Argentina: On Barbecue, Buses, and Borders Traveling in Argentina

On barbecue

While traveling through Argentina, we met a lot of amazing people and visited fantastic places. There were also some curious and interesting things about Argentina we’d like to share with you:

Due to an apparent shortage in coins and two peso notes, everything can work as a substitute for small amounts of money up to five pesos: teabags, sweets, apricots, apples,…  So it’s perfectly normal to pay with 100 pesos notes in the supermarket and to get back your change plus some teabags with the words, “I don’t have any small change, I’m sorry, I hope some tea is fine for you.” Sure. I love tea.

For reasons unknown, most locks in public bathrooms are either broken or completely missing.

Keys in hotels and hostels are another issue: Most times you spend about five minutes trying to lock or unlock a door because the old-fashioned key doesn’t really fit into the lock.

Afternoon is siesta time: Don’t expect to find a lot of (or any) open businesses between noon and 6 pm, except for supermarkets and panaderías (bakeries). And if you want to eat in a restaurant, you’ll have to wait until 8 pm. I mean, who’s hungry at 6 pm? Way too early.

The asado (barbecue) is omnipresent: In restaurants, parks, campgrounds, along the road, and in backyards; everywhere you can find a grill. And Argentinians really know how to grill a steak. Oh, yes.

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On buses

Argentina is a huge country and it takes a looong time to travel it by bus. There are cheap flights if you can book ahead. However, if you fly you don’t see the landscape and how it changes from region to region.

Generally, Argentinian buses are good and there are some very beautiful routes (between Salta and Cafayate, around Bariloche, the road to El Chaltén, in Tierra del Fuego, just to name a few) where every few minutes you want to tell the bus driver to stop so you can take photos.

Unfortunately for the traveler on a budget, transport is very expensive in Argentina. An hour bus ride (say, 80 km) costs between 5 to 7 USD (around 100 pesos at the time of writing) which doesn’t sound like too much but, as distances are huge, one hour will get you nowhere.

A good way to save some money is by taking overnight buses so you don’t have to pay accommodation. Sleeping in the bus isn’t as awful as it sounds though the first time we tried it we got a replacement bus and the seats could just be reclined a little bit. Only my legs fell asleep, the rest of me was trying to find a comfortable position. In hindsight though, we should’ve taken more overnight buses and saved money (and time) that way.

Renting a car is a good way to get around plus you can stop whenever you want to take pictures. However, it’s another thing that might strain your budget a little too much: 100 USD a day seems to be a bargain, most agencies charge even more. So public transport is still the better option.

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On borders

We crossed the border several times in different places: To Uruguay (by boat), to Chile (San Sebastián and Laurita-Casas Viejas) and to Bolivia (Salvador Mazza/Pocitos to Yacuíba in Bolivia). There have never been any issues but expect long waiting times when crossing by bus.

The Salvador Mazza – Yacuíba pass between Argentina and Bolivia is usually very busy but we arrived at 9 pm (the border is open 24 hours on both sides) and there was almost nobody so we got through in about 5 minutes. From Yacuíba there are buses to destinations all over the country, also late at night. If you want to spend the night in town, there are quite a lot of decent places around the bus terminal.

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A beautiful country

So Argentina is expensive and huge. Yes. But most of all it’s a fantastic and very diverse country that offers something for everybody; from mountains and glaciers to waterfalls in the jungle, from big city life to desert plateaus, from green pampas to red sandstone cliffs… you name it. Argentina is an amazing country and even though we spent quite a lot of time there, we have only seen a fraction of it. Will we return? Most likely, yes.

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