Although Greater Buenos Aires has swollen to 13 million people, most tourists stick to the Capital Federal, which is home to a mere three million porteños (locals) and is divided into 48 barrios (neighbourhoods).
Once you get your head around the barrios and sub-neighbourhoods that complicate the city's layout, Buenos Aires becomes easier to navigate. The Microcentro, or downtown area, includes the shopping and entertainment precincts along the Avenidas of Corrientes, Córdoba and Santa Fe, and the pedestrian-only streets of Florida and Lavalle, only one block from Hostel Colonial.
The Avenida 9 de Julio is an unmistakable point of reference; its 16 lanes of traffic run from San Telmo in the south to Retiro up north, with a sky-piercing white obelisk at its centre. The dockside barrio of Puerto Madero runs north-south along the Río de la Plata and is very pedestrian friendly.
At the eastern end of Avenida de Mayo, one of the Microcentro's main east-west boulevards is the Plaza de Mayo. It attracts a bountiful blend of tourists, students and political activists, and is surrounded by many important buildings, including the famous Presidential Palace (Casa Rosada) and main cathedral.
South of Microcentro are the faded architecture and cobbled streets of colonial San Telmo, home of Buenos Aires' sultry tango, and La Boca, the tough port barrio and colourful working class heart of Buenos Aires. Uptown is the ritzy enclave of Recoleta, while the tree-lined Palermo has parks aplenty and Buenos Aires' hottest bars and ethnic eats.
Visas, Embassies & Border Crossings
If you are a foreigner (i.e. you don't have an Argentine passport or DNI) and you purchase a car in Argentina, you cannot cross the border with that car. There is a law prohibiting foreigners who OWN their own car from leaving the country with it. I (an American) bought a car in Salta with 3 Israelis, and we have tried twice to cross the border into Chile (near Mendoza and Bariloche), and both times we were barred by Argentine customs. A good fact for those who want to buy a car to see the Southern Cone, and a fact I didn't see in my South America on a Shoestring book.
Alex DeNeui, USA (Jan 04)
We went during the holidays (New Year's etc) so many things were closed such as the Opera House, museums, etc. San Telmo is not a bargain. The 2nd floor cafes surrounding it are delightful. La Boca is not worth the trek of getting there. If coming for a few weeks, rent an apartment. It's cheap and the apartments are huge and gorgeous. After reading about all the dogshit in the LP, I was suprised not to see any.
Adriana Galvan, USA (May 05)
I was travelling recently in Patagonia, on the Argentinian side, and I think something that really needs to be stressed is that even though it is now 2005, many of the hotels, tours, transport businesses etc. do not accept credit cards. I was travelling during peak season (January), and I had to pay more for accomodation (double what I was paying in Buenos Aires) and had to stay in hotels, due to a shortage of accommodation. I expected to be able to use my credit card - but this was not an option.
Fionna Ward, United Arab Emirates, (Feb 05)
Obviously because of the currency crash most things are now really really cheap - other than Calafate! We found roughly everything half the price of what is quoted in the latest book.
Sarah Corkill and Alastair England (Jan 04)
If traveling outside of Buenos Aires by bus, book a coche cama - these buses have really comfortable reclining seats.
Adriana Galvan, USA (May 05)
As the trains do not really work in Argentina, long-distance busses of a hundred different companies take travellers along. In the bus-terminals you have to go one by one to each company to find out their schedule, there is no central bus ticket office selling all companies. That's why a very useful website is the following: www.quieroviajar.net - here you can get an overview of all bus companies' schedules - a perfect travel planner for travel within Argentina.
Emese Dorman, Hungary (May 05)
Here are a few tips when renting a car in Argentina: We decided to rent a car this summer (July) to drive through Patagonia and Tierra del fuego without being tied to the bus schedules. When we rented the car in Bariloche we made it very clear to the rental agency that we had a firm plan to go to Usuhaia, they said "OK, this car goes everywhere in Argentina". What you have to know is that the only way to go to Ushuaia by land is to go through Chile. When we arrived at the Argentina/Chile border, we discovered that the car didn't have the necesary documents to get out of the country! So if you want to go to Ushuaia by car, the rental agency must give you 3 documents: the OM 2112 which says that this car is licensed to get out of the country, another document bearing your name as well as those of the other drivers saying that the owner of the car authorizes you to drive this car out of the country (otherwise you can be suspected as a potential car thief...) and the insurance certificate covering the car in Chile. Without this holy trinity, forget it.
Frederic Lopez, France (Aug 03)
Scams & Warnings
Potosi - not sure if the book states this but the inside of the mines are covered in asbestos, a fact our guide didn't point out until half way through the tour and everyone had been touching the walls for support while walking along. Apparently it only takes one exposure to get asbestosis, so unexpected dynamite explosions in the tunnel next door are not your only worry!
Daina Padgett & Rich Thomas, Australia (Dec 03)
Last February we decided to walk from downtown to La Boca around lunch time. We got a little off the main street about 2 short blocks from the 'Puente Avellaneda'(a tourist site) when suddenly two young men attacked us from behind with large bottles. We were almost killed but managed to escape to a gas station where they called an ambulance. Both of us (male) had our heads x-rayed and stitched up in the hospital. The doctor told us that people are often killed in that area even though the official tourist brochure includes a lovely map of the area! So if you want to visit La Boca to see the birthplace of the Tango take a tour or at the very least a taxi! FYI we are seasoned backpackers and have travelled safely in most parts of the world and are returning to South America this coming year.
Herb Watson, Canada (Jan 03)
Gems, Highlights & Attractions
To truly capture the essence of Argentines and the passion of the country, attend a football match. The singing, chanting, cheering and flag-waving make for an unforgettable experience. To avoid being caught up in the "rivalry" between the fans, and especially if you are a solo traveler, purchase a platea, or ticket for a reserved seat. Sit back and enjoy the spectacle. La Bombonera, the stadium in the La Boca section of Buenos Aires, is the essence of the experience. Cabs are scarce in the neighborhood after a match, so hustle to one of the main streets, even if you have to leave with five minutes left in the match, if you have any hope of finding a cab. Caution if walking after dark.
Garth Ward, USA (Jun 05)
During our stay in Puerto Iguazu a few days ago, we have visited a lovely bird refuge near Puerto Iguazu (less than 5 KM away from town).
It is a non-profit organization aimed at taking care of injured birds and preparing them for a return into the wild. They hold toucans, owls, eagles (very impressive!!), falcons and lots of other, smaller birds. The tour takes about 40 minutes and the guides are very informative and friendly. Not many speak English, however with our limited Spanish we went a long way understanding as the guide was very patient and spoke slowly. I would recommend mentioning this place in your next update as there are obviously a lot of tourists staying in Iguazu for a few days but the current LP does not mention much about activities outside the falls and the nature reserve. Also the extra money spent by tourists there seems to go a worthy cause.