Getting Around in Buenos Aires – Taxis and Remises

The best way for visitors to get around the city is by taxi.  They are inexpensive, ubiquitous, available at all hours and will get you to your destination quickly.  The taxis are unmistakable in their black-and-yellow.  They are generally safe, but it’s best to stick with taxis that have their company name and phone number printed on them on the passenger door (I’ve indicated this with a red circle in the photo below).  This indicates that they are properly licensed.

 

Cabbies, like many porteños (inhabitants of Buenos Aires), can be aggressive drivers.  If you feel like your driver is trying out for a spot on the Formula One circuit, say “un poco mas despacio (des-PAH-see-oh), por favor.” – a bit slower, please.  The drivers are usually friendly and often chatty if you engage them in conversation.

 

Fares are regulated by the municipality, and start at a little over US$1 ($3.80 in pesos).  For most destinations in the center of the city, you would pay less than US$10.  Tip your driver a couple of pesos if he/she is helping you with bags and luggage.  Other than that, just round up the fare to the next peso or two.  Make sure you have change (“cambio”) before you get in the cab, because invariably your cabbie will not have any.

 

Remises – a town car and driver – are also readily available for rides to airports or other situations where you may need more room and/or comfort for passengers and luggage.  My uncle passed along this list of licensed remises and taxis (gracias, Daniel!) and direct links to a few cab companies:

You also have the option of hiring a cab by the hour, for a minimum of two hours, at a rate of about US$11 ($37 pesos) an hour.

From Ezeiza

A remis ride from the international airport (Ezeiza) to the center will run about US$40 ($141 in pesos).  You can hire a remis at the airport or make a reservation ahead of time.

A well known transportation company, Manuel Tienda León lets you make reservations on line.

 

A cab ride will cost about US$25 ($86 pesos).   Taxi and remis stands are located at various points in Ezeiza (click here). There are also shuttle buses available.  To make sure you don’t get ripped off, NEVER take a ride from a cabbie who approaches you as you leave the customs area.  Go to one of the stands to ensure service from a licensed driver.

Shopping in Buenos Aires: The Main Shopping Centers

There are 5 major shopping malls in Buenos Aires, concentrated in the Recoleta/Palermo area (see map below).  You will see recognizable stores and brands (Calvin Klein, Christian Dior, Nike, The Gap) but most of the stores feature Argentinean brands and designs.  There is much overlap in stores from one mall to another, so it’s not likely that you’ll get value from visiting all of them.  If there’s a particular store you are looking for, visit the websites I’ve included.  They have complete listings of stores, along with links to their sites.

Patio Bullrich 

This modern, luxurious mall features international brands – Armani, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior and Ferragamo – as well as top Argentinean designers.  Prune is a good choice for high end leather jackets. Trosman offers unique design in women’s clothing.  Stop at the Havanna store to stock up on some sweet treats – alfajores and Havannets are our favorites.

 

Galerias Pacifico

This mall, located on one corner of the pedestrian shopping area in Calle Florida, features high end Argentinean stores within its majestic architecture.  The fabulous murals give it a classic European feel reason alone to visit this mall   For women’s fashion, Paula Cahen D’Anvers store has contemporary, very wearable designs.  Rapsodia’s designs are more trendy and boho, for the younger set.  Legacy is a very popular men’s brand for casual wear.  Try Lopez Taibo for well-crafted, classically designed men’s dress shoes.  The popular Blaque store features women’s shoes, leather jackets and handbags.   Casa Lopez is another good choice for handbags.

 

Alto Palermo

This modern mall had a major renovation last year.  Head over to Mimo & Company for clothes for the cool kid in your life.  Kill has contemporary designs for the modern woman.  Cardon Cosas Nuestras features traditional Argentinean wear with a modern twist – jackets, boots, sweaters and even gaucho pants.

 

Paseo Alcorta

Most of the stores in Paseo Alcorta feature Argentinean labels.  Cheeky has cute kid’s clothes.  Clara Ibarguren’s designs are fun for every day wear.  Etiqueta Negra has high end menswear.

 

Abasto

If you’re traveling with kids, head over to Abasto.  Between visits to the stores, you can spend some time in the amusement park and the children’s museum Daniel Hechter offers men’s clothing, described as urban, modern and sophisticated.  La Martina has clothing and accessories based on their polo heritage.

 

Outside the city center: Unicenter

Another notable mall is Unicenter, located in Martinez.    This enormous mall, located in Martinez, encompasses trendy and affordable brands such as Zara and C&A, with some higher end stores like Tommy Hilfiger, Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.  Unicenter also houses a 14 screen movie theater, a major department store – Falabella – and a hypermarket –Jumbo.

Breathtaking Views from Ruta 63, Paso Cordoba, in Patagonia

This memorable drive links San Martin de Los Andes, the nearby Chapelco ski resort, and Bariloche. It passes through rugged landscapes, fantastic rock formations and the unbelievably clear waters of the Traful.

The music on this video is by guitarist Cacho Tirao, and is titled “Ya Esta Hecha La Rosa”.

The map below shows our drive in yellow.

Map Paso Cordoba Ruta 63 Patagonia Argentina

The dirt road is rough, rutty, at times narrow and hilly. It has a few scary hairpin curves and is not well maintained, so ask around to make sure conditions are safe before you go. Once you get to Confluencia, you’ll turn right onto Ruta 237, a paved and well-traveled road, to get to Bariloche. The map is provided courtesy of the San Martin de Los Andes municipality.

White Water Rafting in Bariloche

Personally, I spend most of my time in Bariloche when I travel to Argentina. Bariloche is located in Patagonia, in a region of mountain and lakes, southwest of Buenos Aires, on the border with Chile. You get there via a 2.5 hour flight from BA. Golfing, flyfishing, hiking are just a few of the summer activities available. For a fun day trip, consider white water rafting with Aguas Blancas. I went on the Class III/IV Rio Manso rafting trip .
It starts with the Aguas Blancas crew picking you up at your hotel early in the morning, in their spacious vans. You’re on the road for about an hour and a half. The views are beautiful and the guides keep you entertained by sharing some mate (the tea of the gauchos) and by pointing out the notable sights along the way. When you arrive at the launching site, you’ll be served a breakfast of pastries and coffee. You’ll need the energy, so enjoy plenty of it. Next, you’re provided with wet suits, helmets and life jackets and given rowing and safety instructions. Most of the guides speak English and they’ll make sure you and your friends are assigned to a raft where instructions are given primarily or exclusively in English. Then you are off!

The trip starts calmly enough. After all, Rio Manso means “tame river” so you would expect this smooth ride. The Aguas Blancas team includes guides on kayaks, in case anyone falls out of their rafts or the raft guides need extra help. Enjoy the calm while it lasts. Soon enough the white water appears and you’re in for a thrilling ride!

You’ll raft for about 2 hours, arriving at the border with Chile, where the Aguas Blancas vans meet you. After you change back into your clothes you’ll all pile back into the van and be driven to the initial starting point on the Rio Manso. Mmmmm… an asado (barbeque) is waiting for you, and you are ravenous. After the late lunch, you’re on the van back to Bariloche. On the way, half the van is chatting and the other half is snoring. It was a long, thrilling and unforgettable day. Aguas Blancas provides a photographer so you can focus on the experience and still leave Bariloche with photos – the team will have a CD ready for you in a day or two.

The guides are a significant part of the experience. Our guide Juan had unlimited energy and was hilarious. Also, you’re most likely sharing the experience with visitors from all over the world and you’ll get a chance to know them better during meals and drives.

Aside from this outing, Aguas Blancas also has a Class II/III trip and 2-day excursions that combine rafting with horseback riding or mountain biking.

“Row, you bunch of lazy grannies! ROW!”, yells Juan.

We can’t help but laugh and enjoy the rapids.

Our team, the blue raft, celebrates the end of a great ride, on the Chilean border.

Argentina Kicks Off Matt Lauer’s “Where In the World” Segment in 2008

Hats off to the Today Show team for a wonderful segment on Argentina. Matt Lauer and crew delivered a well-researched, accurate, and entertaining episode.  This was filmed last April – the beginning of fall in Argentina.  I can’t think of a better quick course on visiting Argentina.

Matt really seemed to enjoy his time in Patagonia, too.    Nice poncho, Matt!  Did you know that the colors and patterns of the poncho indicate region and history, just like Scottish tartans?  That’s a subject for a subsequent post….

 

Nature Puts On a Show – Esteros del Iberá – The Iberá Wetlands

The province of Corrientes in northeastern Argentina features an astonishing natural wonder – South America’s second largest wetland, 65 times the size of Buenos Aires.

With exotic wildlife such as the capybara, marsh deer, howler monkeys, alligators, and fresh water otters, as well as 350 species of birds, this nature reserve is making the list of travelers in the know.

The remote, small town of Colonia Carlos Pellegrini is the starting off point for this adventure. A wide range of activities are available – guided boat rides and horseback excursions, as well as canoeing, biking and hiking. Birdwatchers can tick off unique birds from their lists including (with some luck) the elusive Strange-tailed Tyrant. The highly rated lodges of the area include outdoor pools among the lush scenery and gourmet dining.

But there’s more than just spectacular scenery and biodiversity this area has to offer. Corrientes is home to a unique culture that combines Catholicism with local saints/spirits. These traditions are reflected in local speech, religious fetes, music and dance.

If you’re seeking a unique experience off the beaten track in an exotic natural setting, this trip is for you. Best time to visit Esteros del Iberá is May – December to avoid the summer heat.

These travel articles rave about the experience and provide travel details:

in – LAN’s travel magazine includes tips on where to stay and how to get there
Lugares Magazine gives you the inside scoop
The Star wrote about Esteros del Iberá in their eco-tourism section

Visitor information from local organizations:
Corrientes government tourism office
Esteros del Iberá info

So You Don’t Know Much About History

When you visit another country, it helps to have some historical perspective to understand the culture a bit better. In the case of Argentina, if you only know that it’s a Spanish-speaking country in the Western Hemisphere, you would normally make assumptions about the country based on whatever knowledge you have about other Latin American countries. But you would quickly find, upon visiting, that some of your assumptions would be wrong. Here’s a brief look at the history of Argentina, that will give you some clues as to its unique culture and what it shares (and doesn’t share) with other countries.

Click on the image and it will bring up an interactive timeline. Scroll your mouse over the dots to see highlights. You can also click on each image for more details.

I’m an enthusiastic but amateur historian, and although I’ve used multiple sources for confirming facts and for a balanced analysis, I welcome your comments and/or corrections.

Hiking Cerro Catedral… Again

In January, my cousin and I took an easy 4 hour hike to the Frey mountain shelter. It was a beautiful day, the horseflies kept to themselves for the most part, and we were rewarded with stunning views of lake Gutierrez, condors circling gracefully, effortlessly high above, the many peaks of Cerro Catedral, and, at the top, the majestic spires surronding scenic lake Toncek.

We hiked this in an afternoon, but you can spend the night at the shelter and take side trips from there. For more information on this and other shelters, visit Club Andino Bariloche and go to the Refugios y Campings page. There you will find information in Spanish and English.

Summer in Bariloche – A Pleasant Hike On Cerro Catedral

This beautiful video highlights an easy summer hike from the base of Cerro (Mount) Catedral to Refugio Frey at the summit. It takes about three and a half hours and starts at the parking lot of Cerro Catedral, a 20 minute drive from Bariloche. My advice – go on the hike in early spring (November) or later in the summer (February and March) to avoid the tábanos (horseflies). If you do want to enjoy the hike in December-January wear long pants, long sleeves, a hat, and try some insect repellent. Extra maximum strength insect repellent…
The wild lupines you see in the beginning of the video are quite a sight. In early spring they form a blanket covering much of the mountains and the roadside. The yellow flower is the amancay (alstroemeria aurea), a beautiful symbol of the region.