Argentina really has it all. Mountains, beaches, subjectively the best waterfall in the world, all manner of exciting wildlife, world class booze, huge lakes, and multi-coloured hills. We threw ourselves head first into rapids, soaked in hot pools, and watched a glacier calve. It stretches from the eyeball-meltingly hot subtropical north where you can’t fucking move between midday and 5pm because you’ll sweat to death, down to the chilly south, the end of the world, where even in the middle of summer you’ll need your coat and a blast of the heating in the morning so you don’t take a window out with a nipple. Argentina has absolutely blown us away.
We tagged Brazil onto the start to see family and friends, and a tiny bit of Bolivia onto the end, because why the fuck not hey?
Jump to “Useful shit to know…”
Catching Up With Friends & Family
You know that thing when you’re on your holidays and you discover a local food or drink that you can pretty much only get there and nowhere else and it’s so utterly life changing you know there’ll be a hole…
Back To My Happy Place
Our eyeholes were in for such a fucking treat today, guys! The mighty Iguazu Falls, the absolute crown jewels of… Argentina actually. The vast majority of the waterfalls aren’t in Brazil at all, if you want to get all cosy…
Why Yes, I Would Love More Waterfalls, Please
There are five species of tucan in the Iguazu National Park. We saw exactly zero of the elusive little fuckers. Fortunately that’s not why we were there, we wanted to gawp at Iguazu Falls a little bit more. We actually…Keep reading
An Old Jesuit Ruin
We got to San Ignacio late morning after an easy five hour bus journey from Puerto Iguazù. It’s got a weird, wild west feel to it but, like, if the wild west didn’t have any people. We checked into the…Keep reading
The Joy Of La Boca
I actually really like Buenos Aires despite it being a really rather large, polluted city. I remember liking it last time I was here too, there’s plenty to see and do, you could easily end up hurling yourself headlong into…Keep reading
A Bit More Buenos Aires
Sunday is open air market day in San Telmo which is basically wonderful morning of trying to resist purchasing all manner of little artsy things and cute signs for around the house. We don’t have a house. We don’t even…Keep reading
Hot, Moist Colón
We had five spare days to play with so after a spot of research we decided to spend it in the hot, moist riverside town of Colón about five hours north of Buenos Aires and we regret absolutely nothing. As…Keep reading
I don’t know if you noticed but Argentina went and won some manner of international competition and we were in Buenos Aires when it happened. I didn’t want to just not mention it because it was absolutely-fucking-lutely epic! We’d taken…Keep reading
A Trip Around The Valdes Peninsula
We’d come to Puerto Madryn to lay low in a lovely beach town but it’s probably against some manner of law to not visit the Valdes Peninsula whilst you’re here. It would probably have been cheaper to do a tour…Keep reading
Christmas In Puerto Madryn
We wanted to just chill somewhere for a week over the Christmas period because fuck trying to work out logistics in the midst of a Catholic country preparing for the birthday of their dead lord, and we figured a tourist…Keep reading
The Journey South
Argentina is really, really, utterly fucking massive. We knew we’d be spending many, many hours on buses but hopefully this will be the longest stint we’d have to do without breaking it up with something fun. First, we had to…Keep reading
We interupt your regular South America viewing, because did I mention we went to Antarctica?
Bugger me, that cost a lot of money. Fortunately there’s enough cool shit in Antarctica to distract you from your bank account which is probably weeping in a corner somewhere. Anyway, if you’re not here to see a fuck tonne…Keep reading
A National Park & A 4×4 Adventure
We absolutely did not set out to have such an epic day. I’ve not been so tired since I took a load of seasickness tablets during a trip to Antarctica. Did I mention we went to Antarctica? Oh yes, it’s…
A Lake & Not Quite A Glacier
With a couple of days spare in Ushuaia we figured we’d go put some more stuff in our eyeholes. Lakes and glaciers and the like. Laguna Esmerelda, or Emerald Lake, is a very popular walk about a 20 minute drive…
You’d think we’d have had enough of glaciers by now but here we were in a cute little Patagonian town whose sole tourist attraction was a large chunk of ice about 80 kilometres away in the Parque Nacional los Glaciares.…
Soup Of The Day Is Wine
I’d read that of you wanted to travel Patagonia in January and February you’d need to think about booking a couple of weeks in advance but I just sort of assumed we’d have to take the hit on some pricey,…
One of our favourite things to do is bum around in a car with a tent, exploring places and pitching up in the evening at a campsite. I love bus travel too of course, it’s also a great way of…
Hot Springs & Waterfalls
We’d seriously considered not heading to Malargüe yesterday because we really liked Valle Grande but fuck me, I’m so glad we made that 200 kilometre dent in the journey. The mighty Ruta Nacional 40 is the stuff of legends. It’s…
Land Of Lakes, Beer & Chocolate
It feels like a bit of a waste leaving Copahue in the dark just because the whole area is so fucking beautiful. The extra cold morning air causes the steam from the thermal pools to billow high into the air.…
Still Not Bored Of Lakes Then
As we drove into Bariloche the other day we saw paragliders swooping down from the hills and we thought, what a fucking incredible place to be really high up! Then we wondered if it was available commercially but we couldn’t…
The Meander North
It is 1500 kilometres, give or take, from Esquel to Mendoza so you can imagine that we had exactly zero desire to rush that. As much as I love driving, any more than six hours behind the wheel can bugger…
Salta & Around Part 1
Us: Yeah we’re not really big city kinda people, y’know?Also us: Omg we just LOVE Mendoza though! *heart eyes*Yeah so Mendoza has been fantastic. Of course we’ve been focused on the centre but it’s got so many green spaces breaking…
Salta & Around Part 2
On account of the fact we didn’t really know how we wanted to tackle Salta we’d only booked two nights in the flat so we were brutally forced to move to a hostel for another two nights when we decided…
A Bit Too Long In Tupiza
We’re in Bolivia! Woo! The border crossing was relatively straightforward albeit loooong. Two bastard hours we stood in a queue for as one single human being processed everyone crossing into Bolivia that day. Also we’ve no idea how long we’re…
Salar De Uyuni Tour Day 1
It wasn’t a terrifyingly early start this morning, we had to be at the tour office at 7.30am which isn’t too hideous. I’d even stopped drooling. Unfortunately the first thing they did was tell us that one of the other…
Salar De Uyuni Tour Day 2
It took a while to get to sleep last night. I’m obviously blaming the altitude because I blame it for fucking everything. I’m not out of breath tying my shoelaces because I’m too fat for my trousers. It’s the altitude.…
Salar De Uyuni Tour Day 3
Shitting hell, it was a lot colder today than it had been. Actually the whole trip had been warmer than the last time I did this tour. Last time I remember wearing all of my clothes to bed and burying…
Salar De Uyuni Tour Day 4
Since I became a postie I’m much better at getting up at hours even the sparrows would raise an eyebrow at. The trick is to actually go to bed at a reasonable hour rather than cruising through on three hours…
Down The Mines
There isn’t a huge amount to do in Potosí but it’s definitely worth wrapping your eyeholes around for a couple of nights. Even just one night if you fancied. The main draw here is the tour of the mines, you…
Killing Time In Sucre
We’d already booked our flights out of Bolivia but we gave ourselves plenty of time to see and do the things we really wanted to before we needed to make our way to Santa Cruz. That meant we had a…
Useful shit to know…
BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing).
We only spent 17 days in Brazil and we spent around £430 each. What we saved on accommodation by staying with friends and family we apparently splurged on booze and eating out.
£76.17 each was spent on buses.
£66.39 each on eating out.
£50.10 each on booze.
£39.78 on groceries.
The rest on souvenirs, medication, an apartment in Foz Do Iguaçu etc.
Getting From Guarulhos Airport (GRU) To São Paulo
- We landed at Terminal 3. A free shuttle bus will take you between the terminals and the train station.
- We weren’t sure if the train and Metro system were separate (like Victoria in London) so we bought tickets to Luz Station for R$4.40 each and we’d deal with it once there.
- The Luz Express is clearly signposted. I believe it runs every hour from the airport on the hour (24 hours) but please do check.
- It took less than 40 minutes to get to Luz Station.
- Turns out the train and Metro systems are integrated. We weren’t sure if we’d need to pay again to continue to Clínicas Metro so we exited and bought another ticket (R$4.40) just in case. We probably didn’t need do bother, the exit barriers don’t seem to require your ticket.
Local Transport In São Paulo
- The Metro system is fast and cheap but if you prefer buses you can easily use Google Maps to help with timetables etc.
- You don’t need to state your destination at the Metro, just tell them how many tickets you need.
- It cost R$4.40 per journey when we were there.
- Uber is a thing that exists here.
- You need a CPF (tax number) to buy a SIM card in Brazil.
- We bought a Vivo SIM from a news stand for R$15 and my mate set it all up for us with her CPF, photo and photo of her ID. It looked like a right ballache.
- I recharged it but it confused the fuck out of me. I had options to recharge various amounts so I went for R$20 assuming that I could then choose some manner of package.
- It automatically took R$14.99 and gave me 4GB of data valid for 15 days, and unlimited calls and texts. I have no idea how it works. Brazilian SIM cards are a fucking mystery.
- Brazil uses the real, pronounced hey-al (R$). The plural is reais, pronounced hey-ais.
- Card, contactless and pay by phone is very widely accepted but it’s handy to have a bit of cash as you’ll need it for local buses and São Paulo Metro.
- The ATM at the airport absolutely battered us for banking fees to the tune of GB£25! However, every ATM we used since didn’t charge us at all.
- We needed US dollars to take into Argentina and used an exchange in Ingleses in Florianópolis.
- They didn’t take card so we spent a few days withdrawing cash.
- There was no limit to the amount of dollars they’d let us have and the US$1700 each was no issue for them.
- They didn’t ask to see a passport, nor were we issued a receipt.
- You need a CPF number if you want to send a parcel. Honestly, you need a fucking CPF number to take a shit in this country!
Long Distance Buses
- We used Busbud to book our buses as it was just easier to have everything in English and be charged in British pounds.
- I did look into using the actual bus company websites but the price difference was only a few quid and they kept asking for a CPF number.
Local Transport In Florianópolis
- They have nicer Executivo buses which are yellow and cost R$11 each.
- Apparently the blue and white buses are a little cheaper but less comfortable.
- Bus timetables and a journey planner are available on the Floripanoponto app, or there’s a website if you prefer.
- They also have Uber.
- Brazil uses Type C plugs, same as most of Europe.
- Confusingly, they use 110V in São Paulo (though my friend had one 220V socket in the kitchen) and 220V in Florianópolis. I’m not sure about the rest of the country. We use 240V in the UK so we’re not at risk of frying our stuff with too high of a voltage I guess.
BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing).
Well this is a can of worms. Argentina has several exchange rates. We mostly changed dollars on the black market or wired ourselves cash to Western Union, all attracting different rates. There’s more on this below under “Currency”. Sometimes we had to pay by card which gives you the official (and unfavourable) rate initially but we got a “regulatory refund” of 40 to 44% about four days later. So it’s pretty hard to pin down how much we actually spent but I think we spent about £2800 each over a total of 69 (tee hee) days in Argentina. That’s just over £40 each a day, based on two sharing.
Currency – The Best Way To Get Money
- We’ve basically watched the Argentine peso (AR$) devalue before our eyes. In the few weeks we’ve spent here it’s gone from AR$168 to the dollar to AR$198 to the dollar at the official exchange rate. Inflation is insane, by the time anyone reads this the prices I’ve listed will be out of date. Inflation in 2022 was 98%. December alone was 5.1%.
- There are also several exchange rates. The one you want when changing money is the Blue Dollar as this will give you nearly double the pesos for your dollar. I’d read everywhere that your best bet was to bring loads of crisp US$100 bills and change them on the black market but actually you’re best off sending yourself money through Western Union as they have the best rates.
- The downside to Western Union is the branches in smaller towns often run out of pesos. In Ushuaia I queued for an hour as soon as it opened to make sure they would have enough. I heard that in El Calafate they restricted you to AR$60000. We had no issues taking out over AR$300000 in Mendoza.
- If you want to go the cash route perhaps use a combination of cash dollars and Western Union so you don’t get caught out.
- Having said all this, the Argentine government in a bid to get tourists to move away from the black market have started offering close to Blue Dollar rate if you pay by card.
- This scheme is still in its infancy and people are reporting mixed results. However, when we’ve used our British Mastercard debit and credit cards we’ve initially been charged the full official rate then four or five days later we’ve been issued a partial refund. This applied when using our card online and in person.
- As an example, we were charged £13.51 on a Monzo debit card to get into Recoleta Cemetery. A few days later we were refunded £5.84. That’s over 40%.
- We paid £469.95 for our flights purchased with FlyBondi online with a Natwest credit card. Our refund was £201.18. Again, over 40%.
- The black market is not as terrifying as it sounds and everyone does it. Research the Blue Dollar to understand more.
- In Buenos Aires I was told there were money changers on Florida St but as we were walking there a bloke on 9 de Julio offered us cambio. Look out for the guys holding laminated cards advertising tours around the Oblisco area.
- It’s so normal that we saw a restaurant in La Boca offering cambio, and we also changed money in a shop in Puerto Iguazu with a sign in the window offering cambio. It’s close to the bus station.
- They’ll take you to an office. Again, don’t worry, it’s all very normal. He gave us a good rate.
- The lower denominations are so valueless that they’ll sonetimes let you off for them in the shops. Even when you try and give it them they’ll wave it away. Sometimes you’ll get sweets as change if it’s less than AR$10. One time our shopping came to AR$10211 and he didn’t even want the 211.
Buenos Aires Public Transport
- The Subte is super easy to use because Metro systems just are aren’t they? I love them.
- Buses are also easy to work out as they’re all on Google Maps. Just type in where you want to go and Google will tell you how to do it.
- At the time of writing the Subte was AR$42 per journey and the buses were around AR$30, sometimes less.
- We had to buy the SUBE cards for AR$900 each. You only need one unless you’re catching proper trains, not the Subte, then you’ll need your own. We bought ours from the kiosk by Lima Subte station. She was very helpful.
- You recharge them at some kiosks and Subte stations.
- I don’t think you can use public transport without a SUBE card.
- On the Subte you just tap and go through the barriers. If there are two or more of you using one card just hand it to the next person for them to tap through.
- On the buses the driver needs to do something on the console for each passenger. So if you’re tapping for two, wait for them to do the thing, tap, then they need to do the thing again so you can tap again.
- Other cities including Bariloche, Ushuaia and Mendoza use the SUBE cards too. Probably others too. It’s a great system but prices vary a lot between the cities.
- Regardless of where you are, this website will tell you where you can put money on your SUBE card.
- It could be anything from a kiosco to a pharmacy and they might not have a SUBE sticker in their window.
Long Distance Buses
- Long distance buses are quite pricey, especially the further south you get, but usually comfortable enough for a sleep if you’re on an overnight bus.
- Cama means bed and you’ll be able to recline it almost, but not quite, flat.
- Semi-cama is a bit cheaper. You can recline it far enough for comfort.
- The legroom and seat width etc is governed by law. You can’t call it semi-cama if your seats don’t meet a minimum level of comfort for example.
- We used Busbud and Rome2Rio to find out which bus companies went where (Busbud doesn’t have every company) then tried to buy our tickets in person to get the Blue Dollar rate in cash.
- If you book with Busbud (we did this twice as it was important that we were able to get seats on these days) you don’t get your regulatory refund. I guess you would if you booked directly with the bus company but we didn’t try.
- You’ll need to give your passport details when buying your ticket. They often ask for your passport when boarding the bus.
- Sometimes you’ll see people tipping the baggage handler and we just follow their lead and also tip. Sometimes they’ll outright ask for tips. Marga Taqsa don’t actually pay their baggage handlers, their only wage is their tips.
- I’m not sure of the going rate as everyone tipped different amounts. AR$100 seemed to be popular. We generally tipped AR$200 each.
- You’ll be given a sticker which corresponds to your bag, they’ll probably stick it to your ticket. Don’t lose this as they do check when you come to collect your bag.
- The buses haven’t been brutally cold which I was expecting them to be. I’d still take a blanket just in case. Best to have it and not need it rather than need it and not have it.
- The price of car rental varies drastically all over the country. The south seems to be more expensive. The best price we got in Mendoza was at Avis/Budget.
- Petrol is cheap! Slightly cheaper in the south. At least when compared to the UK. We drove over 3700 kilometres when we rented from Mendoza and spent AR$34200 on petrol which works out as around GB£80 at the Blue Dollar rate we got at Western Union. To put that in perspective, it cost us £45 to fill up our tiny little 999cc Vauxhall Corsa back home and we’d get maybe 400 miles out of that.
- You have to drive with your headlights on at all times.
- Most towns and cities have police checks going in and out. You won’t always get pulled over but it’s incredibly likely you’ll get pulled over at least once. We got pulled over twice. They’re always lovely and polite but they didn’t speak English.
- They want to see your licence and IDP, and the car’s documents including rental contract. Your rental company will know this and should be able to show you what they want to see. They also ask where you’re going.
- In the UK an International Driving Permit costs £5.50 and you get it from the Post Office. There are three types and the one you’ll need for Argentina is the 1949 which is valid for one year. You’ll need a passport photo.
- We only really saw this around the popular towns in Patagonia, Bariloche and El Bolón sort of places.
- I don’t know how much success they were having but sometimes there were several people thumbing for a ride.
For Your Facehole
- Gluten free options are sometimes catered for, especially in the cities. Look for “sin T.A.C.C.”
- It seems customary to tip 10% on your bill in restaurants and in tourist areas they make it very clear that they’re expecting a 10% tip.
- Postage is expensive. You’re looking at AR$1000 (US$5.50 official, US$3 Blue Dollar) to send a postcard to Europe.
- Correo Argentino are the postal service. The pillar boxes are disappointingly similar to British boxes.
- We bought a Claro SIM card from a kiosk in Puerto Iguazu. I guess you can buy them in any kiosk in Argentina displaying a Claro sign.
- The SIM cost AR$500 each. He said it was a tourist SIM and the other ones required documentation we didn’t have such as a DNI. We only had to show our passports.
- He set everything up for us and showed us our options for data packages.
- We opted for the AR$3500 package with 25GB of data for 30 days. It was overkill, turns out WiFi is plentiful, especially in tourist towns, but it can be pretty slow.
- We added AR$300 each too so we could make phone calls and send texts, and still have Internet when we were between data packs. This also came in handy when we were temporarily in Chile as roaming data comes off your credit.
- When it came to recharge we found a kiosk, added credit, then used the Mi Claro app to use that credit to buy another data pack.
- We found coverage to be mostly excellent until we got to Salta where it wasn’t as good.
- WiFi is everywhere in hostels, hotels, cafés and bars, it’s usually okay but a but slow.
- WhatsApp seems to be the preferred form of communication for accommodation and activity providers.
- Argentina doesn’t stamp you in and out of the county anymore. Instead you’re meant to get an email confirming your immigration and your permitted duration to stay.
- This email doesn’t always arrive. If you don’t receive it you can go to this website, enter your details and download your immigration card.
- It’s a good idea to carry bog roll with you as public toilets don’t often supply it.
- Toilets often don’t lock either but if the door is closed people will always knock first. You should obviously do the same.
- Don’t flush your bog roll, not even the ones you wipe your arse with. There’ll be a bin by the toilet you can use.
- We’ve had no problems drinking the tap water anywhere in the country but if you’re unsure check with your accommodation or just use a filter. I’m a big fan of Water To Go.
- The time in Argentina is UTC -3.
About The SIGEMIG Migratory Management System
- The Bolivian government now requires you to fill out an online form detailing your accommodation.
- You’ll need to visit http://sistemas.migracion.gob.bo/sigemig and create an account.
- I spoke to someone whose .co.uk email address wasn’t accepted so they had to use an old .com email account.
- Once your account is created your username and password are the same, and it’s your passport number.
- When you are entering your accommodation details there’s a drop down with a list of hotels. Don’t worry if yours isn’t on there, you can input it manually.
- We had to do this but kept getting an error message though of course it doesn’t tell you why.
- Tarrant had the idea to take the gaps out of the phone number that we’d copied and pasted and that seemed to solve the problem.
- You’ve got to update it as you move around the country. Honestly, Bolivia never used to be this difficult!
BUDGET for one person (based on two sharing) over 22 days.
Eating out: £87.70
Tea, coffee, drinks: £24.30
Tours: £162.28 for the Salar de Uyuni, plus a £17.56 tip
Entrance fees: £27.12
SIM card, phone credit: £20.61
Everything else: £33.42
GRAND TOTAL: £523.69
Average per day: £23.80
- The currency is the boliviano (Bs) and it’s lovely and stable so you don’t have to worry about black market conversions.
- We had problems with the ATMs in Tupiza. There are only two. One didn’t take Mastercard and the other kept crashing and cancelling the transaction.
- Western Union (or at least the one inside the Banco Union) requires copies of your passport and your entry stamp, plus a printout of your accommodation declaration, and you can’t just show them the tracking number on your phone, they want a printout of that too.
- Changing dollars was straightforward and hassle free but the rate wasn’t as favourable as Western Union.
- ATMs – Banco Union doesn’t take Mastercard.
- BNB wanted to charge us over Bs55 for the transaction.
- Banco Fessil wanted to charge less than Bs18 which we accepted but then it wouldn’t authorise the transaction. It did state it accepted Mastercard so I’ve no idea why.
- Banco Ecofuturo was fine and didn’t charge us at all. The rate was quite good too.
- We bought our Entel SIM cards in Tupiza at a shop by the bus terminal.
- They sold SIM cards (chip in Spanish) for all the networks.
- We opted for Entel as I believe they’re the biggest.
- You activate it all on the handset with a USSD code and she helped us.
- We needed to register our names and passport details through the phone.
- The SIM card cost Bs20.
- At the time, Entel were running unlimited data deals so we just opted for 30 days unlimited data for Bs150 even though we were only in the county for three weeks.
- Buying 12 days then another 12 days would only have been marginally cheaper so we took the path of least resistance.
- WiFi is provided at most accommodation and whilst it’s not the highest speeds it’s generally functional.
- I haven’t really taken a lot of photos of food but it’s all been cheap and filling.
- You can get soup and a main for Bs10 (£1.20, $1.45) to Bs15 (£1.80, $2.17) in most towns. Sometimes it includes a drink.
- Look for almuerzo familiar or almuerzo completo. Or just head straight to the mercado central and find the food there.
- If the price isn’t listed always check it first.
- They often have the options listed but do ask what they have as what’s on the board outside and what’s in the kitchen doesn’t always match.
- We crossed overland and they stamped a separate piece of paper rather than our passports.
- We were asked for it a couple of times so it’s definitely something you need to keep safe.
- There’s nothing to say how long we were allowed in the country and we completely forgot to ask.
- A chap we met who flew in had his actual passport stamped. Nobody told him he had to fill in the accommodation declaration either.
- Toilets are anywhere between Bs1 and Bs3 and this gets you a good wad of bog roll.
- I don’t recall any toilets being free to use.
- Road safety: No one will give way to pedestrians and even if you’ve started crossing and they come careering round the corner they won’t slow down for you.