Buenos Aires Trip Report

Old Nov 4th, 2008, 07:45 AM
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Buenos Aires Trip Report

Avrooster has suggested that I post our Buenos Aires trip report here on Fodors. I had put it up earlier on the Trip Advisor BsAs forum, but here it is again.

Here's a report of our 11 night visit to Buenos Aires beginning on the 15th of October. There were five of us sixty-somethings making the trip. The information here is in no particular order, but the report is long.

GETTING TO BA AND RETURN: (Airlines from US)

We flew American Airlines, and don't have a lot of good comments about them for the price we paid. The seats in the plane both ways from BA were almost totally worn out, and the ride was consequently long and tiring. The plane was an older 767. I won't even begin to mention the quality of the food. One hot meal in 10 hours is a long time without sustenance. The breakfast was also quite small. We were quite hungry when we arrived in BsAs. Of our 4 American flights, (home to the Dallas hub, Dallas BA and return, then Dallas home,) three were late. And of course two of our 5 bags never made it to the carousel upon return to Dallas.

It would be interesting to hear from others who have flown Delta, United, or Continental as to whether they are any better.

Airport arrival:

No problems here. Picked up our luggage and easily cleared customs and immigration. Followed all of the advice given on TA and avoided the first currency exchange and headed for Banco de Nacion instead. Some of us had purchased pesos in the US, but this was a good time to break down a couple of larger bills.

We had booked a transfer with Manuel Tienda Leon in advance, and they led us to a large (15-seat) van and we were delivered to our apartment. All of us were quite satisfied with them and the vehicle.

Apartment:

We used Bytargentina and the apartment (3 bedroom) was exactly as advertised. Two weeks earlier Byt had notified us that our original choice of apartment was not available, causing us much hair-pulling and light breathing. Luckily, our second choice was still available. I will not lambast Byt at this time, but we thought their handling of this matter was unacceptable. If we had not done our homework, we would have ended up in a flat half the size we needed.

If you rent an apartment with multiple bedrooms, be certain they are what they say they are, and not a third bedroom that is actually a pull-out couch in the living room. Most sixty-somethings I know would not be happy to sleep on a trundle or hide-a-bed in the living room

We were met at the door by the owner of the apartment and signed the papers and paid our rent when the agent from BYT got there. Pedro the owner was very easy to work with, and came and turned on the water heater when we couldn't figure it out one day.

I do not know about the phone systems in other apartments, but this was the biggest problem we had during our stay. Not a good set of instructions (in english for us,) on how to operate it. Quite frankly, it was a mess. We thought perhaps we needed to purchase a phone card, and did so, only to give up making the card work. We would have preferred to have paid some money up front for making local calls such as ordering up cabs and making restaurant reservations, and having an easily workable telephone. next time we will probably either rent a phone or purchase a disposable when we arrive. As it was, when we made phone calls, we simply walked down the street to a locutorio.

PROCURING SUPPLIES: We furnished our apartment fridge with supplies early on, and kept it well stocked. Most of our shopping was at either Disco or a Coto, but there are smaller markets almost everywhere you look. If you don't want to carry your stuff, almost everyplace in BsAs will deliver.

FASHION: (this is from a previous post I made)

It is starting to get very warm in BA, and people have begun to put away their winter coats. Regarding fashion, do you want to be comfortable, or do you wish to attempt to fit in (read that not look like a tourist.) I agree with Karma in her post regarding dress. If you want to fit in, do as the locals suggest.

That being said, as I've posted previously on European threads regarding dress, it's all over anyway if you don't speak the language,and you'll be pegged as a tourist a mile away even if you don't open your mouth. I never saw any males in "capris," but did see them in shorts............boy, they sure looked comfortable! I chose to stay in jeans, and was warm.

Not sure how to word this: If you are "moving fast" and trying to cover a lot of sights right now, when the weather is getting warm, I wouldn't be afraid to dress comfortable. Most of us on vacation travel "hard" with a limited amount of time to cover a fair amount of ground.

Side note: if you are going to the falls this time of year, shorts are a VERY WISE decision, as it is getting to be hot and humid. If you forget a pair, there are lots of shops in Puerto Iguazu where you can buy a pair.

Long sleeves are pretty hot when riding the subway. I saw lots of (local, I believe) males (subway) in T shirts, but in jeans rather than shorts.

STANDING IN LINES:

This seems to be fairly standard operating procedure. Stand in line to order something, stand in another to pay for the item, and sometimes stand in yet another line to receive the item you purchased. If you don't have patience, this will drive you crazy. You can spend a lot of time caught up in this.

LOCAL TRANSPORTATION: Subway tickets are so inexpensive that we (5 people) just bought 10-ride tickets, which got all of us somewhere and return and we rode the subway quite a bit as it was easy to get from Palermo to the center of town.

If you like subways, be sure to ride the A line. The original wood cars of BA's (and South Americas) first subway line were fun to ride. Not as neat as Budapest's first subway line in continental Europe, but still pretty neat.

The subways we rode were very full most of the time, (to the point of being uncomfortable,) and they stop operating very early at night. (10 pm?) What with BA's "late" culture, this doesn't make a lot of sense. Perhaps the taxi companies have some influence here?

I would think Collectivos are an excellent option to the subway, but we never had the time on our short vacation to figure out the system. The book (Guia T) is quite thick, and bus routes go everywhere, but the system is not particularly easy for a first-time visitor to decipher.

Trains: You can get out of town via the commuter train lines for very little money. We rode both the Mitre and Tigre lines. There weren't a lot of people going out of town in the morning and returning in the after noon. Some of the trains were pretty beat up, and there was almost a constant barrage of people asking for money for this or that thing they were selling.

The Train de la Costa was a nice respite from the commuter line trains, but you don't go far before you need to transfer to a commuter line.

A tip when returning from Tigre to where you are staying in Palermo or Recoleta, transfer from the Mitre line train to the D line subway at Carranza and you'll avoid having to go all the way back into Retiro station thence on to your D line subway stop. fwiw, the Retiro train station is dark, with tons of people about.

Taxis are currently a pretty inexpensive option for getting around town, but tourists also have a learning curve here. It would appear taxi rates are going up on a regular basis.

If possible, either call the taxi company when you need one, or have someone do it for you. Almost any hotel will get you a cab, and some write down the license number of the cab to keep them honest. We had no problem hailing one on the street, but some drivers literally will take you for a ride. Always be certain the driver switches on the meter. If he doesn't, ask to get out and get a different cab. Drivers license and info should also be posted on the back of the seat.

Have some idea as to where you are and where you're going. (I had my pocket map handy.) We had drivers go out of their way when taking us home. Sometimes this is due to the myriad of one-way streets (and road construction)in BA, and sometimes it's due to a driver running up the meter.

We never fell victim to a driver switching a bill on us, but we always paid in 20-peso notes, or less, and checked the watermark before handing them over.

Does this taxi stuff happen in other countries? Probably, but we've never used cabs in them as much as we did in BA. (There are over 38,000 of them on BA's streets! ) The way those cabs move around without accidents is totally amazing.

TI's: Tourist info centers: I believe that they are hard to track down. They just weren't easy to locate in the area in which we stayed, and they weren't obvious in the areas we visited, at least not like some of the other countries we've been in. (And we went to many of the main sites in BsAs where you'd like to see info available.) Here it pays to do your homework before arriving in BsAs.

ATMS: No problem. They're just as prevalent in BA as in any other large capital city. make sure you have a 4-digit pin number. How much can you get in one withdrawal? Depends, but we were able to take more in a single withdrawal from one in BA (900 pesos) than in (Puerto) Iguazu. (600 pesos)

To get some smaller bills, as for a peso withdrawal that ends in 90 or 80and you'll get some smaller bills along with the big bills.

STREET FAIRS: (ferias) With three "heavy-duty" shoppers in our midst, the street fairs were total hits. Plaza Dorrego and sourrounding area in San Telmo on Sunday, Recoleta on Saturday, and many others in various parts of town, and also San Isidro. We were in Tigre and shopped at the big feria in the old fruit warehouse area as well.

After following all of the posts about the Mataderos fair, none of us were particularly impressed, and nobody seemed to be able to tell us when the entertainment started, so we experienced none of that.

The area around is not the best, and we had a driver who was able to park in the feria area instead of on the surrounding streets.

SHOPPING: We are not "high-end" shoppers, but did visit Galleries Pacifico, and the ladies enjoyed Florida Street. We did have to detour one area of Florida due to a drum-banging, paint-throwing protest one afternoon.

JUGGLER GIRL: One of our subway highlights was "juggler girl". As my title suggests, it was a girl dressed in a clown suit who juggled....not just 3 balls, but 4. And she bounced them off the ceiling of the subway car as it moved. Marvelously talented. Her sister made the collections for her, and we were only too happy to be some of the contributors.

WAITERS: Almost always professional. If they don't speak English and you don't speak Spanish, do not despair. It will all work out for the best. I don't have the title handy, but there is a small paperback on Argentine food that we used. I bought it at Barnnes & Noble.

CRIME: Did not experience any, and you most likely won't either. Common sense prevails. Avoid situations that might lead to a problem. No different techniques for visiting BsAs as compared to any other major city worldwide.

COLONIA: (and Buquebus) People either seem to love Colonia, or think it's totally boring. I had a reason for visiting and made the other four in our group go along. They all loved the place. Me too.

We went to the Buquebus on Cordoba to book tickets. Make sure you bring your passport(s). Lots of standing in line and waiting. 1. wait in line to check in with the desk. 2. Wait to be called by an agent. The agent writes up the tickets on the computer. 3. Go stand in another line to pay for and receive the printed tickets.

Be at the Buquebus terminal (nicely renovated) an hour early the day of your trip. Stand in line to get boarding passes. Stand in line for security. Stand in Line to board. Yes it does take a hours worth of time. The boat ride (fast boat) was enjoyable, with comfortable seats and lots of legroom.

We rented two golf carts upon arrival in Colonia. Very enjoyable way to get around the old town area, a world historical sight, for sightseeing. Be aware that many of the shops in Colonia close during a siesta period each afternoon.

A long queue up for taxis upon arriving back in BsAs, but the line moved quickly, and the taxis just kept on coming.

TIGRE: An enjoyable day trip. We took a one-hour canal tour, bujt you can do it on your own by riding the "bus" boat. Our tour was not expensive, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Visit the old fruit market area afterwards for some shopping.

IGUAZU: We originally had decided to forego the trip to the falls in order to save some money, but thought better of it and booked flights with LAN. The continual problems reported with Aerolineus were not to our liking. We made the correct choice. The flight was comfortable, the complementary snacks and beverages were a welcome surprise.

Upon arrival at the airport in Puerto Iguazu, we rode the mini-bus into town. 15 pesos per person, and it delivered us to the door of our hotel. We also used their service for return to the airport at the end of our stay.

We stayed at La Sorgenta Posada Hotel, and can't find enough good to say about it. Owned by an Italian/Argentine family with very friendly owners and staff who take an interest in you. They have an attached Italian restaurant with very good food. The rooms were fairly basic, but comfortable, and the room air/heat units are brand new. We saved quite a bit by staying at La Sorgenta as compared to the Sheraton.

We took the city bus to the National Park, as the bus station was only a couple of blocks from our hotel. The bus runs about every 30 minutes. Words can't do justice to the spectacle of the falls.

The train that runs in the park can get totally overcrowded. Lots of people waiting a long time in lines for the train to arrive, with no guarantee that you'll get a seat on the next train. If you don't mind walking, you can do that, see all sorts of flora an fauna and avoid the crowded train. We were not able to get to the Island during our visit due to high water in the river.

By all means make this side trip from Buenos Aires.

MUSIC/CLUBS/CONCERTS: The Buenos Aires Jazz Festival was held while we were in town. We booked tickets to hear the Swedish Tolvan Big Band, and enjoyed their performance. There were clubs all over town hosting jazz groups, and we were unable to get into Thelonius Jazz Club the first week we were in town. Thelonius is the premier jazz club in BsAs and we went there for a nightcap the week after the Jazz Festival.

CRISIS: (crises?) and crime. Watching tv in BsAs (and sometimes reading the TA forum,) is like watching Fox news here in the US. Often things seem to be either blown out of proportion, or reported as a crisis.

One day it was something about the Government wanting to raid pension funds, (I'd be upset if my Government wanted to raid my pension!) with a planned street protest with pots and pans banging. Another day it was Aerolineas. (Or is that every day, lol!) then there are the posts about rolex thefts, etc, and onward. I can honestly say the other major city forums I follow do not dwell on this stuff, although it occasionally does get posted. I don't think the problems in BsAs are any greater than other large/great cities in the world.

We watch our stuff pretty closely when we are in crowded areas, and have done so in many major Capitals, and I'll say no more. Common sense prevails. Be Aware of your surroundings and don't offer any opportunities for the less scrupulous. Obviously, this applies to travel in the US as well

As I said, the only scamming we had was a cab driver going round-about once in a while while taking us home.

RESTAURANTS: I had a full list of restaurant selections written down before we left from home, but we only touched upon a few of them. Most of us do not eat out a lot at home, so sticker shock can visit us when we do go out.

We tried to visit a cross-section of restaurants, and were quite satisfied with how it all turned out. fwiw, we never had a bad meal, save for some "iffy" walk-up street food near the amusement park in Tigre.

Empanadas were a favorite of all of us and the highly recommended El Sanjuanino is excellent. Funny waiter, great food, and Quilmes to accompany.

Went to El Cuartito for pizza. Again, all five of us highly satisfied with the food. No empanadas that night, but in that restaurant they come as highly suggested as the pizza. Very nice staff.

Our big steak night found us at El Trapiche. We arrived early, and watched many families come in as it was (I believe) Argentina's Mothers Day.

We ordered way too much food, as when the lomos arrived they were hugh. We took enough food back to the apartment to feed us beef stroganoff the next night. This was an adventure in itself, non-spanish speakers trying to find something resembling sour cream and a can of plain old mushroom soup in a corner grocery store.

We had sweets at La Violetas (at the Castro stop along the A metro line,) and at Cafe Tortoni as well. Each place was a treat.

Taking advice from one poster, we had lunch in the restaurant at the Evita Museum. Very nice atmosphere, and good food.

Plans were in the works to eat one meal in San Telmo on the Sunday we visited the feria, but the area restaurants were totally packed with people due to the street fair. Did have beers a couple of times in the area. We'd planned on breakfast at La Farmacia, but it is closed. Goes to show how old my very enjoyable Knopf map guide must be!

Other than that, we ate seated outdoors whenever possible, in restaurants around Pl. Guemes, which was close to the apartment. Very enjoyable watching all of the people (and dogs) passing by. The names of the places escape me, and there are probably of hundreds just like them around town. The food was always good, and the service mostly excellent as well.

Following Scarlett's lead, it was coffee cortado and medialunas almost every morning. offering yet another opportunity to enjoy the cafe culture. Ice Cream abounds. Freddo is very good.

After all of the research we'd done on restaurants prior to the trip, it's amusing that we did not visit the "big names". Once again, what and where we ate was excellent or very good.

The absolute restaurant highlight of the trip was meeting the very famous avrooster who took us to the buffet lunch at the Alvear Palace Hotel. The Alvear is a magnificent hotel in the "grand style." Avrooster's reputation had preceeded him, and it was truly an afternoon to remember as he is a true gentleman. This was our first afternoon after an all-night airplane ride, and we must have been a sorry looking lot.

As a sidelight, if you need questions about BsAs answered of the rooster, you'll find him here on the Fodors forum.

CARTONEROS: Very interesting watching at night what happens to BA's discarded but recyclable items. This is a whole culture that comes to life. We have a truck that comes by our house at home once a week to do this. These people seem to be out doing it every night in BA.

WALKING THE STREETS / LOOKING AT STUFF: This is always a highlight for us, and it was enjoyable slowly walking the streets looking at buildings, window shopping, watching people, dogs and the dog-walkers with all their charges in tow. Stopping at a cafe for coffee, pastry, beer, wine, etc.

Other highlights include Recoleta, (the cemetary and church next door), the Avenida de Mayo walk, from Pl Congresso, Casa Rosada, Evita Museum, street architecture, parks and squares........I could go on and on. Very nice time.

We also had the opportunity to visit Avrooster and meet his wonderful family at his home outside of BsAs. Our hosts were very gracious and fed us a marvelous home-cooked parrilla followed by Freddo ice cream. Thanks again Av!

SPANISH: I don't know a lot. I try, but it has to do with that old saying about old dogs and new tricks. I think you really have to immerse yourself in the language to learn it. If you really get in a bind, one of the people in our travel group advises you to find a younger person, as many of them can speak some english.

TANGO: We did not attend a "full-blown" tango spectacle, but totally enjoyed a late afternoon milonga at la Confiteria Ideal. This is people-watching at its finest. Leave your camera in your pocket.

DEPARTURE: Just about everything you've read about the departure (terminal E, )

from EZE holds true. Allow yourself adequate time for the process. There's lots of standing in line. We arrived 3 hours before our flight, and the lines weren't too bad. Stand in line and check in with your airline to get boarding passes for your flight. Stand in another line to pay your departure tax. Stand in line to get your tax rebate from purchases. (None of us had to do this as we did not make large purchases.) Stand in the first security line. Stand in line for your flight boarding and the final security line. This process can completely drain you.

Avoid going to the waiting area as long as you can. Seating is quite limited, and there's but one small snack bar and very vew tables at which to sit. Better to remain out in the terminal where there's a larger restaurant. I think Ezezia needs to address the comfort and amenities level of this final waiting area.

It appears all of the flights to the US leave within an approximate one hour window in the evening. If your flight is one of the final departures, and the other flights get back up, you'll be delated. We were at least an hour late boarding and taking off.

Any reservations about going? A unanimous five-person none at all. Would we return? No question about it.

best to all, and many thanks, especially av.

tptr

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tptr is offline  
Old Nov 4th, 2008, 11:37 AM
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tptr says: "Reply to this post", so I guess I'll have to do that. LOL!!!

I imagine you had simply forgotten to post your report here and all you needed was my gentle reminder.

After all, we DID meet HERE, right?

Thank you for a great report, tptr!

When should we expect you and the whole band back?



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Old Nov 4th, 2008, 11:58 AM
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Thanks for the trip report -- very helpful.
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Old Nov 4th, 2008, 04:45 PM
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Thanks for posting, sounds like you had a great time. Wonder if we wandered past each other at Iguazu? I do have to say I flew AA as well and had the complete opposite experience, connected thru Miami and onto a nice 777, no issues. Wish I'd had time to go to Colonia!
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Old Nov 4th, 2008, 06:55 PM
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Thank you very much
I'm flying AA round trip through Dallas FW but into Santiago round trip. I'm spending a week in Argentina at the end of our cruise and very much appreciate these types of reports.
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Old Nov 5th, 2008, 12:05 PM
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Thanks for the report, much appreciated!
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Old Nov 6th, 2008, 08:21 PM
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thanks for this report....can't wait for our april trip
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Old Nov 8th, 2008, 11:03 AM
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What a great trip report! Thanks for posting in such detail.

I laughed when I read your trouble using the phone in the apartment. We had the same trouble and I don't think we ever did figure it out. Very frustrating.

I'd go back too, in a minute!!
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Old Nov 9th, 2008, 09:15 AM
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Thank you for the wonderful report.
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Old Nov 9th, 2008, 10:41 AM
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Great report with lots of detail. Thanks.

About American: I believe they have now switched from older 767 aircraft to 777's from Dallas. American has been flying 777's from Miami to Buenos Aires for some time now.

I have flown on Continental and Delta as well as American. I prefer the 777's from American over the 767 aircraft flown by Delta or Continental or on some American flights.

I have never had any luggage missing going or coming on American from BA...although I have had a problem from other destinations on American and Delta.
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Old Nov 9th, 2008, 09:32 PM
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Having flown to several Asian and European destinations as a husband (ex) of a United flight attendant I have had a lot of experience on international flights on both the 767 and 777. When booking my american flight this November to Santiago, I noticed that everything coming out of Dallas was a 767 and everything coming out of Miami was a 777. I was VERY tempted to fly from California to Miami for the connection just to get on the 777. I decided that it just wasn't worth adding 9 hours to the total trip so I'm stuck on the 767.

This is me sitting here with my fingers crossed.
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Old Nov 10th, 2008, 10:03 AM
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Regarding the apartment telephones... this might possibly be what happened.

They are set so that you cannot use them for over a certain amount of minutes a month .. so you will pick up the phone and get a very rapid Spanish talking to!
Wait until they stop talking then try dialing..

OR... it could be that you were trying to call cell phones.. any number begining with 15 is a BA cell phone and you cannot call them from rental apartments..
Many private homes do this also.. a lot of people have workers in their homes who will use their phones to call home to mama in Paraguay and talk for an hour.. so they have these options when you get your phone service.

I hope this helps.. we rented an apartment when we arrived here and the phone was annoying, but we bought our cell phone which made it all fine. Taxis are often cell numbers too .. tip* if you like a taxi, say it is clean, not falling apart and air conditioned, you can get the drivers card and just call him when you need him .. we have done it in the past and it worked out well for us.. sometimes they are not close by but often they are.
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Old Nov 10th, 2008, 05:46 PM
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Thanks for the tips Scarlett.
I'm not sure the spanish voice ever stopped talking!!! It sounded like she kept saying the same thing over and over.

We had taken a cell phone with us, only to find out that 'worldwide' does not include Argentina for Bell Canada. So stupid.

Good to know about the cabs.
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