Buenos Aires on a Budget

Buenos Aires is a surprising South American gem, with gorgeous classical architecture, broad boulevards, grand gardens and monuments, wonderful wine and a lively café culture – you could be forgiven for thinking you’d landed in Europe. But you don’t have to spend a bundle to have a great time in this sprawling metropolis!
First things first – when you visit Buenos Aires, bring American dollars with you. There’s quite a prevalent black market inside the country where the exchange rate is substantially higher than what you’d get if you just withdrew pesos from the ATM. At the time of writing this, the black market rate is almost double the official rate. The exchange rate fluctuates a lot, so for the purposes of this article, $1 USD = $11 pesos (compared to the official rate of $7 or $8 pesos). That makes a huge difference if you’re on a shoestring budget. Don’t be too worried about using these black market cambio outlets – you’ll soon realise that most tourists and locals are doing this.
When you’re choosing a place to exchange your cash, consider asking your hotel concierge or someone you trust if they can recommend a location. These places are called ‘cambio’ and they’re everywhere. You’ll find many people on street corners saying ‘cambio’, particularly in Florida Street, the city’s main shopping district. Shop around to find the best rate. Ordinarily you’ll get a higher rate for $100 notes than for $50 or $20 notes.
Take care with street corner cambios – you need to be sure you are not buying counterfeit currency. Check the watermark on each note. Also, take care at night when paying for taxis – some drivers have been known to give change containing counterfeit notes. It’s best to pay for cabs with smaller denominations if possible.
Another tip – use the metro. It’s not the most reliable city subway, but at $3.50 pesos per journey (US $0.31) it’s unbeatable value!
Now, onto some of the city’s cheapest destinations.

Recoleta Cemetery

Recoleta Cemetery
This is the final resting place of Eva Peron, also known as Evita, who died in 1952 at the age of 33. Once the first lady of Argentina, she was later the subject of an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and her image is still everywhere in the city. Expect a queue to visit her grave. Ignore anybody outside the cemetery who tries to charge you admission or sell you a map – entry is free and a map of the cemetery is displayed at the front gate. Inside, the cemetery is a silent oasis in an otherwise busy city. Calming chants can sometimes be heard within the church next door. It’s like stepping back in time as you wander around the grand tombs and monuments. Make sure you bring your camera. On Saturdays, there are markets in the surrounding parks which are also worth a visit.

La Boca

La Boca, Buenos Aires

This area is a must for tourists, with its Italian flavour, colourful houses and famed pedestrian street, theCaminito, where tango enthusiasts can watch dancers and buy merchandise too. The streets are bright, busy and stimulating – there’s enough to keep you amused all day long and you won’t need to spend a penny.

Jardins Japonés

Jardins Japones

These gardens aren’t free, but entry is only $32 pesos for adults (US $2). It’s a serene oasis with lakes brimming with giant, colourful carp, charming Japanese bridges, jetties and gazebos and lush Japanese foliage. There’s also a sushi restaurant and plant nursery inside. The nearest metro Plaza Italia.

San Telmo market on Sundays

San Telmo markets

Defensa is the main street of this charming, bustling neighbourhood and on Sundays it fills with stalls, shoppers and tourists. Expect lots of hip handmade jewellery, fashion, homewares and souvenirs. It’s free to browse of course. Bring a snack with you and make a day of it. Plaza Dorrego – the main square – is a great place to watch tango dancers strut their stuff. Tip them afterwards, if you can spare a peso or two. The nearest metros are San Juan or Independencia.

Picnic in the city’s many parks

You can get a great bottle of red for around $25 – $30 pesos (between US $2 – $3) in a supermarket, as well as great bread, meats and cheeses. Look out for the Carrefour supermarket chain – they’re great value and have excellent bakeries and delis. The best parks are the Botanical Gardens (near Plaza Italia metro), the parklands surrounding Recoleta Cemetery (use Callao metro) and Parque Tres de Febrero (take a taxi).
Published on Yettio, 15 March 2014. 

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