Heritage Site: Cueva de las Manos
  2. 2.1 2.2 Argentina. International Travel. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved on 2007–12–14.
  3. 3 Safety in Argentina. All About Argentina. Retrieved on 2007–12–14.

Quick Facts

Argentina flag

Map of Argentina

[edit]

Capital
Buenos Aires
Government
Republic
Nationality
Argentine
Population
37,400,000
Languages
Spanish
Religions
Christianity (Catholic)
Currency
Argentine Peso (ARS)
Calling Code
+54
Time Zone
UTC-3
Daylight Saving
UTC-2

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