Argentina was a real surprise for me. Buenos Aires impressed with it's diversity and vibrancy, San Antonio was a combination of stunning colonial architecture and stunning natural landscape, and Ushuaia was a friendly, lively town. The people everywhere were kind and welcoming, and if they didn't insist on both getting up in the morning and eating dinner in the evening quite so late, I could almost imagine living there for a while. Very Spanish yet distinctly South American, it definitely merits more time than we had. Here's the do's and don'ts:
- Try to explore as many neighbourhoods of BA as possible. Each has its own character and charms, and hide small museums, parks and architecture. Finding a quiet cafe and just watching people going about their daily business can be a great way to spend a couple of hours.
- Take a day trip or two out to the pampas. Barely a couple of hours from the city, the land opens wide, the skies stretch on forever and life is slower and more laid back. Truly beautiful. As an added bonus, the regional buses are luxurious and guarantee a smooth journey for a reasonable price.
- Use local transport whenever possible. The cost is minimal, and although the bus systems can be very confusing and add time to your journeys (nearly 2 hours from the centre of BA to the domestic airport, in part due to the one-way nature of the roads), the opportunity for chatting with locals, seeing more of an area and saving money that could be used for another activity far outweighs the negatives. We also found most places easily walkable and accessible for pedestrians.
- Forget that Argentina is very Spanish in culture and attitude. Late dinners, late mornings and varying shop opening times are all the norm, which can be frustrating when you want to get as much out of your days as possible, but on the flip side, it also results in good wine, the pleasure of eating a long, satisfying meal, lots of laughter and friendly faces.
- Underestimate the cost! Argentina was definitely the most expensive South American country we've visited. Granted, we stayed in cities where the prices are typically higher, but it certainly wasn't a bargain. Food and accommodation made up the majority of our expenditure, even staying in hostels/B&Bs and eating at smaller local restaurants. Museum costs, although not outrageous, add up over a series of days, and in wealthier areas, even drinks were similar prices to at home. We saved money by only using local transport or our own feet to get around, but it's worth budgeting a little more than anticipated.