Tigre, on the northern edge of BsAs. Photo taken on Christmas Day.
This post originally appeared on my personal blog at danny-flood.com
You wanted it, so here it is. A guide to…
Rockstar Living in Buenos Aires
Having recently returned from Buenos Aires, after living there for over three months there is much advice I could share. This post actually took form in an e-mail to a friend who was moving down to Buenos Aires and who came to me asking for tips. This includes my response, plus a bunch of other details I’ve added in later.
First, some of the Vitals
City: Buenos Aires
Population: 40,091,359 (2010 census)
Currency: Argentine Peso
Exchange rate: $1 US = approx. 4.4387 pesos
Cuisine: Pizza, Ice Cream, Coffee, Steak
Best Neighborhoods: Recoleta, Palermo, Belgrano, San Telmo
Language: Argentine Spanish
42.3% of Argentines also speak English (2006 survey)
Street art near the Plaza de Mayo, in central Buenos Aires.
So, why Buenos Aires?
Numerous blogs have explored this question – indeed, Buenos Aires is among the most blogged about cities in the world. Whatever it is you’re after, there’s a good chance you can find it in this city.
Here’s a few reasons off the top of my head.
First of all, the culture. Argentines are passionate people. The art, music, city scene is unlike anywhere else on earth. Street demonstrations in the capital are common. Every other block in Centro (Downtown Buenos Aires area) has performers dancing street tango, musicians, or immigrants playing Peruvian flutes. If you want to put yourself smack in the middle of it all, walk down Florida or Lavalle streets (but keep a close eye on your wallet). Or, hang around Buenos Aires on a Sunday during an important football match or go to a game and you’ll see: sh*t gets wild.
Street tango dancers near Plaza Dorrego in the San Telmo barrio, a cultural hub of BsAs.
In many places Argentines party all night – parties don’t usually even BEGIN until 2-3 in the morning.
Second, the population is young and perhaps the most attractive I’ve ever seen. 98.4% of the population is European. Created by immigrants of Spain, Italy, and Germany, the resulting genetic mix breeds some fantastic physical specimens.
If you’re young and single, Buenos Aires is the place to be!
Best way to meet people? “Do you speak English?” Not flashy, but simple and it works a surprising amount of the time. Of course, if they say no, be prepared to continue the conversation in Spanish. Also, if you’re out at night and you overhear English being spoken you can join in, and you’re guaranteed to meet a few friends.
My favorite milonga (tango dance hall) on Peru St. in San Telmo.
Looking to live on a budget? Buenos Aires is one of the only places in the world where you can get REALLY GOOD pizza for less than $1 a slice (sometimes, less).
There’s also a FREE bikeshare program (information below), AND the bus and subways systems are subsidized by the government, so you can get from one side of the city to the other for about 1 peso. Buy a “SUBTE” card when you arrive and you can add credits to it at any subway station, which you can use for both subway and bus rides.
Coffee is about twice as expensive as the US, though, so do like I did and take to drinking Yerba Mate (the Argentine national drink) for your caffeine instead. It’s an acquired taste, but it’s an extremely cool drink that really grows on you over time.
Puerto Madero, a recently gentrified and upscale neighborhood near the Rio de la Plata.
To get started early on an awesome Buenos Aires experience, you’ll probably want to save some of the following links:
Spanglish Exchange – Buenos Aires
Spanglish Exchange – Buenos Aires
Spanglish Exchange is a group that hosts networking type events with a unique twist. They invite both Spanish-speaking locals and English-speaking foreigners, and match them up so that they can practice speaking with one another.
A novel concept, and the group is run very well. You can register on their website to attend a single-event, or a monthly pass. They hold multiple events in different neighborhoods each week and for the price of admission you sometimes get free food and/or drinks.
I had the pleasure of meeting and spending some time on a couple occasions with Maya, the founder of Spanglish exchange and she’s very friendly and helpful.
The Buenos Aires Pub Crawl
The Buenos Aires Pub Crawl is wild. I only went to two of their events, but they are two nights that will live in my mind forever. For one fee (around 100 pesos) you get free cover at a bunch of different bars, free drinks, and free food as well. The group meets at one bar, then moves to the next, then the next… all night long. The groups that get together for these crawls are MASSIVE. My friend John, who attended my first BsAs Pub Crawl with me, remarked that “This is the largest pub crawl I’ve ever seen.”
If you’re looking for the ultimate mayhem and wish to find the maximum party experience in Buenos Aires, look no further. The only thing is that these pub crawls start much, much earlier than when the BsAs’ nightlife scene normally picks up – but that’s not necessarily a problem. Bring a couple of Red Bulls, or down a latte or two before coming though.
The Buenos Aires Trip Advisor Forum
This is a great site full of helpful expats and English-speaking residents in Buenos Aires. Whatever information you seek, from best restaurants to saucy milongas, you can probably find it in this database. Or pose your own question and multiple people will respond quickly. Recommended.
An events site sponsored by the city government. Information on festivals, concerts, art shows and other cultural events, many of which are free. You can always find something to do in BsAs, and this site is a good place to start!
What’s up Buenos Aires
What’s up Buenos Aires is a guide to what’s happening and hot in the music and art scenes on a given night, with a very “hipster” slant to it. Great for finding cool “hole-in-the-wall” spots, though I didn’t use it very much.
Buenos Aires Delivery
Topping the list of uber-convenient and uber-cool services available in this wonderful town is the Buenos Aires Delivery. You can go to their website, which is in English or Spanish, and order whatever type of food you’re looking for from one place. The prices are exactly the same as listed in the restaurants. Their support is exceptional – an uncharacteristic trait of Argentine businesses.
The food typically takes around an hour to 90 minutes to arrive and you’ll want to check that the restaurant delivers to your neighborhood. Again, to use this website service is free – just remember to tip the delivery person.
Mejor en Bici
Mejor en Bici is a great bikeshare program, where you can check out bicycles for free from many stations within the city. All you need to do to register is show some proof of residence within the capital. For me, I just presented a copy of my apartment lease and my passport. It’s possible you could even make one up, as I did when creating my itinerary to get a Brazilian visa.
Once you’re registered, you may check out bikes from any station for one hour. You’ll be asked to present your passport and your PIN number. Then, each hour you can “renew” the bicycle (like renewing a library book) at any one of the stations around town. They’ll also give you a helpful map of the city with all of the bike stations listed.
Anyway I think that’s the best way to familiarize yourself with Buenos Aires – atop of a bicycle, which again, are free!
Instagram photo from our 13th-floor loft on Fitz Roy, in Palermo Hollywood.
Where do I stay?
Where to live/stay? My suggestion would be to live in northern Recoleta / Palmero close to the parks. This is closer to the Rio de la Plata river as well. The reason why is that Buenos Aires is so massive with a lot of small one-way streets and I found the air to be quite polluted (even though I come from SoCal) from all of the buses and crowded streets.
Palermo is the biggest barrio and is divided into sub-barrios: Palermo Soho, Palermo Hollywood, Alto Palermo, Palermo Chico, and Palermo Viejo. Each has its own unique character and taste, but all of the neighborhoods are packed with boutiques, fine dining, and buzzing with life. Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood are the “hippest” areas, Alto Palermo is the most convenient, and Palermo Chico is the quietest and most peaceful.
Use Craigslist to find an apartment.
This is another reason why I love Buenos Aires, over some other places, like Brazil. In BsAs, you can find apartment listings in English (unlike aforementioned Brazil, where people advertise rooms for rent by holding “ALUGA” – “RENT” in Portuguese – signs on the street).
When I did my apartment search through Craigslist, I found several AWESOME rooms for rent, including: a loft in a french building in Congreso ($350), a room on Ayacucho St. in Upscale Recoleta ($350), and a charming 2-BR in Alto Palermo ($390, including utilities), among others. Again, prices are for individual rooms, and in USD.
Give yourself a whole day to look at apartments – don’t try to rush in a lot of appointments, especially if you’re new to the city because you’re going to get lost and miss a few of them! Remember, the city is huge!
There are many buses and subway routes, and they will take you for about 25 cents a ride, but you will get lost using them until you know the neighborhoods. One of the first things you’ll want to do is buy a “GUIA-T” which is a guide that lists all of the bus and subway routes, along with maps of all of the neighborhoods within BsAs.
Disco and Coto are the two main supermarkets in the capital, and every neighborhood has multiple panaderias (Spanish for bakeries) and heladerias (ice cream shops) serving up tasty treats that are exquisitely and carefully prepared.
Remember, the nightlife doesn’t really get started until 3AM, so my best advice is to start mastering the power nap. Also airfare can be a bit pricey getting here as it’s so far away – so plan to stay a while. If you have dollars, you can get a quality of life that is all but impossible in the US.
Buenos Aires was the first “big city” that I’ve ever lived in – and it provided me an experience I’ll never forget. I can’t wait to go back.
Hope that you enjoyed this post and found it helpful! Please feel free to leave a comment if you have any thoughts to share.
PS if you want to see any videos I recorded during my time in BsAs, they are here.