Buenos Aires Guide: Planning Your Trip (2024)

Buenos Aires has great year-round weather, amazing nightlife, delicious food that's reasonably priced, and friendly locals. Eat steak, drink mate, cheer for the soccer (or fútbol) teams, and go dancing in the birthplace of the tango. Stay in the colorful neighborhoods and bike around its historic streets. Consider this your introduction to the "City of the Fury."

Planning Your Trip

Best Time to Visit: Spring is the best time to visit Buenos Aires. Balmy temperatures and low humidity mean most residents head to parks to enjoy the blooming flowers and loads of sunshine after a gray winter.

Language: Spanish

Currency: The Argentine peso, though some businesses accept (and prefer) the U.S. dollar.

Getting Around: The Subte (Buenos Aires’ subway) is cheap and quick. Ubers are also reasonably priced even when going across town or out to the suburbs. Download the Como Llego app for the best directions and transportation routes.

Travel Tip: Buenos Aires is a true late-night city. Many things will not open before 10 a.m. Make the most of your time here by going to bed late, rather than waking up early.

Things to Do

"Porteños" (people born and raised in Buenos Aires) know how to enjoy themselves. When the weather’s good, everyone goes to parks for a mate with friends or to picnic by the Rio de La Plata. It’s a very social city. People like doing things in groups, like having weekend asados (barbecues) or staying out to la madrugada (the early morning hours) drinking beer at a craft beer bar or clubbing in boliches. During the day, it’s a secondhand shopper’s paradise, with slews of antique and thrift stores. Known for its strong literary heritage, the city is filled with bookstores and cafes, where people are constantly reading and studying. A strong love of learning extends to social activities as well, with centros culturales (cultural centers) offering everything from language classes to ping pong to circus arts. And of course, there are always soccer games to watch.

  • Go to a centro cultural to see exhibits or concerts, or take a class. The Centro Cultural Recoleta is a large, beautiful one with many offerings and a free monthly concert series called, “Pachamama”.
  • Buy a mate gourd, bombilla (a metal straw with a filter), and yerba (the loose-leaf mate tea) from a supermarket and drink it in one of the city’s many parks.
  • Watch a soccer game. Whether you go to a match or watch one in a bar with a riled-up crowd, you’ll have good time if you’re a sports fan. Also, you’ll hear some of the most creative swearing (a true art form here).

Find even more things to do with our full-length articles on fun things to do with kids in Buenos Aires,the best places to go shopping, and the jazz clubs to visit while in town.

What to Eat and Drink

Buenos Aires is known for its steakhouses, ice cream shops, molecular gastronomy, and (in recent years) creative vegetarian restaurants. Having steak at a family-run parilla (steakhouse) will always be the main attraction for tourists, especially when considering the average Argentine consumes 110 pounds of beef every year. But, empanadas and corner pizzerias will be what tides them over from lunch until dinner. Cafe culture runs strong here, with older porteños still sipping coffee with medialunas during teatime and the younger generations grabbing a drink at a craft beer bar after work.

When not drinking mate (highly caffeinated tea), wine is the drink of choice here. Supermarkets, bodegas, wine shops, and just about any restaurant will have a selection of Argentine wines. Go to an asado, and you’ll find malbec. Pizza parlors serve moscato. Or book a wine tasting (some for as low as $30), if you want to learn about wine-making families, grapes specific to Argentina, and quirky stories of its wine history.

Explore our articles on the best restaurants in Buenos Aires and the best foods to try.

Where to Stay

Many tourists opt to stay in the posh Palermo neighborhood or in bohemian San Telmo. On average, Palermo is more expensive than San Telmo for accommodation, dining, and groceries. Palermo has cleaner streets, wider bike lanes, and more restaurant, bar, and cafe options, but that’s because it is the largest neighborhood in the city. San Telmo has a small town, slightly hippie feel to it, lots of interesting historical sites and old buildings, and is easier to walk around and navigate than Palermo. Both neighborhoods have lively nightlife but different strengths. Palermo is a better option for clubbing (especially if you like cumbia and reggaeton) and has a huge variety of bars. San Telmo has alternative and dive bars, underground music, and lots of milongas and tango shows nearby for those who like tangoing the night away.

Explore the different neighborhoods you can stay in, and our recommendations on the best hotels in Buenos Aires.

Getting There

Ezeiza Airport is the largest airport in the city, and most international flights will go through here. Those coming from other countries in South America and other parts of Argentina might fly into the smaller, more picturesque Jorge Newbery Airport along the river. Buenos Aires is the major transportation hub in Argentina, and many buses and trains go from here and back to other parts of the country, leaving from Retiro terminal (Terminal de omnibus de Retiro).

Learn more about getting around the city with our handy transportation guide to Buenos Aires.

Culture and Customs

Porteños are very direct and complain a lot, but they will also go out of their way to help you. They will often discuss politics. Respectfully (but firmly) decline if you do not want to get involved.

People eat dinner very late here, generally around 10 p.m. A typical timeline of a night out might be dinner at 10 p.m., heading to a bar after, and then hitting the club at 3 a.m. (when most of the crowd will arrive) until 6 a.m. or so.

You do not have to tip all the time in Buenos Aires, but a 10 percent tip will be very much appreciated if you do. If you go to a fancy restaurant or hire a tour guide, you should definitely tip 10 percent.

Many people will sell things (pens, religious cards, sewing sets) on the Subte by placing them on your leg. If you don’t want them, simply leave it on your leg and the same person who placed it there will be along shortly to take it back.

Money Saving Tips

  • Bring dollars or euros with you to exchange. You will get a better rate in Argentina than in your home country, as dollars are highly desirable to have on hand in its highly unstable economy. Also, bring large bills rather than smaller ones for a better rate.
  • Exchange money on Florida street in Microcentro. Compare prices at several exchange houses beforehand, as they can vary significantly.
  • Buy a SUBE card to ride the Subte. Purchase them from most kioscos (kiosks) around the city. The bus and subway are cheap, and the fare decreases if you ride more than once in two hours and use the same SUBE card to pay for your rides.
  • Bike shares are all over the city, and they're free! All you need to do is download the app on your smartphone and register before you head to the nearest pickup point.
  • Go to museums on Wednesdays when they are free.
  • Check the websites of different centros culturales for free concerts, art exhibits, and classes of all kinds.
  • Water from the tap is okay to drink. Most restaurants will give you a glass of tap water if you ask for it. You don’t have to buy a bottle of water, unless of course you want it the Argentine way: "con gas" (aka sparkling water).
  • If you want to buy fruits, vegetables, eggs, or legumes head to verdulerías (vegetable shops). They have better prices on produce than supermarkets.
  • You can make a filling, cheap meal out of several empanadas.
  • If you want quick, cheap food with lots of variety, look for "comida por peso” in the window of restaurants. These are open during lunch time, and they charge you by the weight of the food rather than a set price by dish.

Article Sources

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Buenos Aires Guide: Planning Your Trip (2024)


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