I can’t believe it’s already been more than a week (one week and two days to be precise) that I’ve been in Buenos Aires! It’s been amazing, and I am having a huge amount of fun!
Okay, starting from the beginning! 7am flight from Dubai to Buenos Aires, with a 1hour stopover in Rio de Janeiro. The flight was crazy long, and I had a terrible seat, so it was not the most enjoyable flight experience. I don’t think anything can top my flight from Singapore to Portugal back in 2011 – four seats to myself on the A380, so I happily made myself a bed and slept like a baby for a good 8 hours. Ahhh. But I digress. After the terribly long flight, I was finally in Buenos Aires!
Of course, within five minutes of disembarking, I realized that I couldn’t find my phone. Oh the horror. Thankfully, when I went back to the plane and told the air steward, he managed to find my phone. Buenos Aires was off to a good start (: So from the airport, I took the bus Manuel Tienda Leon for 95 pesos (USD16) to an area in the main city centre called Retiro, from where I took another bus to where I was staying. An exciting adventure considering how jet lag, nerves, and being in a foreign country caused all my Spanish to desert me. Incidentally, if anyone is planning a trip to Buenos Aires, I recommend that you only change a small amount (I changed USD50) at the airport, because the exchange rates on the parallel market in the city, while illegal, are 30-40% better.
I took a walk around the city with my new friend Juan Pablo once I’d settled down, and it was quite a pleasant walk with engaging conversation. It was 5am by the time I eventually went to bed that night.
The next day was a public holiday to commemorate the victory of some battle or the other (nobody I spoke to really knew what the holiday was for – apparently, the government is trying to introduce more holidays such that there is at least one holiday a month. Singapore would do well to follow suit, I think). It was also rainy and cold. Definitely not what I was expecting in Buenos Aires in summer. It was averaging 18 degrees the whole day, and I was not prepared. But I wasn’t going to let a little bit of cold stop me, so I put on all of my warm clothing (jeans, tank top, cardigan, spring jacket, light cotton scarf) and headed out. And I’m glad I did, because the city is beautiful.
There’s a reason why people call Buenos Aires the Paris of the south, and I think it really lives up to its name (although I have never been to Paris and don’t know what I’m comparing it to). The architecture is definitely very European, with lots of French, Italian and Spanish influence.
During my wanderings,passed by Casa Rosada, the government house, and it happened to be open because of the holiday! Foreigner’s luck!
I continued wandering around and went into a museum,
Walked past a really big building I think is the Ministry of Defense,
And ended up at Puerto Madero. Interestingly, in Argentina, only natives of Buenos Aires refer to themselves as porteños, because of their close association with the port, despite the fact that there are several other port cities in Argentina.
More walking brought me to Florida Calle, the main tourist street.
Nothing particularly interesting about it, apart from the constant song of the money changers “Cambio cambio. Dolares, Euros, Reales. Cambio cambio.” Dinner that night was steak (obviously), which was really good and meaty, for a ridiculously low price (10USD I think).
Day two in Buenos Aires was when I decided to be productive and go on a walking tour of the city. It was an interesting group, and the guide, Guille, was fun and knowledgeable, so that was an enriching four-ish hours we spent walking and talking and taking pictures while learning more about Buenos Aires and Argentina.
I also found my favorite place in Buenos Aires so far during this tour – the Recoleta Cemetery. Curious, given how freaked out I get by ghosts and the supernatural, but this cemetery is just very peaceful and calming.
I went for Mate (pronounced mah-tay) Club that evening, a Couchsurfing event that brings together English and Spanish speakers for a sort of language exchange. I figured it would be fun, and it was, but I realized that my Spanish was really not up to scratch, so that was when I decided to sign myself up for Spanish lessons.
So, the next day (Wednesday), I set off on my hunt for a Spanish school, and eventually settled on an intensive (20hrs in 5days) course with El Pasaje, starting Monday! After that, I met up with Emilio, who was also kind enough to show me his city and we spent a nice few hours wandering around. I love all these kind porteños!
In the evening, I went for another Couchsurfing event to meet new people and figure out what to do after Buenos Aires. I was talking to Giovanni, an Italian guy I met there and I was appalled to find out that due to the government’s currency controls, it is not possible to get USD in Argentina. I was quite horrified, having breezed through a significant portion of the cash I had brought along with me. He suggested that I make a trip to Montevideo to get the cash I need. I hadn’t initially thought about visiting Montevideo yet, but it seemed like a sensible plan so that’s what I decided to do.
On Thursday morning though, thanks to my friend Sheralyn, I realized I might need a visa to go to Uruguay. The Singapore Ministry of Foreign Affairs website said I didn’t, but the consulate of Uruguay website said I did. I figured I’d explore the city a little more and drop in at the embassy of Uruguay to check. Also picked up an idea for my future career path – professional dog walker!
Anyway, thankfully, I didn’t need a visa (don’t know what I would have done if I did – the processing time is 15days!) so all was well! I managed to get my tickets to Montevideo with Colonia express for the next morning at 830am with a return trip on Saturday.
In between all of that, I took a nice walk down to the Palermo area, and wandered around the parks there, enjoying the sunshine and making friends with geese. Lovely day where everything worked out!
And that is it for my first couple of days in Buenos Aires! Props to you if you actually read everything instead of just scrolling through the pictures. I’ll try not to be so long-winded next time!