How big is Argentina?
Argentina is the second largest country in South America after Brazil, though it's not nearly as populous. At 2,766,890 square miles, it's home to about 45 million people, most of whom live in Buenos Aires. The rest of the population, a little over 20 million people, are spread out over a handful of cities and towns.
Thus, there's a lot of empty space here, much of it filled with incredible landscapes you can find nowhere else: the high-altitude deserts and painted hills of northern Salta Province, the vineyards of the fertile Maipu Valley in the west, tropical jungles and the thundering Iguazú Falls in the Misiones Region, the glaciers of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and Tierra del Fuego in the far Patagonian south. For more, read about the Top 10 Regions of Argentina: Where to Go & What to See.
How do I get to Argentina?
Besides Lima, Peru, and Sao Paolo, Brazil, Argentina's capital of Buenos Aires is one of the major transport hubs of South America. Unless you're on an overland trip, you'll likely fly into Buenos Aires and land at Ezeiza International Airport, located 13 miles (22 miles) southwest of the city. From North America, major airlines like United, Delta, and Aerolineas Argentinas (Argentina's national carrier) fly direct from many major cities including Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. Air Canda flies direct from Toronto.
From the U.K. and Europe, you can find non-stop flights to Buenos Aires from London, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Madrid, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, and Rome on a variety of carriers. Qantas also runs flights from Sydney to Buenos Aires via Auckland, New Zealand or Santiago, Chile to Buenos Aires.
There are also many South American cruise ships that stop in Argentina, typically on a multi-day tour to Patagonia or even further south to Antarctica. And if you're combining Argentina and Chile in one trip, you may cross the border on an overland journey—for more info, check out your 3 Options for Crossing the Border.
How do I get around Argentina?
Air travel is by far the most convenient way to travel around Argentina. This really isn't the type of country that lends itself to multi-day road trips. With everything being so spaced out, drive times can get monotonous real quick, as you'll often find yourself staring in front of an endless highway amid non-descript flatlands for long periods. For this reason, flying is the best option.
The drawback to air travel here is that, unlike in other South American counties like Chile and Colombia, Argentina doesn't have a great budget carrier. Their national airline, Aerolineas Argentinas, is subsidized for citizens, but foreigners often find themselves paying hundreds of dollars for a single ticket, sometimes just one way. This is the case even with common routes such as B.A.-Mendoza, or B.A.-Iguazú. And if you're planning on visiting the far north and south of the country, such as Patagonia, then air travel is the only sensible way to go. An overland trip from B.A. to Tierra del Fuego, for example, takes over three days.
If you want to offset the often prohibitive costs of air travel in Argentina, and you don't mind longer journeys, then bus travel is the way to go. Long-distance buses in Argentina are of high quality, with most featuring air conditioning, meal service, and bus attendants serving drinks and snacks. Amenities are nice, as these days you'll often find flat-screen TVs in every seat.
You can also purchase different classes of seats, with the most common being semi-cama (seats recline to a 40° angle) and cama-ejuctivo/cama full (seats fully recline). Full-cama can be very comfortable, and it's a great class of seat to reserve for overnight bus trips, as you'll likely be able to sleep through the trip.
Argentina once had a thriving long-distance rail system that has mostly fallen into disuse, and now has limited routes. Trains are still a great way to get around the provinces near Buenos Aires, or even out to the coastal city of Mar del Plata, but for longer distance north to Cordoba and further to Salta, they aren't efficient. Also, trains are typically poorly maintained and are thus uncomfortable.
Argentina does have a few popular tourist trains that run scenic routes for just a few miles. One is the Tren a Las Nubes, which runs 20 km (12 miles) through stunning high-altitude desert scenery, like canyons and painted mountains, in Salta Province. Another is The End of the World Train (or the Southern Fuegian Railway), located in the far south Patagonian city of Ushuaia, in Tierra del Fuego. The train runs eight km (five miles) from the city to the entrance of Tierra del Fuego National Park and back.
Do I need a visa?
Argentina has flirted with "reciprocity" fees in the past. Often this meant paying a one-time fee of 100 dollars or more for the issuance of a travel visa. As of 2019, this is not the case, and U.S. citizens require no visa for a stay of up to 90 days. This is the same for Canadian, Australian, and UK passport holders as well.
Are there restrictions to where I can travel?
Once you're in the country, Argentina is basically wide open. Whether you want to travel to the salt flats of the far north near the Bolivian border, or the remote outposts of Tierra del Fuego just before Antarctica, you should have no problem. Know that if you plan to spend time in any national parks you will have to pay the entrance fees, but these are often negligible, even for foreigners.
One tricky location is the Falkland Islands (or Las Malvinas, as they're known in Spanish), which are located off the country's southern Atlantic coast. Because of Argentina's war with England (and the lingering feelings of bitterness that remain today), there are no real direct flights from mainland Argentina to the Falklands. Those who wish to visit these islands will have better luck by booking a flight from adjacent Chile.
What should I pack?
That depends where you intend to visit. If you're staying predominantly in the capital, seasonal attire similar to what you'd wear in the U.S. and U.K. is appropriate. Know that although it doesn't snow in Buenos Aires, winter temperatures get frigid and the summers are often oppressively hot. In fact, if you're planning on visiting during Argentina's summer months (Dec-March), do like the locals and head south to the Lake District and Patagonia for at least part of your trip to beat the heat.
If you're venturing down to the national parks of Patagonia, in southern Argentina, then wind and rain-resistant clothing are ideal. Hiking and camping gear, as well as hiking boots, are necessary if you're planning any excursions into national parks. And if you are traveling in the winter months you'll also want to pack many layers as temps often dip to 32°F (0°C) at night.
If traveling to the deserts and mountains of the north and west, light layers are ideal for daytime excursions, with heavier layers for nighttime wear. If you're visiting Misiones Province and Iguazú Falls, pack light layers and mosquito repellent. In any of these areas, you'll want to be sure to bring sunscreen.
What is the food like?
For a long time, Argentine cuisine was regarded as incredible but limited. The few dishes they've always been famous for, they do quite well. This includes steak, empanadas, choripan (a sausage sandwich), pizza, and certain pasta like gnocchi.
Indeed, the rumors are true: Argentina grills what might be the best steak in the world. This has historic roots in Argentina's gaucho (cowboy) frontier culture. It's endured throughout the years and even today it's typical even for most Argentines to throw a Sunday asado (bbq), in which large groups of family and friends gather to enjoy copious amounts of grilled meats and wine. The further south you get, especially into Patagonia, you'll find more lamb on the menu. Naturally, these dishes are best paired with a glass of Argentina's famous Malbec.
Grilled meats will always be vital culinary staples of the nation. However, in the last 20 years Argentina has been expanding its culinary horizons and now you can find a wide variety of international restaurants in major cities. Sushi is particularly ubiquitous these days, and American-style burger joints and burrito places seem to be popping up everywhere. Most cities and towns now even have at least a few vegetarian/healthy restaurant options (go figure).
Is tipping mandatory?
It isn't mandatory, but a 10% gratuity in sit-down, non-counter-service restaurants is appreciated. Some nicer restaurants may automatically add a 10% service charge to the restaurant bill, so it's good to check. It is not necessary to tip taxi drivers.
What currency is used in Argentina
The Argentine peso. At the time of this writing, the peso was trading at 38.19 to the US dollar.
Is Argentina expensive?
Compared to other South American nations, yes—at the moment. Argentina's economy can politely be described as whimsical, and in modern times, this has especially been the case since their economic crises of 1998-2002. In the years immediately following this peso devaluation, Argentina was one of the cheapest countries to visit anywhere in Latin America. However, as the economy slowly rebounded, prices stabilized, although currency controls resulted in runaway inflation which led to a black-market exchange rate for dollars.
Then, more drama. In 2015, new President Mauricio Macri lifted currency controls in order to counteract inflation, which led to another huge devaluation of the peso. And 2018 saw yet another crash. The result of all this is that foreigners can expect to pay inflated prices in Argentina now and into the foreseeable future. You can also expect the prices of goods and services to change regularly, often from week to week.
Can I bring my children?
Definitely. Argentines are family-oriented as people (consider them the Italians of South America). They love people, thrive in big groups, and dote on children. Also, there are so many natural wonders here that make perfect spots for a family vacation. This includes the mammoth Iguazú Falls, the majesty of the glaciers in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, and all that skiing in various parts of Patagonia, from the city of Bariloche down to Tierra del Fuego.
Word to the wise: if you spend all your time in the capital, you'll notice everyone stays up quite late. It's not uncommon for entire families to be enjoying dinner at 11 pm on weekends. While local children are accustomed to this, it might be too much for your little ones (best to try and find a local babysitter if your hotel offers one).
Is Argentina safe?
Yes, Argentina is generally safe. Like anywhere else, though, it's good to exercise caution. The economic problems referenced above have led to an uptick in petty crime, mostly in big cities and particularly in Buenos Aires. Incidents include pickpocketing and snatching bags and cameras. Thieves have been known to ride by sidewalks on a motorcycle or bicycle and snatch the phones out of the hands of unlucky pedestrians. Avoid any such occurrence with common sense—keep an eye on your valuables, avoid walking in dark areas alone at night, and always ride in licensed taxis.
Do I need to speak Spanish?
If you spend all your time in big cities like Buenos Aires, the short answer is no. There's a healthy amount of English spoken in the capital and locals who speak even a little are always extremely eager to practice their English. There's even a good amount of English spoken in the towns and cities of Patagonia due to its economy being based on tourism.
However, if you travel to more remote areas, English becomes much more scarce (if spoken at all). The best thing to do is brush up on some basic Spanish phrases prior to your arrival. Do know that Argentines speak a unique dialect called Castellano, which is almost identical to Spanish with a few differences. If you purchase any Spanish-language audio lessons or classes, make sure to specify that it's Argentine Spanish you require.
Are credit cards widely accepted?
Yes. Most of the places you'll be visiting in Argentina, from the capital city to southern Patagonia and the northern deserts, have a heavy tourist footprint, so it's common to accept cards. Also, EMV (Europay, Mastercard and Visa) chip technology not only makes paying with cards quick and easy but also secure. Only in the most rural and remote areas of the country will you encounter issues paying by card.
What inoculations do I need?
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that all travelers be up to date on routine vaccinations, including Hepatitis A and Typhoid. Zika has been reported, so the CDC does recommend pregnant women refrain from visiting Argentina. Those traveling to northern Corrientes and Misiones provinces, particularly infants, should get a yellow fever shot. Travelers who might be at risk for animal bites, such as those going on adventure sports or caving excursions, or who will be in remote areas for many days, should get a rabies vaccine.