First time BA trip report

Mar 23rd, 2005, 11:33 AM
  #1  
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First time BA trip report

Recently back from a week in BA...had a great time and would definitely go back again. The fact that the dollar is so strong compared to the peso was just an added bonus.

Here are a few random notes, in no particular order:

Housing: We stayed at the Art Suites Hotel in Recoleta, which was excellent. We splurged a little and had a penthouse unit for U$D 105/night, which came with daily maid service, doorman, concierge services, and breakfast delivered to your room every morning. We booked the suite through Mike at http://apartmentsba.com, who was extremely accomodating and responsive. Prior to stumbling on his website, I had been interacting with several other sites, which had convoluted systems you had to follow in order to even find out if an apartment was available (not to mention unresponsive staff who would sometimes take more than 2 days to respond to an email, if they responded at all). Mike was very responsive and helpful with other BA questions that I had even after he had finished booking my room. Although these prices are reasonable by US big-city standards, we found out from some locals that for one week, we had paid the equivalent of several months rent for a typical BA apartment! So better bargains can definitely be found if you are staying for an extended period of time, but the Art Suites Hotel fit our needs very well and the location was excellent.

Air quality: Despite the name "Buenos Aires"--I found the air quality to be quite poor. No visible smog in the sky (like you would see in Los Angeles) but at ground level, because of the buses and old cars, you end up inhaling a lot of exhaust fumes. I'm an asthmatic and had to puff on my inhalers quite a bit after the two days in the city. Adding to the poor air quality were the numerous smokers in all the bars and restaurants (my lungs have gotten accustomed to cleaner inside air).

People: The people are really nice down there. It was a little odd at first having people in the stores actually say hi, offer to help you find your size, etc. It took a few days to get rid of the automatic defense mechanism that those of us who live in US cities carry (i.e., the feeling that they must want something from us if they're being nice). The people are all very warm and friendly and it was very refreshing, especially considering we were in a big city. Also, everyone was incredibly good looking due to the mixture of italian and spanish genes.

Safety: We felt very safe in most parts of BA. Our doorman warned us of teenage pickpockets in the area near Teatro Colon (opera house) who work in teams--one bumps into you while the other picks your pocket. But we had no problems. The only place that was slightly threatening was La Boca--to get to the touristy area you had to drive through a poorer area of town, and the touristy parts of La Boca were only a couple of blocks long--walk a little further and you are suddenly in a rough working class neighborhood. However, it was fine by day.

Transportation: Taxis were amazingly inexpensive. Like one of the other msg board posters said, you can get clear across town for the equivalent of U$D 2! Try to keep small bills and coins to pay the drivers with. One person in our party paid for a 6 peso cab ride with a 50 peso bill, but only got back change for a 20 because the drive claimed that was what he gave him! Buses only take coins, but they do give change. We took one to get from Tigre back to Recoleta where we were staying, and the entire ride took more than 1.5 hours (yet only cost 1.35 pesos). The only weird thing we experienced transportation-wise was having to pay a different price for train tickets to Tigre than our local friend. Supposedly this practice of charging foreigners a different price is illegal, but still happens in some places.

Food: portions tend to be moderate (they just dont seem to eat as much as we Norte Americanos are used to eating, but most food was fairly inexpensive and pretty good (albeit not very heavily seasoned). We had meals ranging from a steak and potatoes lunch for 3 pesos (at a small local eatery in San Telmo) to a 50 peso steak at Cabana de las Lilas in Puerto Madero. Other excellent picks were Bar Uriarte in Palermo and Teatriz in Recoleta.

Cafes: Cafes were everywhere, and most sold light meals in addition to coffees and pastries. The locals tend to drink short coffees served in demitasse cups and are surprised if you order a cafe con leche in the evenings because they consider it to be too much coffee and milk. These are basically lattes in a small mug--they would be shocked to see the bowl-sized lattes that we're used to up here. Interestingly, no Starbucks anywhere in sight!

Regrets: The only regrets we had were that we were able to spend only one week in Argentina, and that we didn't have enough time to see other areas such as Iguazu, Bariloche, Calafate, Ushuaia, Patagonia, Montevideo, etc. But this is what future trips are for, right?


dwong is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2005, 09:58 PM
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Thanks for your informative trip report. I hope you can answer at least some of my many questions.

Art Suites charge $30 for early check-in or late check-out. Did you enjoy your room for that extra time or just leave your luggage? Also, they give discounts for cash, so if you paid that way, did you take US dollars for that purpose or pay in pesos? That would be quite a large amount of cash, and I'm not sure if you're allowed to pay in pesos. Some posters have said that the location is a bit out of the way. Did you take taxis everywhere? How was breakfast? Is there any choice?

With regard to Tigre, why did you take a bus back? The experience, sights, cost? And are the different prices for the train posted somewhere, or do they ask if you're Argentinean or not?

Other than a day trip to Tigre, did you go anywhere? Did you feel that you had more than enough to do in BA for the rest of the week? What about nightlife?

Thanks for your assistance.

Gems
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Mar 24th, 2005, 11:35 AM
  #3  
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The early and late check ins at the Art Suites Hotel were definitely worth it because the flights in and out of BsAs to the states are all typically overnight flights.

Normal check in time isn't until the early afternoon and our flight got into EZE around 8AM, so it was nice to have the suite available for a much needed shower and nap.

Likewise with the check-out...our flight didn't leave until nearly 10PM, so we were able to stay in the suite until 7PM or so (otherwise normal checkout is at 11AM)...think of it as almost a full day in BsAs for only a third of the cost.

If you pay in U$D, you can avoid the VAT (value added tax, for which there is no value to anyone paying it!). We hit the ATM before leaving the states and brought back a big stack of $20's. It turns out that some of the ATMs in BsAs (but not all) can give you money in either pesos or dollars, so we didnt really have to bring all that cash with us.

One benefit of an apart-hotel like the Art Suites is that you dont have to pay a security deposit. That was one of the issues we had with a lot of the apartment listings we found: they typically wanted the week's rent upfront, plus another week's security deposit (which would supposedly be returned when you give back the key)--I am much more comfortable using a credit card for the security deposit.

Breakfast: as I mentioned in my previous post, they really dont seem to eat a whole lot. Breakfast was typically coffee plus two mini-croissants per person with some butter and jelly. The only choice we had was what time we wanted breakfast to be delivered each day. It was just enough to tide you over until lunch-time, but often times we went out for a more substantial coffee to start off the day.

Location: I thought it was good. You are four blocks from Santa Fe (a main street with lots of banks, stores, restaurants, and lots of taxis). 5-6 blocks in the other direction you have the Recoleta Cemetery and the Design Center (a cool interior design mall). The hotel is also a 15 minute walk to the Alvear Palace hotel and all the shopping around there, and maybe a 25 minute walk to Avenida 6 de Julio and the Teatro Colon. Another feature I liked about the hotel is that its not on a main street, so it was nice and quiet. We enjoyed walking, but if walking isn't your thing, taxis are literally everywhere, and very inexpensive. We started taking them more towards the end of our trip when we had already seen all the sights that are within closer walking distance.

Tigre: The train station had a sign at the ticket window that clearly stated that non-Argentinian citizens paid 6 pesos for a round-trip ticket (compared with 4 pesos for a local). Not a big deal--it was an extra 65 cents U$D. The local friend we went to Tigre with suggested that we come back by bus to see more of the city.

Time: I think 1 week was just enough to see all the major sights in BA. With more time, we would have done a little more shopping, and maybe an overnight trip to Iguazu Falls.

Nightlife: following the big dance club fire in January, all the bars and clubs were shut down. Slowly, they are all opening up again pending safety inspections. Larger dance clubs have not yet opened up yet.

Hope this helps!


dwong is offline  
Mar 24th, 2005, 11:57 AM
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Nice report, thanks.
drdawggy is offline  
Mar 24th, 2005, 09:21 PM
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Wow! Thanks for your very thorough and helpful reply.

Art Suites: It's especially useful to know that some ATM's dispense dollars, so it's not necessary to take a big wad. I wasn't sure about the early check-in, because a lot of people seem to just drop off their luggage and head out again in order to adjust to the time difference. Still, a shower and a liedown would definitely be nice.

Transportation: Walking's probably the best way to get to know a place. I appreciate your clarifying the train prices. I'm not crazy about buses, so I'll probably skip the scenic route.

Nightlife: I was ignorant of the dance club fire that closed down all the clubs. I hope it wasn't too bad.

Thanks again,

Gems

P.S. I just read in a guidebook (not Fodor's, which I also have) that muggings and kidnappings are common in BsAs. No one else has mentioned kidnappings, as far as I know, but I'm glad that you had no real safety issues.



gems is offline  
Mar 24th, 2005, 11:35 PM
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There are very few ATMs that dispense dollars. The machines will ask if you want pesos or dollars, but will only dispense pesos. Prior to the economic crisis of 2001, it was common to offer and deliver either form of currency.
drdawggy is offline  
Mar 25th, 2005, 02:30 PM
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Great report -- we are planning our trip to Antarctica, with a week in Buenos Aires and 2 days at Iguazu Falls for next February, and I was very interested in the Art Suites. From your report, it sounds as if that would be a great option for Buenos Aires. Thank you!
KT_Tomlinson is offline  
Apr 1st, 2005, 05:57 AM
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I'm glad you folks found my report to be useful. I didn't try to get any US dollars from the ATMs, so thanks for the clarification from the good doctor!
dwong is offline  
Apr 1st, 2005, 06:36 AM
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Enjoyed reading your report. We are planning a trip to Argentina for August and are trying to decide how to spend our time (we only have a week). How many days would you recommend for BA? Did you do any daytrips (to Uruguay or out to the Pamapas)?
WinterTravel is offline  
Apr 1st, 2005, 06:39 AM
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dwong, I, too, really enjoyed reading your report, which I browsed through earlier in the week but haven't had a chance until today, to post a reply. We'll be in BA this May, and I'm trying to read everything that anyone has to say. Your observation about the coffee sizes is good to know. Like you we'll be probably going out to get additional morning coffees. Glad you had a great trip. Kathy
kathleen is offline  
Apr 1st, 2005, 02:42 PM
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I wish to add, when you wish to order a small coffee as locals do, there is the option of asking for a" cafe", that is some kind of a lighter expresso in a small cup as in here, or a quot;cortado" the last one being a cafe in a small cup with a little foam milk..
Graziella5b is offline  
Apr 1st, 2005, 09:12 PM
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Join Date: Oct 2004
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Dwong,

Thanks for taking the time to post your trip report. Thanks for the nice words about me and my company. We always strive to answer quickly and be helpful to our clients.

I really encourage others to post trip reports as they are helpful to other travelers. I've been posting various trip reports for years and many have told me they have helped others.

I'm glad you had a great time in my new home city and I hope you come back soon. Thanks again.

Mike
www.apartmentsba.com
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