Arriving in Buenos Aires I had little to no expectations of what the city would be like, done on purpose to avoid misguided disappointment.
Having a Spanish speaking driver for my transfer yet again allowed me to observe the city during the 40min or so drive from the airport to my hotel.
There's two toll booths on the highway from the airport to the city and the road has high rise slum housing either side. It's not a first impression that'll leave me anytime soon.
As I've come to learn the city is poor.
However, you take the off-ramp to Av De Julio and a whole other world opens up. This is where you start to see why they call call it 'the Paris of South America.'
Full of Italian, Spanish and American influence this place oozes history through its architecture, food & culture. The central city is another world compared to the 'burbs!
Being it's 30 December the city is remarkably quiet. There's a good reason for this though. Everyone spends the New Year period with their families outside of the city. It's a good and a bad time for tourists. If you're trying to get somewhere quickly it's great. No one gets in the way of your photos and cars won't run you over - unless you're extremely unlucky!
The bad thing is you don't really get to experience Buenos Aires at its best. There is still a lot of vibrancy in this city and it's a must to experience that while here.
I took a Hop on Hop Off bus tour with Buenos Aires Bus on my first day, which lasts around 3.5hrs for the full circuit, to highlight the locations I wanted to revisit when I got back in January.
I must admit seeing an arena with show jumps and stables in the middle of the city was a pretty big highlight!!
Lunch was had at a crepe cafe in Palermo's Soho region, which is the hub for bars & great restaurants. Definitely a must see if you like a cool beer in the 30+ deg afternoons.
Most of the central city is having their siesta's between 1300 & 1900hrs so Soho is a good place to escape to and relax until the evening nightlife kicks in.
If you're wanting to eat at a nice restaurant don't think you'll find anywhere open before 2000hrs. Argentine's eat late - a tradition cemented by its European heritage. You're clearly identified as needing an English speaking waiter or waitress if you arrive anytime before then.
Like to party like it's 1999? Well get your beauty sleep the night before, because 1am is when they start getting loud and they don't finish until 4am or so, just in time for 4hrs kip before work.
Normally this Grandma's heading home at this time, so I didn't experience this night life but heard plenty about it.
I'm not sure Id make a good local anytime soon.
The country itself is in a bit of a state. Rent prices rise 15% every quarter. Inflation goes up 40% a year and the government yet again controls zippo so things like health care is a 'do it yourself, or pay a professional from your own pocket' style attitude. Also everyone in the city sees a Psychologist - it seems it's a must have in your life! I can't tell you why though. Odd.
Most transactions are paid in cash because you have to have a stable job to hold a bank account in Buenos Aires. That's not a lot of people according to our local free walking tour guide. Carrying around loads of cash also isn't safe, as robbery and pick pocketing are rife in the city and you can understand why.
With inflation out of control there's a bit of unease about what the future holds for this potential soon, bankrupt country. It's quite a sad state of affairs.
On a positive note though, most places you go for food and entertainment speak fantastic English so I've found it really easy to navigate the city. A lot easier than Santiago.
Both hotels I've stayed in, Hotel Boca & Casacalma (an Eco lodge) are amazing and I highly recommend them to anyone looking for accommodation in the central city.
I've seen most of the city sites, enjoyed a dinner & Tango show on New Year eve an eaten some great Argentine food. A warning: 'don't have a Funtel drink.' If you've ever had that old school cough medicine that's full of herbal 'goodness' then just add coke and that's what you get.
When in Argentina be like an Argentine right?!
I've felt pretty safe walking around the city, and I have done some miles. The hotels are really good at telling you where to and not to go to stay safe.
Having people to walk around with or joining a group tour of course is always best but don't be afraid to solo travel to Buenos Aires if even for a short stop over.
Taxis are really cheap so it's best to stay above ground to get to your destination. I didn't try the subway or the bus as it was never recommended to me.
Oblisk, Plaza de Mayo, La Boca, Palermo Soho, Recoleta and San Telmo are all places I recommend you spend some time viewing. If you're in to politics and religion there are endless statues around the place to take photos of, telling the history of the city + there's a building with an Evita tribute on each side which looks amazing lite up at night.
If you want to add another country to your passport jump on the ferry run by busquebus and head across to Uruguay. You can spend about half a day in the small, very European influenced town of Calerino, before jumping on the ferry back home. It can cost anywhere between 800 peso to 1800 peso depending on how far in advance you book. About the same price as a passenger on the Interislander return.
One last thing to note is the airports. There are two and they at opposite ends of town. Ezeia is the International airport but has some Domestic flights flying into it (such as Ushuaia) and the other is Jorge Newberry where the majority of domestic flights depart. The former is around 40min without traffic out of town so make sure you plan well in advance to get there in time for check-in. The later about 20min from central BA.
I had private transfers booked and when on a weekend it's a nightmare to change them if something should happen with your flight, so make sure you have an alternative option. There is a shuttle bus to EZE for around 240 peso and a taxi from CBD to Jorge Newberry should only be 200-300 peso.
The airports are busy so give yourself some time to get orientated, check in and then head to your gate as nothing's within close walking distance.
Overall Buenos Aires has been an eye opener and surprisingly pleasant compared to what I was greeted with in Santiago. Alas I have 1.5 days there when I get back so will make the most of my wine tour and a day to relax before the long trek home.