Most people don’t strap on their tango shoes for their flights to Buenos Aires, but we guarantee that they’ve got a pair or two stowed away in their luggage: this South American city is sure to move the most left-footed tourists to the tips of their toes with the passionate throes of its native dance. A Buenos Aires flight nonstop from New York runs about twelve hours, so it’ll give you plenty of time to rest up for the vivacious, vibrant nightlife the city has to offer. Dance the tango that made Buenos Aires famous in the streets of San Telmo, the historic, cobblestone-covered quarter of the city. Squeeze in between screaming soccer fans at a smoky bar in Belgrano to watch the Superclásico, the game which pits two of Buenos Aires’ favorite soccer teams, Club Atletico River Plate and Boca Juniors, against each other for the most spirited match of the season. And if the complimentary meal served on your Buenos Aires flight doesn’t quite hit the spot, fear not: restaurants serve up empanadas, baked meat and vegetable dumplings, and world-renowned Argentine steak until the sun starts to rise over the shores of the Rio de la Plata.
The energy of “the Paris of South America” doesn’t disappear come daybreak: the money you save on your cheap flight to Buenos Aires will be well spent in Palermo, where porteños, or Buenos Aires residents, peruse the shady streets for treasure found in independently owned boutiques and art galleries. After buying a first edition Borges novel at a second-hand bookstore or a one-of-a-kind belt made of woven newspapers from an edgy boutique, mosey on over to La Boca, the birthplace of tango and arguably one of the city’s most heavily visited neighborhoods due to its vibrant, candy-colored walls. It’s here where you can whip out those tango shoes that waited so patiently throughout your flight to Buenos Aires, and dance the dance that made Argentina and the rest of the world fall in love with its illustrious capital city.
Cheap flights to Buenos Aires are hard to come by throughout the holiday season, when summer is in full swing in the southern hemisphere. With its mild winters, sultry summers, and temperate transitions in between, Buenos Aires makes for an ideal travel destination year-round. Summer hits halfway through November and doesn’t dissolve into fall until halfway through April, and the coldest weather in winter is encountered throughout the months of June and July.
Argentine Independence Day, July 9th, draws a huge crowd to the capital city for revelry and remembrance. With study abroad programs in Buenos Aires becoming more and more popular with high schools and colleges around the world, students will be booking flights to Buenos Aires for January, February and July in order to begin their fall semesters and spring semesters, respectively. The population of Argentina is predominantly Catholic, which is why Semana Santa (Holy Week) is observed for the week preceding Easter. Finding accommodations or cheap flights to Buenos Aires surrounding this period may be difficult, seeing as many Argentines abroad return home to visit and spend time with family.
Though the holidays will hardly bring about a Buenos Aires flight that won’t break the bank, celebrating under the Argentine sun is an experience worth every peso. Trade those wintry blues in December, January and February for a vacation full of long days that lead into nights at your favorite boliche (discotheque) that’ll inevitably conclude with breakfast at your favorite cafetería (coffee shop).
For travelers planning on a flight to Buenos Aires that’ll land them in a sun-drenched city on the autumnal cusp, book Buenos Aires flights for March or April before or after Semana Santa (Holy Week).
The oldest subway in South America, the subte, is a quick, cheap and efficient way to get around Buenos Aires. The buses can take you anywhere, but it may not be worth the effort to figure out the routes. Buenos Aires is great to walk around, boasting lovely streets, plazas and parks. You can also grab a radio taxi, which is safer than street taxis. You can identify them by the plastic light boxes on their roofs. Make sure you know your destination’s address and cross street, as some drivers don’t know the city very well. You don’t need a car to get around the city, but if you drive, make sure you find out the rules of the road.
- Lunfardo Porteño: Argentine Spanish has its own slang which can boggle the mind of any Spanish speaker unfamiliar with the daily jargon of Buenos Aires (for example, colectivos are also called bondis, everyone speaks castellano, not español, and everyone refers to each other as “Che”). Lunfardo is easy to pick up and won’t affect your ability to communicate, so don’t worry about making minor adjustments to your Spanish throughout your stay.
- Buenos Aires is home to the one of the world’s longest avenues, the Avenida Rivadavia, as well as the world’s widest, Avenida 9 de Julio, which spans an entire city block with its numerous lanes of traffic. When pedestrians are given the green light to cross 9 de Julio, you’ll notice that those in the know will pick up the pace and briskly walk or jog to cross the avenue as quickly as possible. They have the right idea: Though it’s the law for drivers to give pedestrians the right of way in the United States, cabs in Buenos Aires tend to take off before the light turns green, so a little hussle won’t hurt you in helping you reach the curb faster (and safely!)
- La Plaza de Mayo is a focal point of official, commercial, political and historical significance in Buenos Aires and Argentina at large. If your flight to Buenos Aires happened to present “Evita” as part of its in flight entertainment, chances are you’ll recognize the pink balcony from which Argentina’s most famous first lady made her most famous address. La Casa Rosada (The Pink House), which looks out over the Plaza, is similar to the White House of the United States, in that it’s the official seat of the executive branch of Argentine government.
- As the epicenter for Argentine political activism, several strikes and demonstrations are held in the Plaza, as they have been for decades. If you happen upon the Plaza de Mayo on a Thursday afternoon, you’re sure to see a moving and painful display: the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo, an organization of mothers and family members fighting to reunite with their abducted and “disappeared” loved ones who fell victim to La Guerra Sucia (the Dirty War), encircle the obelisk in the center of the plaza for a half-hour in protest. The white handkerchief covering their heads has become an emblem so well known that its meaning requires no written or verbal reminder, and the handkerchief is painted on the weathered bricks of the plaza in the circle the Madres continue to walk. The Plaza de Mayo is constantly swarming with people due to the fact that all Subte lines intersect within two blocks of the Plaza’s boundaries, so your presence on a Thursday won’t be an intrusion; just keep the solemn nature of the event in mind out of respect for the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo.
- Though traditionally a day of rest, Sunday in Buenos Aires is the busiest day of the week for artisans, artists, and shopping addicts alike. The Feria San Telmo runs all day and extends through the streets and alleyways from Plaza Dorrego, while artists and aspiring fashion and jewelry designers gather on in Palermo at Plaza Serrano to sell their canvases and creations on the sidewalk. The action starts around 10am and wraps up around 4 or 7 depending on the season, the weather, and the discretion of the vendors, so be sure to arrive early on to search through their wares for buried treasure.
- “Ojo en La Boca”: though the Technicolor, tangoing neighborhood draws quite a crowd, La Boca is arguably the most dangerous area within Buenos Aires city limits and petty crime is prevalent here. The crayon box color scheme of this part of the city is what makes it famous, so visiting before sundown is not only assuredly safer, it’s also just a smarter move when it comes to planning your itinerary. This shouldn’t dissuade you from taking Colectivo 152 to La Boca by any means; the neighborhood is not to be missed during a trip to Buenos Aires, but it helps to keeps your wits about you particularly in this part of the city.
- Palermo, Buenos Aires’ largest neighborhood, is divided into five sub-barrios: Alto Palermo, Palermo Chico, Palermo Viejo, Palermo SoHo and Palermo Hollywood. Alto Palermo, bordering Recoleta and its famous cemetery, is home to the Alto Palermo mall and some of the best retail shopping the city has to offer. Palermo Chico extends up Avenida Libertador and is home to the foreign embassies, along with the residents of the diplomats and officials who work them. Palermo Chico is also home to Buenos Aires’ most celebrated fine arts museums, el Museo de Bellas Artes and MALBA, el Museo de Arte Latino de Buenos Aires. Made famous by the poetry of Jorge Luis Borges, Palermo Viejo stretches from Avenida Santa Fe to Avenida Córdoba and showcases spectacular examples of Spanish architecture in this residential area alongside beautifully manicured parks.
- Inside Palermo Viejo is Palermo SoHo, where young porteños and party-minded tourists make there way for fiestas after dark. The bustling bohemian community of boutiques and funky cafes transforms at dusk into nightlife hub with the open-air bars and discotheques of Plaza Serrano. Alongside Palermo SoHo is Palermo Hollywood, where several Argentine production companies have set up shop.
- A good rule of thumb for traversing Palermo SoHo and Palermo Hollywood is to walk down Scalabrini Ortiz, starting from its intersection with Avenida Santa Fe and walking towards Avenida Córdoba: any right turn you take off of Scalabrini Ortiz will take you to Palermo SoHo, and if you turn onto El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua or Honduras, you’ll pass by chic steakhouses and cafeterías on your way to Plaza Serrano.
- False currency remains a nuisance in the daily vida porteña. Using an ATM guarantees legitimate bank notes, but Argentine ATMs dole out the requested amount in large bills (i.e. 100 and 50 peso notes) when applicable instead of smaller bills of twenties and tens. Make a note to make change in retail establishments or in restaurants and bars when your sum comes to more than 50 pesos: refrain from paying taxis, smaller restaurant and bar tabs, and at street fairs with 100 peso notes, because that’s when you’re most likely to encounter a fake 50, 20 or 10 peso bill shuffled in with your change.