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What the Locals do in Buenos Aires

Pamper Yourself Like a Porteña

It's not just good genes that keep porteñas (women from Buenos Aires) looking fab: the peluquería (beauty salon) is a home away from home. Local women favor cheap, nondescript neighborhood salons where they can gossip and read trashy magazines. A normal Friday evening session might include brushing (blow-dry and styling, 35–50 pesos), usually with planchita (straightening irons), as most porteñas dislike curls.

A weekly belleza de manos y pies (manicure and pedicure, 25 and 45 pesos, respectively) is also standard. Local waxers are so good (and charge so little) that no porteña would dream of touching a razor. Most salons use the sistema español, involving thick, gloopy wax that's pulled off without fabric strips. Given the fierce rivalry between Argentina and its neighbor, all-out bikini waxing isn't called "a Brazilian." You can get the same effect by picking a combo of cavado profundo (regular bikini), tira de pelvis (a strip along the top, ideal for low-cut bikinis), and tira de cola (literally, "ass strip"—need we say more?). Expect to pay 30–40 pesos for the lot.

Llongueras (www.llongueras.com), D'antuan (www.dantuan.com), and Paulino Acosta (www.paulinoacosta.com.ar) are good-value chains with branches about town, and you usually don't need an appointment.

Club Creativo is one of the hippest salons, but staffers are as friendly and gossipy as any neighborhood beauty parlor. Montevideo 1161, Barrio Norte, Buenos Aires, C1019ABW. 11/4816-1016.

Undercutting the Competition

People will often go to the ends of the earth to look good. The latest trend in special-interest tours to Buenos Aires is cosmetic surgery. Some visitors buy dedicated surgery packages (you know, flights, hotel, transfers, tummy tuck), while others combine treatments with a vacation.

Low prices are the draw, but Argentina's cosmetic surgeons also have a good international reputation. It's not all liposuction and boob jobs, either: dental implants and whitening are also popular.

Travel Like a Porteño

For many porteños the run-down colectivos that rocket around in a cloud of exhaust are the only form of transport available. Hopping one of these buses can transport you from dolled-up tourist haunts to residential barrios in minutes.

Complex winding (and varying) routes, make getting on a bus a leap into the unknown. If you're adventurous, try the first bus that comes along and see where it takes you. If you're a control freak, go to a news kiosk and buy a Guía T, which lists routes numerically at the back.

One route to try is that taken by Bus 60, which goes from Constitución through Congreso and Barrio Norte before branching into myriad subroutes, most through the northwest of Buenos Aires. Another good bet is Bus 126, which travels southwest from Plaza de Mayo through San Telmo, Boedo, Caballito, and Flores to the Feria de Mataderos market.

Romance Like a Porteño

They don't call Buenos Aires the Paris of the South for nothing. Palermo's Parque Tres de Febrero is perfect for a long, long afternoon of romance. Forget about a dozen red roses: at the Paseo del Rosedal (Rose Garden) you're surrounded by hundreds of blooms on thousands of bushes. The paths are made for wandering hand-in-hand. True, the pedal boats on the Lagos de Palermo (Palermo Lakes) aren't exactly Venetian gondolas, but there's plenty of tongue-in-cheek romancing to be had as you pedal in tandem.

Window-shopping along Palermo Viejo's cobbled streets is romantic in itself, but you can dress the experience up with a visit to local designer lingerie stores like Amor Latino. Candelit restaurants abound in the neighborhood, or you can add serious fuel to your fire with a meal at aphrodisiac restaurant Te Mataré Ramírez.

You can't say you've made love like a porteño until you've checked into a telo. These hourly hotels are where privacy-deprived local parents, teenagers, adulterers, and just plain lovers come for some time alone. They're clean, safe, and cheesy rather than sleazy—think mirrored ceilings, water beds, Muzak, and mood lighting. At Caravelle, on the corner of Niceto Vega and Darwin, you get a two-hour slot for 70–150 pesos (depending on the level of luxury); if you check in after midnight you can stay all night.

Go Out Like a Porteño

Porteños never have trouble finding an excuse to get together with friends, and not just on Friday and Saturday night. Wondering how they manage to combine a nightlife scene that doesn't kick off until 3 am with getting to work the next morning? We'll let you in on a secret: many don't. These days it's much cooler to head to an "after-office," an extended happy hour found in most bars in the Microcentro between 6 and 9 pm. As well as cheap drinks, you can count on meeting lots of locals unwinding.

Older couples and groups of friends prefer to catch a show or a play along Avenida Corrientes—most go wild over the lame jokes and sequin-and-feather-bedecked dancers of the big reviews, but there's plenty of highbrow theater on offer, too. If your heart's set on all-nighting, make like local clubbers and take a power siesta sometime after 10 pm,

Eat Fast Food Like a Porteño

Porteños are devoted to local fast food. One of the quickest lunches in town is a couple of slices standing at the bars of classic Microcentro pizzerias like Las Cuartetas and El Cuartito. The classics are muzzarella (cheese and tomato) and fugazzeta (tomato-less onion and cheese). Expect a doughy crust and lots of greasy cheese.

The truly porteño touch is to put a slice of fainá (baked garbanzo dough) on top of your pizza. For fast-fare alfresco, sink your teeth into a choripán or vaciopán (an oozing sandwich of chorizo or beef, respectively) from the stands that line the Costanera Sur walkway along the river south of Puerto Madero. Top your sandwhich with spicy chimichurri sauce.

You might not be able to dial a dozen empanadas to your hotel room, but you could certainly do takeout: ubiquitous chain El Noble Repulgue (11/6333–4444 www.elnoblerepulgue.com.ar) is a porteño favorite. The idea is to eat them lukewarm straight from the paper wrapping, preferably washing them down with a beer or a Coke while watching bad TV programs in bed. There's only one dessert option: ice cream from chains like Freddo (www.freddo.com.ar) or Un'Altra Volta (11/4783–4048 www.unaltravolta.com.ar).

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