Travel Tips: Argentina Travel Guide

General Comments

Due to the fact that I spent more than four months in Buenos Aires and that it is in many ways a place unique and separate from Argentina as a whole, this guide will cover the parts of Argentina I visited outside of Buenos Aires (though be sure to check out my Buenos Aires travel tips as well). Basically, my route was from Bolivia to Tilcara, Salta, Cafayate, Tafí del Valle, and Mendoza. From Mendoza I went to Chile and from Chile back into Argentina to Ushuaia. Then I traveled north to El Calafate, El Chaltén, El Bolsón, and Bariloche. From Bariloche I went directly to Buenos Aires. After Buenos Aires I went to Uruguay and Brazil and came back to Puerto Iguazú, then to Posadas before heading into Paraguay.

If you have read old information on the Internet you might think Argentina is a cheap country. With high inflation the past several years that is no longer true. There are still bargains to be found here and there, like the price of wine and it isn’t quite as expensive and some backpackers will have you believe, but I don’t think it really qualifies as a bargain any more. One thing I noticed is that prices were generally better in the NW area than in Buenos Aires and Patagonia was the most expensive.

Be aware that some restaurants cover a table charge (cubierta) and it isn’t always well publicized. Likewise in some cafes, bakeries, etc. there are separate prices for take-away and for dining in.

Coins are hard to come by in Argentina. Well, they were almost non-existent when I was in the northwest region but when I got to Buenos Aires I never had any problem. Apparently most of the coins are trapped in BsAs because they used to be required for the buses. Now there is a card that can be used on some buses and maybe that will make the coin situation better in the future.

If you plan to fly within this large country be sure to verify if the price you see online is the price for everyone or only for locals as there are usually different prices.

The website Plataforma 10 is very useful for finding bus schedules and prices.

When you arrive keep an eye out for a Get South booklet, which offers hostel discounts and suggestions for things to see and do in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.

A lot of people say the ice cream in Argentina is some of the best in the world. And, in many places it is priced accordingly. Outside of Buenos Aires there is a chain of shops called Grido. Their selection of flavors is much more limited and the quality might not be as high, but it is good ice cream at very good prices.

Border and Visa Issues

I can’t think of any specific issues to warn against. I had good experiences crossing borders with Bolivia, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay. I crossed out of Posadas to Paraguay so I don’t know how entering that route is but a fellow traveler told me it was painless as well. One nice thing about entering Argentina is that there are no forms to fill out.

Read my post about getting a visa for Brazil or Paraguay while in Buenos Aires if you need that information.

Tilcará, Humahuaca and Purmamarca

Lodging

I was traveling with another backpacker and we arrived in Tilcara at the height of the high season. We found a small but nice place but I can’t recall the details. We visited Hostel Malka, which appeared to be really nice but it was booked. I just visited Purmamarca and Humahuaca for the day so I have no thoughts on lodging there.

Other

Even though it was high season with a TON of students from Buenos Aires clogging the streets, I quite liked the otherwise tranquil little town of Tilcará. Make sure to visit one of the local clubs to hear some nice live music. And, for a very simple but tasty snack, try one of the handmade thick tortillas with ham and cheese grilled up by some ladies on the street in the late afternoon and early evening. Unfortunately, I didn’t hike the Quebrada at Humahuaca but I heard it is a nice hike. I read that one shouldn’t have such high expectations when visiting the ruins of Pucará but I found them nice and worth the hike from town (instead of taking a taxi). Likewise with the two hour hike to the Garganta del Diablo (a canyon with a nice waterfall). Purmamarca is a nice little town, though I personally liked Tilcará more. A day trip to Purmamarca and the nearby Cerro de los Siete Colores is very manageable.

Photos

Tilcará, Pucará, and Garganta del Diablo
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Purmamarca
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Useful Links

Salta

Lodging

I stayed in the Residencial Balcarce, which was a nice enough place but lacked any kind of traveler vibe (it is a hotel not a hostel). It also lacked WiFi and doesn’t include breakfast. But, for a cheap private room in a good location it might be a good choice.

Other

I liked Salta, especially the many small plazas spread throughout the city, the large park (Parque San Martin), the teleférico and hilltop scenic view from Cerro San Bernardo, etc. By itself Salta might not be special enough to merit its own trip but considering all the nice places relatively close by it becomes a nice place to make a short stay. Lonely Planet says the Museo de Artes Contemporaneo is world-class. I can’t agree with that statement, but it is nice enough and cheap so it’s probably worth a quick visit.

Photos

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Tafí del Valle

Lodging

I found a nice little Posada and shared a two-bed room with a fellow traveler, but again I can’t recall the name. I did visit La Cumbre, which is the main hostel in town and found it to be a nice social place though according to one person I met there the rooms are a bit crowded and there are some problems with mosquitoes in the summer since there is no netting on the beds or windows.

Other

There is some nice hiking around Tafí del Valle and the town itself is quaint.

Photos

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Cafayate

Lodging

Still traveling with a hostel-hater, we found a not-so-nice but cheap little posada. I don’t recommend it and can’t say anything about the other options in town except that many are quite expensive.

Other

Like Tafí del Valle, this is a cute town with some decent hiking but I think the main activity are the two local wineries. You can also try wine flavored ice cream, which supposedly was invented here, though I didn’t like it.

Tucumán

I didn’t stay in Tucumán. Instead, I visited for an afternoon en route from Tafí del Valle to Mendoza (I had to wait for the night bus). I think the town is a perfect one-afternoon destination. I visited the main museum on the square and also the museum of Mercedes Sosa, one of the most famous Argentine folk singers. Both were good. If you also find yourself in the bus station for an extended time you might be happy to know there is free WiFi.

Photos

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Mendoza

Lodging

I stayed at the Hostel “A” (J. Vicente Zapata 389), a few blocks from the bus terminal. There is no sign on the hostel and it isn’t listed in any of the booking sites but the owner usually goes to the bus station to find new customers. That’s how a friend ended up there and, as she was already there when I arrived, I went there also. It is a nice little hostel with good facilities and a friendly, helpful owner. It is very convenient to the bus station but maybe a bit less so to the main part of town or the party area. That didn’t bother me one bit but it is something to consider. If you do stay at Hostel “A”, there is a good and inexpensive restaurant close by, but I can’t recall the name. Ask the owner and he’ll point you in the right direction.

Other

Parque San Martín is huge and very nice. Near this park is a path up to Cerro de la Gloria where there is a large statue and nice view over the city and of the mountains, particularly pleasant at sunset. Plaza Independencia and Plaza España are nice as well.

One of the main attractions of Mendoza are the numerous nearby wineries which you can tour. You can take an organized tour, but I think it is much better to go to Maipu (an easy, cheap bus ride) and rent a bike and tour the wineries yourself. Most of the bike rental places will also offer a map of the wineries and advice on which ones are worth visiting.

“Do yourself a favor and choose your bike company carefully. For example, Mr. Hugo has well maintained bikes, but Bikes and Wines had terrible old clunkers and there is no better way to spoil your day than to battle with an awful bike. There are several excellent wineries on the typical route, including Tempus Alba, Viña El Cérno, Familia Di Tommaso, and Carinae. As an alternative, Bachhus Wines runs bike tours out of Chacras and will rent bikes for about $40, provide a map and call ahead to several vineyards. Please be careful with your belongings on the wine tours, as there have been cases of bags being snatched out of the baskets on bikes recently.” — Wikitravel

Nearby Aconcagua (on the way to Santiago) is America’s highest peak (the highest in the world outside the Himalayas) and an option for serious climbers but you will need to arrange guides and it won’t be cheap.

Photos

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Useful Links

Patagonia

The concept of Patagonia encompasses a lot of territory, in both Argentina and Chile. Below are some general interest posts from around the blogosphere and later I will detail some of the more popular Argentinean Patagonia destinations.

Ushuaia

Lodging

I wanted to stay at Antarctica Hostel as I had received several recommendations and it gets good reviews online but it was booked so I ended up at Amanecer de la Bahía. It is located at the top of a fairly steep hill so best avoided if you’re really out of shape or lazy, but I didn’t mind the location. The facilities were quite good, with a very good kitchen. The only real negative were the less than friendly owners (to be fair, once I had stayed a while they did warm up quite a bit) and the strict rules (check out is 10:00 and you cannot stay in the hostel after this hour, not even using even the common room). A big plus is that it is one of the cheapest options in town. I heard that Yakush was an excellent, though pricey, alternative.

Other

Several people have asked me if Ushuaia is really worth visiting and I have a hard time answering this question. I know a lot of people just want to go to say they have been to the southernmost city in the world and maybe for someone with this attitude the pluses and minuses aren’t as important as the goal of arriving itself. For others, answering the question is more difficult because reaching Ushuaia is not the easiest thing to do (an expensive flight or a long bus ride that requires crossing the Chilean border twice) and this part of Argentina is more expensive than the rest. Tierra del Fuego and other nearby hikes and natural attractions are definitely nice but for someone who has just been trekking in Torres del Paine and El Chaltén (or will be going there) it may not seem quite as impressive. So, I guess I would say that if you have the time and money, definitely visit but if not, don’t lose sleep about what you might have missed. Likewise, if you are really into hiking and nature and have limited time for your trip, it would probably be better to spend more time in other parts of Patagonia than waste the time and effort to make it all the way south to Ushuaia.

A major reason people visit Ushaia was the main reason I went: to take a tour to Antarctica. Look for a later Antarctica guide to read more details about that.

Do keep in mind that the local boat (catamaran) tours are meant to be nice, but are a bit pricey. Likewise, the cost of a bus to Tierra del Fuego, which isn’t physically far away, is pricey (AR$50 each way if I recall correctly) so you might want to consider hitchhiking.

A good day option is to hike the Glacier Martial which will provide a very beautiful view of Ushuaia and the Beagle Chanel.

I didn’t do it, but I heard the Tren del Fin del Mundo is not worth the money at all.

You can take a boat to Puerto Williams but it is really expensive each way (and you’d pretty much have to do a round-trip unless you plan to fly into or out of Puerto Williams). On that side however, Isla Navarino has 150km of incredible trails. My French Torres del Paine hiking partner did it solo and said it was incredible, but very difficult and dangerous in many spots so only experienced solo trekkers should attempt it.

Photos

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El Calafate and Glaciar Perito Moreno

Lodging

I stayed at Che Lagarto (update: this location is no longer listed on the Che Lagarto site and I cannot find anything recent online so perhaps it has gone out of business or changed name). As I mention in the Puerto Iguazú section, this independent chain charges more if you just show up, so book online. Unfortunately, unlike in Puerto Iguazú, if you book online and decide to stay longer you will pay the higher prices for the extra days unless you book online again. Also, unlike Iguazú, this location’s building is really nice and modern. There are also lockers, but unfortunately, they come with their own key and, as you can imagine, a great many of the keys have been lost so those lockers are unusable. The kitchen seemed adequately equipped but small for the size of the hostel. I was here at the end of the season and there was a generally good vibe about the place but I don’t know if it turns into a massive party hostel in high season or not.

Other

You must visit the Perito Moreno glacier with a tour unless you have your own car. I just arranged a tour at Che Lagarto (we got a discount for booking early). One thing to note is that the boat trip is optional (and a separate cost) but the tour stops for that first and everyone pretty much does it so if you don’t want to you’ll have to wait until it finishes or perhaps you can take a shuttle and begin your own hiking along the passageways yourself (just coordinate with your tour guide for when and where to meet). Is the boat worth it? I didn’t really think so. It certainly isn’t bad, but you do get pretty great views just from the trails/passageways so I don’t know that the boat adds that much. If money isn’t tight, definitely do it.

I heard mixed reviews of Laguna Nimez, the wetland sanctuary 15 min walk from town but I didn’t make it there myself.

Photos

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El Chaltén and Fitzroy

Lodging

The lodging options, as in most of Patagonia, tend to be a bit pricey in El Chaltén but I found a hidden spot not listed on the booking sites or in the Lonely Planet (at least, not back then). It is called Hostel Hem Herhu. It’s located all the way at the end of town, close to the entrance to the main Fitzroy and other treks (thus probably a 15 minute walk from the bus station). The owner is a Porteño transplant and very tranquilo. The place is his home as well as a hostel and you share it with the family. It is anything but fancy (though there are some dedicated separate cabins that look quite nice from the outside) but it is comfortable and cheap, and it is (or at least was) one of the only lodging options with WiFi.

Other

Torres del Paine was amazing but so was El Chaltén and perhaps the greatest thing about it is all the main hikes are accessible from the town in FREE day hikes…no buses…no overpriced catamarans…just walk out from the town. If you have your own camping gear you can do more without backtracking (and save some on lodging) but otherwise all the must sees are quite doable in a day. Naturally, Fitzroy is the big draw (and deservedly so), but the other hikes are great as well, so don’t shortchange yourself by only taking a day or two in this magical place. In fact, my general advice is plan to stay a week. There is plenty to see and, since the weather can be cloudy a lot, you can do lesser treks when it is bad weather and once you get a good day you can dedicate it to Fitzroy.

One thing to note is that Lonely Planet says there is no ATM but there is one now in the bus terminal.

Photos

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El Bolson

Lodging

I stayed in the very nice La Camorra Hostel (update: the main website no longer exists and the last reviews on TA are from 2014 so I presume this hostel has closed) which I suppose is a bit out of the main town, but not inconveniently so. The building itself is a beautiful wooden log structure and the facilities, including kitchen, were very good. When I was there the staff was very friendly and helpful. I believe they offer a discount using the Get South booklet.

Other

There are some good local hikes to do, including Cajón del Azul, Hielo Azul, and Cabeza del Indio. Also, don’t miss the local market. I believe it is twice a week in the main plaza and it is a great place to find a good, cheap lunch.

Photos

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Bariloche

Lodging

Bariloche has what I would call a Hostel Row, a section of town where many of the main hostels are bunched together. I didn’t stay near those, but instead stayed at the excellent Bolsa de Deporte (update: the main website is non-functional and the last reviews on TA are from 2014 so I presume this hostel has closed) closer to the main part of town. It is owned by a local woman (who lives upstairs) and it has a homey feel. It also happens to be cheaper than the other options and the kitchen is excellent (and crepes for breakfast). I was there at the end of one high season (late summer/early autumn) and the atmosphere was very relaxed (with several Argentinians staying long-term while searching for a local apartment). I heard in the winter many skiers make it a long-term base. A friend stayed at Marco Polo Inn which offers free dinners and she said the place was nice and the dinners generally were good. Another recommendation (see links below) is Hostel Pudu.

Other

The area surrounding Bariloche is quite beautiful (many call it the Switzerland of South America). Cerro Oto and Campanario are two destinations you can easily reach with local buses and will provide stunning views of the surrounding lakes. Another popular option is renting a bicycle to do a tour around the sites. Many people do an organized tour of the seven lakes as well, but a popular alternative is to find a few other new or existing friends and rent a car together. One warning: if renting a car, do get the insurance (or rent with a credit card that provides automatic insurance coverage) but be warned that typically insurance won’t cover a blown tire and the cost of replacement is quite high. Oh, and with the crappy unpaved roads it isn’t at all uncommon to have a blown tire.

Nearby (relatively) San Martín de los Andes and Villa la Angostura can be visited when you rent a car or you can do your own day (or better overnight) trip by bus.

Photos

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Puerto Iguazu

Lodging

Several people recommended I stay at the Hostel Inn which is located between the town and the entrance to the park. It’s a bit pricey (AR$65 for a dorm bed) but I was told that if you just show up in the bus terminal there is a guy that will offer you a discounted price of AR$40. I don’t know if that is only true during the off-season (probably).

In the end, I was traveling with a new friend and we chose the cheap option, Che Lagarto (update: as with the Che Lagarto in El Calafate, this one also seems to have either closed or changed name).

Other

The town of Puerto Iguazú is fine, though nothing special. But hey, the reason you are here is the Falls. Getting there is easy, just head to the terminal and buy a round-trip bus ticket (AR$20). The park entrance is AR$100. If you want to do the boat option, multiple people warned me not to do the combined jungle adventure and boat ride but rather just do the Nautical Adventure boat excursion into the falls (AR$125). There is also a guided boat ride back from the Garganta del Diablo (AR$50) that I heard was nice but I skipped it. I do recommend hiking the Macuco trail as very few seem to bother and there is a lovely waterfall at the end. In fact, if you go early to the park, that would make a nice first thing to do as it won’t be so hot and you will avoid some of the crowds heading to the Devil’s Throat walkway. I heard a trip (free with admission) to San Martín island is quite nice but unfortunately it was unavailable to due water level when I went. For more advice than this check out the numerous related blog posts listed below.

If you are a long-term traveler or living in Buenos Aires or other parts of South America, you might consider giving yourself a day to go shopping in Ciudad del Este in Paraguay. Why? Because the prices there are the cheapest in South America (no import duties, zona franca). Don’t hold me to this information, but I was told that you only have to pay taxes on electronics (not clothes, for example) and that only if you purchase more than US$350. In fact, my friend bought a GoPro camera for about that amount and they gave him the official receipt and a fake receipt showing a purchase amount of US$110 to show customs officials. To go to Ciudad del Este there are direct buses from the terminal and it takes between and hour and ninety minutes. You do need to stamp out and back in to Argentina but you won’t need to do any immigration formalities in Brazil or Paraguay. Thus, if you are American, Canadian or Australian, no Brazil visa worries. The bus costs AR$10 each way and I was told to go early because the shops in Ciudad del Este close in the afternoon. I couldn’t get a reasonable explanation for why they close early but multiple people confirmed this so keep that in mind.

Photos

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Posadas

I quite like Posadas. Like many of the smaller Argentine cities it is clean, well-constructed and has nice plazas. Posadas in particular has the constanera, which is a lovely pedestrian walkway stretching along the river. Definitely go for a walk or run there.

I did a day trip to the San Ignacio Jesuit ruins which are nice enough but definitely overpriced at AR$50 for admission (plus AR$14 each way from the bus terminal). It’s also a bit far away, taking us about 1.25 hours from the bus terminal (which was another 30-40 minutes from the hostel). Supposedly the nightly light and interactive show is nice but with a 38 degree day I decided not to stick around that long. I think the ruins on the Paraguayan side are probably just as nice and can also be done in a day trip for a bit less money, assuming you have or don’t need a Paraguayan visa (I believe only EU passports don’t require a visa).

Plaza 9 de Julio is a really nice little plaza and, as a bonus, offers free WiFi.

Photos

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Places I Missed

Cordoba is a place about which I got very mixed reviews. Most seemed to agree that the surrounding areas are beautiful but that they can be difficult to enjoy without a car. As for the city, some say it is lovely and others ugly so I don’t know what to think.

Puerto Madryn, Trelew and Punta Tombo are places to see whales and penguins. Unfortunately both had gone by the time I was nearby so I skipped them. A friend said the only hostel in Trelew is not very good so stay in Puerto Madryn instead. That same friend recommended the agency Sol y Nieve for tours.

Rosario is a place I heard only great things about and I regret not getting there, especially as it is relatively close to Buenos Aires.

A friend really wanted to visit the Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) near Perito Moreno (the city not the glacier). I almost went with her but in the end headed straight to El Bolsón. She said it wasn’t as impressive as she had expected and was a bit difficult to reach, at least in the off season so I don’t feel too bad about skipping it.

Other Places to Consider

Here are a few more interesting articles and links about places in Argentina that I didn’t visit.

Other Useful Argentina Travel Related Links

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5 Comments

    1. Well, I would put it a bit more diplomatically and say that your questions gave me the motivation I needed to finally write this 😉

      Also, I just left Puerto Iguazú and Posadas for Paraguay so now I am officially done with Argentina.

        1. Very possible. I think in total I have 12 Argentina stamps in my passport accrued over 6 different border crossings so maybe a few more are in my future…

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