Living in Argentina
We cannot wait for you to dive into life and work in your new home country. So that you can become a pro on navigating the ins and outs of la vida argentina, you can find below information on important aspects of getting settled in and making the most of your time in Argentina.
MONEY AND IDENTIFICATION
The national currency is the Argentine peso (ARS). You can check the current exchange rate here. You can withdraw pesos from bank ATMs, which are marked with a maroon colored sign that says “Banelco” or with a green sign that says “Link.” It’s recommended to use ATMs during banking hours (10am to 3pm) so that, if there should be an issue with the machine, you can go inside the bank for assistance. Puentes Pista: Between 3 and 4pm bank ATM’s are offline, and you will not be able to withdraw money.
When you call your bank to tell them the dates that you will be out of the country, you can ask your bank to waive the withdrawal fee as an exception during the time that you are abroad. Some banks will do this and others will not, but it is always worth it to ask. As a foreigner without residency, you will be unable to open a local bank account. Thus, for getting cash in Argentina, you have a few options:
Use your debit card to make withdrawals from ATMs. To avoid many withdrawal fees, you can withdraw larger amounts at a time and leave in your housing bedroom the pesos cash that you will not use on a daily basis.
Bring U.S. dollars to exchange them into pesos at a local exchange house. This depends on how much U.S. dollar cash you are comfortable bringing with you on the flight.
You can transfer money from your U.S. bank account to Xoom and then get the pesos at one of the Xoom pick up points in Buenos Aires. This has a fee associated with it, so you would have to see if it is more favorable than your bank’s ATM withdrawal fees.
Often students do a combination of these three options, or sometimes they do just one. It is a matter of personal preference and comfort.
Many major businesses allow credit cards, with Visa and MasterCard being the most widely accepted. However, Argentina is still a cash culture, so you should also always have pesos in cash on hand. It’s also recommended to have smaller bills with you, as small businesses and taxis typically do not take AR$500 or ARS$1000 bills. You can usually get change in supermarkets, restaurants, or larger stores.
You do not need to have your passport with you when in Buenos Aires, so you should leave it in a safe place in your home. You can keep your driver’s license, your student ID card (for possible museum and activity discounts), and a photocopy of your passport with you to use in case you need identification. It is also a good idea to memorize your passport number because you will need to know it when signing credit card receipts or completing other documents. Do note that you should remember to take your passport with you when traveling outside of Buenos Aires on buses or planes.
If you are using your unlocked phone with a local SIM card, this is similar to AT&T’s pay-as-you-go cell phone plan in the U.S. because you can buy cell phone credit to be used as needed for your local calls, texting, and data, and you can also rely on widely available Wi-Fi for free over-the-internet messaging platforms such as WhatsApp. Such cell phone credit can be purchased in kiosks, supermarkets, pharmacies, and other commercial locations throughout Argentina. Some places will offer you an actual physical card with cell credit, and some others will offer recarga virtual (meaning they charge credit through the internet, and for that, you simply need to tell them your local cell phone number). Buenos Aires phones have the prefix 11.
We don’t recommend making international calls from the phone with your Argentine SIM card because it is very expensive. An excellent way to keep in touch with family and friends while abroad is Skype. It’s easy to set up and free to use. Simply download the program and register a username online. You can use Skype to make video calls for free, and you can make calls to landlines for a fraction of a penny. Another option is FaceTime on iPhones or Macs, and you can also try Google Hangouts. For free international texting over wifi, WhatsApp is an excellent mobile app, which also has free voice and video call functions. WhatsApp is also very frequently used locally in Argentina as an alternative to texting and phoning. To call Buenos Aires cell phones from abroad, dial the country exit code +54 9 11 then the eight digit phone number, and to dial Buenos Aires landlines from abroad, dial the country exit code +54 11 then the eight digit phone number.
The three main postal carriers in Argentina are Correo Argentino, Andreani, and OCA. You can buy postage and send items wherever you see a sign for Correo Argentino (in blue and yellow), Andreani (in red and blue), or OCA (in purple and orange), often located within kiosks or other businesses. Postal mail sent from Argentina typically takes about ten days to two weeks to arrive to international destinations. FedEx, UPS, and DHL also have locations throughout the country. Sending valuables through the mail is strongly discouraged. Also keep in mind that packages shipped internationally to Argentina are often held at customs upon arrival and taxed heavily, so we recommend that you do not receive international shipments in order to avoid burdensome costs and logistics. If you would like to receive postal mail letters while in Argentina, you can have them sent to the Puentes office, and we will deliver them to you. Puentes office address:
Care of: Ann Noguer, Puentes Abroad
Rodriguez Peña 1686 17B
Buenos Aires, CABA1021
Transport in Argentina
Public transportation in Argentina is very dependable and is the preferred method of transport of the locals. Multiple means of public transport allow you to travel around the city: six lines of subtes (the abbreviation for subterráneo, or subway), more than one hundred lines of colectivos (buses), and interurban railways (or trains). Both buses and the subway, which only exists within the Buenos Aires City limits, are excellent options for daytime travel but are not as frequent or as safe at night. Trains are the fastest and most efficient way to travel from the suburbs into the city center. The subway stops at 11:30pm, and you may find yourself waiting much longer for your bus or train at night. Luckily at night there are other options, such as taxis and Ubers.
The SUBE card (Unified Electronic Ticket System), which we will give you upon arrival in your Welcome Pack, enables you to travel through the entire city by public transportation. Most subte (subway) stations will be able to charge your SUBE card, but many kioskos, and other shops can do so as well. Locations that charge SUBE cards are listed here.
Taxis are also a very common means of transport within the city. Taxis use meters to determine the price and typically offer fixed prices for long distance travel. Taxi drivers don’t expect tips, but it’s common to round up to the nearest peso. Although you can hail a taxi from the street, it is recommended to take a “radio taxi,” which you phone in advance to ensure that the driver will take the most direct route and charge a fair price. You can also recognize radio taxis by the posted company logos on the passenger side doors. Several recommended radio taxi companies are Paris Taxi (11 4308 0001), Buen Viaje (11 5252 9999), and Premier (11 5238 0000).
Remises, or car services, are commonly used in the northern suburbs of San Isidro, Olivos, and Vicente López. They offer more convenience in the sense that they will come pick you up and tell you the final price before you take your trip. Try Cocker Remises (11 4742 7771) or Jockey Remis (11 4766 6660)
Finally, you can use Uber or Cabify to request and pay for car transport in and around the city. Puentes Pista: It’s common for Uber drivers to request that you sit in the front seat because many taxi drivers are still against Uber.
EcoBici is the city's free system of bikes that can be used 24/7. You can register online and review how to use it. Download the app “Eco Bici” in order to use the bikes in each station, and use the “BA Como Llego” app to learn how to get from point A to point B using the different bike lanes around the city.
Traveling from Buenos Aires throughout Argentina
Argentina is a wonderfully diverse and engaging country, with many different options for travel – the Pampas in the center of the country, the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia in the southern half down to Tierra del Fuego, the subtropical flats of the Gran Chaco in the north, and the rugged Andes mountain range along the western border with Chile. You can find overviews of key Argentine destinations, with recommendations for travel plans, in our Destination Guides.
Due to the country’s large size, airplanes are an excellent option for long distance travel. Aerolíneas Argentinas and LATAM operate domestic flights, which typically depart from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery Airport (airport code AEP), located to in the north of Buenos Aires City, near Palermo and beside the Río de la Plata. International flights typically depart from Ezeiza Airport (airport code EZE). Puentes Pista: While there are usually more international flights leaving EZE, if you are lucky enough to find one from AEP, it is a far more convenient option because it is within the city. There is also a new low cost airline Flybondi that takes off from another small airport El Palomar, but expect long delays and logistical problems, as they are a relatively new company with little to no customer service.
Traveling by bus in Argentina is also reliable, very comfortable, and safe. Most long distance buses have toilets and air conditioning and provide meal services. You can search for bus schedules and fares at Plataforma 10 or Central de Pasajes. You can also purchase bus tickets in person at the main bus terminal - the Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro - or at bus company offices throughout the city. Some of the major bus companies include Via Bariloche, Chevallier, Plusmar, and Flecha Bus.
If you do travel outside of Buenos Aires, please complete the Puentes Travel Form so that we can reach you for any emergencies. Also, don’t forget to take your passport with you when you travel.
LAUNDRY, FOOD & GYMS
There are many lavanderias (laundry centers) where you can drop off your clothes to be washed and dried, normally in twenty-four hours or less. LaveRap is a major chain of reliable lavanderias throughout the city. You will be charged either by the size or by the weight of the load being washed. Do keep in mind that lavanderias are not known for their attentive care in handling clothes, so if you have delicate items, you might prefer to wash them by hand at home. Most lavanderias also do dry cleaning (tintorería) too. Also there’s a new app called Mr. Jeff, which is like Uber for laundry. They’ll come pick it up from your apartment and bring it back washed, dried, and folded in less than 48 hours.
Argentina is known for its steak and its Malbec (a type of red wine), but it also hosts a variety of international cuisine, thanks to its immigrant population. Breakfast typically consists of coffee and medialunas (croissants), toasts, or cereal and is much lighter than most US-style breakfasts. Lunch is around 1pm and includes a sandwich, a tarta (similar to quiche), or a salad. Argentines then enjoy a “merienda” (snack or tea) of coffee or mate and pastries in the late afternoon. Dinner is around 9pm, with restaurants becoming crowded near 10pm.
Disco, Coto, Día and Carrefour are excellent chains of supermarkets. You will also find many very good local supermarkets and grocery stores, as well as fruit and vegetable stands (verdulerias) in your neighborhoods. Puentes Pista: The smaller, local supermarkets are not likely to accept credit or debit cards.
At meals, Argentines take their time and linger for quite a while, and the restaurant staff never rush the customer. A restaurant tip is typically around 10%, depending on service. Puentes Pista: Tips typically cannot be added to credit card bills, so carry cash for this purpose. The city has an endless list of amazing restaurants, so please don’t hesitate to ask Puentes staff for recommendations. You can also visit Guía Oleo – the Argentina version of Zagat – to look up restaurants. Another good site in English that reviews restaurants is Pick up the Fork. Also to mention is that restaurant delivery is very common and can be coordinated online with PedidosYa or Rappi.
Argentines are an active bunch, so gyms and fitness centers are very common in Argentina. Prices and amenities vary, so it’s a good idea to explore several options before purchasing a membership. Three very good fitness centers with several locations each are WellClub, Sportclub, and Megatlon. There are plenty of smaller chains and independent gyms as well. Try Googling “gimnasio” plus the name of your neighborhood, and you’ll find plenty of options. You will likely be required to bring a medical certificate (certificado médico or apto físico) in order to join a gym, so it is a good idea to bring one from home; it can be a simple note from a doctor stating that you are in good health to undertake physical exercise in a gym.
HOW TO MEET ARGENTINES
Argentines are very sociable and love to go out and hang out for hours. Whether it’s for a coffee in the afternoon or drinks at night, locals find any possible excuse to celebrate and spend time with friends - or maybe with new people just like you! Here are some ideas and tips on how to meet locals:
Open up! Wherever you go, don’t stick with a large group of expat friends. If you go to a bar or to a boliche (night club), Argentines will feel inhibited to join a large group. Some will feel shy about speaking in English, especially around large groups of foreigners, so maybe split into smaller groups, and invite them to come over and practice both Spanish and English.
Take the initiative. Most Argentines will not go out of their way to meet foreigners. You will likely have to approach them and start a conversation. Ask them about fútbol, mate, history, family, and traditions.
¡Vos podés! (You can do it!) Reduce your English as much as you can; locals will appreciate your effort to speak Spanish! It’s the best way to practice the language, and it’s a good excuse to talk to new people.
Argentina’s history goes back to 1540 when Don Pedro de Mendoza founded the original settlement of Buenos Aires near the mouth of the Riachuelo. It is said that the original village was in the vicinity of what is now Parque Lezama, on the border between the neighborhoods of San Telmo and La Boca. Unfortunately, the original settlers had trouble acclimating to their new surroundings. Under constant harassment from neighboring indigenous tribes, they abandoned the site in 1542, and it wasn’t until 38 years later that the site was again inhabited by the Spaniards.
In 1580, Juan de Garay sailed down the Paraná river from Asunción and reclaimed the land in the name of the King of Spain. Since that moment, what is now Argentina has been continuously occupied by Europeans. The first few centuries were terribly difficult due to the remote location and a royal decree which stated that all goods entering South America must enter through Lima, Peru. In order to get a shipment to Buenos Aires, a boat would travel to Panama, dispatch the goods across the peninsula on the backs of donkeys, and then be sent to Lima by ship again. From there, again the goods were loaded on the backs of animals and carried 2,500 miles to Buenos Aires, crossing the Andes along the way. As one can imagine, this terribly inefficient method of receiving goods from Spain was extremely costly and time consuming. It was the source of many disputes and led to hostile relations between Buenos Aires and Madrid.
Los Porteños, the people of Buenos Aires, found it unreasonable, and rightfully so, that they should have to receive goods by land from Peru when they had perfectly good port themselves. And so from its very beginning, the citizens of Buenos Aires were at odds with the Kingdom of Spain. Cargo ships began coming directly to the port of Buenos Aires without the authorization of the King. For centuries Los Porteños found ways to get around the laws that the King of Spain imposed upon them. This spirit of finding a way around the rule of law shaped the culture of the people of Buenos Aires and is still palpable to this day.
Finally in 1776, they got their way when a royal decree created the Viceroyalty of the Río de La Plata, a vast territory including present day Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia. The new Viceroyalty meant that Buenos Aires could be supplied directly by European ships, but the deep-seated resentment towards Spain persisted.
A spirit of self sufficiency and independence snowballed and was ultimately strengthened by an unexpected catalyst: in 1806 and 1807, British troops made two separate attempts to conquer Buenos Aires. Each time they were repelled by loosely organized municipal regiments with scant military resources. Everyday civilian husbands, housewives, and teenagers alike banded together to protect their city. Against all odds, and heavily outnumbered, Los Porteños had defeated the best trained military troops in the world, not once, but twice.
With their confidence at an all time high, the leaders of the Viceroyalty began to plan their separation from the Spanish Empire. In 1810, the May Revolution began in the Cabildo that stills stands today just in front of Plaza de Mayo. The fighting stretched the entirety of South America, from the naval battles in the waters of the Rio de la Plata, to the Andes Mountains in Chile, and all the way up to the high plains of Peru. In 1816, the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata finally won their independence from Spain. Eventually, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Uruguay went their own way, but the area that remained became Argentina.
The country’s population and culture were subsequently heavily shaped by immigrants from throughout Europe, especially Italy and Spain, which provided the largest percentage of newcomers from 1860 to 1930. Up until about the mid-20th century, much of Argentina’s history was dominated by periods of internal political conflict between civilian and military factions. After World War II, an era of Peronist authoritarian rule and interference in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976. Democracy returned in 1983 and has persisted despite numerous challenges, the most formidable of which was a severe economic crisis in 2001 and 2002.
Important historic dates:
May 25, 1810: The first “Patria” or Home Government Assembly was constituted.
July 9, 1816: Proclamation of Independence by the United Provinces of the River Plate and the birth of the Republic of Argentina.
1982: La Guerra de las Malvinas, known in English as The Falklands War. Puentes Pista: The Falklands War is still very fresh in the minds of all Argentines and territory of the Falkland Islands continues to be a point of tension between the United Kingdom and Argentina. While in Argentina it is wise to refer to the Falkland Islands as “The Malvinas,” which is the Argentine name for the islands.
2001: Major economic crisis.
The country is a representative federal and democratic republic, with Buenos Aires as the Federal Capital and 23 provinces. The national president and vice president, as well as the head of government of the city of Buenos Aires, the provincial governors, and the members of the legislative bodies are chosen by the universal, secret, and compulsory vote of citizens of either sex above the age of 18. Presidential reelection is allowed for one consecutive four-year period. Our current president is Mauricio Macri of the center-right “Partido para una República con Oportunidades” (PRO), and he was inaugurated in December 2015.
Argentina’s GDP is US$637.6 billion (2017), with a per capita GDP of US$14,400. Argentina benefits from rich natural resources, a highly literate population, a diversified industrial base, and an export-oriented economy. Main destinations of exports in 2017 were Brazil (17.0%), China (7.2%) and U.S. (5.9%). Although one of the world’s wealthiest countries 100 years ago, Argentina suffered during most of the 20th century from recurring economic crises, persistent fiscal and current account deficits, high inflation, mounting external debt, and capital flight. The most formidable challenge was a severe economic crisis in 2001 and 2002 that led to the resignation of several interim presidents.
The economy has recovered strongly since bottoming out in 2002. With the reemergence of double-digit inflation in 2005, the Kirchner administration pressured businesses into a series of agreements to hold down prices. The government renegotiated its public debt in 2005 and paid off its remaining obligations to the IMF in early 2006. Real GDP growth averaged 8.5% during the period 2003-2009, bolstering government revenues and keeping the budget in surplus. This trend has ended in the over the last few years, as growth has fluctuation between -2.5% (2014), 2.5% (2015), and -1.8% (2016). Argentina’s unemployment rate hovers around 8%, with around 30% of the population below the poverty line (2006). 2018 saw the worst inflation since 1999, clocking in at 47.1%.
There is complete religious freedom in Argentina, although the official religion is Roman Catholic. Other major religious populations include Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Greek Orthodox, and Russian Orthodox.
Buenos Aires has great cultural production in cinema, theatre, visual arts, music, and literature. The Colon Theatre is ranked among the top three opera houses in the world. Painting and sculpture have a key role in cultural life. The country’s principal cities have prestigious art galleries. There is popular and folklore music and special mention should be made of the urban music typical of the River Plate area: the tango. Its idol, Carlos Gardel, is revered by millions. With regards to science and culture, Argentina has five Nobel Prize winners: Carlos Saavedra Lamas (1936) and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel (1980) for peace; Bernardo Houssay (1947) and Cesar Milstein (1984) for medicine; and Luis Federico Leloir (1970) for chemistry.
Located in the southeast tip of South America, Argentina encompasses 1,452,236 square miles and is populated by 44.7 million inhabitants, over 15.9 million of which claim home to the capital city of Buenos Aires. The dominant language is Spanish.
Argentina is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, Brazil, and Uruguay to the east, Paraguay and Bolivia to the north, Chile to the west, and Antarctica to the south. The vast Argentine territory has a diversity of landscapes, where ice fields contrast with arid zones; mountains (the Andes) with valleys or plateaus; fluvial streams and lakes with large oceans, broad grassy plains with woods and forests. The southern area is the Patagonia region. The climate is generally arid in north and west, Mediterranean-type climate in the center-east of the country, and damp and cool in the south.
The average temperature in Buenos Aires is 18°C/64°F, except during the summer, with a high of 35°C/95°F or in the winter with a low of 0° C/32°F.