Visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina – a basic guide. Safety, trips and your rights as a tourist
A guide for your comfortable stay in Buenos Aires. If the traveler follows the rules and recommendations there should not be any issues and it is always important to exercise common sense.
All in all, Argentina is a very nice place to visit and is one of the most popular global destinations. Obviously, there are some things to bear in mind, but nothing too different compared to other countries one may visit.
Argentina is an attractive place to visit on vacations and there are different countries with different climates and cultures. These characteristics along with the relative low prices compared to other countries in Europe or other regions, make Latin America a very nice destination for holidays.
In this article I am going to talk about things that are important to know before visiting.
Things to have in mind when visiting Argentina
Argentina is one of the safest countries to visit in Latin America, like Chile and Uruguay. It can be a peaceful place to be, but sometimes it gets really busy, depending on the time of the year (high or low season).
Indeed, Buenos Aires is the capital and as every big city, quite populated. It is one of the most common places to visit because of its international airport, historical places and cultural venues.
But, there are other provinces and regions like Palermo (small joke, only a neighborhood), Iguazu Falls, Rosario, Mar del Plata, Cordoba, Patagonia, Tucuman and many others that make Argentina a very interesting place to visit. In fact, Argentina received almost six million visitors; an all-time high for the country in the previous year.
Besides, there is no VISA required for stays of 90 days or less (which makes it easier to travel to Argentina), there is no vaccination needed and you can take up to US$10,000 or equivalent undeclared if you are 16 or older. Argentina law is very friendly towards tourism and immigration.
When in Buenos Aires, you may want to see a soccer match (Boca is the most renowned team), but please consider that pitifully, football is seen as a sort of war. So avoid wearing a t-shirt from another team, or carry a neutral one to avoid any unpleasant situations. In general things are peaceful but coming across a soccer fanatic cannot be discarded…
Main rights as a tourist in Argentina
Visiting a new country means that there are rules that might be different to the visitor’s home country, and the citizen’s rights may change.
In Argentina there are no drastically different rights or laws compared to the United States or Europe, as opposed to Singapore or some Middle Eastern Countries, but let’s examine some of them.
Rights of Taxi Passengers
1. Taxis are regulated in Argentina and they must have a license to work. They have to accept the transportation of passengers with disabilities without any extra charge and they can refuse to transport someone only in case the person is dirty.
2. The driver has to transport a package (0.90 x 0.40 x 0.30 cm max) without charging any extra fee. And the driver can charge an extra for an additional package of less than 1 USD. The driver has to use the most direct route and the car should have a GPS.
3. If the driver seriously violates traffic regulations the client can get out and refuse to pay. The client can demand for a change and the driver should comply but the tariffs are regulated. Call 911.
4. The interior of the vehicle must be well lighted. The car should have a clock, the details of the driver, the license and the tariff inside. It may only charge what is displayed in the clock and the extra bagagge charge. It is a right to pay in Argentine pesos. Make sure to carry some change (please see below).
5. If taking a cab at the Airport, you may take a ticket before taking a taxi, which indicates the final price. Keep one copy for you and give the other to the taxi drive.
Your rights at a restaurant
1. Tip is always optional, 10% tip is suggested. Prices must be always listed on the restaurant menu, and the restaurant may not charge any additional fees. However, there is a controversial item called “Cubiertos or servicio de mesa”. What is this service fee?
2. Service fee is is a charge that some resturants may have in exchange for bread, water, a glass of drinking water and cuttlery or silverware. It may only be paid by adults or youngsters, over 12 years old in the city of Buenos Aires. And it always has to be informed in the menu.
3. Try to avoid placing your backpack or handbags on the back of your chair or on the floor at a restaurant. Keep them in your lap or at sight.
Don’t forget to try the pizza (El Cuartito, for example) and the ice cream. Of course, the meat here is excellent, so don’t miss the ever present parrillas.
Air Travel Rights
1. If the flight has a delay of 4 hours or more, the airline has to pay the hotel, food and transport (from and to the hotel). If a passenger loses a connection they must guarantee that the person will get to the destination.
2. If the luggage is damaged or lost the person has up to 3 days to make the claim and it is recommended to make it before leaving the airport.
3. There is a mandatory compensation for extra delays, overbooking of if the route changes. Make sure to file a claim at the airport, if possible, in writing. You may also check your lugagge before leaving, to verify if everything is in order. After leaving the airport, a stolen item may be difficult to be proven.
Rights as a hotel guest
1. If the hotel breaches the reservation it has to provide a room with the same or better quality than the one that is in the reservation. If the hotel has no rooms available it must pay the night for the client in another hotel.
2. You have the right to pay for the hotel or accommodation in the legal currency, i.e. Argentine pesos, unless the agreement provides otherwise.
3. Hotels and Airbnb apartments must comply with the facilities and services that had been advertise. According to Argentine law, advertisement is binding and part of the agreement once the customers accepts the offer.
4. If hiring services via travel agency, in considration for the commission it must ensure that the passenggers fully enjoys his or her stay and solve any problem that may arise.
5. Hotels are liable for your belongins. So if something is “lost” or stolen inside the hotel it must compensate its market value unless it is a non usual expensive item. For example, if you take a wrist watch worth US$ 4,000 to a three star hotel, it may not be held responsible unless a special insurance is hired beforehand.
Always put all your valuable items and your money at the safety box, either in your room or at the hotel lobby.
Safety and general travel tips when visiting Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is a city where fancier neighborhoods are near to rough spots and you can cross into one of them easily and get lost. It is recommended to stay calm and try not to look lost.
Carry small change
Not all places in Argentina accept debit or credit cards and it is important to be careful when using notes (100 pesos or more) because some people might tell you that it is false (even if it’s not) and try to change it with a false one.
Also, coins are very important because you need them to take a bus and not every place has change.Try to know where you are
Watch your step and basic safety
Wear bags across and over your shoulder if possible, and zip it shut.
Ocasionally there are violent robberies on side streets or at nigt. Be careful when walkin in San Telmo, Recoleta, and La Boca Area. Avoid going out the beaten path. Robberies with motorcycles (“motochorros”) may occur in crowded cities so, again, please don’t make a display of your camera, mobile phone and don’t go out with an expensive watch or jewellery.
Watch your belongins at the bus station, especially Retiro and Mendoza, and when leaving a bag in the overhead compartment.
Urgh! It is very common to find dog poo on the streets and every tourist should be careful when walking around the streets.
Protect your electronics
If you need to check your smartphone, it is recommended to go inside a cafe or shop because you are vulnerable in the street and someone can steal it. Keep in mind that a smartphone is very important for travelling because it can provide maps and communication.
Pickpockets are also common on the streets so it is important to keep things safe and watch backpacks or luggage.
Transportation and driving
By and large, public transportation is very good in Buenos Aires. You may take a train, subway or a bus to almost everywhere and at anytime (subway and trains of limited schedule). Despite of the fact that coaches are not modern and they get a bit overcrowded in rush hours, they provide for an easy solution for local commuting.
It is recommended to get a SUBE which is a card for public transportation and it costs $ 25. Using it avoids the use of coins and makes it easier to move around the city. You may recharge your SUBE card at many kiosks or subway and train stations.
Avoid riding a bicycle outside the bake lanes. Since Argentinians are very aggressive when driving, there is no way to know where they are heading of ir they make a sudden turn, erratic driving is common here.
It is advisable to travel with both the windows up and your doors locked when traveling downtown. There are some smash and grabs so, again, be careful with your camera or mobile phone.
Spraying mustard to the tourist or other distractions may be common. Avoid these situations and run away if anyone pretends to help cleaning the stain.
Tourist police in Buenos Aires and useful information
1. Tourist police
Av. Corrientes 436. Telephone: 011 4346-5748
2. Tourist assistance
Defensoría del tourista
Museo de Bellas Artes “Benito Quinquela Martín”, Av. Pedro de Mendoza 1835 (La Boca).
Telephone: +54 11 4302-7816, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Public hospitals, open 24 hs.
4. Drugstores and pharmacies open 24 hours, list here: 24 hour drugstore – pharmacies in Buenos Aires