These four tips will help you when visiting Buenos Aires for the first time.
1. Buenos Aires has TWO airports
Be aware of which one you are flying into as they are in different directions and could potentially trip you up if you head to the wrong one. (Like we did in Venice on our way back from our honeymoon. Oops.)
Ezeiza International Airport (EZE) is where lots of the…wait for it…international flights come in. It is about 22km away from the city, and will take you around 50 minutes to roughly an hour and a half to get there in a cab.
As of this time (Dec 2019), Uber is operating in BA but not 100% legal so we didn’t try to use it to get from the airport when we landed. Instead, we headed for the blue and white Taxi Ezeiza counter near the luggage claim and pre-paid for a taxi there.
You tell the person at the counter what address you’re going to, and they tell you the price. Ours was around $26 USD and we were headed to an Airbnb in Recoleta. Then you pay them and they walk you out to the cab stand and put you in a blue and white Taxi Ezeiza car. The guy who walks you out may ask you for a tip even if he doesn’t help at all with your luggage. We only had $1 USD with us and gave it to him but I saw someone complain about the tip mongering on tripadvisor. So if you’re in that camp, just fyi, the tip request is coming!
Good to know: we thought we would grab some pesos at the ATM when we landed but there was only one that we could find and it was at baggage claim with a line about 5 miles long. Hence, the reason we still only had USD by the time we got to the taxi.
When you land at the international airport, there is no immigration card to fill out. We were a bit confused by this as we were just shuffled into line but there really isn’t anything to fill out. We showed up to the booth with only our passport and they asked us where we were staying and for how long, and that was it. Some people however, were at the window for quite a long time. That may have contributed to the time it took us to get through the line – about 40 minutes or so. If you have a tight connection or timeline, you may want to plan for a bit of cushion to make it through immigration without an aneurism.
The other airport is Aeroparque Internacional Jorge Newbery (AEP) and serves mostly domestic flights. (Despite the name!) It’s significantly closer to the city – only about 2km. We took an Uber here from our place in Recoleta and it was about a 20 minute ride (in the pouring rain) and cost us around $4.50 USD.
2. Where to Stay
There’s lots of info online about the different neighborhoods in Buenos Aires but if you’re a tourist and you don’t want to take a cab everywhere (or the subway), I’d recommend staying in the Recoleta neighborhood as it’s walkable to a lot of attractions, including the Recoleta Cemetery, where Eva Peron is interred.
We went out in Palermo Hollywood/Palermo Soho and they’re awesome neighborhoods but more like, ‘awesome to live in’, less like, ‘awesome to use as home base for sightseeing’. Those neighborhoods sort of reminded me of our old stomping grounds in Williamsburg, NYC, if that offers perspective to anyone.
3. How SAFE is Buenos Aires?
I read a lot of forums about staying safe in Buenos Aires – especially about protecting yourself from petty crime, like pickpocketing. A lot of people warned not to show off flashy jewelry, and especially to keep any smart phone, especially iphones, on the down low. Apparently taxes keep the price of iphones really high (higher than in the states even??) and they’re very coveted there. HOWEVER. All of those posts were like 7 years old. I couldn’t find anything recent about it. So here I am to tell you: iphones were everywhere, pshaw. I mean, maybe not EVERYWHERE, but they definitely weren’t super rare. We still didn’t leave ours hanging around on a restaurant table, but we also weren’t afraid to snap photos with them or let people see us holding them. Maybe it’s different if you go to some of the outer neighborhoods or even La Boca, but for us, sticking to the center of the city and more mainstream neighborhoods, we always felt safe and super fine about using our iphones.
Good to know: iphones were prolific, but we did not see any apple watches or airpods. So maybe those are a bit riskier to bring/show off?
Also, airpods = easiest gadget to steal, ever?
I also switched out my wedding/engagement ring for a rubber one and although I didn’t get the feeling I would have been mugged for it, it was nice not to have to think about it.
4. You want to do WHAT on a Sunday?
The city shuts down on Sundays. If your trip takes you to Buenos Aires over a Sunday and you’re not planning on sleeping off a hangover all day, you should know in advance that most shops will be closed, and some tourist attractions too. Oddly, the majority of shops that were open were a kind of Claire’s boutique – the sort of store that sells pink backpacks, costume jewelry and kitschy girls’ socks.
One thing that is awesome to do on a Sunday (and only on Sunday) is the San Telmo Sunday Fair, which is a huge open air craft market in Monserrat with live music, tango dancing, stalls filled with “handmade” goods, and lots of people! It’s crowded so you should be vigilant about not getting pickpocketed but we had no problems there.
Good to know: there’s an indoor market called the Mercado San Telmo that operates daily, but the one you want to experience is the outdoor extravaganza on Sunday.
Restaurants, bars, and ice cream parlors are all still open in Buenos Aires on Sundays so you will have no problems continuing to pack on the vacation pounds. But if you’re planning on doing some big shopping at the stores on Avenida Santa Fe, don’t head out on Sunday unless you only want to window shop!
Thank goodness we didn’t have to drive in Buenos Aires – traffic looked pretty tricky to navigate; much worse than our traffic adventures driving in Mendoza.
Do you have any other tips to share on visiting Buenos Aires? I’d love to hear about them!