passionate football fans. In fact, people in Buenos Aires are passionate about just about everything from politics to pooches (there are nearly 1 million canines living in the city)'.
The city is just a short ferry ride away from multicultural Uruguay, close to some popular beaches and the rolling plains inhabited by gauchos (ranchers).
Because of its European culture and relatively low living costs, thousands of foreigners flock to the city to sample expat life. You'll not struggle to find bars showing college football games, or to find good international restaurants, but if you are interested in living in Buenos Aires, working in Buenos Aires, or just visiting, read on to find out how to get the best out of this Argentine gem.
Note: The purpose of this guide is to give some tips and secrets that you won't find through tourist information offices, or in your Lonely Planet book. I've listed prices in American dollars for ease of comparison.
Get the best for less in Buenos Aires
Rents are reasonable here especially if you are willing to put in the leg work. You can find listings on Craigslist although prices will be higher as porteños know the site is used mostly by foreigners. You can often find better deals on Comparto Depto.
- Pound the pavement. Walking around town is a must if you want to find a bargain.
- Ask everywhere. You can enquire about available apartments in shops, institutes and public buildings. Everyone always knows a cousin or an uncle with a spare room.
- Sacrifice on location. You can save 30-50% on rent if you live a little farther from the centre. You might pay $600-$1000 per month in the popular expat barrios of Recoleta or Palermo. Almagro, Boedo, Caballito and Villa Crespo are a short ride from most important districts of the city and are a good option if your budget is tighter.
- Stay with a local. Staying at an Airbnb or Couch Surfing on arrival can be a great way to meet locals with knowledge about where to rent, or to meet potential roomies.
- Homestay. While most of us crave the privacy of our own apartment, there are many large colonial houses which are let out on a room by room basis. While you may have to share amenities and deal with the owner a little more, these lets offer more flexibility and better value. Many private lets want references and a two year commitment!
Argentina is renowned for its quality beef, but you can easily end up with an plate of sloppy pasta or bland stew if you're not careful. You have to be willing to forgo spacious sterile restaurants and enjoy simple tastes to get the best food here:
- Learn to love pizza. Argentina is behind only Italy and the USA in its consumption of pizza per capita. You won't find thin crusts here, Argentine pizza has a thicker heavier base and a whole lot more mozzarella too. Grabbing a couple of slices and a drink is a popular cheap lunch. Some of the most popular and famous joints are around the Corrientes subway, although the city has over 600 pizzerias!
- Get to know your local chino. Every street has a mini supermarket somewhat inaccurately known as chinos. Many of the stores are actually run by Korean immigrants who keep them open late and running 365 days a year. You'll be visiting your local store a lot as they are often much cheaper than supermarkets, and more convenient.
- Drink mate - Yerba mate is a bitter green tea imbibed by the majority of Argentines and Uruguayans. Whilst its preparation and consumption through a straw from a gourd may look strange, you'll soon be hooked like everyone else. Sharing mate is also an important social habit, so you better start slurping if you don't want to feel left out.
- Bring spices with you. Food in Buenos Aires can be a little bland. Salt is used heavily, but not many other condiments and you certainly won't find any spicy food. It can be hard to find certain spices in the supermarket, so bring your own if you like to cook Asian or world foods.
- Make it yourself. The city is blessed with many great fresh pasta shops, butchers and green grocers. Learning to cook a good steak or make empanadas isn't difficult. They even sell ready made pastry casings in the supermarket, so get cooking.
Buenos Aires has a thriving art and social scene, but unless you can pay big bucks to see the best known artists, you'll have to learn how to find enjoyable local events.
- Look at the calendar. You can find information on the major city events and festivals here. Many of them are free.
- Get sporty - it's a great way to socialise. Buenos Aires Football Amigos (BAFA) run several 5-a-side pick up games (women's and mixed games too). Expats and porteños alike turn up for a kick around and attend the great social events too. You can often find sociable exercise in the Palermo parks like a free ultimate frisbee game and cheap circuit training classes..
- Learn Spanish. If you have the time and funds to study at an institute, it's a great way to attend some cultural events and get to know people VOS is one of the best known and respected schools. If you want to go it alone, you can head down to the popular Spanglish nights, try the fun a free Mundo Lingo, or sign up online to conversation exchange.
- Be a yes man. Going with the flow and being open to new experiences will give you great opportunities and experiences. Sometimes it feels like they all come at once.
- Love the great outdoors. The Palermo parks are a real social hub of the city. Whether you are taking a picnic, having a kick about or strumming a guitar,you'll be surrounded by locals wanting in on the action.
- Buy a bike. In the last five years, Buenos Aires has added a great number of bici sendas or bike lanes. Yes, the traffic is a little crazy, but it's possible to avoid incident if you're alert and willing to take a few cheeky shortcuts. What's more, you'll save money if you travel a lot.
- Take care on public transport. This is true in many places, but many thefts and incidents happen on the subway and on local trains. Watch your valuables and be vigilant.
- Ride share - When travelling out of the city, buses can be expensive. Many major tourist destinations are a long journey so it pays to organise shared trips.
- Don't walk at night. Some areas of the city are safe at night, but it's not recommended to walk unless you know the neighbourhood very well. Taxis are relatively inexpensive, available and safe
- Plan ahead - If you are taking the bus long distances, you can buy a year long multi stop ticket and with South Pass and save money on weekend destinations like Iguazu and Mendoza.
While Argentina produces many fine things, clothes, electronics and plastic goods are not among them. When you're shopping make sure to buy the right kinds of goods in Buenos Aires or you'll be wasting your money.
- Keep the receipt, it will break. If you are looking for cheap and cheerful, Once market is you best bet. However, many cheap goods come from Bolivia and often don't last long so be prepared to return to the store after a few months.
- Pay for the logo. My advice is to buy foreign branded goods even though the prices may seem high. Quality lasts. Falabella is a more reliable department store.
- Bring dollars - Argentines can only buy limited foreign currency and so blue market has developed where porteños pay a higher price for dollars. Any foreigners arriving can get excellent exchange rates for US$ but don't buy too many pesos at once as inflation remains high and dollars are always useful to keep hold of.
- Buy artisan. Another good option is traditional goods like clothes, art and furniture. Anything handmade here is often surprisingly affordable.
- Beware of fake notes - There are large numbers of false $100 peso bills in circulation, some even originating from ATMs! A common trick is for taxi drivers to claim they don't take $100s and quickly switch to a counterfeit bill when they return it to you. Only use high denomination notes in supermarkets and for paying rent. If you do end up with a false note, don't despair, just keep trying and you'll eventually spend it.
How to find a job in Buenos Aires:
- Do a CELTA in the city - One way into a job, can be to study your certificate with International House or other bigger schools. They often need part time teachers and can help with applications.
- Work multiple jobs. Few jobs in the city will offer full time employment. You may have to work for several companies to make ends meet. Take any day time hours, as your evening will soon be filled as it is the most popular class time.
- Advertise - Handing out CVs to language schools is worthwhile, but you can supplement your exposure as an available teacher by handing out cards or fly posting at busy locations (like malls) and online.
- Get private clients. Search for trendy young hangouts to find people interested in one-on-one English classes. Alternatively approach businesses to give company classes.
- Don't overstay your visa. Even with gainful employment, businesses are loathed to apply for work visas due to the cost. You will likely be paid in cash and have to leave the country every 90 days to avoid paying a fine. The most efficient way to do this is with a cheap day trip to Colonia.
If you don't fancy teaching, there are plenty of ways to make extra cash. Some things are always in demand in Argentina. If you have the means and the drive to leverage that, you can make a nice little side business.
- Things to import - Quality Scotch or Bourbon whiskeys, high end cellphones, MP3 players, Apple products, musical instruments, Luxury brands, quality tools, and books in English. The exchange rate is extremely favourable at the moment so bring plenty of dollars to sell too.
- Be a mule - There are several P2P goods delivery services in operation, so you can earn some extra cash by bringing foreign goods to Argentina for a pre agreed fee. .
- Sell to Argentines on Mercado Libre (it's like eBay)
- Sell to expats on Craigslist
- Know the rules. Do your research so you don't get caught out at customs.
Without a work visa, you are limited to cash in hand enterprises. But don't worry there's plenty of ways to earn more pesos and you won't have to apply for hundreds of permits and licences to get going either.
|Work online in Buenos Aires|
Money making Tips:
- Give classes. If you have some other skill, you can always teach exercise, design, music, dance, or even give therapy. If you speak Spanish, just mention what you do, people are always interested and can suggest a price to charge.
- Volunteer - Buenos Aires is well equipped with organisations that offer opportunities to help with construction, social activities, education and language. Many are free to participate with. Never pay to work!
- Start a business - Hundreds of expats have started successful businesses with their knowledge of the foreign market. Tour companies and social facilitators can be an instant hit with cash rich tourists. Exploiting the growing acceptance of world food and drink is another option.
- Be a digital nomad. Your income will be paid dollars and you don't have to be a web design expert to work online. Some ideas are Audio transcription, Affiliate marketing, Gambling loopholes, Writing articles, Surveys, and a host of others from Moneystepper. Be aware the accessing foreign cash through PayPal can be problematic, so you will have to use your foreign account and pay the necessary fees.
- Get creative. Buenos Aires is a very artistic city, so if you are a musician or artisan, you will find a market for your products.
How to be successful in Buenos Aires:
|Be successful in Buenos Aires|
- Don't expect to do everything sat in front of a computer. You will go round in circles searching for non existent information, so just get out there and look for it!
- Don't get frustrated. People are less driven by time or money pressure, so you won't get the service you are used to. Getting angry or upset with people will make people less likely to help you. Your concerns won't be important to local people, so just focus your energies on what you can accomplish.
- Don't trust the post. Trying to send or receive anything other than postcards is a recipe for disaster, so don't expect those online deliveries to make it to you in one piece.
- Don't bother haggling. The worst people can say is no, but vendors aren't concerned about whether they make a sale or not. The price is often non negotiable.
- Don't wait for a response. If somebody tells you that they will get back to you, they won't. They won't email, they won't call, and they won't order that part you needed. If you are waiting on a green light for something, just do it anyway. Remember, it's easier to beg forgiveness than to ask permission.
- Don't ask directions. Very few locals know a lot about the premises on their block, let alone across the city. Get a map, and learn to use it well.
- Do check the time. Lunch times are less busy at tourist attractions, but remember to check the days when they're closed. As people live a late lifestyle here, many restaurants might not open until 8 or 9pm.
- Do know the rules. It's important to do your research about visa requirements, customs, documents and rules like public drinking so that you don't waste time or have to pay fines.
- Do things in person. One trip to go and see your landlord is much quicker than four phone calls and three emails. People here are used to face to face contact.
- Do keep your change. Try to pay with big bills in supermarkets, banks and bigger stores. Market vendors and restaurants never have much change and you'll be waiting 10 minutes while they run off with your $50 peso note trying to break it with the neighbouring businesses.
The Buenos Aires toolkit:
Cost of living
What's it like?