Wednesday, October 11, 2006


These tips courtesy Alberto Gesualdi, who writes:

Keith, almost one year elapsed since my comments on safety in Buenos Aires. Some things have changed, some remains.

Now this is Buenos Aires in September, 2004:

Parity of Argentine peso with USD is 3 to 1. Euro currency parity is 3.6 to 1.

Things are still cheap if you come with US dollars/Euro therefore. However, some owners of rooms for rent abuse visitors, asking fees in US dollars that are not related to the quality of service they give. It is advisable to make reservations of rooms or apartments through some friend in Buenos Aires. Prices given are different if the person calling is a native or a visitor. There is a hotel near where I work at Chacarita neighbourhood that costs USD 22 for a single room, air conditioned, TV and breakfast. Anything higher than 25 dollars per night (not being an international hotel) is abusive.

* Downtown area known as "microcentro" is still a place where demonstrators make protests. Almost every working day there are marching columns. The best way to keep out is to use the subway. Local government changed their policy from a laissez faire attitude to a careful watch with police forces, unarmed but preventing dangerous situations with barricades and street patrolling.

* Milongas are safe inside, but is advisable to arrange for a taxi cab and/or remise cab to pick you up when leaving. Fares have to be discussed thoroughly - sometimes the taxi drivers make better prices than the remises. Make very clear that you need to be taken from a suburban milonga to downtown, if you go to that places, since now there are severe controls of all the access to the city from the suburbs, and not all the taxi drivers and/or remise drivers have their papers in order. If you are going to stay with friends at the suburbs after the suburb milonga ends, is not a problem. The problem is to return to the city by the access at night or at daylight, due to this police controls. A reasonable fare for a taxi cab/remise within Buenos Aires is from 10 to 15 argentine pesos. For suburban areas it depend on the place of destination, but you may consider an average fare of ARp 0.90 per kilometer. Some suburban milongas ( Avellaneda, Vicente Lopez ) are nearer Buenos Aires than others (Lomas de Zamora, Lanus, San Miguel). Radio taxis are the actual nightmare, they are everywhere, and they keep their radios plugged even when taking a passenger. It would be better to arrange beforehand with a reliable company, to pick you up at your house to the milonga and viceversa. Make very clear you do not want the driver to smoke, there are smoking cabs and non smoking cabs, and the drivers may take in not a friendly way your suggestion to drop their cigarette when you are inside.

*Now it is almost springtime in Buenos Aires, and there are mild temperatures, with some unexpected showers; bring some umbrella and warm clothes just in case the weather changes to cold for a couple of days. Milongas are reasonable conditioned, but the big trouble is still the smoke. Try to obtain a table where you can have some fresh air. The best places are near the entrance or the rest rooms or kitchen area, where some fresh air came. In the middle of the dancing floor and the nearby area, sometimes you can see what you are breathing.

* Subways run until 10.30 pm, so for many evening milongas they are better than a taxi and/or remise, within the city. They are cheaper, the magnetic pass (one entry) costs ARP 0.70 (usd 0.30). There are also magnetic cards for 2 trips, 10 trips, and also plastic cards that can be replenished - they are cheaper. There is also a promotion for cinema (Hoyt chain) you can buy four tickets at the subway station at ARP 24 (usd 8. This is a 40% discount over the entrance price, and also you do not have to make the queue for the cinema, you go directy to a special booth to change your coupons for entrance tickets.

The argentine currency is now the peso only. There are fake notes, especially the 20,50,100 notes. Try to change your foreign currency at exchange houses or banks. Coins are the same, now there is a new coin of 2 pesos with the face of Eva Peron, it is not fake, but it has a limited circulation because it was issued some time ago as a limited edition.

Try to have change for the milongas, with argentine pesos notes of 2, 5 and 10. Sometimes the cashier at the milonga has no change for 50 and 100 notes, or is reluctant to give change. Check beforehand the cost of the entrance, some nights, when there is live show, the tickets are more expensive.

ATM's have improved. Now you can withdraw at weekends without problem. Anyway, try to withdraw from ATM at locations with a nearby security guard, or in daylight. It is not advisable to withdraw by night or at lonely places.

There are two neighbourhoods that have improved a lot, and are worth to have a look. Puerto Madero has new buildings, amenities, and also an Art Museum that has just opened. And Palermo Viejo neighbourhood has two sub areas, Palermo Soho and Palermo Hollywood. Palermo Soho has an impressive list of ethnic restaurants, art shops, cafes, and many other amenities. There are no less than 80 places in an area of 20 squares. A nice walk will be to start at Plaza Julio Cortazar (Borges and Honduras), and head to Plaza Palermo Viejo (Armenia and Guatemala). The area has a look like Greenwich Village on Manhattan, NY.

Warm regards
Alberto Gesualdi

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