Presentation on theme: "Intro I studied in Buenos Aires (BsAs) at the University of Belgrano (UB) from early February through late June of 2011. I used K-State’s study abroad."— Presentation transcript:
Intro I studied in Buenos Aires (BsAs) at the University of Belgrano (UB) from early February through late June of I used K-State’s study abroad resources to find CCIS, my program provider. I stayed in the neighborhood of Belgrano with an Argentine host family. In this presentation I offer some information and tips from my own experience to help other students who have decided to study in BsAs. Garden behind UB
Before You Go Buy your planes tickets ASAP. Prices will likely go up the longer you wait. When choosing flight times, be sure to allow plenty of time for layovers (at least a couple of hours) both on the way there and back. Although it is not entirely necessary, it will make things easier for you if you can obtain some Argentine pesos before you arrive in BsAs. I got some through my bank for a fee, and some international airports may offer dollar-peso exchange. Learn or brush up on some basic Spanish words and phrases. That being said, don’t worry if your Spanish speaking skills are limited before you arrive – you’ll learn fast once you get there!
Before you Go Check your electronics/appliances to see if you need a voltage converter (it is 220V there, and you may have items made for 110V). If needed, look into getting a converter ahead of time. Even if you don’t need a converter, you will need a plug adapter. I recommend waiting to get this until you arrive in BsAs for two reasons: 1) you don’t know if you will have old or new outlets, which have different plugs (the old has two straight round rods and the new has two slanted flat rods), and 2) you can get an adapter very cheap in BsAs (I got one for 6 pesos, or about US$1.50).
Leaving the Airport When you get to the airport in BsAs, look for a booth where you can purchase a ride in a remise – sort of like a taxi but you call or go to a booth to get one rather than hailing it from the street. DO NOT try to hail a cab outside. The cabs outside the airport greatly overcharge (they might charge three times the rate of a remise).
Money When I went (2011), there were about 4 Argentine pesos to a dollar. This value may fluctuate, so it’s important to know the current exchange rate so you can keep track of how much you are spending. The symbol $ is also used for pesos. Most things are priced in pesos. If something is priced in US dollars, it might be marked US$ (vs. AR$), but if you are unsure, just ask.
Money It’s best to have cash on you most of the time. Many places don’t accept credit/debit cards, or charge more to use them. You can get pesos at ATMs. It can be challenging to get smaller bills (20’s, 10’s, 5’s, 2’s) and coins ($1, $0.50, $0.25, $0.10, and $0.05). When you get coins, hold onto them! You’ll want them for the bus (more about transportation later).
Phone and Internet Locutorios are places you pay by amount of time for the use of a telephone or computer with internet. I was able to use an international calling card at a locutorio to call my family and tell them I arrived safely in BsAs. Many cafés have wireless internet, so they are a nice option to go online if you have a laptop.
Cell Phones I recommend buying a cell phone in BsAs to communicate with other people in Argentina (fellow students, host family, emergencies). There are three main cell phone service brands: Claro, Movistar, and Personal. As of early 2011, a basic phone was about AR$200 (about US$50). You pay as you go. You can buy a card with minutes or add them electronically at a cell phone providers’ stores or at some kioscos (kiosks that sell candies, beverages, convenience foods, etc.).
Getting Around the City Walking Subway (subte)* Bus (colectivo)* Train (el tren) Taxi (taxi) or remise *Hint: Normally you pay cash for these (coins only on the buses). However, if you know you’ll use them a lot, you can get a ‘Sube’ card (I think you get them at locutorios) and put money on it and scan it instead of paying cash for each trip. Caution: Sometimes the scanner doesn’t work on the buses, so keep some coins on hand just in case!
Bus (Colectivo) There are more colectivos than there are trains and subway lines, so you can get to more places with them. When you get on the bus, tell the driver either where you are going or how much you are going to pay. For example: if you already know it costs $1.20 to get where you’re going, you can simply say “Uno veinte” (one twenty). Don’t forget your coins! After telling the driver the destination/cost, you pay by inserting coins (one at a time!) into a machine or by scanning your Sube card.
Bus (Colectivo) I highly recommend buying a Guia T shortly after arriving. You can find them at street kiosks that sell magazines and newspapers, and they are pretty cheap (about AR$7 in 2011). This is a guide to where all the buses go. It also includes maps of the whole city, so if you get lost, you can have a map with you that doesn’t make you look as much like a tourist!
Taxi Taxi is the preferred transportation late at night, especially if you are the only one in your group going to your final destination. The subways close before 11:00pm, and buses are a less-safe option after about midnight unless you are with a group the whole time. Be sure to take a radio taxi (one you can call for) either by calling the number of a known radio taxi or by hailing a cab that is clearly marked as a radio taxi with a phone number. Cabs not marked as radio taxis may be scams (may try to rob or swindle passengers).
Language The official language is Spanish, but the dialect is a little different from many other Latin American countries and from what you may have learned in Spanish classes you’ve taken. For instance, ‘ll’ and ‘y’ are pronounced with a “sh” sound in Buenos Aires and some other parts of Argentina and South America. Also, “vos” is used instead of “tú.” You will learn how to conjugate the vos form properly once you are there. No need to try to learn all about the dialect beforehand, but you should at least be aware that some different pronunciation and vocabulary are used.
Theft and Safety Most of the crime in Buenos Aires is theft or petty crime (there aren’t large problems with violent crime). Always watch and hold onto your backpack/purse/bag when on the subway, on buses, or in crowded public areas. Don’t keep a wallet in your back pocket where it can easily be snatched by a pickpocket. Be especially careful in the area near the bus terminal and train stations in Retiro (part of BsAs), as theft in this area is fairly common. Sometimes thieves work in pairs or small groups. One person will distract the victim while another snatches their bag. For instance, someone might squirt something that looks like mustard or bird poop onto the victim’s shirt, then pretend to help wipe it off their shirt. When the victim turns to see what is going on, an accomplice grabs their bag and runs.
Bathrooms I recommend carrying a little bit of toilet paper and hand sanitizer with you, especially if you are traveling or going somewhere you aren’t familiar with. While you’ll almost always find the usual plumbing (flush toilets, sinks), some public restrooms may not be stocked up on supplies (TP, soap, paper towels). Bathrooms in places like bus terminals often have bathroom attendants who keep the bathroom clean and, if there are supplies, stocked. You are generally expected to tip them (coins should be fine). Sometimes you have to tip them to get TP, and they might only give you a very small amount, so this is another reason to carry a little of your own.
Don’t Miss… Here are some cultural experiences that you shouldn’t miss during your time in Buenos Aires…
Yerba Mate Mate is a traditional, tea-like drink (yerba mate refers to the herbs used to make the drink, and people usually just say mate to refer to the drink itself). People drink this in their day-to-day lives in Argentina and in some nearby places, such as Uruguay. It is typically drank out of a specific cup (also called a mate) and through a metal straw (bombilla). The mate cup is traditionally made from a gourd, but can be made from numerous other materials. Don’t leave Argentina without trying mate at least once!
Dulce de Leche You will find this caramel-like spread on/in everything from breakfast pastries to candies to desserts. It is more or less a staple of many people’s diet in Argentina. My host family always had it around, and in the supermarket you would find as much and as many different kinds of dulce de leche as you would find peanut butter in a U.S. grocery store. Definitely try some of this sweet stuff while you’re in Argentina!
Alfajores Alfajores are a common sweet treat in Argentina and in other South American countries such as Uruguay. There are two or three cookie-like layers with filling in the middle (often this filling is dulce de leche). Sometimes they are dipped in chocolate or the sides are rolled in a topping, such as coconut. You will find distinct alfajores in different places you visit. For instance, the alfajor in this picture is from Uruguay. The sides are rolled in chopped nuts – something I saw more often in Uruguay than in Argentina. I recommend stopping by a kiosco from time to time try some of the many varieties of alfajores available!
Meat Argentina is known for its high beef production and consumption. If you aren’t a vegetarian, be sure to try some of the beef and other meats. My recommendation: grab a friend (or a few friends), go to a nearby grill/steakhouse, and order a parrillada. This will allow you to try a variety of the grilled meats that are commonly found in Argentine cuisine: different kinds of sausage, such as morcilla (blood sausage) or chorizo (a very tasty and very common sausage; also delicious in a sandwich, called choripan) and different cuts of beef, including some you may not have tried, like chinchulines (intestines). Note: the portions are large, so if it says it is a parrillada para dos (for two), it will actually feed three or four people.
Helado There is some excellent helado artesanal (artisan ice cream) in Argentina and some good helado in Uruguay as well. I believe it shares some similarities with it’s Italian cousin, gelato. You don’t have to go to the most expensive heladeria (ice cream shop) you can find, but don’t go to the cheapest one either. Often a few extra pesos gets you better quality and extra-delicious ice cream! Tip: It’s standard practice to get at least two kinds of ice cream even in the smallest sized order, so take advantage of this to sample different flavors!
Las Ferias A feria is an outdoor market, generally open only on the weekends. At these markets you will find many artisan-crafted items. They are great places to see the unique artistic styles of Argentine and other South American artists and craftsmen, not to mention to buy some lovely gifts and souvenirs. A couple of my favorite ferias were in Recoleta (open Saturdays and Sundays) right by the famous Cementario de la Recoleta, and in San Telmo (Sundays only). Among other things, you will see hand-crafted leather items – they don’t just use all those cows for beef! Top: The feria in San Telmo. Bottom: A leather belt I bought at the San Telmo feria and a leather purse I bought at the Recoleta feria.
Tango Buenos Aires is the birthplace of tango music and dancing. Whether you watch people dancing tango on the street, like the ones in the San Telmo feria pictured here, or you go to a tango show at a theater, be sure to experience tango while you are in BsAs. If you want to experience it first-hand, you can even take tango lessons!
Getting Around the Country (and nearby countries, too!) Colectivo Buquebus Plane If you have the chance to travel, you can get around a few different ways:
Colectivo These buses (called colectivos or micros in this context) offer comfy seats, entertainment, and food for longer journeys. You can get seats that are semi-cama (literally semi- bed, meaning it reclines part-way; the cheapest option), cama (bed, meaning it’s bigger and reclines more, but usually not 180 degrees; mid-range prices), or sometimes a 3 rd option that reclines all the way and has extra amenities, sometimes called super-cama, cama suite, or tutto letto (the most expensive bus option).
Colectivo You can look up prices online and even buy tickets that way, but it’s probably easier to go buy them at the bus terminal in Retiro. There are a number of different bus companies. My friends and I liked Crucero del Norte (also sometimes called Crucero del Sur). Andesmar was also not bad, but I preferred Crucero del Norte.
Buquebus and Plane Buquebus is a boat that you can take between BsAs and a few different cities in Uruguay (usually Colonia, Montevideo, or Punta del Este). Faster than a colectivo, but a bit more expensive. Taking a plane is only a good option if you are going someplace that would take more than 20-some hours by bus, or if you have loads of extra cash. It’s generally much more expensive than a colectivo for the closer destinations. However, it might be worth it for a farther trip – the prices are more similar for farther destinations. Plus, even if a flight is still more than a colectivo, it’s worth the time you’ll save for a place that’s a 3-day drive, for instance.
Travel Spots Here are some of the places I traveled to while I was abroad, along with the time it took to get there from BsAs by colectivo, and some trip tips…
Gualeguaychú, Argentina Bus ride: ~3 hours This is one of the many elaborate floats at Carnaval.
Gualeguaychú This place draws crowds during the weekends of January and February for Carnaval. While it is not as big as the Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, it is bigger than any other in Argentina and than many others throughout the world. While there are some pretty places near the river to walk around, there is not much else to do other than Carnaval, so I wouldn’t recommend planning a trip here unless you want to see Carnaval.
Bariloche, Argentina Bus ride: ~22 hours This is me going off the beaten path after a few hours of trekking on a mountain road.
Bariloche Before you go… Be prepared for the weather – even if you don’t go during winter, it could still get a bit chilly. Keep up with the news – in June 2011, a volcano in neighboring Chile covered Patagonia (including Bariloche) in volcanic ash, so make sure the place isn’t covered in ash before you go! When you’re there, don’t Miss… A trek in the mountains, if weather and health allow it. A peaceful walk or picnic by the lake. The chocolate (which Bariloche is known for). The helado (I recommend the mascarpone con frambuesas ice cream at Jauja).
Mendoza, Argentina Bus ride: ~14 hours Here is a view of one of the many vineyards in the area.
Mendoza Mendoza is known for being wine country of Argentina, so you don’t want to miss touring the bodegas (wineries). You can take a bus from Mendoza to nearby Maipú, where you will find many of the area’s vineyards and wineries. You will also find a few places that grow olives and make olive oil, and places that make chocolates and liqueurs. You can tour these places on your own (no need to pay for a bodega tour from a travel agency). You could go on foot, but you’ll see more places in less time if you rent a bike (there are bike rental places right by the wineries; I rented from Mr. Hugo). Some places offer electric scooters for rent, but I would not recommend this as there may be stretches of dirt and gravel roads you’ll have to go over.
Uruguay Since Uruguay is not far from BsAs, it is not hard to take a short trip there (e.g., a weekend). However, you can turn it into a longer stay if you like by visiting multiple cities. I recommend only spending a day or two at each destination, no matter the length of the trip. There are a few different popular destinations in Uruguay, including Colonia (which I did not get a chance to visit), Montevideo, and Punta del Este. You can easily travel between these cities by bus. When I traveled to Uruguay, I took a colectivo overnight rather than taking a Buquebus. Since it was overnight, the approximately eight-hour trip went by quickly. This made the colectivo both a convenient and cheaper option.
Montevideo Bus ride: ~8 hours This is a small market my friends and I found on the west side of town.
Montevideo This is the capital city of Uruguay. It feels small compared to Buenos Aires, but it is still a reasonably large city. The city is pretty walkable. Be sure to walk both through town and by the beach to see the sights of both. I would not stay here more than a couple of days, and one day might be enough, especially if you are limited on time or have other areas of Uruguay you want to visit during the same trip.
Punta del Este Bus ride: ~2-2.5 hours from Montevideo Here’s me standing in front of Punta del Este’s famous sculpture of a hand emerging from the sand.
Punta del Este Since it’s right on the water, it’s a good place to get some seafood. My friends and I enjoyed La Fonda del Pesca, which we found out about through a Lonely Planet travel guide. If it was summer, it might be nice to spend a couple of lazy days lounging on the beach. If it is too cold to be beach weather, this destination can easily be a done in a day.
Casapueblo Bus ride: ~15-20 minutes from Punta del Este
Casapueblo Casapueblo is a house-turned-museum. It was designed and built (with the help of friends) by artist Carlos Páez Villaro. It is now a museum which displays some of Villaro’s artwork. There is also a hotel inside Casapueblo. The museum is interesting and the views overlooking the water are beautiful. That being said, there is not much else in the area, so this should just be a side trip from Punta del Este for a couple of hours. Heads up: It is a significant walk between Casapueblo and the place the bus drops you off and picks you up, so don’t be surprised or alarmed if you cannot see Casapueblo when you get off the bus, or when you don’t see any buses as you exit Casapueblo and are ready to leave.
Iguazú Falls Bus ride: ~18 hours (to Puerto Iguazú, Argentina) On a trail at Iguazú National Park, looking out over Iguazú Falls.
Iguazú There is both an Argentina side and a Brazil side of Iguazú Falls. If you want to go to the Brazil side, you will have to plan well in advance because you have to get a visa to enter Brazil. I was perfectly happy just seeing the Argentina side. I’d recommend saving the time and money it would take to get that visa unless there are other places in Brazil you plan to visit. When you go to the park to see the waterfalls, bring your student visa along to get the resident price rather than the general tourist price (AR$40 instead of AR$100!). Travel in the spring or fall. In the summer it gets really hot and humid, but my trip in the fall had pleasant warm weather. You can take a colectivo to the town of Puerto Iguazú, which is very close to the national park with the falls. There are also a few other attractions in the area, such as the Hito Argentino, where you can see three countries at once (Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil), and GüiráOga, a place for rescue and care of animals that are injured or are in danger in the wild. If time allows, stop briefly in San Ignacio to see San Ignacio Miní (ruins from a Jesuit mission) on the way back to BsAs…
San Ignacio Miní Bus ride: ~5 hours from Puerto Iguazú; ~15 hours from BsAs
Other Resources Needless to say, you can find a wealth of information online with some simple Google searches. I used the Lonely Planet travel book on Argentina from 2010 (which includes some info on Uruguay). Some of the prices shown for things like food were outdated, but otherwise it was a great resource, especially when planning trips. Once you are in BsAs, use the knowledge of your host family or other locals you meet as a resource. They can give you recommendations on where to go (or not go), fun things to do, restaurants to try, phone numbers for radio taxis, safety tips, etc. They can also answer questions about the language and the culture of BsAs and Argentina.
Enjoy your study abroad experience in Buenos Aires!