Argentina’s capital has long been considered the Paris of South America. The city is filled with stunning European-style architecture, an eclectic night life and a food scene that rivals any major European city. And while there’s not many eye popping attractions, the city’s unique atmosphere is enough to draw millions of visitors. What’s more, with the devaluation of the Argentine Peso, it has been really affordable to visit the city. In this guide, I will show how to visit Buenos Aires on a budget.
If you are interested for the breakdown of what I spent in Buenos Aires and Mendoza, check out my budget breakdown!
Need to Know
Currency: The Argentine Peso (ARS) is what they use in Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina. The exchange rate as of July 2019 to other currencies are as follows:
- $1 USD = 14.18 ARS
- $1 CAD = 10.80 ARS
- €1 EUR = 15.92 ARS
- £1 GBP = 17.75 ARS
How to Get Here
Most travellers from outside the country will be arriving at Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) about 35 km (20 mi) south of Buenos Aires. If you are flying from neighboring countries (Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Paraguay) or domestically, you might arrive at the smaller but more convenient Aeroparque Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP).
From EZE, you can take the regular bus line 8, which will take you to Monserrat, Plaza de Mayo, San Telmo and La Boca. The trip takes 1 hour and leaves every 30 minutes. As this is part of Buenos Aires’ public transportation network, it is necessary to have the SUBE card that you can get at the airport. If you can’t get a SUBE card, there is a more private and comfortable (and of course more expensive) bus service provided by Tienda León which goes to Retiro and Puerto Madero area.
From AEP, there are three lines that go to a number of areas in the city. 37 goes through Palermo, Recoleta, Retiro and Centro. 160 crosses the entire city. 45 goes to Retiro, Centro and San Telmo. You will also need a SUBE card to take these buses. Tienda León also offers bus service to the central station in Retiro.
If you are travelling as a pair or as a group, look into taking Uber. It’s very convenient and might be worth the money as you are splitting the fare.
Like the rest of South America, Argentina has an extensive short and long-distance bus network. Bus travel is the most common way to travel from city to city within the country. Almost all the long distance buses will end up at the Retiro bus station on the northern edge of the city centre. You then can catch an Uber, a local bus or the SUBTE (Metro) to your accommodation.
To book, I suggest using Busbud.com to purchase the bus rides as they are easiest to book and charge minimal to no admin fees. Busbud has partnered with the world’s most popular bus companies meaning that you will find the best bus ticket prices here.
Ferries are the most common way to get into the city if you are coming from Uruguay. There are daily journeys to and from Colonia and Montevideo. There are multiple ferry companies, but generally the cheapest one is Colonia Express . Most ferries will arrive at the Dársena Norte port, right between the city centre and Puerto Madero, and is easily accessible to public transport.
How to Get Around
Metro – The metro in Buenos Aires is called the “Subte”, which is short for Subterraneo (underground). Buenos Aires is the only city in Argentina with a subway system (the Subte). While it looks extensive (pictured below), as a tourist, it doesn’t go to all the popular neighbourhoods such as La Boca or Recoleta. A one-way fare starts at 8.35-9.10 ARS and increases depending on distance.
Bus – This will be your main mode of transport in the city. The buses run frequently 24 hours a day and go everywhere in the city.
To use the metro and the bus, you need a rechargeable SUBE travel card to get around. You can find SUBE cards at tourist centers and kiosks throughout the city, and then you can load them at Subte stations and convenience stores.
Uber– Uber is available in Buenos Aires, and can be quite reasonable if you are travelling as a pair or a group. If you use Uber, please use my referral link so that you would get free rides and/or discounts. I would also earn some free rides and/or discounts and you would be helping supporting this blog!
What to See & Do
The burial site of many Buenos Aires’ elite including the beloved Evita Peron. One of the most breath-taking cemeteries in the world, its tombstones and memorials are quite extravagant, reaching sizes of small houses.
Asado (Argentine BBQ)
Argentine people love to eat! Their social gatherings are commonly around sharing a meal, and the asado is a staple. Popular meats include beef ribs, steak, chorizo (pork sausage) and morcilla (blood sausage). Salads, bread and grilled vegetables are common sides of the meal. Many hostels like the one I stayed at offer an asado dinner, if not asado plates offered at most parrilla restaurants.
Being the birthplace of tango, and you shouldn’t leave Buenos Aires without either watching a performance or trying it out yourself. A “milonga” is a place where people go to dance tango, and there are tons of authentic ones around the city, depending on the day of the week.
- National Museum of Fine Art – This museum is among the best in Latin America showcasing South American artists in addition to the big names like Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, and Picasso.
- Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA) – This modern art museum features pieces by iconic Latino artists including Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. 170 ARS
- Sunday Market in San Telmo – You can get anything from antiques to vintage clothing to handmade craft items to street food.
- El Ateneo Grand Splendid Bookstore – This theater turned bookstore is one of the most beautiful and unique bookstores in the world (pictured below). The old stage is now a cafe where you can get a cup of coffee and read your newly purchased book.
- El Caminito in La Boca – The pedestrian street is believed to be the birthplace of tango. The brightly coloured housed the early immigrant Italian community in Argentina (pictured below).
- Free Walking Tour – Learn more about the city’s history while ares of Recoleta and the city centre with BA Free Tour. I
What to Eat & Drink
Buenos Aires is food heaven, especially if you like meat and wine. No other place can get you better steak and red wine for the price you are paying. There a lot of other cheap eats such as pizzas, empanadas and choripans (more below) all over the city.
Argentina is famous for its beef, and you shouldn’t leave Buenos Aires without trying its steaks in a parrilla, a restaurant specializing in roasted meats. They are found all over the city and can vary in prices. However, you can still get a great piece of meat for just 195 ARS!
Due to its strong Italian influence, Buenos Aires serves some delicious artisanal gelato. The best one in the city has to be Rapa Nui. Make sure you try their dulce de leche flavour. It is so good! You can find this Patagonian gelataria all over the city.
Whether a glass from a restaurant with your meal or a bottle from the supermarket, you should not visit Buenos Aires without getting a hold of their Malbec wine. The French brought Malbec, and is now Argentina’s best known wines. It is very convenient that the country is well known for steaks and red wine.
- Choripan. Chori for short is to Buenos Aires like what hot dogs are to New York. There are stands all over the city selling these chorizo (pork sausage) sandwiches. The best one can be found at Chori in Palermo (pictured below)
- Pizza. Pizza in Buenos Aires has its own style. There is the filling pizza con fainá, a chick pea-flour dough on top of a slice of pizza, and fugazzet, a pizza filled with an insane amount of cheese and onions. I recommend on going to El Mazacote in Monserrat for the best experience.
- Milanesa. Popular in Argentina due to its strong Italian influence, this dish is breaded pounded chicken deep fried topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and ham. The usually come with a side of mashed potatoes or french fries (pictured below).
- Empanadas – What makes the Argentine version different is the ingredients they use inside. Toppings like onion, boiled egg, olives, or raisins are common.
- Alfajores. Argentina’s favourite cookie made from two biscuits, with dulce de leche in the middle, the whole thing dusted in coconut flakes. There are many different variations as some have a crisp cookie texture and others a soft, cake-like consistency. There many are filled with chocolate mousse or frosting and may be dipped in chocolate, or cream. I suggest going to a convenience stores or a supermarket and getting one (or multiple) before you leave!
- Dulce de Leche. There’s a saying in Argentina that you put dulce de leche on everything. That might be an exaggeration, but this caramel like sauce is used to fill cakes and pancakes, spread over toasted bread for breakfast, or served with ice cream.
- Mate. a tea like drink that’s super popular in Argentina, Uruguay, and Southern Brazil. You steep dried leaves of yerba mate in hot water and drink it through a metal straw from a special mate cup. You will see people carrying this everywhere on the street.
Where to Stay
Located in in the trendy neighbourhood of Palermo, this hostel is the highest rated on Hostelworld (over 100 reviews). While the price is higher than most hostels, the hostel is still great value with very modern and clean facilities. Their beds are comfortable and equipped with privacy curtains. The hostel is also a great place to hang out with a rooftop bar as well as a spacious lounge downstairs. From my personal experience this hostel gets booked up.
If you are looking for a lively party hostel, then look no further. It will be super easy meeting other backpackers with the hostel hosting daily excursions, tours, activities and parties. The two locations are a block away from each other and located in central Buenos Aires, steps away from Avenida 9 de Julio and Plaza de Mayo. Reviews are consistently praising their friendly staff and great atmosphere. Like most party hostels, their facilities and cleanliness can be improved.
If looking for a private room, Airbnb has an abundance of rooms available. Private rooms in the trendy Palermo neighbourhood can start at around 765 ARS per night! For those who have not tried Airbnb yet, sign up with my referral link and you will get $45 CAD off your home booking! You will also be supporting this website, win-win!
For those looking for other types of accommodation. I would suggest Booking.com. They are all around the best booking site for any type of accommodation. They have a great cancellation policy, loyalty program, and the widest selection of budget accommodation. Have a look below!
When to Go
Keep in mind that Argentina is in the Southern Hemisphere, so do not expect summer in July. However, extreme heat and cold are rare in Buenos Aires and the city can be enjoyed all year round. Summer can get humid with temperatures around 35°C (95°F), while winter can get drop to 8°C (46°F). The best time to go would be in the fall (March to May), and spring (September to November). This will get you the best weather and outside the high season of December to February.
How to Save Money & Other Tips
- Learn to tango for free – Instead of forking over cash for tango lessons, be bold and head to a Milonga where there will be plenty of locals keen to show you the ropes for free. On Sundays, the San Telmo market has free tango lessons at 8pm. Many of the hostels also offer free tango lessons too!
- Drink the tap water! – The tap water in Buenos Aires is safe to drink. Skip out on buying bottled water and use your own reusable one!
- Exchanging USD to ARS – Withdrawing Argentine Pesos at the ATM is one of the worst in the world. The ATM fees are around 410 ARS across most banks with low withdrawal limits (around 5000 ARS). I suggest exchanging USD to ARS as the exchange rate offered are so much better than the ATM fees you will have to pay!
Where Else to Go
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay:
If you somehow already run out of things to do in Buenos Aires, then consider heading to this UNESCO World Heritage Site which is only one hour from the city by ferry. Meander around the small charming town as you’ll find tons of quaint houses, plazas, and cobblestone roads.