Argentina!

Trip Start Oct 15, 2012
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Trip End May 17, 2013


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Flag of Argentina  , Litoral,
Monday, April 29, 2013

Well I can hardly believe we have spent we have spent exactly 8 weeks in this wonderful and diverse country covering probably even more distance than we did in Chile. In 8 weeks we have explored almost every part of the country from the very bottom at Ushuaia to the top at Salta and Iguazu. From the wilderness of Patagonia to the lakes, chocolate and gelato of Bariloche to the wineries of Mendoza to the surprising extraordinary colorful landscapes near Salta to the vibrancy of Buenos Aires and the majesty of Iguazu falls, it is a place full of great variety with something that should please anyone.

Highlights:

- Iguazu Falls: what an amazing way to finish Argentina. The falls are a truly spectacular sight and sound and the amount of water when we were there was really impressive. A great wet experience, i really enjoyed getting soaked in the boat even if there was too much water the day we were there to go right under some of the falls.

- Salta: We were pleasantly surprised by Salta itself, which is probably one of the nicest Colonial cities we have been to, let along the absolutely delightful surrounds scenery. It is impossible to do it justice in words. We also loved having a car for a few days and being able to do what we want

- Pierto Moreno: after seeing numerous glaciers of the last month, on the Navimag, in Torres del Paine and in Fitz Roy I don't think either of us expected to be wowed however we were pleasantly surprise. The size and sound of the glacier is awesome and we also treated to numerous large pieces falling off with great drama into the surrounding water.

- Vino: Spending a day trying various wines at the wineries near Maipu (near Mendoza). A fantastic day out cycling around the countryside try wine as well as olives, olive oil and spreads.


Food:
Argentina is home to numerous wonderful food, great steaks and BBQ's, chocolate, ice cream as well as empanadas - oh and has pretty decent wine as well. Hard to have only a couple of favorites but here goes:

- Casa de Empanadas (Cafayate): really the name says it all really. We have tried numerous empanadas in both Chile and Argentina but these were by far the best. A mix of 12-15 flavors that you order by the dozen (you can order less but really would you want to?). Generally the Empanadas around Argentina's northwest were the best.

- Rapa Nui, JuaJu and Abuela Goye (Bariloche): Ok it is really hard to just pick one so I am not going to try. All three have fantastic ice cream, not to mention chocolate. The calafate (which is a wild berry that grows around Patagonia) we had in El Calafate was probably our favourite. They all have stores in Buenos Aires.

- Miranda (Buenos Aires): I will say there are probably places with better steak but for a very high quality steak at a reasonable price you cant beat this place. The Salmon was also good.

I will say as a parting note while the steaks are not really any better than a good steak back home the sausages are extremely good and tasty and enjoyed making many dishes with them, my favourite being in a sweet potato mash. Gabriella also discovered a wonderful avocado mix to have with pasta, yum.

To give you an idea and ice cream (1/4 litre will cost between 20-40 pesos). A good meal out will be around 100 pesos each for a main. A dozen Empanadas around Salta will set you back around 40 pesos.

Accommodation:
Accommodation in Argentina is quite similar to Chile and overall very good quality but there were a few standouts;

- La Casa Odile (El Bolsón): Its a wonderful set up with passionate owners/staff and delicious breakfasts. Its like a old farm house but done up beautifully.

- Hostel 41 Below (Bariloche): a great setup with a nice view over the town and really helpful staff. We ended up here for a week

- On the road (Buenos Aires): a lovely little hostel with tonnes of charm and in the atmospheric Palermo district with plenty of restaurants and bars nearby.

Overall Accommodation ranged in price from around 90-100 pesos in the south to more like 60 or less once you got to Mendoza. Buenos Aires varies depending where you stay.


Costs:
We spent $5,650NZD in spot on 8 weeks, or $50 per day each. One important thing to note as it can make a huge difference in spend if you get the official rate or the black market (blue) rate, you are about 50% better off with the latter. See the following for end for more information.

 
Argentina is probably slightly cheaper than Chile. We saved some money by cooking more (I would say around 75%) of our food at our hostel rather than eating out (this was a choice driven by the fact we like cooking not about saving money). The real big difference however was we spent a lot less on sights and activities than every other country (we only spent around 50% of what we spent in Chile or Bolivia for example, not because we did not do anything but more the things we did do were not that expensive. This was somewhat balanced out that we spent almost double every other country when it came to transport remembering the distances between places is quite large.

Roughly our spend broke down as follows(in NZD)
Transport: 29%
Accommodation: 26%
Food: 21%
Sights and Activities: 17%
Shopping 3.5%
Other: 2.5%

Our only expensive item was the road trip we did around Salta that cost around $650.

Black (blue) market rate:
The official rate varied between $1USD = 4.8-5.1 pesos while the black market rate varied between 1USD = 6.5 - 8 pesos and we generally got 7.5 pesos to the dollar once we had worked this out (which was not till we got Bariloche and I had the chance to go back). There had been a huge appreciation in the blue market rate over the first half of 2013 to note. As I said it was around $1USD = 6 pesos at the start of the year and was about 6.5 - 7 by the time we arrived in February. By the time we arrived in Buenos Aires in April it was over 8. After we left it got as high as 10 but has  since  dropped back to 8 (June 2013).

I would suggest if planning on spending a reasonable amount of time in Argentina bring some USD with you and plan some side trips to Chile (Bariloche, Mendoza and Salta are good connection points) Uruguay (Buenos Aires) , Bolivia (highly recommend this one just generally from Salta) or Brazil. In Uruguay it is possible to withdrawal USD directly from ATM though you may want to go to Montevideo as Colonia has shortages. In the other countries  just withdrawal whatever the local currency is and change to USD before returning to Argentina.

it is easy enough to find what the blue market rate is on the web, noting on the street you will probably get less say if it is 9 your more likely to get just better than 8. In Buenos Aires there are plenty of money changes on Florida but look at bills carefully as there are fakes (there are websites to help with this and you can also buy a pen that helps detect fakes) and this is not just a problem with street changes even ATMs have been known to dispense fake bills (so check those as well and take into the bank if you spot one). Elsewhere ask in most places there are shops that will change bills.

just to note we changed ours in Bariloche and had no problem. The rest of the time we were able to change with Gabriela's family which obviously we felt safer with.



 
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