What NOT to do in Buenos Aires

I’ve written ad nauseam on this blog about all of the best things to do in Buenos Aires.

There are countless articles on everything you need to know from where to stay and how to stay safe, itineraries, what to eat, tours…

You’d think I’d be done.

I’m not.

There are always tips here and there that either don’t fit into those posts or, in my opinion, bear repeating.

So instead of what to do, this article is full of the things NOT to do in Buenos Aires.

This catch all list is filled with important pieces of advice that will help you have the best trip.

Don’t go to La Boca after dark.

Things NOT to do in Buenos Aires

While it’s easy to find what to do in a city, here’s a list what NOT to do when in Buenos Aires.

Go to La Boca after dark

Most of Buenos Aires is safe and walkable, even after dark.

However, the popular tourist destination of Caminito in La Boca is not one of them.

Plan your visit there for daylight hours and as sunset approaches, hail a taxi or bus back to the center.

Since La Boca is a bit far-flung from other tourist destinations, I recommend the hop on hop off bus for this.

Buenos Aires is a massive city but this bus will cover a LOT of ground in a short amount of time.

I recommend using it as your transportation to harder to reach areas, hopping on and off in areas like La Boca.

This reduces the need of a taxi in an area you’d otherwise definitely need to arrange transportation to.

Other barrios like Recoleta, Palermo, and even downtown are relatively safe after dark.

Call The US “America”

All of Latin America is America.

All of South America is AMERICA.

And this is the angry comments you’ll get in response if you refer the United States of America as simply “America” in Argentina.

And while we’re at it, don’t say there are 7 continents.

In Argentina, North and South America are taught as one ONE continent, not two.

If you want a f heated conversation with a local, this is an easy ticket to one.

Botch the currency exchange

Money in Argentina is anything but straightforward.

From the one peso equals one dollar years on the 90’s and the utter economic collapse of 2001, the situation has always been tense and confusing for tourists.

At the moment there are two exchange rates (admittedly there are a lot more than two but only two will matter for you).

The official rate is the rate you’ll get when you use your credit cards to pay for things or ATM cards to pull out cash.

The blue dollar is the black market rate or parallel exchange rate caused by the demand of locals to purchase foreign currency despite government limitations on locals from purchasing foreign currency.

As of writing (October 2022), the spread between these rates is 100%. You’re money will go twice as far if you use the blue dollar exchange rate.

It’s always a good idea to also bring physical cash to exchange in case something about your transfer gets blocked or a WU location isn’t open when you need it.

At the moment, Western Union is the best way to do this. Click here to create an account.

Read More: A Complete Guide to Money in Argentina

Bring small bills

To add on to the above point on currency exchange, when bringing physical cash to exchange in Buenos Aires always bring crisp, brand new, unmarked hundred dollar bills.

Most exchange houses will still accept smaller bills but will likely give a slightly less advantageous exchange rate. Some might reject them completely.

People cross the street in San Telmo in front of taxis and buses
In Buenos Aires, style is understated and comfortable

Be flashy

Style in Argentina is overall very laid back and understated, even among the wealthy.

There’s no need to dress flashy, even in the city. You’ll see a lot of simple dresses, jeans, sneakers, and the like.

High heels aren’t common and thanks to rough sidewalks and cobbletone, I don’t recommend it.

Looking for some added height? Wear platforms, just like the locals.

Leave your family heirlooms and diamonds at home.

Wedding bands here are traditionally that, bands. Big diamonds will stick out and there’s simply no need to travel with anything that would break your heart if it were lost or stolen.

That’s a good rule to follow anywhere in the world, not just Argentina.

Rush through meals

In Argentina, meals are meant to be enjoyed.

Take your time and enjoy your meal and the company you are with.

Turnover isn’t a thing and the waitress will not rush you out so she can flip the table.

That means that the bill will not be brought to your table until you ask for it.

In fact, the server likely won’t come back again once they drop the food off so if you want another soda, wine, or the dessert menu you’re going to have to flag them down.

And yes, it does feel like they’re willfully ignoring you and no, it’s not cause you’re foreign.

That’s a special treat for everyone.

Stay Downtown

When it comes to finding accommodation, I know it’s tempting to find the tourist attractions on the map and get a hotel by them. Don’t do that in Buenos Aires.

The bulk of the attractions are in downtown, near Avenida 9 de Julio or on Plaza de Mayo.

And, as to be expected, a lot of hotels and major chains are located here right on 9 de Julio or in the surrounding blocks.

But this area is a bit chaotic and not beautiful, especially after dark. It can also feel unsafe in certain areas and lacks charm, overall.

I only recommend staying here if your time is VERY limited, say 1 or 2 days. And then stay on Avenida de Mayo or in San Telmo, rather than on 9 de Julio.

Instead, I always recommend staying in Palermo or Recoleta (or alternative areas like Colegiales, Villa Crespo, Chacarita, and Belgrano, that are all in the same vicinity as Palermo).

Read More: Where to Stay in Buenos Aires

These neighborhoods have a lot more to offer for restaurants and authenticity. You can take an affordable taxi or the subway downtown and at night and in the morning be closest to your dining and nightlife.

People crowd outside a restaurant on a street corner
Dining outdoors is great, but keep your phone in your bag and your bag in your lap

Be Carefree with your phone

I know in the states you can casually leave your new iPhone on the edge of your table at lunch. I remember in college even leaving my laptop in the library unattended when I’d go outside for a phone call.

In Buenos Aires, don’t.

Safety isn’t a major concern but petty theft is (just like any major city in the world).

Don’t leave your phone on the table at meals. Don’t use it in the streets when it could be easily snatched.

To avoid any troubles, step into a shop’s door to use your phone if you’ll be distracted.

Read More: Is Buenos Aires Safe for Tourists?

Go to a milonga unprepared

I get asked a lot how to see tango authentically, rather than a “touristy” tango show.

The answer is go to a milonga, or tango dance hall.

First, let me say that “touristy” tango shows are spectacular and you should absolutely go to one.

But second, you need to know what you’re walking into when you go to a milonga.

There are strict unspoken codes of behavior in molingas… How to ask someone to dance, how to dress, can you just watch?

I highly recommend going on a milonga tour with a local like this one to avoid inadvertently putting your two left feet in your mouth.

Be on time

People in Buenos Aires are not punctual and they will be shocked if you are.

I say this as a chronically punctual person.

The number of books I’ve read while waiting for friends to show up at the bar would make Rory Gilmore proud.

Don’t be insulted when your business meeting, date, friend, or even teacher show up fashionably late.

It’s just the way it is.

Use the mail

Receiving mail from abroad in Argentina is either next to impossible, exorbitantly expensive, or a major waste of time.

Usually, it’s a combination of the three.

If your package arrives to its destination, you’ll be taxed an insane amount on it. Even the cost of shipping will be included in the value taxed.

You’ll be charged for the storage of your package on the shelf until you pick it up. That includes the number of days it sits there before you’re even blessed with the notification.

Then you’ll waste a day (if you’re lucky, just the one day) in customs in line after line after line to pick it up.

And don’t even get me started on if the package gets held at Ezeiza and you have to pay for a taxi there and back to get it.

Do not ship yourself clothes thinking it will be better than just bringing a heavier suitcase, something I saw guests do when I worked in a hotel in Barcelona. And tell your loved ones to forego the care packages.

It is simply not worth it.

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