I’ve lived in Buenos Aires my whole life. I’ve been to all its neighbourhoods, I’ve taken the subway a million times and I’ve eaten more milanesas than I can remember. I am a local, so I know the things you need to know. This is the ultimate guide with everything you need to know to visit Buenos Aires.
Language In Buenos Aires
I know what you are thinking. People in Buenos Aires speak Spanish, everybody knows it. Even people who visit Buenos Aires.
Well, that is true, but actually we speak Argentine Spanish. We use words and have an accent that you will not find in any other South American country. And we even say some things that you will not hear in any other province of Argentina.
If you visit Buenos Aires, prepare yourself to hear “che” to get someone’s attention, “bondi” to refer to the bus or “mina” to refer to a woman.
All this words and many more form part of the lunfardo, a dialect originated here in Buenos Aires in the late 19th century. Isn’t that awesome?
Arriving In Buenos Aires
If you arrive in an international flight (from another country), then you have two options. Most probably you will arrive at Ministro Pistarini International Airport, also known as Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). 85% of international flights coming to Argentina arrive to this airport. It is the main airport in Buenos Aires and the bigger one, but it is located 22km away from the city centre. Not very convenient to visit Buenos Aires, I know.
If you are lucky, you will arive at Jorge Newbery Airfield (Aeroparque Jorge Newbery), which is smaller, but is located in Palermo, one of the main neighbourhoods of Buenos Aires.
If you can choose, you should definitely choose Aeroparque. However, in most cases you will be arriving to Ezeiza.
How To Go From Ezeiza Airport To Buenos Aires City Centre
Ezeiza Airport is located 22 km out of town, and unfortunately it is not very well connected. No train and no subway. However, there is a bus you can take to take to the city centre that will cost you less than a dollar.
The bus you need to take is the number 8. A one-way trip to the city centre costs only 19.70 pesos, which in September 2018 are like 0.50 dollars.
In order to take this bus, you will need a SUBE transportation card. When you leave customs, you will see a kiosco (drugstore) on the left. There you can buy the SUBE card.
Then you need to find the machine, which is nearby, in order to charge money into your card. Unfortunately, the instructions are only in Spanish. But don’t worry, it is a simple process and you can ask for help if you don’t understand.
Once you have your SUBE card with some money in it, you can go outside the airport and look for bus number 8. When you get in, you will use your card to pay in a machine and that’s it.
The bus will leave you in Plaza de Mayo after approximately one hour.
This company offer minibuses every half an hour, between 8AM and 6PM, from Monday to Friday. You will pay 4 dollars if you don’t have any luggage, and 8 dollars if have one piece of luggage.
They will leave you here, near Plaza de Mayo:
Another company offering minibuses, Monday-Friday, between 8AM to 6.40PM, every half an hour. The cost is 4 dollars if you have no luggage, 8 dollars if you have one piece of luggage and 9 dollars if you have two.
They will also leave you near Plaza de Mayo:
Manuel Tienda Leon
If you don’t want to take the public bus, you can take the private buses of Manuel Tienda Leon. They have a service every half an hour. You will pay 300 pesos (8 dollars) and it will leave you in Terminal Madero.
They also offer a taxi service, which costs 1100 pesos (30 dollars) and is up to 4 people. They will take you to your chosen destination in Capital Federal.
One of the companies offering taxis in the airport. You will see their booth when you leave customs.
They charge 920 pesos (25 dollars) to take you to Aeroparque.
You can book a taxi and get more information in their website.
Other Private Taxi Companies
Be Careful With Taxis
If you get a taxi, be sure to hire one inside at one of the booths for a fixed rate. If you take a taxi outside, they will charge you what they want. Avoid this by choosing one of the taxi companies inside the airport.
Uber, Cabify And Other Apps
While these apps are great for moving around in Buenos Aires, you will not be able to use them from Ezeiza Airport. Drivers are not allowed to pick passengers from the airport.
That said, you will find very useful using these apps in Buenos Aires. You can even use them to take you back to the airport when you leave, which is allowed.
Yeah, I know what you are thinking. But this is Argentina, remember? If you visit Buenos Aires, you have to be prepared for these kind of things.
The Weather: When To Visit Buenos Aires
Like most destinations around the world, the best times to visit Buenos Aires are the shoulder seasons: spring (September to December) and fall (April to June). In these months you will find nice, mild temperatures and the city less crowded. Hotel prices will also be reasonable and you will find a lot of cultural events to enjoy.
Due to the proximity to the river and sea-level location, Buenos Aires is a very humid city, so the summer heat and the winter cold are felt more intensely.
Some people in Buenos Aires leave the city in mid July for the winter holidays, but most of the people leave the city in January, heading to the beach. If you visit Buenos Aires in January, you will see a much less crowded city. But be careful with the intense heat!
If I were you, I would avoid January and February. The heat is very intense and very humid, with temperatures up to 35°C, and walking the city with that heat is not very pleasant.
Here are the average temperatures you can expect for each month of the year:
- January: 21℃/29℃
- February: 20℃/28℃
- March: 19℃/26℃
- April: 15℃/22℃
- May: 12℃/19℃
- June: 9℃/16℃
- July: 8℃/15℃
- August: 10℃/17℃
- September: 11℃/18℃
- October: 14℃/22℃
- November: 17℃/25℃
- December: 19℃/28℃
In my opinion, you should visit Buenos Aires in April-May or October-November.
Currency Of Argentina
In Argentina we use pesos as currency. In September 2018, 1 dollar is equal to almost 38 pesos. But just four months ago, in May, 1 dollar was equal to 21 pesos. The exchange rates change everyday, and a lot, so be sure to check the current rate here when you visit Buenos Aires.
Your best choice to get pesos is to use an ATM. If you visit Microcentro and walk through its streets, you will hear people saying “cambio, cambio” (which translates to change). These people sell dollars, and are called arbolitos (little trees). Yeah, you got it right, it’s because dollars are green. But in my opinion, there is no reason to take the risk. They can easily give you some fake bills and you won’t notice. Use the ATM and you will be fine.
Denominations of the pesos notes are: 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000. You will also find coins of 1, 2 and 5 pesos. 1 cent, 5 cents, 10 cents, 25 cents and 50 cents coins also exist, but you won’t see much of them; you can’t buy nothing with cents.
In 2018, some new bill designs were released:
And you will also find the old bills:
All of these bills are valid. The old ones are still valid and it’s the same using one of those or one of the new ones. So don’t worry if you receive some of the old bills.
Prices In Buenos Aires
These are just some prices for you to have a reference.
You can find hostels starting at 200 pesos (5.50 dollars) a night for a 10-person room. Most hostels are around 350-500 pesos (10-13 dollars) a night for a 6-person room. If you want a private room, be prepared to pay around 800-950 pesos (21.50-24.50 dollars).
You can also find very good options in Airbnb, starting at around 800 pesos (21 dollars) for private rooms.
Budget hotels cost around 1100 pesos (30 dollars) a night for a twin room.
You can have lunch in Buenos Aires for 150-250 pesos (4-6 dollars), and have dinner for 300-450 pesos (8-12 dollars). These are the prices if you sit in a decent restaurant. If you cook yourself or eat street food, you can spend much less than that. In the opposite way, you can also have dinner for 800-950 pesos (20-26 dollars) in some restaurants.
Public transportation is cheap: you will pay 13 pesos (0.35 dollars) for a one-way trip on a bus or subway. Taxis can be expensive, and like in most cities we don’t like taxi drivers very much. You can use Uber and Cabify, they work really well and you will save a lot of money.
- We have light breakfasts. Coffee or tea and some pastries or toasts.
- We usually have lunch between 12PM-1PM. In restaurants, lunch is available from 11AM to 3-4PM.
- Dinners are late, most of us eat between 9-10PM. In restaurants, dinner is available from 7PM till closure time. In the weekends, you can find people having dinner at 1, 2 AM.
- Boliches (night clubs/dance clubs/discos) open around 12AM, but they get wild at around 3AM. Most people will leave after 6AM.
- It is very common to get together before going to the boliche to have a previa: people get together at around 11PM to drink some alcohol, and then they go all together to dance.
- Regarding tips, 10% is fine. Most people don’t even tip 10%. If you pay with credit card, you must ask the waiter to include the tip when you give him/her the card. Yes, the waiter will take your credit card, don’t worry. If you have cash, leave cash as a tip. It’s the only way to be sure that the tip will go to the waiter and not to the owner.
- In 99% of the restaurants, you will be billed a servicio or cubierto. Price of service should be written in the menu. This is not the tip, as it goes to the restaurant’s owner, not to the waiter.
Moving Around Buenos Aires
To take any public transportation, you will need a SUBE transportation card. You can buy one at any kiosco (drugstore) or in a subte (subway) station ticket window. The card costs 25 pesos (0.70 dollars), and in the same place you buy it you can load money onto it.
Colectivos (also called bondis) are the buses and the main form of transportation in Buenos Aires. They will take you anywhere you want to go. We have 136 different lines of colectivos in Buenos Aires.
To take a colectivo, you frist need to know where it stops. Colectivos don’t stop in every corner. You will usually find a sign with the colectivo number so you can know that it stops there.
When you see it coming your way, you have to stop it. Like this:
Once you are in, you have to tell the driver where you are going to, as the price depends on the distance traveled. You will see a little machine where you have to place your SUBE card, and that’s it!
Be aware that the first seats are for elderly, pregnant women and children.
When you want to get down, go to the back door of the colectivo and ring the bell.
Subte is short for subterráneo (underground), it is Buenos Aires metro. We have 6 different lines. Frequency is usually good, and most of the trains are in good shape. In the morning when people go to work, and in the afternoon when they get back home, it can be really crowded. If you want to get in, you will have to push some people.
In order to access a subte station, you will also have to use your SUBE card. This time the price does not depend on the distance travelled: you will pay the same if you travel 5 stations or just 1.
We also have trains, but most likely you will not be using them. However, if you want to do a day trip to Tigre to visit the river delta, you can take the Tigre Line train leaving from Retiro. If you do take a train, you will most likely take one leaving from Retiro station.
In order to access the platform, you will have to use your SUBE card. When you arrive at your destination, you have to place the SUBE card again in order to leave the station: this time you will be charged.
Where To Stay In Buenos Aires
Palermo Soho/Palermo Hollywood
For most young people in Buenos Aires, Palermo is the best neighbourhood to live in. But Palermo is very big, and is divided in smaller barrios. Of those, the best are Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood.
If you stay here, you will be staying in a safe neighbourhood, where you will find the best restaurants in the city and the best nightlife options. There are lots of bars, pubs and boliches. If you visit Buenos Aires for its nightlife, then don’t hesitate and choose Palermo.
If you stay in Palermo Soho or Palermo Hollywood, you will not have lots of tourist attractions close by foot, but you will be well connected with the subte and colectivos.
The eternal rival of Palermo, Recoleta is also a great choice. More sophisticated, here you will find better architecture, art and culture options, including a lot of museums. Recoleta is very safe and is very well connected to visit all other parts of Buenos Aires. While it’s more quiet than Palermo, you will still find plenty of good restaurants and bars.
Take into consideration that Recoleta tends to be more expensive than Palermo.
Further north, you will find Belgrano, another huge barrio, also divided in smaller ones like Palermo. And they are very different.
If you stay near Avenida Cabildo, you will be in the commercial center, where you will find lots of restaurants and shops.
If you stay near Libertador Avenue, you will find Chinatown. If you go to Belgrano R area, you will find a beautiful, quiet barrio with historic old houses and cobblestoned streets full of trees.
In Belgrano you will find metro line B, which will take you to Palermo, Recoleta or the city centre in a few minutes, so you will be well connected.
If you are looking for a quiet, safe place, more residential, stay in Belgrano. Depending on the area, prices can be higher than in Palermo and Recoleta.
Puerto Madero is the youngest barrio of Buenos Aires. Probably the safest place to stay, but also the most expensive one. This is where wealthy people live. It’s modern, clean and full of restaurants and places to go out.
It is not well connected to the city, so you will have to walk or take taxis. You will find luxury apartments and hotels, but they are truly expensive.
I don’t recommend you staying in Puerto Madero because it doesn’t feel like Buenos Aires. If you want a traditional place, with local culture, this is the last place to choose. You should definitely visit it because it’s a beautiful neighbourhood, but if you stay here you will not experience Buenos Aires at its best.
Microcentro includes the barrios of Retiro, San Nicolas, Balvanera and Montserrat. This is the city centre, the financial district. You will have amazing access to all parts of Buenos Aires. The area is full of tourist attractions that you will be visiting for sure. You will find more hotel options for all budgets here.
However, if you stay here you will be in hell. During weekdays, it’s total madness. Most people work in Microcentro, so it’s always crowded and busy. Traffic is chaotic and you will probably find protests everyday in the streets.
If I can give you one piece of advice, that would be don’t stay in Microcentro. You will visit it for sure, as there are many things to do, but it’s not a very pleasant area to stay in.
San Telmo is a very unique neighbourhood. Some people hate it and some people love it. You will find cobblestoned streets and old buildings. For some people it has some charm. There are a lot of historic cafes, bars and restaurants where you can have excellent local food. Due to its central location, you will be well connected to the city centre, and with plenty tourist attractions nearby.
Photo credit for Buenos Aires Fotogenica
In San Telmo you will also find the cheapest hostels, so it’s a popular choice for backpackers and people travelling on a budget.
If you stay here, be careful at night. It is usually a safe area, but at some parts at night you will need to be careful.
So… Where Should You Stay If You Visit Buenos Aires?
My recommendation is to stay in Palermo or Recoleta. If you can afford it, you will be staying in a safe neighbourhood, well connected to the city centre, with lots of dining and nightlife options.
Safety Tips To Visit Buenos Aires
Like in every big city, you will need to be careful in Buenos Aires. As a tourist, when you visit Buenos Aires you are much more likely to be a target for robberies. Be careful on crowded buses, on the subway and at busy places to avoid pickpocketing and bag snatching. If you are in a cafe or a restaurant, don’t leave the bag aside on the floor, try to keep an eye on it. If you are walking on the street, be careful with motochorros (motorbike-robbers). They take people’s bags or cell phones in just a second, you won’t even notice.
You will find people living in the streets, and they will probably ask you for some money, but you can ignore them if you want, they are usually not violent.
Try to avoid Constitución, Retiro, Once, San Telmo and La Boca at night.
That said, don’t be afraid. Buenos Aires is usually a safe city. You should be good if you be careful and avoid the potentially dangerous areas at night.
That’s It… Now It’s Your Time To Visit Buenos Aires!
This guide has everything you need to know to visit Buenos Aires and make the most of it.
If you need to know anything else, please feel free to ask in the comments area!
If you liked this post, please share it!