After being in transit for a little over 24 hours straight - we finally made it!!
(First photo is us shortly after arriving right before we fell asleep)
So let's talk about some first impressions of Argentina in the first weekend here and how we're doing mentally after picking up our entire lives and leaping into the unknown together.
My very first time flying I was 22 years old. I grew up in a small town and never really traveled anywhere except Canada for a wedding once by that time and only by car. Travel was always what I wanted, but I never knew what it was really like until Spring Break one year when my sister and I decided to risk it all on a vacation package I found via a fax at work. Yep, I said a fax. You can imagine how that turned out, right? Story for another post perhaps, but that's how inexperienced I was at traveling. Aside from the whole trip being super stressful, but also weirdly wonderful, flying became associated with highs-stress for me and it took some intention to rewire my brain to be ok with flying again.
Not long there after I flew to Haiti, then flew to California and took a cruise, you get the idea. Travel started to become a necessity, but a scary, uncertain and stressful necessity.
Ok Alysha, but what does this all have to do with Argentina? I'm giving you all this context so you understand why about one hour after arriving, I completely broke down for several hours.
Culture shock is definitely real and I definitely experienced it at first, but I also had been neglecting a month (or more) worth of emotion around leaving and carefully suppressing it by focusing my energy on planning and carrying out the plan. Well when the plan was complete, it ALL hit me. My friends, family, structure, everything, was all in another country only reachable by a 8-10 hour plane ride. Everything I cling to for support except Hans and Arya felt ripped from me all at once and you know what? We did the damn thing and I'm so so so happy!!
I am missing my friends and family of course (still crying about it occasionally if I'm being honest), but the unwavering support and love from Hans is incredibly stabilizing. Sometimes I get frustrated that I'm taking on more of the planning burden and sometimes he gets frustrated that he has to take on more of the execution tasks (shoutout for basically moving us out himself, what a guy), but in the moments when we need each other, when it counts, we both always step up. That depth of trust is so rare and not something I want to ever take for granted. Love you goober.
We landed in Buenos Aires a little over a week ago now, and it has taken me about that long for it to settle in that we have finally made it to Argentina, I'm pretty terrible at sitting down and putting my thoughts to paper, or in this case to a blog post, but I am lucky to have my amazing partner in life Alysha, who happens to be the complete opposite when it come these things (I am trying to get better). She set the deadline for today. We arrived in Buenos Aires after a two week road trip that while amazing, felt like a total blur. Our backs aching from sitting in way to small economy seats (who the hell ever thought any average American can sit in these should be tried for crimes against humanity), we push surprisingly fast through customs, with a quick pitstop to get Arya registered, grab our luggage, and request an Uber. Our Uber driver eventually finds us on foot in a crowd of 1,000 people coming and going, no idea how he did that. The only help he had was Alysha telling him to look for two lost Americans, one of us (me) wearing a super fashionable neon orange shirt and green pants combo, and some reference to the mega hit song by Luis Fonsi ft. Justin Bieber, Despacito. Anyway our Uber driver herds us back to his car and is amazingly able to fit us and all of our things in a 4 inch fiat. The first few days are spent sleeping and eating and trying to recover from jet lag. We spend far too much time trying to find food that turns out to be sub par, as in I want no PARt in this terrible food. And again with hours of waiting in line to magically double our spending power at Western Union. Finally, as the first week comes to an end we have had a few amazing meals under our belt. We dropped off and picked up our laundry from the cleaners, fresh and folded, as well as scoped out our neighborhood for all the important things like the place down the street that sells gelato for less than $4 a kilo. I also figured out that "Despacito" is not a reference to that song, but Alysha asking people to slow down when talking. This coincidentally also seems to be the way of life here. Slow down. Take your time. Enjoy the now!
Alright overall first impressions time!
In our research about Buenos Aires there were two things that stuck out as huge positives for us:
1. Speaking English is relatively common in the city
2. All the food everywhere and anywhere is good
These are heinous lies don't believe them or at least understand the caveats here.
Yes English is pretty common here, but if you ask an Argentinian "hablas ingles" they will say no just about every single time. We've found they are often just saying they don't speak English well enough to carry a conversation, but if you attempt to bridge the gap so will they. Get your google translate ready, but we also find ourselves using the same phrase over and over again "Lo siento, mi espanol no es bueno" (sorry, my Spanish is not good).
This small effort to show you're trying goes a long way with Argentine folks and more then once we've had a bilingual passerby or shop owner help us translate what we're trying to say. It can be frustrating and exhausting to have no way to simply communicate with folks around you, but Argentine people seem to understand that and offer a lot of grace. Allow yourself to make mistakes, in most cases folks here are very patient for non-native speakers.
The food. As some of you may know Hans mapped out the top 50 restaurants in South America prior to our journey and if you know anything about us as a couple you know we LOVE TO EAT. So when we first got settled and ready to head out for some dinner we stopped by a seemingly popular pizza joint. Sorry to say it looked a thousand times better than it was. The ingredients were clearly of quality, the cheese, olives, etc.., all great but the overall flavor was just kind of basic. We thought oh well bad luck we'll try again tomorrow.
Y'all it kept happening. We went to another restaurant with great reviews, full of people and Alysha was served undercooked rice with canned mushrooms and spam(?) which they called mushroom risotto. We went to a shawarma place with a pita bread we could only describe as a dry corn tortilla and hummus that tasted about a week old.
That being said, we've also had some GREAT food this week. We went to a fancy restaurant in Palermo Hollywood with oysters, octopus, ribeye, etc... and it was phenomenal!! We tried a brunch place and a choripan (chorizo sandwich) place in Palermo Soho that were both fantastic as well and just last night we walked down to the end of our block and grabbed a big tub of ice cream and the dulce de leche flavor is to die for. So essentially just be aware sometimes the food looks and even smells great and it isn't. Stay tuned for a list of must-try restaurants!
So you want to visit us in Buenos Aires
Great! Here's what you should know...
The Argentine Peso has two conversion rates, the official conversion rate currently sitting at about 150 pesos to 1 US dollar and the unofficial blue rate which is about 300 pesos to 1 US dollar right now. Yes, you can literally double your buying power in Argentina. How? Western Union. They use the unofficial blue rate for conversions so we can send each other money and go pick up cash for the week. Before you visit, download Western Union and make an account. You can transfer money instantly so as soon as you get here, make plans to go get that cash! The instability of the Argentine Peso is your friend so don't take out extreme amounts at once, $300 USD or less will last you a week or two even if you're balling and the blue rate conversion is constantly changing in your favor so take small amounts at a time if you can.
We're still trying to figure out what kind of budget we need here to live comfortably, but here is a heads up on some prices we've encountered:
1 light blanket or towel - 4,500 pesos (~$12 USD)
Big fancy dinner for two - 30,000-60,000 pesos (~$100-$200 USD)
1 kilo of ice cream - 1,000 pesos (~$3.5 USD) - a kilo is a lot of ice cream btw 👀
Typical lunch for one - 3,000 pesos each (~$10 USD)
Typical dinner for one - 4,000-6,000 pesos each ($13-20 USD)
1L Bottle of water - 100 pesos or less (33 cents USD)
In summary, goods like clothes and towels are going to be a lot more expensive here as they have crazy high import fees, but food and rent costs are super low.
Tipping is a thing here! it is typical to tip 8-10%, but most food delivery apps will suggest a tip of 300 pesos ($1 USD) or less regardless of your order size. We prefer to be extra generous, but tipping definitely won't cost you an arm and a leg like it might in the states.
An Uber across the city will cost you $3 USD or less in most cases so we use it quite often. There is also ample opportunity to ride buses or the subway (Subte). Needless to say you will always have a way to get around the city. Change your payment method to cash in Uber before you call one.
The typical schedule here for shops is to wake up at about 8am and start washing the sidewalk in front of the store. The store itself may not actually open until 9 or even 11am local time however and will likely close by 4pm. Some shops are open 24 hours like Dia or little corner stores. The larger local chains are Dia and Coto. These are essentially like Walmart and target in the states. Note that Coto is a bit pricier, like target.
Most restaurants will close between 4pm and 7pm. Meal times are usually 8-11am for breakfast, 2-4pm for lunch and 9pm to 12am for dinner, though sometimes much later. We enjoyed a 1am steak dinner this week at one point and we were far from the only ones there.
Getting here For flights as stays we recommend Google flights and Airbnb for your searches, there are some great options on both. Alysha planned our flights in advance by using this process: 1. Check possible paths on Rome2Rio 2. Check these flight paths on Google Flights 3. Track the dates you want to watch (searching at least 6 weeks in advance is advised here) 4. Check for Airbnb stays for your finalized dates (currently $800-$1,000/month is typical in a good area) Some neighborhoods that would be good to stay in are:
Palermo Soho - Heavy expat area with great shops and restaurants Palermo Hollywood - the richer cousin to Soho, perhaps less expats staying there, but still a lot of cultural blending happening here. Very very good food, more expensive. San Telmo - Very popular tourist area, but maybe not a TON of expats. a lot to see and do. We'll be staying closer to this area in a couple of months so we'll do another update then. Balvanera - We haven't been here yet, but have heard it's a gorgeous area with a lot of Peruvian influence. Will update when we know more.
Plugs look like this: - you can find a universal adapter on amazon for less than $15 bucks, we recommend this one. Of course you can also find an adapter at your local Coto or Dia as well, but we haven't been looking out for ones as we brought multiple universal adapters with us.
Sin TACC is something you'll see occasionally on food and in bakeries, it means gluten free.
Medialunas are croissants, but better!
In the states we have burgers and fries as a staple food type. Here a very common staple is empanadas and pizza. If they have pizza they likely have empanadas as well. So far our pizza experience has only been so-so, but the empanadas are fantastic!
There are a few options for getting phone data in Argentina:
1. Skip the data and only use wifi (not recommended for stays longer than a weekend)
2. Get an eSIM via Airalo. It's an app that lets you download an eSIM in various countries, very helpful, but not the greatest service. You can purchase for 7 days or 30 days. Very easy to set up when you first arrive. Download the app now and double check that your phone is eligible as some are not.
3. Get a SIM card upon arrival. A popular brand here is Claro, there is a Claro shop in the mall down the street from us, but also throughout the city.
4. Use a flexible phone plan like Google Fi. We've heard mixed reviews about this, primarily that it shuts off after 90 days abroad in one country, but Alysha is using it now and it is working well for the time being.