9 Essential Tips for First-timers in Argentina

Iguazu | © dany13 | Flickr
Iguazu | © dany13 | Flickr
Photo of Will Lees
17 February 2018

You have decided to visit the enchanting country of Argentina and you have developed an idea in your head of what it will be like. As you begin planning your route through the world’s 8th largest country, take these tips and useful pieces of info to avoid any possible setbacks or disappointments and to be as prepared as possible when heading down south.

Hills of Jujuy | © MM / Flickr

That’ll cost you!

To prepare a daily budget, you must be able to calculate your savings, and the number of days you expect to be travelling – but you will always underestimate your spending. Be lenient and know that Argentina is not cheap, and your ideal $50 USD (€40) daily budget will not suffice here. Be selective when picking places to go and things to do as Argentina is widely regarded as the most costly South American country.

Tax back

When booking accommodation on some hotel sites that are not geared towards hostels (ie. Booking.com) you will often encounter fine print stating that you are subject to a 21% tax upon check in. This is not a money grab on the hostel’s or hotel’s part, it is implemented by the Argentinian government. However, if you pay via credit card, they are obligated to ‘void’ the tax or ‘refund’ it back to you. Be sure to check before booking if this 21% is stated on the purchase page, and if it is be certain the property allows payment with card!

Buenos Aires Night | © Rodrigo Paredes / Flickr


Getting between cities in Argentina is where most of your pesos will go, so being sure to take the most efficient option is paramount to keeping your bank account with something in it. Be a vigilant planner and make it part of your daily routine to look a week or two ahead on your journey and check Aerolineas Argentinas website. This domestic airline can save you extremely long, even multi-day bus trips, and if you find a good deal, it can cost the same or even less than a bus.


Your main transportation method will of course be bussing, and Argentina is known for astronomical bus prices and no sense to the pricing. Keep your eyes on the Urquiza and Andesmar websites to look for the cheapest prices as it can save you pesos, time, and a long walk to the bus station to buy your ticket. Be certain to print it out prior to arriving at the bus station as they often do not accept you showing them a screenshot on your smartphone.

Graffiti | © Kevin Dooley / Flickr

Prepared in Patagonia

Yes, the lure of the immense wilderness in Patagonia is growing the tourism, transportation routes, and accommodation options in this area, but it cannot keep up with the demand. During high season, do not expect to head to the hot spots like El Chalten, and El Calafate by just simply rocking up to the bus station, as busses book out days in advance due to the hoards of travellers. The same rule goes towards accommodation as if you do not have anything booked, you could be slumming it on the streets or paying dear prices for a hotel.

Glacier | © Douglas Scortegagna / Flickr

Cash is king

Everywhere accepts cash, but not everywhere accepts card. Understand this and you will minimize the headaches in Argentina as their banking, ATM and point of sale systems are decades behind. Even new supermarket chains and globally recognized places like McDonald’s do not have the basic terminals to read chip cards so they will not pass via the swipe method.

Have back up

Another completely separate issue, is getting the cash itself as the ATM systems in Argentina are 2 companies, Link and Banelco, and unfortunately for foreigners, both are extremely unreliable. Not returning your card, charging you but not giving you money, or simply just crashing midway through a transaction, all are regular occurrences, so have multiple bank accounts or payment methods so that you have a backup or at least an option to transfer money in order to withdraw it.

Plaza | © KBL Luccia / Flickr

Spend it all

If you are crossing out of Argentina into a neighbouring country in the near future, and you are doing your final ATM trip before leaving the country, do not take out more money than you need. This is a basic rule of thumb for travelling in general as you can lose some money changing between currencies but the Argentinian peso holds zero value outside of the country and you will get a terrible exchange rate, so spend what you have!


One of the most difficult tasks about learning Spanish in Latin America is getting a handle on the ever changing slang between countries and Argentina is no different. Know that ‘bondi’ means bus, ‘boludo’ refers to a friend or can be an insult, depending on context, ‘vos’ commonly replaces ‘tu’ and ‘usted’ meaning you, and ‘sos’ often replaces ‘eres’ meaning ‘you are’ (ex. Vos sos … tu eres … you are) Learn these nuances wherever you can to make things easier when communicating!

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