Best Selection of Restaurants is in Las Cañitas

Many tourists visit Buenos Aires without having dinner in Las Cañitas. It’s a shame. Las Cañitas is, in my opinion, the best restaurant zone in all of Buenos Aires.

Las Cañitas is a small neighborhood just east of Avenida Dorrego and just south of the Polo grounds (El Campo Argentino de Polo). Technically, it’s part of Palermo, even though it’s separated from the rest of Palermo by train tracks.

Most of the restaurants in this area are centered around the corner of Arévalo and Baez. But you can just tell the taxi driver to take you to “Las Cañitas”. He’ll know where to drop you off.

Here you’ll find a couple dozen modern, stylish restaurants and a few bars in about a four block area. Many of the restaurants are traditional parrillas serving meat, but you can also find sushi, thai, pasta and other cuisines.

This area is upscale and the prices are generally a little higher than other Buenos Aires restaurants. When I go to Las Cañitas I typically expect to spend about 120 or 150 pesos for dinner for 2 with a glass of house wine and a shared dessert. Of course, this will depend on the restaurant and your level of extravagance.

On a nice evening, Las Cañitas is one of the best places in the city for people watching. Many of the restaurants have outdoor seating.

Remember, dinner starts late in Buenos Aires. I suggest arriving at 10 or 10:30. You don’t need a reservation. There are lots of restaurants to choose from and if you arrive before 10:30 you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a table. In fact, wandering up and down the street and trying to choose among the many attractive restaurants is part of the fun of a night in Las Cañitas.

¡Buen provecho!

Renting an Apartment in Buenos Aires: Tips from a Reputable Agent

Want to know the most the most common problems encountered when renting a furnished apartment in Buenos Aires? How about which neighborhoods to stay in and which to avoid? Or the best time of year to visit the city?

To get answers to these and other questions about renting in BA, I interviewed a local expert.

Adriana Perillo (center) is a popular, highly regarded agent who helps tourists rent furnished apartments in Buenos Aires through her company RentinBANow. She also arranges city tours, tango shows and excursions. I interviewed Adriana and she offered some fantastic tips for anyone planning a trip to Buenos Aires. You can read her tips below.

Adriana, what’s the best neighbourhood to stay in while vacationing in BA?

First, Palermo/Barrio Norte, second Recoleta, and third San Telmo/Montserrat. However, the choice will depend a lot on what you are looking for during your stay.

Downtown, which is also called MicroCentro, is best for those people who are going to be in BA for a short time and want to be near many of the major tourist attractions. It’s also good for tango lovers since many tango studios and milongas are in this part of the city. However, it does have its disadvantages. It is an extremely busy area. There’s a lot of traffic, the streets are narrow and there is also pollution. So if travellers are more concerned about going out and jumping right in the middle of the action and want to enjoy nightlife, this may be a good option for them. On the other hand, if they prefer a more serene experience, they should stay away from MicroCentro.

Travellers who want to stay in a more upscale part of the city, they may have to consider Retiro, Recoleta and Barrio Norte. Renting here will be a bit more expensive than other neighborhoods. Here visitors will find a lot of the expensive and upscale restaurants, shopping malls, nightclubs, art galleries, and parks.  Barrio Norte is better than Recoleta and Retiro in the sense that there are more bus and subway lines which makes it faster and cheaper to travel around.

The largest neighborhood in Buenos Aires is Palermo. If travellers are looking for a laid back trip, this is a great place to stay. There are a lot of beautiful green areas to go for a walk or to go jogging, as well as the Japanese Gardens, Rose Gardens, and Botanical Gardens. What’s more, the City Zoo is also here, making it an ideal place to stay with kids. In addition there is a great range of bars, restaurants and nightclubs, if visitors are interested in the city’s nightlife.

Palermo Soho and Hollywood are also part of Palermo. Soho is the place to shop, eat and drink. There are nice designer shops, exotic restaurants, and cool coffee shops on every corner. Time can also be spent walking around, sipping coffee in book stores, visiting many of the independent art galleries or just taking it easy. Hollywood is ideal for party animals who want to go out and have fun through the night.

San Telmo and Montserrat are good options as well. These are the oldest parts of the city and are much more interesting architecturally. Great colonial buildings, as well as art nouveau and art deco ones can be found. In this part of the city there are lots of tango clubs and shows. You can take lessons in the many tango schools or just see street performers. Staying in this part of the city can be an exciting way to experience old world Buenos Aires. There are also many bus and subway lines. Downtown and Puerto Madero are within walking distance. Montserrat is famous for its excellence in Spanish cuisine, whereas San Telmo boasts the charm of its Sunday Flea Market, antique shops, and independent art galleries.

What’s the average price that tourists can expect to pay for a furnished apartment in Buenos Aires for two weeks?

Between USD$500 and $900 for a one bedroom apartment. Price will depend on apartment characteristics such as size, services and equipment, quality, maintenance, as well as building amenities. Other factors are location, whether it’s on a high or low floor, whether it faces the street or the back of the building, if it’s sunny or a bit gloomy, or modern or old.

What are the most common problems or complaints that someone might have with their apartment?

The most common complaints are generally poor broadband connectivity or lack of it due to server problems. Noise level is another complaint. Argentineans are fond of meeting friends, or having parties on weekends.

Older apartments may occasionally experience maintenance issues, so electricians or plumbers might have to be called, and they do not always come as quickly as we would like. Renting a modern apartment reduces the chance of having a problem.

Are most apartment owners Porteños or foreigners?

Most of the owners are Porteños.

When’s the best time of year to visit Buenos Aires?

A good time to come would be September to mid December. January and February can be really hot, and then March to May are in my opinion the best months to come — sunny, warm days, clear sky, very pleasant indeed.

Any other tips?

When renting an apartment it is always best to do it through an agent or owner who has been recommended to you. Many times it is hard to find good apartments available directly from owners since most owners list with agencies. All major rental agencies are roughly equal in terms of service.

Writing email or phoning will give travellers the chance to get to know who is behind the holiday accommodation. Many apartments may look fabulous in pictures but what they have to know is whether or not the street is on a major bus route. It won’t matter how great the colonial French style architecture is in their San Telmo apartment if they can’t sleep at night. I, personally, take time when answering mails, trying to satisfy all customers’ doubts.

It is important for travellers to know they are going to have someone who can be of service, speaks the language, and cares about their experience during their stay. For example, who do you contact if you lose the keys or need extra sheets or pillows?

I feel that my responsibility starts with the first e-mail or phone call and finishes at check-out. At check-in my colleagues and I do not just drop off keys, or simply have a contract signed, but we spend time showing things on the map, explaining where things are and how things work in the apartment as well as the neighborhood, and the do’s and don’ts of the new city. We are also in close contact with customers by mail or phone.

As a bonus, we regularly send our clients information about what is going on in Buenos Aires, which places to go to, shows, plays, exhibits to see and concerts not to miss — tips not found in any guide book. Since we work with a wholesaler tour operator we can arrange a trip to any part of Argentina without the customer leaving the apartment. We also can get tickets to tango shows, some football matches (the ones we consider safe), a day or weekend at an authentic Argentinean estancia, city tours, or other interesting tours in the city. We want travellers to feel at home and to share the special tips that will make their trip and stay very enjoyable.

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If you would like to contact Adriana about an apartment, or to get more information, her contact information is below:

Adriana Perillo
Rental Manager
www.rentinbanow.com
rentinbanow@gmail.com
Skype: rentinbanow
Mobile: (54) 911 51 74 14 99

Best and Worst Things about Buenos Aires

What are the best things about Buenos Aires, the things that make the city such a popular and much-loved travel destination? How about the worst things?

What follows is a personal list — purely subjective and by no means complete. I hope you will tell me about the things you like and don’t like about Buenos Aires in the comments section below.

Best Things

Let’s start with the best things about Buenos Aires. Or, better said, my favorite things about Buenos Aires.

  • Cafe con leche and medialunas – There’s no better way to start the day
  • Excellent climate – Summers are hot, winters are cool, there’s plenty of sunshine and occasional refreshing rains
  • Nightlife – The city is alive until dawn, especially on weekends
  • It’s pretty inexpensive – At least compared to New York, Tokyo, London, Paris and other big cities
  • Attractive, stylish people – A great city for people-watching
  • Cheap wine – Reds like Malbec are probably better than whites
  • Empanadas 
  • Dancing tango until 5am
  • Taxis are convenient 
  • Educated, politically aware people
  • Argentine beef – I’ve never had better beef anywhere
  • Great city for walking – Wide boulevards, lots of parks
  • Quiet Sundays – Not much happens on Sundays. It’s a day for spending time with family and recharging your batteries.
  • Soccer – Quality of play at the local level is excellent and games are highly entertaining
  • Relaxed pace – Even though it’s a big city, life is not hurried

Worst Things

Of course the city is not without its flaws and deficiencies. Here are some of my least favorite things about Buenos Aires.

  • Too much traffic and too many traffic accidents and fatalities
  • Traffic noise – It’s a very noisy city
  • Lack of coins – The shortage of coins is a regular annoyance
  • The government – They just can’t seem to get in sync with the rest of the world
  • Crazy late-night schedule – Dinner at 11 or 12 at night? Are you kidding me? 
  • Random power outages that hit without warning
  • General disruptions – Things like strikes and protests often throw a wrench in the works
  • Crime levels seem to be rising
  • Dog crap all over the sidewalks – Porteños love their dogs but fail to clean up after them. Thankfully, heavy rains come often enough.
  • Bureaucracy – Dealing with immigrations or any government agency can be extremely frustrating
  • Poor construction of buildings – I don’t think they even know what sound-proofing is
  • Water dripping from air conditioners that overhang sidewalks
  • Poor coverage of NFL football or NHL hockey games – What can I say, I need my sports
  • Lousy music – Except for tango, the music isn’t so good. Rock is popular but seems to be about 25 years behind the rest of the world.
  • Corruption of police, judges, government officials – It would be nice if you could count on the police to help you. Unfortunately it’s best to avoid them.

Take a Beer Tour of San Telmo

Love beer? Then why not take a beer lover’s tour of San Telmo?

The tour, which lasts 3 hours and covers 4 pubs, showcases the best craft beer Argentina has to offer from regions such as Cordoba, La Plata, and outer Buenos Aires. 

“I really didn’t want the tour to be a pub crawl type thing but rather a real appreciation of domestic beer,” says tour organizer Chris Canty. “It doubles as a type of San Telmo city tour as well as we walk from pub to pub.”

Tours take place at 7pm Tuesdays and Fridays, and include six craft beers and a bite to eat such as a chorizopan or burger. Cost is a bargain at ARG$80, or about US$22.

“The pubs I have chosen aren’t especially well known — some being out of the way and off the tourist radar,” says Chris.

Chris knows a thing or two about suds. For the last 10 years he’s worked as a travel journalist, writing primarily about nightlife, food and beer. He conceived the tour after 6 months of “intense research.”

“I have done a fair bit of beer writing the last few years, so my goal is to show people some great little pubs that serve some really nice Argentinean craft beer from different regions. 

Spanish and English are spoken on the tour.

To register, go to Chris’s BeerinBA website.

Local Expert Pedro Werberg Reveals Buenos Aires’ Hidden Treasures

Pedro Werberg knows Buenos Aires inside and out. A native of Buenos Aires fluent in English, German and of course Spanish, Pedro offers guided tours that explore the hidden treasures of the city. 

I asked Pedro about his favorite restaurants, shops, cafes and things to see and do in BA. Here’s what he had to say. By the way, you can learn more about Pedro’s tours and other services at his website, Amigo de Buenos Aires.

Pedro, what three things should every tourist see or do when they visit Buenos Aires?    

First, visit Recoleta Cemetery for the magnificent, ornate tombs and impressive neoclassical monuments. Second, Plaza de Mayo and the pink house. And third, Avenida de Mayo with its beautiful eclectic early 1900’s architecture and the Gran Cafe Tortoni. At 1370 Avenida de Mayo you can tour Palacio Barolo, a unique Gaudiesque building that once was the tallest building in South America. Tours at Barolo Palace are Mondays and Thursdays from 2pm to 6pm every hour.

What are your favorite restaurants, bars and cafes?

Cafe La Biela has nice espressos and very good food. It’s right across from Recoleta Cemetery.

In San Telmo, Restaurant Lezama (359 Brasil) is very local and non-touristy. You can get a  juicy tenderloin for less than USD$10. Don’t miss it.

In Puerto Madero you can enjoy a great meal at reasonable prices at Happening (310 Moreau de Justo).

In Palermo, go to Standard Bar right on the corner of Guatemala and Fitz Roy. Across from Standard Bar is  Sudestada, which specializes in Asian stir fries. From Monday to Friday Sudestada has a nice fixed menu for just USD$10.

Also, Florida Garden on the corner of Florida and Paraguay has great coffee and food. And if you had too many steaks, Tancat restaurant (645 Paraguay) offers great Spanish tapas and fish.

Where are the best places to shop?

For leather go to 666 Murillo. Also check out Suipacha Center located right downtown.

What’s your favorite tango milonga?

My favorite milonga is Confiteria Ideal. In Palermo, I like Salon Canning. In San Telmo, Milonga Torcuato Tasso for tango shows.

Who are your favorite tango instructors or performers?

Club Gricel (1180 La Rioja in San Cristobal) has the best tango instructors. Ask for Andriana Febbroni.

Where is the best place to buy tango shoes?

Lolo Gerard at 607 Tomas de Anchorena.

Any other tips?

On Sunday only I would recommend Feria de Mataderos which is by far the best authentic street market in the city. The fair has great food and crafts at very reasonable prices. While savouring great empanadas you can watch folk dancers, street musicians and gaucho horsemanship. Mataderos is a 45 min taxi ride from the city. Expect to pay about ARG$50 each way.

 

See Pedro’s website, Amigo de Buenos Aires, for more tips and information including his safety tips in the “Buenos Aires Do’s and Don’ts” section.

Top 5 Shopping Malls in Buenos Aires

The favorable exchange rate between most major currencies and the Argentine peso entices many tourists to head to the mall. Note that stores list prices in Argentine pesos, not US dollars. Don’t be confused by the $ sign. It means pesos, not dollars.

A tax of 21% is included in the price.  It will not be added on top. Tourists can claim a tax refund on purchases over $70 pesos made at participating stores. This only applies to products made in Argentina. Here’s more information on tax free shopping in Argentina.

Most malls provide free shuttle service from your hotel. Check with your concierge. The concierge may also be able to give you a discount card good for 10% off at many mall stores. You can also check for special offers for tourists at the customer service booth inside the mall.

 

Alto Palermo (Palermo)

Opened in 1990 and renovated in 2008, Alto Palermo is loaded with clothing stores, most of which are geared to the female shopper. Stores include Zara, Tommy Hilfiger, La Parfumerie, Timberland, Rouge, Mac, Gap and New Man. There’s also a Starbucks if you find yourself craving a frappuccino. You can change currency inside the mall at Metropolis.

Alto Palermo is located at the corner of Santa Fe and Coronel Diaz.

Website: http://www.altopalermo.com.ar/

 

Abasto Shopping (Abasto)

Abasto Shopping is the largest mall in Buenos Aires with over 230 shops, movie theaters and an enormous food court. There’s also an arcade and an educational museum for kids. So if you have kids this mall might be your best bet. 

The mall is located at Corrientes 3247 next to Carlos Gardel station on the “B” line of the subte. 

Website: http://www.abasto-shopping.com.ar

 

Galerías Pacífico (Micro Centro)

Galerías Pacífico is the mall most visited by tourists due to its central location on Florida at Córdoba.

Website: http://www.galeriaspacifico.com.ar/

 

Patio Bullrich (Recoleta)

This is an upscale mall in a ritzy part of Recoleta. Among several levels of clothing stores you will also find a good wine store, movie theaters, cafes and restaurants. Here’s more information on Patio Bullrich.

It’s located on Posadas across from the Caesar Park Hotel.

Website: http://www.shoppingbullrich.com.ar/

 

Paseo Alcorta (Palermo)

Paseo Alcorta in Palermo Chico is a good place for trendy fashions. A highlight of this mall is the large and well-stocked Carrefour supermarket.

It’s located at Figueroa Alcorta and Salguero.

Website: http://www.paseoalcorta.com.ar/

You May Need Certain Vaccinations if Traveling to Other Parts of Argentina

If you are taking a trip to Argentina and don’t plan on leaving Buenos Aires, you probably don’t need any special vaccinations. However you may need certain vaccinations if you will be traveling to other parts of Argentina, such as Iguazu Falls.

Below is a brief summary of recommendations offered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Check the CDC website for complete, up-to-date recommendations and advisories. Another good reference is the brochure International Travel and Health published by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Yellow Fever

The CDC recommends yellow fever vaccination for travelers older than 9 months of age visiting the northern and northeastern forested areas of Argentina, including Iguazu Falls and Misiones, and all areas bordering Paraguay and Brazil. 

Malaria

According to the CDC there is some risk of malaria in certain parts of Argentina including rural areas of Salta and Jujuy province along the border with Bolivia, and Misiones and Corrientes along the border with Paraguay. 

If you will be visiting these areas for only a few days, the CDC recommends taking precautions to protect yourself from mosquito bites. If you are staying for a longer duration, you may want to consider antimalarial medication.

Dengue Fever

A recent outbreak of dengue fever has sickened several thousand people in Argentina, mostly in the northern state of Chaco. This year’s outbreak is a spillover from nearby Bolivia, which had 50,000 cases this season.

Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquito bites. Prevention steps include avoiding the outbreak areas or taking mosquito bite precautions. There’s no commercially available vaccine that prevents the disease.

More Information

Be sure you visit the CDC website for all their recommendations and advice concerning diseases and vaccinations, as well as general tips on how to stay healthy while traveling.

Making Friends in BA

Are you traveling to Buenos Aires alone? Would you like to meet people to hang out with? Here are a few tips on how to make friends in Buenos Aires.

In my experience, one of the best ways to make friends quickly is by taking group Spanish classes. Enroll for classes and you will find that you have an instant social network of fellow students. And Spanish students aren’t just young people either. People of all ages study Spanish. Most schools accept new students every Monday so it’s easy to join in. 

Tango lessons are another good way to meet people. A few good places for tango lessons are DNI Tango, TangoCool and La Viruta. Don’t worry if you don’t know how to dance. Beginners are always welcomed.

Group tours are another option. The Recoleta Cemetery offers free tours regularly. Meeting someone in a cemetery might sound a little creepy, but Recoleta Cemetery is a special place and my favorite Buenos Aires tourist attraction. The tours attract a lot of people and the unique, quiet environment makes striking up conversations easy.

You might also try conversation groups like the English Conversation Group. It’s a group of people who practice English every Friday at a coffee shop in Buenos Aires. It’s free an fun, and tourists, backpackers, and expats are all welcomed. Here’s a link to their Facebook page.

Another way I’ve made friends is by meeting language exchange partners on Craigslist.

Know of any other good ways to make new friends in Buenos Aires? Post it below!

Watch Out for these Scams and Rip-offs

No matter what country you visit there are always a few bad apples looking to take advantage of tourists and exploit their disorientation and unfamiliarity with their surroundings. Unfortunately this is also true in my beloved Buenos Aires.

Personally I’ve not fallen victim to a tourist scam in Buenos Aires, and I’ve taken numerous trips, staying for months at a time. I don’t think the city is particularly “scam-ridden” and I don’t believe tourists are preyed upon nearly as much as in other destinations, such as Mexico for example. For the most part tourists are left in peace to enjoy the city.

Below are the most common scams and rip-offs you need to be aware of when visiting Buenos Aires. These scams have either happened to friends of mine or have been widely reported on Buenos Aires message boards and websites.

For a more thorough analysis of crime in Buenos Aires and how to avoid becoming a victim, see the article How Bad is Crime in Buenos Aires.

 

Mustard or Bird Poop Scam 

In this scam the unwitting tourist is sprayed with mustard or some other messy substance resembling bird poop. The thieves, sometimes pretending to be fellow tourists, then offer to help the tourist clean up. In the process, the tourist is pickpocketed or robbed. 

To protect yourself, don’t let anyone help you clean up or let them lead you to a place where they say you can clean up. If they touch you or get too close, get angry and yell at them.

 

100 Peso Taxi Switcheroo

When a tourist pays for a taxi with a large bill, usually 100 pesos, the driver switches the bill for a fake. He then shows the fake to the passenger and explains why it is no good. He demands payment with “real” bills. Sometimes the driver may ask to inspect your money before the trip, again so he can make the switch. This scam is particularly common at the Retiro train station and in front of restaurants in Puerto Madero. It happened to a friend of mine in Retiro.

To protect yourself from this scam, always pay taxi drivers with small bills. Avoid taking taxis near the Retiro train station.

 

Other Money and Taxi Scams

Many other scams are less blatant but can still cost you money if you’re not alert. 

Some hotels quote their rate in US dollars but at check-out charge you in pesos at a ridiculous exchange rate. Also, some businesses may charge non-Spanish speakers more than they would charge locals for the same merchandise. Expats sometimes refer to this as the Stupidity Tax.

Sometimes a taxi driver may pretend to forget to turn on the meter then charge you an inflated fare on arrival at your destination. 

One other taxi scam I’ve heard of, which I think is extremely uncommon, involves the taxi driver pretending that his car has broken down part way into the trip. He then offers to call you another taxi. The second taxi is operated by his accomplices who will rob you.

One time my taxi broke down in a dicey part of La Boca and the driver said he would call another taxi. Sensing a scam, I declined and caught a taxi in the street. However, in retrospect, I think the taxi really did break down. The engine wasn’t running smoothly and many Buenos Aires taxis have been converted to use natural gas which can cause engine problems.

Guided Tours and Birdwatching at the Ecological Reserve

The Costanera Sur Ecological Reserve is a lush greenspace only a short walk from the noise and commotion of downtown Buenos Aires. Go to escape the city and immerse yourself in nature without having to take a major excursion.

Porteños and tourists go to the reserve to jog, bike, stroll and birdwatch. I’m told there are several hundred species of birds in the reserve. Bikes are available for rent.

Saturdays, Sundays and holidays guided tours are available at 10:30am and 3:30pm. Check in at the visitors’ center inside the park. The tour takes a couple of hours. Space is limited so it’s a good idea to call or email in advance. The phone number is 0800-444-5343 and the email is visitasguiadas_recs@buenosaires.gov.ar.  

The last time I visited the reserve it was thick with mosquitos so bring insect repellent. 

From April to October the park is open from 8am to 6pm. From November to March, 8am to 7pm. It’s closed on Mondays. Night tours are occasionally offered. You can check the current schedule and get more information here. Admission is free.

The Ecological Reserve is located just east of Puerto Madero at Avenida Tristán Achával Rodríguez 1550. Here is a map. Click to enlarge it.