Help a Reader Travel: Buenos Aires

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Welcome to another post of helping a reader travel! As I’ve mentioned before, I have not been to every destination (unfortunately), but do get questions from friends and other blog readers on all sort of travel destination questions. Thus far, we’ve been able to help other readers travel to MauiThe Greek IslandsPacific Coast HighwayArgentinaCosta RicaCape Cod & The IslandsIcelandGenevaCanadian RockiesRomeIsraelPeruLas VegasStockholm, ChicagoParis, Hanoi, Austin, and Puerto Rico.

So this weeks travel destination includes Buenos Aires. I received the following email from reader Brandon:

“I am trying to plan a huge Argentina vacation for two weeks with my wife. Throughout the country, especially, Buenos Aires, there are so many chain hotels so I would love to use my points – Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt. We’d to spend a few days in Buenos Aires (how many days do you think is necessary?) and then get out and see the rest of the country. We’d like to visit the falls, rainforest, wine country, etc. I’ve done a bunch of research, but it would be great to get some recommendations from people who have done this before. 1) What hotels would you recommend staying at? 2) Where would you recommend going? 3) How many days would you recommend in each location? 4) Is a rental car the best way to get around? My wife and I are very excited for this vacation so thank you in advance.”

Brandon – This sounds like a great trip for you and your wife!

If you have any Buenos Aires and overall Argentina travel recommendations, let’s help out reader Brandon by commenting below.

Also, if you have any upcoming travel where you need some help, feel free to email me at dealswelike@gmail.com to be a featured “Help a Reader Travel” Monday special. Thanks!

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  1. Recently stayed at the BA Hilton and LOVED it! Brother stayed at Sheraton Libertadores which was decent.

    I would say at least 3 days in Buenos Aires, perhaps 4.

    Maybe you can get some ideas from my trip report titled “Planes, trains and cows”. Just skip to the last part of the trip report in BA.

    http://papadopoulosfamily.blogspot.com/2012/09/megatrip-august-2012-cross-country.html

    Really liked Argentina. We will return to see places outside of BA in the future.

  2. Make sure you check out Iguazu Falls! They have a Sheraton on the park grounds of the Argentina side. Argentina side will take a whole day, the Brazil side will take a half day and you can spend the other half doing an activity there or visit the Parque das Aves, bird park.

  3. I’m from Argentina and have been in the places you want to go. The distances are huge so unless you are willing to invest $$ in internal flights i would leave wine country out. But another option is to fly through Santiago, take a short plane ride to Mendoza and you avoid the $140 visa fee and visit wine country: 3 days, 2 nights. Then fly to Buenos Aires for 4 nights, 5 days. Then fly to the falls for 2 nights, 3 days. Either return to buenos aires for your return trip home, or catch a flight to Sao Paolo to return home. Add one day each place for travel.
    If you already have a RT ticket to EZE, then you will have to invest $$ in internal flights to Mendoza (west of BSAS, 90m plane). And then another to the falls (90m plane). DO NOT rent a car. my fellow country ppl are crazy on the roads and the distances are too great. BSAS doesn’t need a car, lots of taxis, public transportation, walking around.
    Good luck.

  4. I was the reader who took advantage of Deals’ generosity earlier this year with the Argentina suggestions. I’d suggest looking there as well.

    We spent a week and a half in Argentina. As mentioned above, I’d suggest flying into Mendoza to save on the visa fees. We did Mendoza for 3 days. If you have Hyatt points, we walked through (although didn’t stay in) the Park Hyatt Mendoza. It was really nice. That said, we stayed at the Hotel Bohemia (http://www.bohemiahotelboutique.com) and loved it. Very quaint, quite nice, breakfast included, and reasonable rates. They can set you up with private wine tours that ended up being a lot less expensive than larger group tours. I can’t recommend this hotel HIGHLY enough.

    We then hit Iguazu. In my opinion, a must do! The Falls are absolutely awesome – in the true sense of the word. We didn’t stay at the Sheraton on the park grounds, but it’s a great deal if you can do cash and points. We did go for cocktails there after the park though. It was nice enough, but we ran into multiple people who said they didn’t love staying there.

    I’ll tell you, though, unless you plan to hit the Brazilian side of the Falls as well, you really need no more than to fly in on the last flight of the day, spend the next day at the Falls and then fly out first thing the next morning. We stayed for almost 2 full days, and there’s very little worth doing there. The food in the rest of the country was great, but there, not so much. We did find an Italian restaurant called Il Fratello that we liked a lot.

    We then did BA. We stayed in the Hilton BA the last night there to take advantage of the late checkout. My wife and I both got sick on the breakfast buffet, so watch out for that. The Park Hyatt is amazing, but we didn’t stay there. We stayed at the Mine Hotel the rest of the time which was trendy and modern but quite nice. Although the rooms were a little on the smaller side. They have a great happy hour too!

    While it’s not the most touted restaurant in the city, we went to Parilla Pena, which is a smaller neighborhood grill. Steaks were among the best we had in the whole country.

    BA was a nice city, but we found the sheer size and how busy it was to be a bit of turn off. And I say that having lived in downtown Washington, DC for 10 years and have visited numerous large cities all over the world.

    All in all, I’m sure that you will have as great of a trip as we did!

  5. Great recommendations. Be aware that taxis are very cheap, and I suggest taking advantage for this. I recommend a great restaurant for Sushi ( yes, sushi in BA). It is called Osaka in Palermo Soho. Great country. Many steaks. Try Empanadas.

  6. We stayed at the Sheraton Buenos Aires Hotel & Convention Center location last Thanksgiving. We found it comfortable especially since we only used 7k points a night! The free breakfast and happy hour was a nice perk for SPG members. It’s a short walk to the Puerto Madero area where we had dinner at Las Lilas and loved it. It’s also very convenient to the subway and train station.
    Other places we ate were Don Julios(old school and decent food for the $$)and Pura Terra (amazing tasting menu). Be sure to enjoy some ice cream from Freddo. Enjoy your trip!

  7. We stayed in both Marriott and Sheraton hotel & Convention. Sheraton is very good located, modern, nice hotel. Marriott is more like old world european style hotel (thye have very nice afternoon tea), also very good location. We stayed in Sheraton in Iguazu Falls park – the best location right in front of the Falls, we had breakfast (wonderful, free for all guests)looking at the falls, unforgettable. Hotel is expensive so we used points. Also we went to a ranch (estancia), very interesting.

  8. I lived in Buenos Aires for a while, and it is, by far, my favorite destination. I’m heading back again in a month.

    I always have to start with food. I am a foodie, and Buenos Aires (“Bs. As.”) has some of the best (and cheapest) food in the world. There is a vibrant café scene in Bs. As. Two of the most famous are Café Tortoni and Café la Violetas. Tortoni is the oldest in the city (circa 1858). Las Violetas is a relative youngster – about 125 years old. Both are stunning in their own way, and are definite “don’t miss” locations.

    More than 1/3 of the Porteños (Port people, the affectionate name for the People of Buenos Aires) trace their roots back to Italy. Much like the USA, Argentina was built on immigration, with a large part of it occurring in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Porteños pride themselves on great pizza and pasta, and not without good reason. The most famous pizzeria is El Cuartito. It isn’t fancy, they only take cash, but it sure is good. The first runner-up for pizza is Los Inmortales. They have 5 locations, including one that was right around the corner from my apartment by Plaza Vicente Lopez.

    After pizza or pasta, you’ll want some gelato. It is not the lighter gelato we tend to see here in the US. It is much richer (think Haagen-Dasz, but 10 times better). The two best gelaterias are Volta and Fredo. Both are superb. Dulce de leche – a robust caramel – is the “national flavor.” And if you don’t want gelato, the national cookies are called “Alfajores.” (Shortbread filled with dulce de leche). Alfajores are sold pre-packaged (the best are Alfajores Havanna, sold in their ubiquitous boutiques and in most stores) and are also sold “fresh” in many bakeries. (And speaking of bakeries – the Viennese pastries are universally wonderful. Many porteños enjoy a couple of medialunas (a sweet mini-croissant) or other pastries with their morning coffee.)

    Argentina is also known for its amazing beef. The steaks are huge, and always delicious. Typical cuts are: Lomo (Filet Mignon), Bife de Chorizo (NY Steak), Costilla (Ribeye) and Entraña (Skirt Steak). My favorite steak house was the Buenos Aires Grill in Recoleta. (And bring your appetite – typical portions are about 500 – 600 grams)

    Porteños eat very late. Most restaurants do not even start serving dinner until 9pm. To hold yourself over, High Tea at the Hotel Alvear is a must. Hotel Alvear is a 5-star hotel, and serves a High Tea that would impress the Queen herself.

    Now that I’ve gotten myself hungry, let me give you some addresses and telephone numbers for the restaurants I’ve mentioned:

    • Café Tortoni, Avenida de Mayo 825, tel. 4342-4328
    • Café las Violetas, Avendia Rivadavia 3899 (on the corner of Av. Medrano), tel. 4958-7387
    • El Cuartito, Talcahuano 937, tel. 4816-1758
    • Los Inmortales, Paraná 1209, tel. 4811-2222
    • Buenos Aires Grill, Av. Santa Fe 1876, 4813-4796
    • Hotel Alvear, Av. Alvear 1891, tel. 4808-2100

    Buenos Aires has great shopping as well. The two finest malls in Buenos Aires are “Buenos Aires Design” and Recoleta Mall (newly re-designed, on the corner of Vicénte López and Junin). Recoleta neighborhood is the Beverly Hills of Buenos Aires. Santa Fe Avenue, which runs through Recoleta, has many charming little boutique stores as well.

    Calle Florida is a pedestrian-only street in the downtown area, famous for its shopping, outdoor performers and tango shows, leather goods, and assorted trinkets made from rodocrosita, a pink semi-precious stone native to Argentina. Great people watching too.

    There are two other uniquely “porteño” neighborhoods that I recommend visiting: San Telmo and “La Boca.” La Boca is known for its very bright and colorful houses, and is situated at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata. La Boca was to the 1900-era Italian immigrants what the Lower East Side of Manhattan was to Jewish immigrants of the same era. There is no glitz or glamour in La Boca – just tradition, history, craftsmanship and a unique experience. San Telmo is a gentrified neighborhood, and is famous for its enormous outdoor antiques and arts-and-crafts market on Sundays (Feria de San Telmo).

    One of the most popular tourist locations is the Recoleta Cemetery (Cementario de la Recoleta). Evita is interred there (in the Familia Duarte Crypt). It is the most expensive real estate in Buenos Aires, with a 1 meter wide mausoleum space starting at $100,000. The ornate marble and sculpture work is exquisite, and many of the family mausoleums are worth several million dollars.

    The Casa Rosada (home of the President) and the surrounding Plaza de Mayo are important sites to visit. Very close to the Casa Rosada is the Plaza de las Madres. It is a monument to the mothers who – still to this day – march every Thursday afternoon, looking for answers about their lost sons from the “Dirty War” during the military junta of the late 1970s.

    If you have time for a day trip, hop on the “Buquebus” (www.buquebus.com), a high speed ferry that runs from Buenos Aires to Colonia del Sacramento in Uruguay. The trip takes about an hour. Colonia is the oldest town in Uruguay and is a UN-designated historical site. (You can also continue on to Montevideo, the capital city, but that is another 2.5 hours, and will almost certainly require an overnight stay. Colonia is far more interesting.)

    Buenos Aires does have a large casino – Casino Puerto Madero. Like the riverboat casinos along the Mississippi, it is technically not on dry land. I enjoy an occasional hand of black jack or Pai Gow poker, and I’ll drop an occasional twenty into the one-armed bandits, so I’ll mention this place if you enjoy a little recreational gambling.

    A note about language: The Argentines do not speak Spanish or Español. They speak Castellano. There are distinct differences from the Spanish we are used to hearing. The double-L is pronounced like an “sh” and not like a “y.” If you are familiar with Spanish and are used to the “Tú” conjugation for the informal use of the word “you,” it doesn’t exist in Castellano. Tú is replaced by “Vos” and the verb conjugations are quite different, with its own set of irregulars. English isn’t widely spoken, particularly in the older generations, but it is still not difficult to find English speakers in most areas.

    A note about money: Ever since the banking collapse in the early 2000’s, cash – particularly small bills and change – have been scarce. Even the banks tend to ration it. Merchants hate giving change for larger bills, and will almost always ask you if you have exact change. The ATMs primarily dispense A$100 notes (at about A$4.70 = US$1.00). The withdrawal limit at most ATMs is A$700. I used to take out A$690 at a time just to get smaller bills. Even if you get on a teller line at the bank and ask them to change your A$100 notes for smaller bills, they will likely limit you to only A$100 in those smaller notes. The cash situation is a constant struggle in Argentina. Ironically, the one place that never complains about giving change is McDonalds. The 50+ McDonalds in Buenos Aires all have little cafes in the front, which are slightly better than a typical Starbucks. Sit and enjoy a real espresso and a Tiramisu, and they’ll gladly take, and make change, for your A$100 notes.

    Just don’t pay a taxi driver with an A$100 note. Unfortunately, like many big cities around the world, the taxi drivers are worse than the politicians. Two very common scam with the taxi drivers are claiming that they can’t make change and then handing you back a different (and counterfeit) A$100 bill or claiming that you gave only a A$10 note.

    And one last note about tipping. Argentines do tip, but not as generously as we do here. A 10% tip to a waiter is comparable to tipping about 18% here. If service is extraordinary, people will go as high as 12-15%, but almost never more. Taxi drivers are never tipped more than 10% (maybe that’s why they make it up in other ways.)

    On my trips to Buenos Aires, I tend to rent an apartment. If you are staying for more than a week, there are plenty of furnished apartments, with full service, in very upscale parts of town. Apartments are more spacious than hotel rooms, and they usually end up costing about half as much as a decent hotel

  9. Just came back from an visit to Argentina. My top 4 suggestions are as follows:

    1) Buenos Aires — stay in the Palermo (Soho, Chico) or Recoleta barrio if you can afford it. Stay at least 5 days.
    2) Take Buquebus ferry to Colonia, Uruguay. Leaves from the river, Buenos Aires which takes 1 to 3 hrs each way depending on boat speed. Allow 1 day.
    3) Go to Montevideo, Uruguay to see the beach. Stay up to 4 days.
    3) Go to Iguazu “falls”. Stay 3 days at the Sheraton.

  10. Park Hyatt Mendoza is a great deal on points and a rather lovely and well-located property. They comped me breakfast as only a platinum member, perhaps because they didn’t have rooms with Andes views available. This was a stay on points. Bear in mind that the country is huge, and internal flights are very expensive. If staying a week in the capital, renting an apartment makes sense. I really like Salta, even though I didn’t go out and do the nature stuff for which the area is famed. The Sheraton Salta is quite nice, but SPG just moved it up a category. If you like beaches, don’t go to the Argentinian ones. Instead hit up the nice places in Uruguay beyond Punta del Este like Punta del Diablo or Valizas.

  11. Couple of things for new readers… taxis are dirt cheap. We paid USD $14 for a 30 minute cab ride, and under $5.00 for a 10 minute ride.

    Some restaurants will accept US Dollars and offer a 20% discount.

    The room and service at the Sheraton Libertador was top notch, but the location of the Hyatt was upscale and fantastic. Check out Fervor for steak. It’s a short walk from the Hyatt.

    Speaking of the ‘famous’ scams we’ve all heard about… well, unlike Europe, where we’ve been warned, the scams in EZE are very clever. We spoke to someone that had their camera ‘lifted’ on their first day in B’s A’s. Ok, I’m a New Yorker, and I’m aware of the ‘distraction’ or ‘bump’ scams. What happened to us was thinking out of the box.

    We’re walking to the waterfront area from the Sheraton. It’s a 10 minute walk. All of a sudden, my wife and I both felt bird droppings. As if by magic, a nicely dressed couple came to help us. They even had water and tissues. Even as they were ‘helping us’, we were both aware of what was happening, but it was so fast. How could a nice couple do such a thing.

    Anyway, my hands stayed on my wallet, and my wife clutched her bag. They kept pointing to areas where the green slime they splatter on us. They hoped we would take our hands off our possessions. That wasn’t going to happen.

    We won that battle. Be alert. Be very ALERT.

    Posted 12/3/2012

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