THE ULTIMATE BACKPACKING GUIDE TO ARGENTINA
Argentina offers quite possibly the most sensational natural beauty in the world yet is less frequented by backpackers than other countries in South America. Cries of it's too big or too expensive ring loud around many hostels on the continent. But take it from us, skipping Argentina would be a massive mistake. Take in the madness of Buenos Aires, drink your way around the wineries of the north and cap it all off with the adventure of a lifetime to Patagonia. Our guide to backpacking Argentina will inspire you to make the trip and help you along the way.
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SALTA - A charming little city surrounded by mountains. Spanish colonial architecture, churches and museums all add to the charm and there are plenty of wineries to visit.
DRIVE THE SEVEN LAKES - One of the highlights of our trip was renting a car and driving this famed route through mind blowing natural beauty.
BARILOCHE - Home of the Lake District. This enchanting city is a popular base for skiing and exploring the surrounding mountains and national parks.
CAFAYATE - This little known town is found just 90 minutes south of Salta. Surrounding waterfalls, mountains and wineries make this a great place for a little break.
MENDOZA - "Argentina's wine cellar" You could easily spend a week here riding bikes, visiting wineries, hiking, canyoning and water rafting.
CAJUN DEL AZUL - A real hidden gem of pure undisturbed natural beauty. It's a bit of a hike to get there but the crystal clear waters, thick green trees and beautiful mountain backdrop makes it worth while.
BUENOS AIRES - A city which needs no introduction. The capital is as big and as crazy as you'd expect with no shortage of sights and attractions.
TUCUMAN - One of Argentina's largest cities and has a lively urban centre. There is an electric energy here and no shortage of amazing street food.
USHUAIA - "The end of the world". The famed images of Patagonia frequently stem from Ushuaia. A once in a lifetime opportunity.
Yes, it's true. Argentina is a little on the expensive side. But there are a still an abundance of hostels, posadas and hosterias to choose from and there are good deals out there if you shop around. It's quite possible that you will be basing yourself in one place for an extended period of time. Use this to your advantage and negotiate a better rate.
⇓Here is where we stayed and recommend⇓
⇒ Other hostels recommended to us by travellers we met along the way
Salta– Hostel In Salta, Pris amata, Las Rejas
Rosario - Bon Voyage, La Lechuza, Kundera
Buenos Aires – Milhouse, America del sur, Art factory palermo
Mendoza – Hostel mara Mendoza, Hostel alamo, Hostel empedrado, Gorilla hostel
Cajun del azul – Hostel mandala, Elmirador hostel, La casana de adila, La casa del viajero
- Bariloche - 41 below, Moving hostel, Green house hostel
⇒ Posadas and B&Bs offer competitive rates but there is little in the way of atmosphere and social activities.
⇒ Airbnb is becoming increasingly popular in Argentina and has something for all budgets.
⇒ Accommodation costs can amount to a considerable portion of your budget whilst travelling but there are ways to reduce these costs -
- Take the night bus – If your next destination is going to take you 8 or more hours on the bus, then you may want to consider the night bus. You’ll save on a nights accommodation and most buses are pretty comfortable. Just be aware that the air-con will be on the whole time so dress warm and bring a blanket.
- Airbnb – Whilst hostels are fun, sometimes you just need a little peace and quiet. You’ll be surprised at the price of some Airbnb listings, sometimes half the price of a hostel.
- Couchsurf – Couchsurfing is awesome! It’s free but, more importantly, you get to meet like-minded people who know the local area inside out. Couchsurfing is a fantastic way to save money and enrich your travelling experience.
Argentina is so large that getting around can be both time consuming and expensive. On the plus side buses are modern, comfortable and plentiful. The table below shows the journeys we did and the companies we used.
⇒ Top Tips - In big cities there will be a central bus station where you can buy tickets but you may find the bus departs from a different location. If this is the case you will usually be able to buy tickets at the departure point and usually at a lower price. There are a few journeys which can be done by train. These will be cheaper but much slower.
⇒ Local buses and taxis - In most cities you will need a travel card to use buses and costs vary greatly from place to place. Taxis are pretty safe and most run on meters. If they don't, make sure you agree a price upfront.
⇒ Hitchhiking - Argentina is considered one of the more hitchhiker friendly countries in South America but, even still, you should always be careful and exercise common sense when attempting to hitch a ride. We hitched a few rides in Argentina all without incident. If you are thinking of hitchhinking yourself we recommend reading this first - http://hitchwiki.org/en/Argentina
⇒ Car hire - It is easy to get around Argentina by buses but not so cheap. Given the huge amount of natural beauty Argentina offers, the freedom to experience it with a car where you can make as many stops as you like is an amazing way to experience this country and it is only a little more expensive than bus travel. Take a look at our Patagonia Road Trip article for more details.
⇓Here is a summary of our main transport costs in Argentina⇓
AEROLINEAS, LAN, LADE
⇒ In summary, travel in Argentina costs
⇒ Days in country – 32
⇒ Total spend – 38,120 ARS £1,620
⇒ Average daily spend– 1,190 ARS £50.65
⇒ Average Accommodation per night – 553.35 ARS £23.55
⇒ Average transport cost per hour – 93 ARS £3.95
⇒ Biggest expense – 1 week car hire and fuel for 3000 km Patagonia road trip : 11,385 ARS £484.40
**The numbers above are our spend in Argentina for two people!**
Even the pickiest of eaters will be catered for in Argentina. Vegetarians may be referred to a physician but there are plenty of options for veggies and vegans alike. Supermarkets are easy to find and have a decent stock of fruit and veg. All in all there is little that is going to push the boundaries of conventional cuisine but what they do they do well.
⇒ BREAKFAST - Breakfast in Argentina is a pretty simple, no-frills affair. Pretty much every hostel/hotel/guesthouse etc will include breakfast. Always coffee and toast or bread and sometimes eggs if you're lucky. Without fail, every establishment in Argentina will serve jam and dulce de leche which is a sickly sweet goo made by slowly heating sweetened milk until it looks and tastes like caramel.
⇒ LUNCH - As many parts of Argentina take a siesta during the hottest part of the day, most people will have lunch at home. More often than not lunch will consist of their world famous empanadas - pastries filled with a variety of fillings and baked in a clay oven. Our personal favourite is the Pino which is beef, onion, potato, egg and an olive (with the stone still in). Pizza is also quite a popular lunch choice and usually a nice fresh salad
⇒ DINNER - Don't expect to find anywhere serving dinner much before 10 p.m in the hotter central parts of the country. But it is worth the wait. Dinner in Argentina is an all out affair. Famous the world over for it's steak and lamb, you will see large groups of families and friends filling up the streets and restaurants and sharing large meals together. Although they have they're local specialities, Argentina is very westernised when it comes to food so you will find your favourites from all over the world. One of our favourite moments in Argentina was joining a local family for an asado (BBQ) and if you ever get this opportunity grab it with both ends. Just don't be surprised that you're still eating and drinking wine at 4 in the morning.
⇒ DRINKS - Most regions tend to have their own beers and you'll do well to find much other than the local beer in shops (aside from supermarkets.) But lets face it, when you're Argentina you're going to drink wine. There may come a point in the night when a local pulls out a bottle of fernet (a liquor loved in Argentina) and when this happens, it's time to call it a night.
⇒ ICE CREAM - Yes for Argentina we had to give ice cream its own bullet point! It is the best ice cream we have tasted in our life. The flavours are endless and your options in most ice cream shops is to purchase by weight so you can drown yourself in the delicious goodness. If you like dulce de leche, do not leave Argentina without having tried the dulce de leche ice cream. Oh and also for those wine lovers, wine ice cream can be found in most shops in north of the country.
We found Argentina one of the more backpacker friendly countries in terms of safety and ease of travel but here are some general tips that might help you along you the way. Local people are very welcoming and always willing to help if you need any assistance.
⇒ COOK FOR YOURSELF – A lot of hostels will have kitchens available to use. The money you save can get you a few extra beers in the evening.
⇒ CHECK THE PRICE – Always check prices first as some tourist heavy places massively over-inflate prices and some don’t display prices at all. In the case of street sellers, never be afraid to negotiate a little, just try not to be disrespectful with silly offers or aggressive bartering.
⇒ PLAN AHEAD – If you know you’re going to be out and about all day prepare a lunch and take a few snacks. Simple cheese and tomato sandwiches and packs of peanuts and fruit are a good way to watch your expenses and maintain a fairly healthy diet.
⇒ TO TOUR OR NOT TO TOUR? – Think twice before booking a tour as these can often work out poor value for money. Free lunches and transport may make it seem like a bargain but with a little research, you can more often than not see what you want to see at a fraction of the cost. Argentinas endless beautiful landscape makes available for many free impromptu hikes.
⇒ BEER - When you are buying anything in a glass bottle (which will most likely be beer) there is a tax you will need to pay a tax of 5-10 ARS. This is refundable when you return the bottle.
⇒ SAFETY - As always, wherever you are, keep a close eye on your belongings and be weary of any over-friendly individuals offering unsolicited assistance. Keep your wits about you at all times as pickpocketing and scams towards tourists can occur especially in big cities. If you ever feel unsafe make your way to a crowded area or into a shop/restaurant as quick as you can. If in immediate danger, make as much noise and draw as much attention as you can. We have never had a bad experience here but you always need to be aware. Good practice for any country you’re in is to have the phone numbers for the emergency services, tourist police and your nation’s embassy stored in your phone.
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