Argentina

The silver mine of South America; literally! The word Argentina comes from the Greek word Argentos which stands for silver. Argentina was famous for its silver mines with Spanish colonisers and it is the second biggest country in South America. It is the eighth biggest country in the whole world and in days not in distant past, it used to be one of the wealthiest as well.

Argentina is blessed in every which way you can think of. It has magnificent mountains ranges, a massive coast line, gorgeous beaches, glaciers, wild life, jungles, desserts and the highest and the lowest points in South America are both located in Argentina.

This elongated paradise is every travellers envy for the opportunities it offers and Argentineans especially Portaños (Residents of Buenos Aires) and very proud of their mixed South American and European origins. The country has so much to offer you cannot stop yourself from going back. I do wish to go back and enjoy this beautiful paradise outside the capital. To sit on the beach one day and watch the whales and go hiking next day on a glacier and look at penguins; opportunities are endless!

Argentina is relatively safe for foreigners and tourists are generally treated well despite the political unrest in the country. During my visit I saw massive protests about the change of power with new president but it was more interesting in terms of a discussion topic than anything dangerous.

The Racism Factor

Like Brazil and probably most South American countries the issue of racism is two tiered; locals and foreigners. South Americans love tourists but things are slightly different in Argentina compared to Brazil. Buenos Aires and the North of country is different from the mid and south because these centres were at the heart of immigrants settlement from Europe and the population is more blonde, ginger-ish and fair skinned with light eyes.

The locals have a symptom almost all former colonies do; they try to be more European than the Europeans themselves and this sometimes comes off as embarrassing especially when they haven’t been to Europe. The reason I say this is because the immigrants were mostly from Italy and Spain and we all know how chilled out these two countries are!!!

Fair skin, light hair and eyes are superior mostly and more aboriginal features are considered almost subhuman which was sad to see. If you’re foreigner and white you’re golden but Portaños are still not as warm as Cariocas by any standard.

Now how did they see a stranger from Middle East roaming around was another thing! I got almost an inquisitive and curious reception. It’s almost like they couldn’t place me in any category and were trying to creat a reference point but I didn’t feel like I was being discriminated against and in older parts of city people were nice and warm. The taxi driver who picked me up from airport gave me a few extra tips to be nice and curiously asked about my origins. After all that essay, I would like to conclude that racism isn’t much of an issue in this beautiful country so roam freely you beautiful people..

The Gay Factor

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Portaños can be seriously hot and with open air gyms with shirtless guys working out almost throughout downtown in the evenings, there’s plenty of eye candy. The areas around Soho are the gay area and there are some very nice bars and clubs as well. I’ll add them to the Buenos Aires section.

Now the thing about the guys here! They are hot yes but so are Brazilians and pther latinos but Portaños are slightly colder and less accessible compared to others which honestly doesn’t appeal me much. Almost everyone I met in Argentina that I had good time was from other South American countries especially Venezuelans which you will find loads of since their beautiful country is going through such turmoil.

The general population is fairly nice and I don’t think anyone would feel threatened here based ons Excalibur although it’s nowhere close to Brazil in terms of openness.

Value for Money 

Argentina at one point was the seventh wealthiest country but the political instability that still reigns the country brought the economy down. It is quite cheap to travel around and get food in Argentina other than the posh areas of Buenos Aires.

Food is generally cheap as well and you can easily visit this beautiful country without feeling like you need to sleep on the streets now.

Things have also gotten much better recently with the new predefined who do very much trusted by international community and prospects are looking great. The rampant inflation is also seemingly slowing down so a big thumbs up for Argentina.

Itinerary

I spent roughly 5 days in Buenos Aires but you can see a lot more of you have time but Argentina is massive and you should consider the huge distances before planning anything more extensive. Even in 4 days you can’t see all of Buenos Aires but sadly that’s all the time I’ve had.

Food

All aside perhaps the biggest disappointment in Argentina was steaks! The Parillas are many and despite trying a LOT of them I came to the realisation that Argentinians don’t like blood on their plates at all. The steaks were almost always nearly well done with a hint of pink even when I asked for rare to medium rare. The second issue was lack of seasoning. It felt almost embarrassing to pour so much salt on steaks but I came back quite disappointed.

The general staple food is a lot of pizza and pasta and the Argentinian pizza is a good mix between American and Italian pizzas. Thinner crust with lots of toppings especially cheese And it is generally super cheap. The savoury pastries are also quite good and small shops and bakeries do them best.

The last mention that just had me in grip was Dulce de Leche and I gained so much weight after endless rounds of this sweet heavenly dessert. It is made with milk and lids of sugar. Basically you add sugar and some stuff to mil and cook it till it becomes a thick, viscous stuff that’s a very soft solid. Try it with milk cookies and please I seriously don’t take responsibility if you cannot stop eating this. I asked my best friend to get me some from Brazil and still have it in my fridge for those moments when you need a hit of sugar. (Do it with good stuff if you must) 😉

Phone & Internet 

Getting a SIM card is easy but setting it up a bit of a struggle in Buenos Aires and he tariff system is quite complicated. You can buy the sim card or Chip (as it is called in Argentina) from any number of shops but make sure they activate the relevant package and set it up for you. Internet reception is quite patchy even in the centre of Buenos Aires and Wifi is slow to put it nicely. Data is quite slow pretty much wherever you are! My accommodation had internet reminded me of days of dial up which was adorable yet extremely frustrating and annoying. You can have a detailed look at the phone options here.

Cash & Cards 

Argentina uses Peso as its currency but owing to its rapid depreciation and rampant inflation dollar is the king here.

Argentina put strict foreign exchange controls in the PST to avoid the rapid depreciation of peso which meant there was a massive black market where you could get much more than official rate. These are called blue dollar and most travellers were told to carry dollars instead of pesos to exchange there. The central areas around xxx were the hotspot of ‘Cambio Cambio’ pitches as you walked in.

I was given the same advice and I carried dollars and I ended up losing more money because capital and foreign exchange controls had been recently lifted and official rate was almost the same as black market rate. Don’t bother than random conversions and best to convert though usual means than waste money between conversions.

Cash is your friend here and card payments are accepted only at established places like international chains, restaurants and hotels. Cash machines are quite easily available in central areas but you won’t find many in slightly dodgy areas or old parts of the towns.

Tip: When travelling always divide and carry cash in 2 or 3 divides. Never keep it all with you especially in one place.

Tips

  • Bring some money with you and haggle with the taxi drivers because the airports are quite far from the cities and drivers try to take advantage of that fact.
  • Bring lots of sunscreen and an umbrella with you.
  • Remember Argentina lies on the Southern Hemisphere so reverse the season if you’re going from season. (Their summer is from November to March but that again changes on the location since the country is huge).
  • Learn some basic Spanish because majority of the population doesn’t speak to understand English.
  • Try to make some local friends even through Grindr. (It is slightly harder here compared to Brazil). Buenos Aires is a lot more fun with local friends.
  • Be very careful with money because pick pocketing is quite common in busy areas.
  • Buenos Aires is massive and public transport is a bit of a shock, take proper comfortable clothes with you as well as sturdy shoes.
  • Don’t forget to go to some local markets. Bargaining and haggling makes it a lot more fun than up market places.


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