Travel guide to Argentina

» Argentina
Argentina could offer superb red wine and Tango dancing with the stylish inhabitants of Buenos Aires. This is just the start for the welcomed guests of a nation rich in heritage and an equally vibrant contemporary life.

Facts

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Local name
República Argentina
Capital
Buenos Aires
Size
2.766.890 km2
Principal Languages
Spanish
Principal Religion
Catholicism
Inhabitants
36.100.000
Government
Republic
Geography
Argentina is roughly dividable into four geographical regions. The first area is the Andes Mountains - the snow-topped range that separates Argentina from neighbouring Chile. The second area is Patagonia, which along with the so-called Lake District makes up the southern part of the country. Oil and coal are mined in these parts, and impressive glaciers grace the landscape. The third area is called Pampas, so named after its flat, open stretches of land north of Patagonia - it reaches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Andes Mountains. This land is used mainly for agriculture and for exploiting cattle. The fourth area is the lavaland - with a very warm northern climate.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Argentina is a huge country and the optimal time to visit depends on where you are planning to travel. The big cities can be visited all year around,. For Patagonia's outdoor attractions it is advantageous to visit in summer (November to February). In the subtropical areas around the Iguacu waterfall, on the border with Brazil, the climate is most agreeable during winter (May, June and July). It is also during the winter period that ski enthusiasts will get the most out of a visit to the Andes Mountains.

Literature

LonelyPlanet Argentina, Uruguay & Paraguay Fodor's Argentina

Local conditions

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Currency

1 Peso = 100 centavos

Net cafes

Net Cafés can be found in most Argentinean cities. In some of the smaller towns the data connection can be a bit slow.

In case of emergency

To call for emergency help in Argentina ring the following numbers: Police: (101) Ambulance: (107) Casualty/Emergency Room: (344 001), (344 104) Fire Services: (100)

Tipping

It is customary to leave a 10% tip when in a restaurant. This also applies in the more expense hotels. As a rule, taxi drivers who have been especially helpful should receive a tip too.

Timezone

When it is 12:00 in Great Britain (GMT)(summertime), it is 8.00 in Argentina. When it is 12:00 in Great Britain (GMT)(wintertime). It is 9.00 in Argentina.

Weight and Measures

The following weights and measures are used in Argentina: Weight: Kilo Length: Metre Some Argentineans, especially older people in the rural areas still measure distances in leagues.

Photography

The unbelievable panoramic views in Patagonia and throughout the rest of the Andes Mountains often encourage people to become rather 'camera happy'. You need to have very good photography equipment to capture this fantastic scenery - and many are disappointed when they see the results. Many Argentineans - with their colourful clothes and stylish attitude - shriek with joy at the prospect of being photographed. It is advisable to ask permission though before photographing people as they go about their daily business. It is quite acceptable to photograph tango dancers as they perform in the streets.

Drinking water

You should not drink tap water, use it for brushing teeth or even for making ice cubes in Argentina. Use bottled water instead.

Electricity

The following current is used in Argentina: 220V/ 50Hz

Behaviour

Argentineans often dress formally, and in the cities it is especially recommended to dress smartly. On the other hand time management is rather loose and people are often late for meetings or dates - do not be offended by this. This is just the way it is. The following greetings are used: 'buenos dias', 'beunas tardes' and 'buenas noches' depending on whether it is morning, afternoon or evening. It is good manners to say: 'permisso' when entering a room. When invited to have a drink it is considered rude to refuse.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 10:00 to 15:00 (Monday to Friday). Shops are open from 9:00 to 19:00 (Monday to Friday); some shops have a few hours siesta in the middle of the day. Offices are open from 8:00 to 18.00 (Monday to Friday), a number of offices have a siesta in the middle of the day. Public Offices are open from 8:00 to 17:00 (Monday to Friday)

Food and drink

Meat, meat and more meat! This is not comprehensively true, but meat is an important part of the Argentinean kitchen. Argentina's meat dishes are world famous and meat eaters usually try 'asado' or 'parillada' while in the country. At Grill Restaurants beef, sausages and other types of meat are grilled over wood-coal fires and served with salad and chips. Not to be overlooked is the exquisite selection of Argentinean red wine. Another speciality is herb tea, a relaxing drink enjoyed by all Argentineans. It is sipped through a metal straw and should be tried at least once during your stay.

Disabled travellers

Like most of the other South American countries, Argentina is not especially thoughtful when catering for the needs of the disabled. Wheelchair users will especially have problems in Buenos Aires, where there are holes in the pavements and the cars drive wildly with absolutely no regard for pedestrians trying to cross the street.

Holidays

New Years Day 1 January Free Day 1 May Remembrance Day for the May Revolution 25 May Independence Day 9 July General San Martin's Remembrance Day 17 August Columbus Day 12 October Christmas Day 25 December Flexible Public Holidays Easter March or April Malvinas Day The closest Monday to 10 June Flag Day The closest Monday to 20 June

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

The best camping facilities in South America. It is the cheapest form of accommodation in one of the continent's most expensive countries. Hotel

Hotels

Argentina's hotels don't always live up to their star grading; it is advisable to ask to see the room before checking in. As a rule, hotel rooms provide a private bathroom. The reason why many of the rooms are empty often has something to do with price. Breakfast is generally included in the price.

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

The options in this category are called: 'hospedajes', 'pensiones' and 'residenciales'. These are often sparsely furnished rooms with a shared bathroom out in the hallway; cheap and simple, with a light breakfast included in the price.

Hostels

There are many youth hostels in Argentina. If you don't have an International Youth Hostel card the bed will cost a little extra. Be aware that the more remote youth hostels are only open during the summer.

Other Accommodation

Many of the big ranches ('espancias' in Spanish) rent rooms out to tourists/travellers. Another cheap option is to rent a room from a family. Renting a house or apartment is a good idea if travelling in a group.

Local transport

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Planes

Aerolíneas Argentinas covers domestic and international flights, AUSTRAL only flies within the country's borders. There are also a lot of smaller companies that are in some cases cheaper than the two previously mentioned companies.

Bus

The regular buses serve the community but do not reach their particular destination as quickly as the 'expreso' buses do. The 'expreso' buses are comfortable, they have toilets, plane seats, snacks are served and video films are shown regularly.

Trains

Argentina has one of the world's longest railway tracks but many routes have been abolished because the buses are so effective. A few routes do still operate, taking the train is an outstanding way to admire the beautiful scenery.

Taxi

Taxis are recognisable by their yellow roofs. The taxi drivers do use a meter and there are very few drivers who would even consider cheating a tourist. In the more remote areas one can hire a taxi for the whole day to explore the surrounding areas.

Car rental

You have to be over 25 years old in order to hire a car, have a valid driving license, and to be able to leave a deposit with the car rental firm. At the smaller rental firms it is possible to reduce the price a little if you pay in cash.

Other Transport

In Patagonia, and especially in the area around Bariloche, cycling is a realistic alternative to car or bus. Shops renting out bicycles can be found all over the place - hiring a bike is a fantastic way of exploring this area. It is no more dangerous to hitchhike in Argentina than it is in Europe.

Special conditions

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Even though people in Buenos Aires complain about the soaring crime rate in the country, you seldom hear of violent assaults. Risks can be eliminated if you avoid isolated areas within the cities, and travel in groups at night. Keep an eye out for thieves, they often try and distract you and then dash off with your bag. You should be particularly vigilant on the bus and at train stations. There is definitely no need for panic. Argentina is actually one of the safest countries in South America.

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