Less Direct Usually Qualifies For The “Business Saver” Rate
Can you believe that I was able to fly business class for the majority of my flights. I don’t like direct flights anywhere because it gives me the opportunity to layover in another county on my bucket list without paying to travel there. Con: longer flights. Pro: sleeping pods.
Always have a backup plan
I arrived at 7:30am and my check-in for Pacheco de Melo 2095 8C wasn’t until 2pm. I got a message from my traveling buddy Kathy that I couldn’t check-in early so I found a hotel down the street called Lion D’or. Their check-in was a bit earlier, 12, and luckily they had a room available for 360 pesos (roughly 28.91 black market rate / $40 official rate).
The Water Goes the Other Way
Go to the oldest coffee shop in the world
I was advised Angel who works at one of my favorite pizza place Mob Town to go to Cafe Tortoni. Established in 1858. Pure history.
Drink a Malbec
Take a walking tour
Not only was the Buenos Aires Free Walking Tour a great tour but it was Free. How can that be? Well, they tell you that it is free and you can give them a donation if you like it. The smartest thing our tour guide did was give us a range of what a tour “like this” would normally cost. But, we can pay as much or as little as we like. There are a lot of activities that I come across and the price often disqualifies me from going. So, not only was it amazing and a wonderful way to get the lay of the land but we paid after out expectations were fulfilled.
Ask where to eat
Many places were recommended to us for steak (which apparently is the thing to eat). After walking for what seemed like days we finally stumbled upon one of our favorite places El Sanjuanino. A huge cut of meat was about $15, and was much better than some of the more tourist places that charge $100 per steak.
The other favorite of the trip was Los Pinos and their steak lunch special was only $9.
Change money on the black market
As I mentioned above, trading in currency is extremely hard. I try and exchange some currency at the outgoing airport (the exchange rate was about 9 PESOS to $1 USD). Because the country is very unstable and we were told that inflation can be around 40% most locals change their money on the black market (12.45 PESOS to $1 USD). Our tour guide gave us a (vague) location and we headed there after lunch. The instructions were to 1) look for a landscape painting, 2) press a button, 3) wait, 4) go in when the buzzer rings. We happened to go right when the police were outside which made the experience extra exciting. We had so much fun that we had to go twice.
Go see tango
Check-in with home
Vibe seems to be one of the easiest ways to communicate with people back home. You can text, call and video chat for free over WIFI. I remember 15 years ago when we had to pay $0.50 a minute and the internet was dial-up. How things have changed…
Hailing a taxi
If a sign says “libre” you are good to go. If it doesn’t say “Radio Taxi” it may not be an official taxi. But, even if it says Radio Taxi we were told to watch the meter to see if it was running extra fast. There are also premiums if you call ahead and have it arrive at your hotel or if you hail it directly from the port. Walking just a few feet saves you about 120 pesos (about $10).
Always lock suitcase
Somewhere in the trip my travel buddy and I both noticed that we lost a few hundred dollars. Safes are confusing, but when you are away from home, you are away from home. Your safety is your priority and I have learned that travel locks go along way for piece of mind.
Hold onto your passport
I lost my passport and later found out that it was returned by our taxi driver. After going through my bag I saw that my wallet was a little light in bills. A new passport would have been much more expensive than what the driver took, but now I know why he didn’t want a tip; he already took one.
Carry a map
Not knowing where you are going is really scary. I tried to remember directions to a market just four blocks away and felt very intimidated. Not only does it get dark in the “winter” season around 5pm and light around 8am, but when you don’t know where you are it just throws you off. We were staying at an apartment, but priority #1 when going to a new area should be grabbing one of those total tourist maps. Google Maps seems to work offline (learned that on day 5) and there are other apps if you add “offline” to the search.
Have the address written down in english as well as Spanish (since I was in Argentina)
No one understood my “Spanish” accent, and just showing the address from my phone went a long way. I use Evernote religiously but sometimes it doesn’t cache a note for offline usage. Taking a screenshot seemed to solve that problem.
“Medio” is not “medium” when ordering a steak. But, when you use Google Translator that is exactly what you get. So, download a phrase book.
My travel buddy Kathy told me that “if you don’t ask the answer is always ‘no.’” Great advice. You never saw two more confused people than the pair of us when we were handed a Spanish menu; and without pictures. But, we finally asked for help and said “do you have one in English.” Each time we had no problems. If we ever did find one that wasn’t translated a waiter who could speak English game over.
Everyone in Argentina seemed to and “ist” (or form of) to the end of everything. For example, “is this the best restaurant for steak?” The answer was of course “yes.” We were also told that the Argentinian people claimed that the avenue that runs down the center of the city is the “biggest.” Another “ist” that was just challenged by one in Brazil. What does this mean about the people? They have great pride in their city.
Act like a tourist (once)
Yes I did the ultimate tourist activity; have a Starbucks.