Buenos Aires (sometimes referred to by expats and frequent travelers simply as “BA”) is one of the most unique cities not only in South America or Latin America but also in the world. It’s big, it’s cultured, it’s got lots to do, it’s easily accessible from anywhere and that’s why it’s one of the top tourist destinations in the world. A Buenos Aires vacation is something that will never be forgotten. In fact one vacation in Buenos Aires probably won’t be enough because there’s that much to say for it.
First of all, it’s easy to get to. Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina. Buenos Aires ‘metro’ area has 3,000,000 souls but when you add in what’s known as ‘Gran’ Buenos Aires the figure jumps up to close to 15,000,000 which ranks Buenos Aires among the 20 largest cities in the world.
It sits on the coast of Argentina, on the Rio de la Plata just across Samborobon Bay from its neighboring and much smaller capital city of Montevideo, Uraguay.
Buenos Aires is the capital of a society that has long embraced immigrants and cultural influences from other countries. That’s perhaps why it exhibits so much European flavor. The citizens of Buenos Aires call themselves “portenos” meaning ‘people of the port’ and referring to the fact that a substantial percentage of immigrants to Buenos Aires and Argentina in general have come through the ‘port’ from Europe…particularly Spain and Italy.
Its architecture is world famous, as is its sophistication in general, it has the highest concentration of theaters of any country in the world, its fashion industry is well-known and respected world-wide and it’s proud of its dynamic night life.
Buenos Aires also has one of the larger ‘gay’ populations of any city in the world. The locals are very relaxed and liberal about it and in fact an increasing segment of the local entertainment and shopping industry caters to that trade.
Buenos Aires is also famous for its beautiful women, designer fashions, premium quality shopping and the business acumen of the many local, regional and international businesses which base there. Both shoppers and business people will find plenty of interest there.
Travel and Leisure Magazine recently voted Buenos Aires the second most desirable international city to visit…second only to Florence, Italy. And certainly the huge numbers of tourists who enjoy Buenos Aires vacations every year are proof that it’s a world-class city.
The international airport there is known as Ezeiza International Airport and is about 35 km. south of the city. There’s another airport, known as Aeroparque Jorge Newbery located just a short distance from downtown Buenos Aires (similar to Houston Hobby Airport or Dallas Love Field).
The town does have decent public transportation but just as in any large city, if you’re obviously a tourist and especially if you’re a female, you need to ‘know the ropes’ before you try to flag a taxi. There are basically two types of taxis….radio types and non-radio types. The advantage to calling a radio type taxi is that there will be a record of the fare. Other than that, if you’re a male and can speak some Spanish then you’re probably OK flagging one down.
Similar to New York City, different parts of town have their names and activities they’re best known. The three most populous districts of the city are Palermo, Ricoleta and Caballito. You can hear the obvious Italian influence, right?
Buenos Aires has a humid, sub-tropical climate with temperatures averaging from 50 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit depending on the time of year. Remember too that since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere, that the seasons are reversed. This relatively mild climate is also undoubtedly one of the reasons that Portenos dress so stylishly (similarly to New York City or other large cities with mild climates and people who earn the money to dress well).
The level of cultural diversity in Buenos Aires is without comparison anywhere in the world. It’s been called “The Paris of Latin America” and has the highest concentration of theaters of any city in the world. Also, quality bookstores abound throughout the city.
Argentina and Buenos Aires is also the home of Tango….the sensuous dance that was in fact not considered polite in cultured and public society until the late 1800’s. Since then of course it’s even become somewhat of a cult music and skill among those who master it.
The places that teach it are called Acadamicas and the places where it is done are called Milongas. Tango really began to become popular world-wide around 1920 and today many people go the Buenos Aires specifically to study tango.
You’ll find anything you like to eat in Buenos Aires but meat is obviously very plentiful and very well done there. Argentina is a very heavy exporter of beef and also produce so Portenos are very food conscious. Again….here you see some of the Italian influence.
But again…it’s an international city so if you want Sushi you can find it…Chinese…you can find it, Thai…you can find it, Pizza…you can find it, Mexican….you can find it, French…you can find it. You just have to ask someone who knows where to go.
You’ll find all price ranges of food too. Remember…there’s a big ‘working class’ here and many of them are on a budget just like anywhere else. You’ll find the service is a little more casual and slower than you might be used to. Portenos believe in taking life easy in everything they do. It’s not like New York City were waiters assume you’re in a hurry. If you want service for something in particular and right-away….don’t be afraid to get the attention of the waiter and ask for it.
Portenos also love to stay out till the wee hours of the morning partying. They’re not necessarily heavy drinkers (although that might depend on the particular crowd you’re hanging with) but they just like to linger and enjoy good times and sociality. When the clubs do finally start to close around 5 a.m. or so, you’ll find the streets very crowed so don’t expect to be able to catch a cab quickly.
Obviously Buenos Aires has lots to do but the odds are that eating and having a good time are going to be two of the most popular things you’ll want to do. Other than that, you’ll find lots of good shopping.
Clothing can be an excellent buy if you’re in the right area and the right store. And leather-wear and silver are also very well made in Argentina and Buenos Aires. Again, the smartest thing to do is ask a Porteno where they shop.
Buenos Aires isn’t a cheap city but of course you will find ‘deals’ there if you’re at the right place at the right time. But the point is, it’s big….and the odds are that whatever you want is available there somewhere. You just have to find it. That’s why it’s always good to take your people skills with you and get to know some Portenos.