Cultural activities abound here. Tango is possibly Argentina’s greatest contribution to the outside world. The steamy dance has been described as ‘making love in the vertical position.’ And what about fútbol (soccer)? Argentines are passionately devoted to this sport and, if you’re a fan, chanting and stomping alongside other stadium fanatics should definitely be in your plans. Add a distinctive Argentine take on literature, cinema, music and arts, and you have a rich, edgy culture – part Latin American and part European – that you can’t help but fall in love with.
ATMs are widely available, though tend to run out of money in tourist destinations. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
Cajeros automáticos (ATMs) are found in nearly every city and town in Argentina and can also be used for cash advances on major credit cards. They’re the best way to get money, and nearly all have instructions in English. Limits on withdrawal can be very low – sometimes as low as US$115, though the withdrawal fee can be relatively high (not including charges by your home bank). You can withdraw several times per day, but beware these charges – which are per transaction. Banelco ATMs tend to allow larger withdrawals.
Not all foreign cards work in ATMs. Bring more than one option and be sure to alert your home bank that you are traveling in Argentina. In Patagonia, places like El Calafate and El Chaltén quickly run out of cash in high season.
At present, US dollars are accepted by many tourist-oriented businesses, but you should always carry some pesos. Don’t be dismayed if you receive dirty and hopelessly tattered banknotes; they’ll be accepted everywhere. Some places refuse torn or marked foreign banknotes, however, so make sure you arrive in Argentina with pristine bills. Counterfeiting, of both local and US bills, has become a problem in recent years, and merchants are very careful when accepting large denominations. You should be, too; look for a clear watermark or running thread on the largest bills, and get familiar with the local currency before you arrive in Argentina.
Many (but not all!) tourist services, larger stores, hotels and restaurants – especially in the bigger cities – take credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard, though American Express and a few others are valid in some establishments. Before you leave home, warn your credit-card company that you’ll be using it abroad. Some businesses add a recargo (surcharge) of 5% to 10% toward credit-card purchases. Also, the actual amount you’ll eventually pay depends upon the official exchange rate not at the time of sale but when the purchase is posted to an overseas account, sometimes weeks later. If you use a credit card to pay restaurant bills, be aware that tips can’t usually be added to the bill. Many lower-end hotels and private tour companies will not accept credit cards. Many places will give you a small discount if you pay in cash rather than use a credit card.
Eating and Drinking
Argentines are artists at the grill. Pasta and gnocchi is invariably fresh, while the best pizzas vie with those of New York and Naples. Pair any of this with some fabulous Argentine wines. Mate, that iconic tea, doubles as a social bond between family and friends. And don’t skip a scoop or two of gelato, preferably with dulce de leche.
When the first Spaniards came to Argentina, they brought cattle. But efforts to establish a colony proved unfruitful, and the herds were abandoned in the pampas. Here the cows found the bovine equivalent of heaven: plenty of lush, fertile grasses on which to feed and few natural predators. After the Europeans recolonized, they bred these cattle with other bovine breeds.
Traditionally, free-range Argentine cows ate nutritious pampas grass and were raised without antibiotics and growth hormones. But this culture is being lost, and today most beef in restaurants comes from feedlots.
Average beef consumption in Argentina is around 59kg per person per year – though in the past, they ate much more.
Italian & Spanish
Thanks to Argentina’s Italian heritage, the national cuisine has been highly influenced by Italian immigrants who entered the country during the late 19th century. Along with an animated set of speaking gestures, they brought their love of pasta, pizza, gelato and more.
Many restaurants make their own pasta – look for pasta casera (handmade pasta). Some of the varieties of pasta you’ll encounter are ravioles, sorrentinos (large, round pasta parcels similar to ravioli), ñoquis (gnocchi) and tallarines (fettuccine). Standard sauces include tuco (tomato sauce), estofado (beef stew, popular with ravioli) and salsa blanca (béchamel). Be aware that occasionally the sauce is not included in the price of the pasta – you choose and pay for it separately.
Pizza is offered at pizzerias, many with stone or brick ovens, though restaurants offer it as well. It’s generally excellent and cheap.
Spanish cooking is less popular than Italian, but forms another bedrock of Argentine food. In Spanish restaurants here you’ll find paella, as well as other typically Spanish seafood preparations. Most of the country’s guisos and pucheros (types of stew) are descendants from Spain.
Although comidas típicas can refer to any of Argentina’s regional dishes, it often refers to food from the Andean Northwest. Food from this region, which has roots in pre-Columbian times, has more in common with the cuisines of Bolivia and Peru than with the Europeanized food of the rest of Argentina. It’s frequently spicy and hard to find elsewhere (most Argentines can’t tolerate anything spicy). Typical dishes can include everything from locro (a hearty corn or mixed-grain stew with meat) and tamales to humitas (sweet tamales) and fried empanadas.
In Patagonia, lamb is as common as beef. Along the coast, seafood is a popular choice and includes fish, oysters and king crab – though seafood is often overcooked. In the Lake District, game meats such as venison, wild boar and trout are popular. In the west, the provinces of Mendoza, San Juan and La Rioja pride themselves on chivito (young goat). River fish, such as the dorado, pacú (a relative of the piranha) and surubí (a type of catfish), are staples in the northeast.
Kioscos (kiosks) are all over town and provide sweets, cookies, ice cream and packaged sandwiches. On the streets, pancho (hot dog) and garrapiñadas (sugar-roasted peanuts) sellers prepare and sell their treats from carts.
Sandwiches de miga (thin, crustless sandwiches, usually with cheese and ham) are popular tea-time snacks. Lomitos (steak sandwiches) are the pinnacle of Argentine sandwiches, while the choripán is a classic barbecue sausage sandwich.
Empanadas – small, stuffed turnovers ubiquitous in Argentina – are prepared differently throughout the country (you’ll find spicy ground-beef empanadas in the Andean Northwest, while in Patagonia lamb is a common filling). They make for a tasty, quick meal and are especially good for bus travel.
Desserts & Sweets
Two of Argentina’s most definitive treats are dulce de leche (a creamy milk caramel) and alfajores (round, cookie-type sandwiches often covered in chocolate). Each region of Argentina has its own version of the alfajor.
Because of Argentina’s Italian heritage, Argentine helado is comparable to the best ice cream anywhere in the world. There are heladerías (ice-cream stores) in every town, where the luscious concoctions will be swirled into a peaked mountain and handed over with a plastic spoon stuck in the side. Don’t miss this special treat.
In restaurants, fruit salad and ice cream are often on the menu, while flan is a baked custard that comes with either cream or dulce de leche topping.
Argentina has a range of eating options. For fine dining, book in advance.
- Parrilla Grills that focus on barbecued meat.
- Panadería Bakery stocking pastries such as facturas and medialunas.
- Confitería Cafe serving light meals, open all day and into the night.
- Tenedor libre Buffet, all-you-can-eat restaurant.
An interesting note: when your server is taking your bill with payment away, saying ‘gracias’ usually implies that the server should keep the change as a tip. If you want change back, don’t say ‘gracias’ – say ‘cambio, por favor’ instead. Note that tips can’t be added to credit-card bills, so carry cash for this purpose. Also note that the cubierto that some restaurants charge is not a tip; it’s a sort of ‘cover charge’ for the use of utensils and bread.
Australian Government Travel Advice
The Australian Government provides up to date information on the safety of travelling to various countries, and all travellers should take note of this advice. Liberty Tours recommends that all travellers take out appropriate Travel Insurance to cover the entire duration of their absence from home.
Follow this link for current official assessment:
Advice on health risks and vaccination recommendations can also be found using the same link.
The weather in Argentina is as diverse as the landscape of the country. From the subtropics in the north to the icy glaciers in the south and the windy plains of Patagonia, Argentina spans a host of climatic zones. The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is situated in centre of the country. It has a temperate climate with a southern hemisphere climate pattern. Summer lasts from December to February, and winter spanning from May to September. The climate in Argentina is diverse and perfect for those wanting a beach holiday or for visitors in search of an Antarctic adventure.
Average temperatures in summer in Argentina can differ quite dramatically depending upon whether you’re in the north or the south of this South American country. Summer temperatures in Buenos Aires range from 15 to 30 degrees Celsius (59 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit). Daylight hours in summer range between thirteen hours per day in October to fourteen hours per day in November, December, January and February. Winter temperatures in Buenos Aires drop to between 7 and 17 degrees Celsius (45 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit) from late May to early September. Average daylight hours in winter range eleven hours in early and late winter, and ten daylight hours each day in mid-winter.
Summer is the rainy season in Argentina. The months from October to April tend to experience a monthly average 100mm (4.0 inches) of rain. The rainy season also experiences moderate humidity levels. Winter in Argentina is also the dry season. Frost is common during June and July, and the southern and central regions sometimes experience snowfall as well. High winds are common throughout Argentina, particular the winter winds which have individual names. The chilly ‘pampero,’ wind blows across Patagonia from the Polar Regions in the south. The ‘pampas’ wind is a northerly wind known to blow away cold fronts. While the ‘zonda’ is a warm and dry wind that blows across the western areas of central Argentina.
What to pack
The first rule is to pack according to area; just travelling to Buenos Aires will require different clothes than a trekking, skiing, or beach holiday. Buenos Aires is quite elegant, so wear smart, fitted clothing. In general, a light coat, thermals, leggings, a warm jersey or two and some long sleeved shirts will suffice for any time of year and for trekking excursions; in addition, sturdy hiking boots, amphibian walking shoes, sandals, sunglasses, sunscreen, sunhats and warm hats, gloves and scarves are also recommended, especially for the countryside.
Beach holidaymakers should take a change of swimwear, light covering and sunglasses, sunhats and sunscreen. Remember to be sensitive to national sensibilities, especially around the Falklands area– no bulldog shirts, English rugby vests or Union Jack bags. Finally, Buenos Aries has one of the most vibrant nightlife scenes in South America, so take smart-casual clothing along for a special night out.