I spent 4 days and 3 nights in Buenos Aires. In that time I did 2 free walking tours and I believe this was the best way to not only see the city but understand the city!
Buenos Aires is full of historic and very European buildings and the tour explained exactly why. At the time when the city was founded by Europeans they wanted more Europeans to come over to work on the land so set up immigration offices throughout Europe and a lot of people did do the long ship journey over. The problem was a lot of the people were either escaping their country for criminal convictions or they were fairly working class and this isn’t what the founder had wanted. Instead they decided to spend as much money as they could on buildings and have the city be known for its architecture.
The problem was these people had more money than sense so when looking at the buildings they make no sense, there’s old style European buildings which are right by newer modern buildings of that time, and now even more modern buildings.
The meeting point for one of the tours was at the National congress building and we were told every part of the building even down the nails (and it was a huge and very impressive building) was made in Europe and assembled in Buenos Aires!
Another example of the crazy behaviour is when we were outside Casa Rosa (also known as the pink building and the building madonna sung from in Evita) we noticed there were loads of pigeons and the guide told us that had been imported a long time ago to make the city more like Paris!! Crazy!
The guides were really knowledgable and funny and I learnt so much about the city.
We visited different palaces, the memorial park where Evita is now buried and heard so many stories.
Not only did we learn about the history but also the financial problem, the country’s inflation rate is 40% so basically the prices that I’ve paid while I’ve been here will not be the same this time next year.
In the late 1980s they had a ‘hyper inflation’ and that guide said he could remember being in a shop with his mother and prices were increasing so quickly the clerks couldn’t keep up and by the time you had picked something off the shelf the price would be different when you went to pay for it!
The city also has what’s known as a ‘blue market’, the exchange rate from the bank for US dollars is set at 8.5 to 1 US dollar which is basically a rip off. There’s a part of the city- Florida street where you can take your US dollars and exchange them, sometimes on the street other times they will take you into a near by office and will give you the current exchange rate which is between 13-16. This way of exchanging money is totally safe! The police know it’s happening and get a cut, the only way you could be ripped off is by having the odd dodgy note in the pile they give you but Argentina has 4 types of bills running around at the moment so even for a local its hard to tell real and fake notes. And on that note their biggest note if 100 peso which is the equivalent of £7! (Imagine how many notes you would have to carry to pay for an expensive item in cash!) and the government refuse to print a higher bill. The reason this Blue market exists is because that only way for Argentinians to keep that value of those money is to exchange it into US dollars, as I said with inflation if they save in Peso, this time next year they won’t have that same value, it will be a lot less!
I would definitely recommend doing a walking tour of the city, it’s a huge city with so many national buildings it would be hard to understand it all on your own. I went with ‘Buenos Aires walking tour’ who did a AM & PM tour and at the end you tip what you think you deserve to pay and what you can afford.
A part of the city that wasn’t in the tour because you needed to get a bus to from where I stayed was La Boca! It’s comprised of a few streets with really colourful buildings, some great markets and shops and offers plenty of restaurants and bars with tango happening around you. This is a great place to spend a few hours during the day however at night I read it gets quite dangerous and tourists are advised as soon as it gets dark to leave the area.
I really enjoyed Buenos Aires. I stayed in another of the Che Lagarto hostels which was in a good location and cost $120ARS/£9.20 a night. I used the buses and metro a few times to get around which was really easy to use and navigate and really cheap.
All in all a great city!