First’s timer guide in Buenos Aires : my advices
It is so easy to idealize a country, a city or even people that when everything goes wrong, the fall is even more harder. And that’s what happened with Buenos Aires the first few days.
Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital city, is one of the most influenced city of the world. By arriving in Buenos Aires, it seemed to me a mix of Paris with its haussemanian buildings and American big cities with its huge avenues. At first sight, it has everything to please me but it was the total opposite.
The country is currently facing a major economical crisis of its history. Inflation is impressive, currency is losing its value, labour market is complicated and all of this have consequences in the everyday life.
Concret example :
July 13th 2019 (arrival in Buenos Aires), 1€ worth AR$ 45.
August 12th 2019 (day after presidential election’s primary), 1€ worth AR$ 50.
August 13th 2019 at 9 am (two days after the primary), pesos lose value in 24h and worth AR$ 59 for 1€.
The same day at 11 am, 1€ worth AR$ 65.
Here are my advices so you can locate yourself in this capital city and live more like a local.
How to withdraw money
Arriving from Colombia, I only had few dollars on me in case of emergency ! I read all reviews before about withdrawals in Argentina, I might have been informed that it would be complicated but living it was completely a different experience. So, I went to the first bank close to my accommodation in the middle of the week end. I couldn’t even withdraw the maximal amount offered to minimize fees. I just tried to find out the next maximum amount available … 1500 Argentinian pesos, or 32€. And for that, I got 9€ of bank fee !! Yes … 9€ !!!!!! Hello !
So I needed to find an other solution otherwise I wouldn’t get out of it …
How to make a money transfer
The solution, I already knew it, is to make a money transfert. And to do so, I used Azimo for the first time while benefit of the 2 first free transfers. I offer you a code SOPHIEP34 so you can save 10€ for your subscription to Azimo, to use on transfers from 100€.
The principe is simple, you enter the amount, you choose your withdraw’s place and you pay !
BUT … I choose a withdraw’s place on the list that was no longer there !! So when I got the confirmation email to go get my money, the place was empty there was nothing !
Fortunately, you can get your money in every partner agency with Azimo who can look to your reference and check your identity with your passport in order to deliver your money.
Be careful with week-ends because Azimo is closed, the process is reported to the next week. With that, bank transfer’s payments are treated with an extra day than direct payment by credit card.
How to pay by credit card
It was the first few days here, I got an accommodation with a kitchen so I took advantage of it to save some money by preparing my own meals. I had to buy some groceries at the supermarket. At this point, I only got AR$ 1500 that I withdrawed. I wanted to save them in order to pay small bills. So, I decided to pay by credit card ! And the cashier asked me for my identity card … to pay with my credit card ! Sorry, what ? … I didn’t expect this backlash but by luck, I had my passport copy ! And no, it didn’t work the original was needed ! So I couldn’t get to pay my groceries.
If you are thinking about paying with your credit card, have your passport with you ! I read that some persons present their French identity card and it worked too.
How to buy a SIM card
If you want to have some datas to use Internet outside, you will need to buy a SIM card. In my case, I arrived in Argentina with a WHV. We have been offered a welcome kit from the city of Buenos Aires. You just need to fill the form online here and you will receive a withdraw confirmation email either in Ezeiza airport or downtown.
Tip : plan ahead 7 days before, especially if you want to take it at the airport.
In that kit, you will have a free SIM card (mine is from Personal operator), a SUBE card, 40% off for a shuttle from the airport to downtown as well as discounts on hostels for your first nights.
But … in my case, I only had the SIM card and the shuttle discount ! So this is a little disappointed when you have been promised a kit and not entirely complete !
You have 3 main phone operators in Argentina : Claro, Movistar and Personal.
You need to get a SIM card in one of the kioskos of the city. Then, go to the operator’s official store in order to register your card with your phone. To do so, do not forget your passport !!
Once your register done, you only need to charge it with credit. This credit will allow you to buy some prepaid package of the maximal amount you put. So, you will be able to find packages of 1, 3, 5, 7 or maximum 30 days. You might choose a package that respond to your need : if you want only messages and calls, how many Go of Internet, unlimited whatsapp or not.
Avec ce crédit, vous pourrez alors acheter de nouveau un forfait prépayé.
To charge your package, this is easy. Go to a kiosko, ask to buy some credits. Give your Argentinian phone number, then the amount you want, pay and the cashier give you a ticket as a proof of purchase. In the following minutes, you will receive a message confirming your credit purchase.
I advise you to download your phone operator’s app. It will give you some precious informations such as your data consommation and your remaining credits. You can also check to all packages available that you could buy with your credit.
How to use Buenos Aires subway
In your welcome kit thanks to the WHV, you will have normally a SUBE card. You will use this one to take every public transportation system : subway, bus, train.
You can buy your SUBE card at any kiosko as well if they have some left ! And then you can charge it with the amount you want at this same kiosko but they will charge you extra 3 to 5 pesos more. Or for free if you charge it at the subway station.
In Buenos Aires, there are 6 subway lines : A, B, C, D, E and H. They generally work all fine. They don’t look super fresh brand new though, especially line C and E.
Every ride, whether you do 1 station or all the line with connexions, costs AR$ 19 (August 2019). You just need to be careful, because this is the same system as New York. Meaning that every street side correspond to a direction. So if you got wrong, you need to go out and pay again. But this is not always the case, some stations give you access to both directions.
The connexion specificity is that the station is not called the same in both lines. Don’t be surprised !
Moreover, you will see that in the subway … you can do your shopping ! Literally ! A person walks throughout the subway train and will sell things such as : pens, sharpies, chocolates, chewing-gums, post-its, drinks … They will drop their marchandises so you can see them up-close, on your knees, on your jacket, on your bag/backpack. If you are not interested, you can just nod your head. Then they come back over to get back their stuff.
How to take Buenos Aires bus
To use buses in Buenos Aires, I strongly advise you to use Google Maps or any app with GPS ! Especially Maps.me that I love. If you don’t have data to use Internet outside, download offline maps ! Why ? Because Buenos Aires bus system is one of the worse I know.
You get in by the front door and you all have to pay. Say to the driver where you want to go, he will put the amount to pay on the terminal and then you pay with your SUBE card. You might hear some (accustomed) people saying directly the amount they want to pay and not the destination. And then you go sit. And now your GPS join the game. Just put your itinerary with the bus and follow yourself. In order to know when to get down. Because you might have notice that bus stops are not always obvious. There might be just a stake with the line number, some bus shelters with or without the lines and even more … nothing at all. But usually the bus stops at every corner of the street.
I found that Google Maps has been pretty accurate.
When you want to get down, you have 2 possibilities. You can go to the rear door and press the only button of the bus to indicate that you want to stop. On newer buses, there can be one or 2 more but only located at the rear door. Or, you can go out from the front door you just have to get up to notify the driver you want to get off on the next stop.
So here are my daily tips to live in Buenos Aires. I hope it was useful. Because truth to be told, I had to learn on the ground. My researches about the capital city were not done badly.