1. Bring lots of US dollars (or euros or pounds). While the exchange rate right now is around 8.5 pesos for 1 USD or 10 for 1 euro or 12 for 1 British pound, you can get almost double that on the “blue market.” Near large markets or busy intersections you will find men yelling “Cambio cambio cambio!” Exchange with them, but make sure you’re receiving real pesos. You can buy markers to check.
2. Expect things to be a little more expensive than review online. We were shocked at bus prices. And other American/European travellers were surprised with costs of things as well (food, thankfully, is still fairly cheap). It’s inflation, and it’s hurting Argentinos as well as travellers. Prices keep going up, but wages do not.
3. Northwest Argentina (near Bolivia) is the cheapest part of the country. The far south is the most expensive, because it is so remote and the only reason people travel there is for tourism. Plan your budget accordingly.
4. According to others, Iguazu Falls is worth seeing, but the town and hostels surrounding it are not nice places to spend time.
5. Expect border crossings with Chile to take easily 2-3 hours.
6. Drink mate (pronounced maw-tay). It’s the easiest/best way to make friends with the Argentinians. It’s a social drink–no one drinks it by itself. Mate is a type of hot tea, highly caffeinated, usually in a small wooden cup with metal straw. It tends to be pretty bitter, but some people sweeten it with sugar or honey. Everyone takes a cup, then fills it with hot water and passes it to the next person. Everyone drinks it down here.
7. While this can be applied to almost all Latin American countries, expect things to be more “tranquilo.” This means the bus will arrive when it arrives. It means don’t worry about the future. It means we will figure everything out later. It means a high compliment about a person or place. It means everything is really chill and laid back. It means most anything is cool and everyone is open to almost anything. It’s a great attitude most of the time.
8. Many hostels work with volunteers to keep costs down. While we always try to have something set up before we arrive in a new city, the more free-spirited backpackers show up and search for a couple of days. They usually land something.
9. Camping is pretty popular here (and usually free!). In fact, ecotourism is the main draw to Argentina. Camping, hiking, trekking, paragliding, skydiving, ziplining, swimming, and anything to do with the outdoors is available. So if you like the culture of large cities (imagine historical Europe), you might want to stick with Buenos Aires.
10. Tourism in Argentina is more geared toward backpackers, because around 70% of tourists in 2013 were backpackers. If you’re not interested in strapping a backpack and staying in dormitories, there are still plenty of higher-budget options.