You sure know how to welcome a girl, don’t you Argentina? I arrived late on a Sunday, before the holidays, and arranged for my hostel to have a car waiting. Sometimes, when you are a solo female traveler you have to pay a bit more to ensure your safety. You never want to look back wishing you would have paid those extra few dollars. As such, I needed cash at the airport. I prepared ahead and brought a few cards, a few years traveling, and a few incidents will have you doing the same. I tried the first ATM with my no fee card. Could not perform the transaction. Tried the second card. Same problem. I went to another ATM. Tried the first card. No luck. Tried the second card and finally got cash. I soon realized that getting cash out of ATMs in Argentina (primarily local banks) was almost always a roll of the dice. As I was arriving so late, I booked a cheap hostel in the nicer part of town, Palermo, as I wanted to check out the neighborhood in the morning.
I should have just gotten a hotel. I woke up to around 20 mosquito bites, give or take 5. They were on my face, my back, and my arms. I’m so glad I wore long pants to bed. Needless to say, it wasn’t the warm welcome I had been hoping for. My first stop was the grocery store to purchase sunscreen & bugspray. Now prepared for whatever the country had to throw at me, I moved to the other side of town, San Telmo, which was much more accessible to the tourist areas.
It is an interesting time to be in Argentina. The inflation is apparent. Prices don’t make sense. My first few days was sticker shock. I was also operating at the official rate which is extremely painful (see my separate post on the blu dollar). Difficulties aside, I was able to get out and explore a bit.
My first day I was on my own. There were some free museums due to the holiday so I mainly walked around and visited those. I was able to learn a bit more about Argentina’s history.
That night, I decided to venture out my own as I hadn’t really met many people at the hostel. I went to a little bar close by that had pretty good reviews. The food was less than good but the drinks were great. Cider straight from Patagonia. I spoke to the bartenders a bit but then a group of guys asked me to take their picture. They then invited me to sit with them noticing that I was on my own and from the States (they were also Americans… but I should say from the U.S. as everyone here is technically an American too). Travel definitely brings people together. If I was in the U.S. I’m doubtful this would have ever happened. I spent the rest of the night just talking with them and their bike guide from earlier that day, a semi-permanent expat from England. I say semi because he was there outside his Visa with no intention of leaving. It is crazy to me how brave some people are and how much they are willing to hustle to live the life they want.
The night ended with Indian food (they were Indian Americans from New York, and two of them had actually lived in Michigan for a period of time). I tried Indian food for the first time in Argentina. It is a cool world we live in.
The next day I did another walking tour through La Boca, the disputed birthplace of Tango. It was nice but a bit touristy and if you ventured farther out, the neighborhood was underdeveloped, to say the least. The best part was meeting a French girl who was getting ready for a tour on her own and another guy from Denmark who was also traveling on his own. My favorite part of the trip so far hasn’t been the cities, or the food, but the people I meet and the conversations I get to have. Hearing from locals first hand thoughts on current events is much more satisfying then reading a water downed version in the newspapers.
Buenos Aires has been called the Paris of South America. I do not have much to go off of, as my journey around South America is just beginning. All I can say is, I think my expectations were a bit too high. Or maybe I didn’t spend enough time there. It was also my first time staying in a hostel again since college, so the lifestyle adjustment could be affecting my thoughts as well. I think once Argentina figures out their currency situation, I’ll be more inclined to return.