Buenos Aires: You Remind me of a Beautiful Pufferfish

Ah, Buenos Aires. I loathe you and love you. You’re like a beautiful lover who stole my wallet in the middle of the night, but because you’re just so charming and beautiful I barely minded and asked you to stay. You’re a Shakespearean tragedy waiting to happen. You’re a luscious wine with hidden spores. You’re a…ok, I’ll stop. 

When I first arrived in Buenos Aires I was head over heels in love. Seriously. The weather was impeccable. When is weather impeccable? Well, it was that day. The city is teeming with gorgeous parks and aesthetically pleasing architecture. The obelisk in the middle of town is a great sight and is in the middle of the widest avenue in the world. I remember sitting there just enjoying the weather, watching people, and listening to great music. 

It was pure bliss, but don’t worry you schadenfreude lovers, it didn’t last long. You can read about me getting robbed in Buenos Aires here

Before entering the ever-so-beautiful Argentina, you will need:

  • Your passport

  • Reciprocity fee paperwork

  • A dash of snobbery and a slight frown occasionally (love ya BA but you have a few uppity douchebags)

To enter Argentina, you have to pay a "reciprocity fee." I had no idea I had to do this, so thank you Steph Amrite for pointing that out while we were in Brazil. So what the hell is a reciprocity fee? I asked the same question. Here ya go: "U.S. ordinary passport holders visiting Argentina for tourism or business must pay a "reciprocity fee" of US$ 160. This "reciprocity fee" is not a visa. This amount is equivalent to what Argentine citizens must pay when requesting a visa to enter the United States.” http://www.embassyofargentina.us/en/consular-section/reciprocity-fee-for-us-citizens.html

After you buy this result of country-to-country dick-swinging, be sure to print out the form from the website which has a barcode. At the airport in Sao Paulo I had to use a printing shop a few times before I scored the right one (evidently having electronic confirmation doesn’t suffice). It will look something like this, though hopefully with your name on it instead of mine:

From the U.S. Passports and International Travel site: (http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/country/argentina.html)

"A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Argentina. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism or business. Argentine law requires that, prior to arrival in Argentina at any entry point, U.S. citizen tourist and business travelers pay a 160 USD reciprocity fee by credit card online at the Provincia Pagos website. For English instructions, check Online Payment brocuhureOnce paid, travelers must print out the receipt and present it to the Argentine immigration officer at the time of entry. The fee is valid for 10 years from the date of payment and for multiple entries. It is advisable to keep multiple copies of the receipt, as it must be presented every time you enter Argentina. The fee applies only to bearers of tourist passports. Travelers bearing diplomatic or official passports are required to get visas prior to arrival in Argentina but are not charged the reciprocity fee, nor are travelers transiting and not entering Argentina.

Is it Safe? Will Anyone Try and Steal my Belongings, my Soul, or Box of Expensive Protein Bars?

The answer is: maybe! Ya gotta be aware of what’s going on and take preliminary steps to preclude theft from happening. My friend Henry thinks I was a target because I was wearing a Marilyn Monroe shirt. I don’t think so. 

Do a Google search and learn about the latest scams going on in either country. The following Infographic has some good tips: Lifehacker Travel Scam Infographic.

Also, Bankrate put together a handy little travel guide for female solo travelers here: Solo female travel: How to keep you and your finances safe

Will you see anything that will boggle your mind? Yes! Well, probably, unless you just stay in your motel and watch The Simpsons. I’m still boggled by something that happened there. 

I was walking down a sidewalk near the Congreso, when all of a sudden a little girl was walking alongside me. She couldn’t have been more than 4 or 5, but there were no parents around whatsoever. I was freaking out a little bit and asked her “done esta tu mama hija?” She said nothing. 

There were a couple of guys walking next to me so I told them, hey, guys, this little girl is just wandering with no parents. They didn’t really say anything, but with body language, they basically just waved me off.

WTF was going on?

So I kept walking, hoping to find someone who wasn’t a fucking zombie, when I stumbled across a couple who were coming out of a restaurant. When I asked them about it, they were incredibly nonchalant and basically said it was normal after 10 pm. Huh?

“You’ve never heard of the colectivo?” they asked.

No, I had not. Nothing so far in life had prepared me for everybody being cool with solitary children roaming city streets at night. I just didn’t get it, and you know what? I still don’t get it. 

Can someone please explain this shit to me because Google is failing me here. 

Following are some specifics regarding the city:

  • Free Bikes: evidently you can use city bikes for free though I never got around to it. This blog post has some good information: http://www.discoverbuenosaires.com/buenos-aires-tourist-bicycle-rental

  • Good transportation system.

    • The best thing to do is to go and get a Subte card, which you can use on the trains buses.

    • When you hop on a bus just tell the bus driver where you’re headed, he’ll punch something in, and then you swipe your card.

    • You can get Subte cards at convenience stores throughout the city. If you try and take a bus without a Subte card you need to have change. No bills are accepted.

    • The subway gets crowded as fuck

  • This city has some beautiful people and a lot of dogs. Watch out for dog poo on the sidewalks.

  • It has a real cool European feel to it.

  • Recoleta cemetery is awesome.

  • The Biblioteca Nacional is pretty rad if you need a space to just chill and get some work done.

  • If you go to Buenos Aires before one of their national holidays, make sure you pull a shitload of cash out of the ATMS before the holiday starts. Why? Because when the holiday hits suddenly you can’t get cash anywhere, which can be problematic in a place like Buenos Aires where many restaurants don’t take credit cards. On the day after a holiday be prepared to wait in an ATM line to get some cash. Seriously, Square needs to expand down there.

  • When you go to a restaurant ask if they take cards before you eat a whole meal there without cash. Yes, this happened to me.

  • Many people can come across as condescending pricks here, but there are also quite a few really rad people as well (one guy went to great lengths to get the name of a tattoo artist for me). Don't ever let douchebags stop you from going somewhere and having a great time. We all just need to remember that no one is above or beneath anyone else: we're all very fragile finite beings wandering around making up titles for ourselves.

  • Apple maps seems to be just as good if not better in Buenos Aires.

Taking everything into consideration, I'd go back to Buenos Aires in a heartbeat. It's a great place to visit, even if it has some pufferfish poison coursing through its veins.

Pics of Buenos Aires: