If you’re planning a trip to Buenos Aires in Argentina, this article is for you. The first half of this article is dedicated to the things you should know about Buenos Aires before visiting. And the second half of this article covers the most popular tourist attractions.
Because I live in Buenos Aires (and have been for over a year) I’m always updating this article is regularly. The list of attractions will grow as I myself discover more hidden gems around the city.
Things To Know About Buenos Aires
What To Know Before Visiting Buenos Aires
Study this list carefully before you travel to Argentina. Most of these items apply not only to Buenos Aires, but equally well to the rest of Argentina.
I’d advise paying particular attention to the sections on Money and Scams. Knowing how to correctly access money in Argentina and what scams to avoid when paying for things will greatly improve the experience you have in Argentina.
And I would strongly advise all visitors to Argentina to ensure they do not travel without health insurance and without a VPN loaded onto their phone.
Safety – Is Buenos Aires Dangerous?
Argentina and Buenos Aires in particular are not dangerous. Buenos Aires as the capital and largest city in Argentina has more than its fair share of the crime that occurs in Argentina. But violent crime affecting tourists is extremely uncommon.
Where other LATAM countries are often plagued by crime affecting tourists, this is not the case with Argentina.
As an example, there were more than 50 tourists murdered in Medellin Colombia just in the first half of 2022. Medellin is a city of 2.5 million people and stands in stark contrast to Buenos Aires that has a much larger population of over 15.5 million and has had no tourists harmed.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard about a tourist being affected by armed robbery in Buenos Aires. The last tourist I remember hearing about being murdered was in 2019. Serious crime affecting tourists just doesn’t happen here in Argentina.
Buenos Aires has a very modern police force that is equiped with all the latest tools (cameras, motorbikes, patrol cars). CABA (Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires) has a heavy police presence.
It’s not uncommon to see a police officer posted to every street intersection. And you’ll often be within sight of a police officer in the popular parts of the city.
The police in Argentina are not like police officers in some other LATAM countries. They will not seek bribes and act like a law unto themselves. The police in Buenos Aires are some of the most professional officers I’ve encountered anywhere in the world.
The biggest risks you face in Buenos Aires as a tourist are pickpockets (and other petty thefts) and stepping in dog poop. In order to avoid either of these eventualities, you just need to be aware of your surroundings and watch where you’re walking. And if you did have an item go missing, simply report it to the police.
Packing – What Should I Not Take To Argentina?
As with any LATAM country you should avoid bringing expensive or ‘flashy’ jewellery. There are plenty of places around Buenos Aires where you can buy custom jewellery and fancy watches (i.e. Cartier and Rolex). But as a tourist it’s best not to wear those sorts of items when visiting places you’re not familiar with.
The only tourist I remember hearing about being robbed at gunpoint (and this was a few years ago now) was wearing all kinds of flashy jewellery including an expensive Rolex. It was a younger chap from the USA who thought he’d come down to Argentina and act all ‘baller’. Well, he went home healthy, but without his goods.
Don’t bring expensive jewellery with you. You need to remember that Argentina has a high inflation environment brought on by decades of economic mismanagement by successive governments. If you’re wearing a watch that’s worth as much as a local house in poorer neighbourhoods it’s not only disrespectful, somebody might take it from you.
Scams – Know the Scams in Buenos Aires Before You Travel
I’ve previously covered the scams you’ll encounter in Buenos Aires. Yet it’s worth repeating the top 3 here, so as to ensure nobody falls for them.
The first is fixed price taxis. Registered taxis in Buenos Aires have meters in the upper passenger side portion of the windshield that tells you how much you’ve spent during your ride.
If a taxi driver gives you a fixed price from one destination to another, it’s a scam. Simply take a different taxi that will use the meter. Scam taxis are most common around the airport, bus terminal and buquebus (ferry).
The second are distraction scams for pickpockets, such as the mustard or bird poo scam. These are most common around very touristic, high traffic areas such as Casa Rosada and the blocks surrounding Avenida Florida in Centro.
Basically somebody, usually a couple behind you, will spray you with foul smelling goo and claim its bird poo. A Good Samaritan will then appear with napkins and help you clean it off while picking your pockets. Don’t fall for this one and don’t let strangers touch you – just quickly walk away.
The third are ‘free drink’ scams. These are becoming much less common but you’ll still encounter people trying them on tourists in and around Centro and Avenida Florida. Basically, nothing is free in Buenos Aires.
So if a pretty lady or a handsome gentleman offers you a free drink you should say no and walk away. If you accept, your drink will be free but theirs will cost you hundreds of USD. And if you try to escape without paying the tab a couple of large gorilla sized bounces will lock you in and shake you down for cash.
Visa – Do You Need A Visa to Visit Buenos Aires?
The visa you need will most often be determined by how long you plan on staying in Buenos Aires. Tourists from most countries are eligible for a free 90 day tourist visa on arrival. This tourist visa is extendable for a further 90 days at the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones in Buenos Aires.
If you want to stay in Buenos Aires longer than 180 days you can leave the country by travelling on the Buquebus to Uruguay and return to Argentina with a brand new tourist visa. Argentina is starting to crack down on this and may give you a written warning (but still let you in as they need the tourism).
To see if you’re eligible for a free tourist visa based on your passport you can check the offical list here. If you’re from Australia, New Zealand, USA, UK or another ‘first world country’ you’re definitely eligible.
Best Website For Booking Flights To And From Buenos Aires
The best online booking engine for flights to and from Buenos Aires is OMIO. I use OMIO for almost all of my travel. And I highly recommend it to anyone looking for cheap flights to Buenos Aires.
OMIO is German owned and operated. It’s customer service is outstanding and all of the information on it’s website regarding travel options is up to date and correct.
One professional travel tip I would offer you is to change the currencies at the top of the OMIO screen when viewing flights. Sometimes I find the flights work out cheaper when I’m billed in alternate currencies.
You can view the available flights for Argentina here. Or use the widget below.
I will also add that you should absolutely avoid the Chinese owned trip.com. It has horrendous customer service and uses outsourced Indian call centres.
Trip.com is a scam website though which I actually lost a flight to Buenos Aires. Because they had incorrect information on their website. Avoid trip.com and only use OMIO.
Money – The Argentine Peso (AR$)
The offical currency in Argentina is the Argentine Peso (A$ or AR$). Unless you’re purchasing a property or vehicle, don’t expect to pay for goods and services in USD.
I’ve seen visitors from the USA try to pay at restaurants with USD cash and well, they were declined. And everybody in the restaurant had a less than desirable impression of them. They even garnered some ‘choice’ words from other patrons in the establishment.
When it comes to paying for goods and services always pay in peso. And do it with cash. Don’t use your credit cards or pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay in Argentina. This is because there is the official ‘red’ exchange rate and the unofficial ‘blue’ rate of exchange.
What Is The ‘Dólar Blue’?
The ‘Dólar Blue‘ is often referred to as the ‘blue dollar’ by foreigners. The dólar blue is the real USD to Argentine Peso exchange rate. It’s what the USD is really worth in Argentina.
The dólar blue is often double the offical exchange rate. When you look at exchange rate sites like XE.com or the rate of exchange from your bank at home, you’re seeing the ‘official’ exchange rate.
Any transaction that goes through or interacts with an Argentine bank or payment processor will garner the ‘official’ exchange rate set by the Government of Argentina. If you’re paying for goods and services using a card you’re paying more than double what everyone else is paying.
To view the real dólar blue rate of exchange, you simply Google ‘dólar blue’ or look at sites like https://dolarhoy.com.
Where Can I Get The ‘Dólar Blue’ In Buenos Aires?
There are two ways to get the ‘dólar blue’ rate in Buenos Aires. Though you’ll find its the same throughout the rest of Argentina based on the availability of vendors.
The first method is by bringing USD cash to Argentina and exchanging it at any reputable currency exchange shop (casa de cambio or bureau de change). Only use proper reputable shops with actual signage.
Despite what you may have seen on YouTube from people who often spend only 3-5 days in Buenos Aires and then make videos (claiming expertise), the dólar blue is not a traditional blackmarket. It’s not illegal and you don’t need to sneak around using shady money exchangers on the street in Avenida Florida (Florida Street) called Arbolitos (little trees).
If you’re going to change USD cash to Argentine Peso in Buenos Aires you will need crisp, new, unmarked $100 bills in pristine condition. You will only get the full dólar blue rate with the highest quality $100 USD notes.
The easier method for getting Argentine Peso cash to spend in Buenos Aires is through Western Union. Western Union pays out Argentine Peso at or above, the current dólar blue rate. Using the Western Union mobile application to send myself money for collection in store is how I bring my money into Argentina.
Because Western Union is easier and often provides a better rate than the dólar blue, it is the primary method I advise all visitors to use in Argentina. Unless you’re going out into the countryside or Patagonia, you will always be within a few blocks of a Western Union outlet.
Is There A Dólar Blue In Uruguay?
In Argentina with its soaring inflation and beaten down peso, nobody keeps their cash in the local currency. When combined with currency controls the constant need for dollars to avoid inflation drives a thriving unofficial currency conversion rate known locally as the Dólar Blue.
Given its proximity to Argentina with their financial woes most first time travellers to Uruguay will assume that Uruguay’s currency situation is going to be similar to Argentina. Yet it’s not.
You should avoid money changers in Uruguay.
Seasons – Best Time To Visit Buenos Aires
Spring, summer and autumn (fall) are the best times to visit Argentina. The capital Buenos Aires is in the southern part of the country and has temperatures that can range from near freezing to sweltering hot.
In summer you will often experience temperatures in the high 30’s (celsius). And the Sumer temperatures can get up into the mid 40’s (celsius).
Most websites will tell you that Buenos Aires is a Mediterranean climate. I’ll tell you that winter is bone chillingly cold and that summer can melt the rubber soles of your shoes. So pack based on the season you’re visiting.
Nights in summer are jeans and a light shirt. Winter is jeans and a warm jacket at minimum during the day. For the single men reading this, summer is the time you want to visit. Because the summer dress code for ladies is short shorts and skimpy tops.
Restrictions – Are There Any Travel Restrictions In Buenos Aires?
There aren’t any travel restrictions currently in force in Argentina for those who have had the full course of COVID19 vaccinations. For those who are unvaccinated, there are PCR testing requirements.
Smoke And Vape In Buenos Aires
Smoking and vaping are leal in Argentina and are only permitted outdoors. For those who vape, you can buy vape products in Buenos Aires.
Marijuana – Weed Laws In Buenos Aires Argentina
Marijuana is legal in Buenos Aires for personal use. You can buy and smoke weed in Argentina. Just don’t make a nuisance of yourself with marijuana as there are ‘nuisance’ laws.
Don’t smoke weed in places where smoking is not permitted. And don’t smoke weed where you might annoy someone else.
Get Travellers Medical Insurance Before Visiting BA
Argentina has free health care for residents and visitors alike. Though the free health facilities available are not of the highest quality. They’re strained to their limits and are suffering from a lack of funding.
Leave the ‘free’ healthcare for the locals and travel with proper travellers medical coverage.
Argentina has an extensive private hospital system that is world class. With adequate travellers medical coverage you can access this first rate, first world, medical system.
You can find more about travellers medical coverage and what I use in Argentina here.
Where To Stay in Buenos Aires
Every neighbourhood in Buenos Aires has a distinct history and vibe. BA is a mega city of over 15.5 million people. For example Palermo Hollywood is named for its numerous radio and television stations. Palermo Soho is filled with artists and boutique fashion stores.
Belgrano is home to wealthier older couples and families. While Floresta is more mulata and working class with a strong asian (Korean and Chinese) community.
Centro is the busiest ‘centre’ of the city. And Centro in Buenos Aires smells like an open sewer at night and of exhaust fumes during the day. Centro is my least favourite part of Buenos Aires.
The Best Neighbourhoods In Buenos Aires
The best area to stay in Buenos Aires, in my opinion, is Palermo Hollywood. Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho have the highest density of restaurants and cafes anywhere in the city.
Yet the high-rise living in Palermo Hollywood, compared to the lower rise living in Soho, minimises exposure to traffic noise. And you can walk from one end of Palermo Hollywood to the other side of Palermo Soho in under 45 minutes.
For Longer Stays – Paying For An AirBnB In Cash
No matter where you choose to stay in Buenos Aires, Airbnb and Booking.com will be your go to apps. For short stays its quite convenient to simply book and pay for accommodation through these websites. With booking.com often being the cheaper of the two with the largest selection of accommodation options.
For longer stays of a few months or more, it’s best to seek out cash rentals. You can find cash rentals through realestate agencies, mercadolibre or by asking your current provider if they would do you a deal off the platform for cash.
Most airbnb hosts will do you a cash deal that is up to 50% cheaper than what is listed through airbnb. And I’ve provided a breakdown of one such airbnb cash deal and how I found it here.
Arriving In Buenos Aires
Arriving into Buenos Aires for the first time, you’ll likely arrive by air at the Ezeiza (EZE) airport. Or via the Buquebus (ferry) from neighbouring Uruguay.
In either eventuality your first two problems will be where to get Argentine pesos to pay for transport. And which transport option to take in order to arrive at your accommodation.
Don’t Change Money At The Airport
First, don’t change money at the airport, buquebus or pay for transport in foreign currency no matter how insistent the taxi drivers are that they want USD.
The main taxi scams encountered in Buenos Aires are at the airport and at the buquebus. The taxis will try to charge you a fixed sum in USD. Don’t do this.
And don’t run for the exchange office in these locations. As you will only get the offical government rate which is half the real exchange rate.
Getting From The Airport To The City In Buenos Aires
So, without local currency and without changing money into local currency at the Ezeiza (EZE) airport or buquebus terminal, how do you get to your accommodation?
If you have Spanish language skills you can often negotiate with the taxi drivers who aren’t trying to scam you or select one of the other transport methods available including Uber.
For the full list of options and what they should cost from the Ezeiza (EZE) airport to the city, see my article here.
Uber From The Airport In Buenos Aires
Uber is available in Argentina. But it’s most common in Buenos Aires. It’s less common in the rest of Argentina and simply unavailable in towns like Bariloche or Ushuaia.
Personally, I only use Uber when taxis are trying to scam me near the buquebus terminal or from Ezeiza (EZE) airport. This is because Uber in Buenos Aires is more expensive than the taxis and inconvenient because you need to wait for the Ubers only to have them repeatedly cancel.
The vehicles on Uber in Argentina are often nowhere near as comfortable or as modern as the taxis.
If you do take a Uber in Argentina always be aware of surge pricing and only pay cash in pesos. From the airport and using your card through Uber, check the peso price displayed by Uber in your home currency before accepting the Uber price and ordering the Uber.
Taxi From The Airport In Buenos Aires (Beware Of Scams)
You will most likely only ever experience taxi scams near international points of entry into the country. Everywhere else the taxis are modern, reliable, safe and clean. Skip Uber and opt for the taxis except around the airport or buquebus.
If the taxis try to tell you that the price to your destination from the airport or buquebus terminal is a fixed price in USD or pesos, do not get into those taxis.
They are dishonest and are trying to scam you. Don’t trust them if they relent and agree to use the meter. Avoid those taxi drivers and take another transport option.
Taxis in Buenos Aires have meters on the upper windshield on the passenger side. And they should always use the meter to determine prices.
Using A Mobile Phone In Buenos Aires
If you’re only in Argentina for a short stay (few days or a week) your foreign mobile phone will roam in Argentina. If your carrier is going to charge you excessive roaming fees, international SIM cards can be purchased ahead of your trip online.
Where To Get A Local SIM Card In Buenos Aires
For anyone staying for a month or more, a local SIM card is easy to get in Argentina and is extremely cheap. You will need to buy the SIM card from a kiosk, activate it in the carriers store with your passport and then put credit on the activated SIM card at another kiosk after activation.
I’ve detailed the process for getting a local Argentina SIM card in Buenos Aires. You can find my article on how to get a local mobile phone number in Argentina here.
Always Use A VPN in Buenos Aires
If you want your phone to work in Argentina as it does in your home country and do not want to be hacked, you need to use a VPN while travelling.
I use and recommend NordVPN for Argentina and would recommend getting it ahead of time and using it to see the local prices. You can find out why I recommend NordVPN for Argentina and how I recommend using it to see local prices here.
Tinder In Argentina
The mobile application Tinder does work in Argentina. And it’s highly prevalent in Buenos Aires. Though if you’re looking to date an Argentine your best option is to go and have drink in one of the many local bars.
Argentines and portenós in particular are very social people. They prefer to be out and about as opposed to swiping on mobile applications.
But you will need WhatsApp to get phone numbers and chat with them. And WhatsApp is one of the most important mobile applications for Argentina.
Here’s what you need to know about Tinder in Argentina.
Most Important Mobile Applications In Buenos Aires
For the five (5) most important mobile applications to have loaded onto your device before travelling to Buenos Aires Argentina, see my article here.
They are NordVPN, Rappi or PedidosYa, Mercado Libre, WhatsApp and Western Union.
Drinking The Tap Water In Buenos Aires
Technically you can drink the tap water in Buenos Aires. For me, personally, I don’t drink the tap water in Buenos Aires.
I’ve previously written about why I don’t drink it and what’s in the tap water. You can read the article here.
Or you can just take my word that it tastes like a chlorinated swimming pool. And is full of nastiness you don’t want to consume.
Where To Buy Groceries in Buenos Aires
The main supermarket chains in Buenos Aires are Carrefour, Jumbo, Coto and Día. With Día being the most prolific depending on where you’re staying within the city. In the Palermo, Recoleta and Centro neighbourhoods you’ll almost always be with a 5-10minute walk from a Día.
There are hole-in-the-wall mom and pop kiosks on every block. But these are often much more expensive than the larger chain supermarkets.
As an example near me, there is a kiosk right next door to the Día. And it buys its products from the Día only to resell them for more than double the Día price.
Within CABA (Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires) the larger chain supermarkets are all open every day of the week until 10pm. After 10pm you will need to pay higher prices via the kiosks.
Food Delivery Apps In Buenos Aires
Argentina no longer has Uber Eats. PedidosYa and Rappi are the two dominant delivery apps in Argentina. To use either app you will need an active phone number (either a local Argentina number or a roaming foreign SIM) and WhatsApp.
With either PedidosYa and Rappi you can have any type of food delivered. With thousands of restaurants to choose from. And PedidosYa often works out cheaper than Rappi.
You can also shop for a myriad of other products on PedidosYa, Rappi and MercadoLibre. They carry everything from supermarket items to kiosks, pharmacy, travel, fashion and home furnishings to name just a few. You can buy and have delivered just about any item you can think of.
Just be sure to have WhatsApp enabled on your phone if you’re ordering through these apps. As this is how the delivery driver or courier will likely seek to contact you.
Getting Around Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires has an extensive public transport system composed of trains, subway system and bus routes. Though for a foreigner with cash acquired at the dólar blue rate a taxi is the easiest transport method. And a taxi only costs a couple of dollars for a long ride across town.
Uber is available in Buenos Aires but is less convenient and often more expensive than a regular taxi. I won’t consider using Uber in Buenos Aires unless I find myself around the Buquebus terminal or Ezeiza Airport where taxi scams are common.
If and when I do use Uber I always select the option to pay cash and ensure I’m not getting surge pricing. Surge pricing can quickly 10x the price of an Uber in Buenos Aires.
Paying by card through the Uber platform attracts the official exchange rate thereby doubling the price. If you were to get hit with surge pricing and the official exchange rate, you could end up paying 20x the price of a taxi fare.
Shopping In Buenos Aires
If you’ve never played old school video games it’ll be hard to picture what shopping in Buenos Aires is like. And I mean those really old video games back when they had ‘quests’.
Because you’ll never find everything you’re looking for in a single place. And simple tasks that we foreigners don’t even think about back in our home countries, will involve running all over the city in Argentina.
Shopping In BA Example – The GoPro Quest
For example, I recently bought a GoPro as I’m starting a YouTube channel. Buying a GoPro and its accessories would be easy, you’d think. In the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom or Australia you’d simply go to a store that sells GoPro and buy everything with your card. Not in Argentina!
To get items in Argentina you’ll need to first locate each item and its accessories on your list. They will each be in a different store and those stores will be all over the city. You’ll then need to go to each store and get a price for each item.
Once you have a price you’ll need to transfer the funds in through Western Union or another means to get the dólar blue rate. Otherwise your purchases will be inordinately expensive.
If you can’t get enough cash from a single Western Union outlet you’ll need to run all over town to find a WU that has enough cash. Before going back to each store and buying each item on your list.
Only once you have each item safely home in your accommodation is your quest over. Just pray that the vendors you’re buying items from have a cash counting machine. Or you could be there for hours trying to count the cash.
Eating Out In Buenos Aires
Palermo Hollywood and Palermo Soho have the highest density of restaurants anywhere in the city. And these are the suburbs where the younger crowd goes to have fun and be seen. It’s also where you’ll find the greatest selection of different cuisines and bars.
If you’re staying in the centre of the city and don’t feel like spending anywhere from 20-45 minutes in a taxi depending on traffic, Puerto Madero also has a large selection of restaurants and a vibrant bar scene.
Where To Sit – Inside Or Outside?
In the warmer months I prefer sitting outside on the kerb. Particularly in the leafy green suburbs like Palermo. Where a restaurants tables outside can be like eating in a huge urban forest.
In the colder months and the dead of winter, sit inside. Or you’ll freeze in any of the outside dining locations.
Beware Of People Approaching Your Table
When sitting outside you need to keep an eye on your belongings. Don’t leave items like mobile phones sitting on tables. Any street vendor that approaches you may be running a distraction scam and may lift your valuables from the table.
Know The Prices And Payment Method Before Ordering
I’ve never encountered a restaurant that doesn’t except cash. But I have encountered plenty of restaurants that wont accept credit card.
Be sure you know the prices and have the correct payment method before ordering from a restaurant in Buenos Aires. You wouldn’t want to find out that they don’t accept credit card after ordering if credit card is all you have.
Popular Tourist Attractions In Buenos Aires
The big ticket items are the Recoleta Cemetery, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Casa Rosada and Puerto Madero. Though my favourites are just random Argentine malls like Galería Bond Street and the worlds most beautiful bookshop with cafe El Ateneo Grand Splendid.
What you’ll want to see and do will depend entirely on how long you have in the city. Personally I just like wandering around discovering cafes, restaurants, hole in the wall bars and huge graffiti murals. BA is a huge and diverse city.
My advice would be to hit the big ticket items and then just wander and explore the city. Go casually from barrio to barrio and savour the different flavours and vibes each suburb has to offer.
But hey, some people like to rush from museum to museum on busses packed with other tourists from their own country. Each to his own, I guess.