Backpacking Argentina

Looking for important travel information while backpacking around Spanish? Here you will find information on working in Spanish, entry visas, Spanish hostels, and much more.

Table of Contents

Facts About Argentina

Argentina is a country with something of a dual identity, being at once a pivotal part of South American culture, and yet also bearing a close resemblance to Europe. It is also remarkable for its size; at 2,766,890 km, Argentina is second only to Brazil and ranked eighth largest country in the world. Indeed, it is even larger if you give credence to their claims on the Falkland Islands and a significant portion of Antarctica.

The first inhabitants of Argentina settled in the south around 11000BC, but the first major recorded event was the prolonged assault on the northwest region by the Inca Empire in 1480, the success of which fragmented the territory into disparate cultures. European intervention followed soon after, with Amerigo Vespucci sighting the territory on his 1502 voyage and further Spanish exploration climaxing with the establishment of the Buenos Aires Colony in 1580 as part of controlled Peru. The colony prospered in subsequent centuries economically, but the independence movement progressed proportionately. The issue was concluded in 1816 after the campaigns of General San Jose de San Martin in the region and Napoleon’s overthrow of Spain’s Ferdinand VII.

Expanding from Buenos Aires, the modern Argentina , named ‘the Land of Silver’ by Spanish explorers due to the rich region in Potos, developed rapidly courtesy of agriculture and foreign investment. One of the richest countries in the world by the early 20th century, political turmoil thereafter between groups represented by Juan Peron in the 1940s and the conservative military damaged the country immeasurably. These economic problems persisted for the rest of the century and were only assuaged during the 2000s with economic growth and stability. As such, it truly is the perfect time to visit the country.

  • Language – Spanish
  • Population – 39,921,833 (2006 estimate)
  • Currency – Peso (the $ is used)
  • Time zone – GMT -3
  • Phone code – +54

Climate

Argentina is generally a temperate climate, but with two extremes. The north is closer to a tropical climate, whereas the south is polar. This is born out in the record temperatures of 49 degrees in Cordoba in 1920 and -39 degrees in San Juan in 1972. Central Argentina is incredibly erratic but tends to more closely approximate the north.

Average temperature in Buenos Aires
Period Celsius
January-March 23
April-June 15
July-September 13
October-December 20

Things to see and do

Buenos Aires is still referred to as the ‘Paris of the Southern Hemisphere’ and attracts some 5.25 million tourists per year thanks to its thriving culture. The national Tango dance centres in the capital offer a great way to get involved in the lifestyle – head for the ‘Milongas’ to give it a try. If you fancy taking it a bit further, why not go to a studio for lessons, try DNI Tango in the Avenue Corrientes, or check out the shows in Dorrego Square on Sundays. The nightlife doesn’t solely revolve around the Tango though. You can find a number of great nightclubs, Irish pubs and bars across the city and, in particular, the areas of Recoleta, San Telmo and Palermo Viejo.

Buenos Aires is home to an array of fantastic sights as well. Chief among these is the 67 metre tall Obelisk of Buenos Aires, completed in 1936 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city and a true symbol of the capital. Other notable landmarks include the world-famous Teatro Colon, opened in 1908, the Casa Rosada (Pink House), situated in the fantastic Plaza de Mayo and home to the executive branch of the Argentinean government, and the 18th century neo-classical Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral. If that’s not enough, there are plenty of great galleries and museums like the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the Evita Museum and the Museum of Latin American Art of Buenos Aires (Malba).

However, if you want to see the real Argentina, don’t confine yourself to the capital. The country is packed with great cities, each with phenomenal sights and a unique culture. Cordoba, for example, is home to the beautiful Jesuit Block and Estancias, a complex of beautifully preserved 17th and 18th century buildings including the Universidad Nacional which is classified a UNESCO World Heritage site. You’ll also find the imposing 16th century Gothic Cordoba Cathedral and over ten galleries and museums to choose from like the Museo Municipal de Bellas Artes ‘Dr. Genaro Perez’.

Indeed, most of Argentina’s best locations can be found outside of Buenos Aires. Nature lovers will be captivated by the host of national parks, which include the World Heritage classified Iguazu National Park in the Misiones province , including endangered species like the jaguar and home to the incredible Iguazu Falls , and Los Glaciares National Park in Santa Cruz. No less impressive is the Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands), also in Santa Cruz, highlighted by cave paintings some 9000 years old and containing handprints.

Situated on the coast of South America, there are naturally a number of resort towns where you can relax on the sand with the sun for company. The largest of these is Mar del Plata, which attracts tourists en masse every year.

Useful links

Tourist Information Office
Old City Hall
Independencia, 40 Cordoba Tel: +54 351 433 1982

Tourist Information Office
Avenue Santa Fe 883, Ground Floor
Buenos Aires
Tel: +54 800 999 2838 (Tourist assistance line)

Tourist Police Station
Avenue Corrientes 436
Buenos Aires
Tel: +54 800 999 5000

Travel

If you’re coming to Argentina via plane, the main option is Buenos Aires’ Ministro Pistarini International Airport, some 35 kilometres from the city. British Airways operate to and from London-Gatwick.

Once in Argentina, city to city travel is typically achieved by using long distance buses. The Panamerican National Route 9, for example, takes you through Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba. As provincial capitals all have their own airport and operate regular flights on a daily basis, an alternative for those with a bit of spare cash is air travel.

The train network in Argentina is limited but extremely cheap, making it a decent budget option. A great tourist voyage is the ‘Train of the Clouds’ in the northwest province of Salta, which passes a number of smaller towns on its way to the border with Chile and takes you to extreme altitudes.

Accommodation

Buenos Aires is a great city for backpackers and budget travellers due to its array of student hostels, numbering over 50 and including B&B in Constitucion and Gardenhouse Hotel. However, be sure to shop around, particularly in the San Telmo area, where prices are generally just 20-30 pesos a night. For a decent list of student hostels, check out Hostels.com.

If you’d prefer a mid-range hotel though, expect to pay around $30 a night. Prices at the top end are typically $70. That said, with both hotels and hostels, if you look outside of Buenos Aires, you should find even better prices.

Health care issues

Before travelling, jabs for Hepatitis A and B, malaria, rabies, typhoid and yellow fever are recommended. However, many travellers ignore this advice and find their only nemesis is diarrhoea.

The water in Argentina is generally safe for drinking, but be wary outside of Buenos Aires.

The quality of health care is good in Buenos Aires, but varies elsewhere. Unfortunately, the cost of treatment in Argentinean hospitals is very high and cash payment is expected immediately. Recommended for tourists are the British and German hospitals scattered across major cities.

Entry Visas for Argentina

A passport is the only requisite for citizens of the US and EU member nations for stays up to 90 days. This can be extended once for a further 90 days by the Immigration Department.

If you have any questions, get in touch with your local Argentinean embassy. The UK office can be found at the following address:

Argentinean Embassy in the UK
27 Three Kings Yard
London W1Y 1FL
Tel: 0171 318 340
E-mail: fclond@mrecic.gov.ar

Foreigner Work Permits in Argentina

If you are a Spanish speaker, you can easily get work translating or teaching English. Call centres and bar work are also accessible and popular options. The average wage is on the rise and currently stands at around AR $550, with the minimum wage at $450. Nevertheless, it is important to remember that unemployment in Argentina is relatively high and, if you do not speak some Spanish, most avenues will be blocked.

Volunteering opportunities are far easier to come by, whether in the community, education, for the environment or providing medical assistance. Check out the options at Volunteer Abroad and Transitions Abroad for further details of what’s on offer.

How to Say Common Spanish Phrases

Meeting People

English
Spanish
yes
si
no
no
thank you
gracias
You are welcome
De nada
please
por favor
Excuse me
Discúlpeme
hello
hola
goodbye
adiós
Good morning
Buenos dias
Good night
Buenas noches
I do not understand.
No entiendo.
Do you speak…?
Habla usted…?
English
Inglés
Spanish
Español
What is your name?
Como se llama usted?
Nice to meet you
Encantado de conocerle
How are you?
Cómo estás?
Good
bien
bad
mal

Directions

English
Spanish
map
el mapa
left
la izquierda
right
la derecha
Straight on
directo
far
lejos
near
cerca

Methods of Transport

English
Spanish
Where is…?
Dónde está…?
How much is the fare?
Cuanto es lo justo?
Ticket
boleto
A ticket to…, please.
Un boleto para…, por favor.
Where are you going?
Hacia dónde vas?
Where do you live?
Dónde vive usted?
train
el tren
bus
el autobús
underground
el metro
airport
el aeropuerto
Train station
la estación del tren
Bus station
la estación de autobuses
Underground station
la estación del metro
departure
la salida
arrival
la llegada
parking
el estacionamiento

Time

English
Spanish
What time is it?
Qué hora es?
Today
hoy
yesterday
ayer
tomorrow
mañana

Accommodation

English
Spanish
hotel
el hotel
room
el cuarto
reservation
la reservación
Are there any vacancies?
Tiene habitaciones?
No vacancies.
No hay lugares.
Passport
el pasaporte

Places

English
Spanish
Post office
la officina de correo
bank
el banco
Police station
la estación de policía
hospital
el hospital
chemist
la farmacia
shop
la tienda
restaurant
el restaurante
museum
el museo
church
la iglesia
square
la plaza
strret
la calle

Shopping

English
Spanish
How much does this cost?
Cuánto cuesta?
I will buy it
Lo compro
I would like to buy…
Me gustaría comprar…
Do you have…?
Tiene usted…?
open
abierto
closed
cerrado
postcard
la postal
stamps
los timbres
little
poco
lot
mucho
all
todo

Meals

English
Spanish
breakfast
el desayuno
lunch
el almuerzo
dinner
la cena
vegetarian
vegetariano/vegetariana
cheers!
skal!
The bill please
Me trae la cuenta por favor

Drinks

English
Spanish
drink
la bebida
coffee
el café
tea
el té
juice
el jugo
water
el agua
beer
la cerveza
wine
el vino

Food

English
Spanish
meat
la carne
fish
el pescado
vegetable
las verduras
fruit
la fruta
potato
la patata
salad
la ensalada
dessert
el postre

 

Argentina Hostels

Hostels are a cheap form of accomodation, and so they are essential to backpackers and other budget travellers. We have compiled a list of hostels in Argentina to help you plan your journey. If you are looking for a hostel in Argentina, you’ve come to the right place.

Buenos Aires

There you have it, the ultimate Spanish backpacking guide. We hope you have found all the information you need for backpacking around Spanish.

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