Travel facts and useful information about Argentina
Introduction to Argentina
Argentina is a land of contrast.
Nothing states this better than the fact it features the highest point in the South America, Aconcagua, and the lowest, Salinas Chicas, 40m below sea level.
Its vastness – it is the eighth largest country in the world – and diversity are just part of the appeal. A fantastic culture of fine wine and dining sits alongside its adventurous and beautiful landscapes.
The local’s cheery disposition and fantastic word plays add to the enjoyment of being in this fascinating country.
The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.
There are distinct regions of Argentina, from the Andean culture of the North West to the rancho lifestyle of the plains of Patagonia to the eternally seductive Buenos Aires.
Geography of Argentina
Argentina’s neighbours are Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.
The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa. There is jungle in the extreme northeast while the southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia.
The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, includingAconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. Close to Aconcagua lies Mendoza, an area famed for its fine wine production.
The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert.
Most Antarctic cruises embark and disembark in Ushuaia, at the tip of South America, allowing access to the South Pole, South Georgia and also the Falkland Islands.
Facts at a glance
Official Name: Argentine Republic Country
Capital City: Buenos Aires (11 million)
Largest Cities: Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario
Languages: Spanish (official)
Official Currency: Argentine Peso
Major industries: Agriculture (Soy), motor vehicles, chemicals
Electricity: 220 volts (110v in some hotels), 50 Hz. Appliance plugs compatible with continental Europe & USA.
Approximate internal flying times:
Buenos Aires to Calafate = 3hrs 30 mins
Buenos Aires to Ushuaia = 4 hrs
Buenos Aires to Salta = 2hrs 15mins
Buenos Aires to Iguazu = 1hr 45mins
Buenos Aires to Mendoza = 1hr 50 mins
Information on Argentina in the UK
Argentine embassy UK,
65 Brooke Street,
London, W1K 4AH
Argentina’s seasons are the reverse to the northern hemisphere, with summer running from October to March, and winter from May to September.
Buenos Aires and the Pampas in the north are temperate; cold in the winter, 5-15°C, and hot and humid in the summer, 17-27°C, the warmest and most humid being December to February. Spring and Autumn are lovely times to visit Buenos Aires.
The hottest months in Iguazu Falls are October through April with lows of 20°C and highs of 32°C. Winter sees this fall to highs of 22°C and occasional lows of 12°C, with cooler nights. Being tropical and humid, there is always the chance of rain in Iguazu. The best time to visit Iguazu Falls is from January to March – the rainy season, this is when water flow of the waterfall is greatest, but the waterfall is amazing at any time of year.
Bariloche is nestled in Argentina’s Lake District and is built next to the cold water Lake Nahuel Huapi. During the summer, daylight extends from 6am to 10pm and temperatures fluctuate from 5-20°C, the warm days making it ideal conditions for exploration. In the winter, snow abounds for skiers and daylight is from 9am to 7pm, city temps varying from just above to just below freezing, with much cooler temperatures in the mountains.
The rain-shadow effect in Bariloche means weather conditions are relatively dry and stable. Summer rainfall in the town of Bariloche is low (average 5 days precipitation a month).
Patagonia weather changes as quickly as the wind sometimes blows. Temperatures typically range from -2°C in the winter, when there is only 6-8 hours of daylight, to 20°C in the summer, when glorious light pours over the region for more than 18 hours in December.
Climate in Patagonia is affected by season, latitude and local geographic factors. The further south you go, the cooler it gets and, as a general rule, the further west you go – towards the Andes and Pacific coast – the wetter and less predictable the weather is, and the further east – towards and across the Patagonian plateau – the drier and more stable.
The best time to visit Patagonia is in the southern hemisphere summer (November/December to March/April), when days are long and climate (relatively) dry and mild. Nevertheless, spring and summer is also when the central and southern Patagonian regions sometimes get buffeted by strong, westerly winds. Climate information below refers specifically to the spring/summer season.
Argentine Patagonia again benefits from the rain-shadow, so conditions are dry and often windy. The latitudes of southern Patagonia are comparable to those (north) of southern England; but there the similarity ends, as in southern Patagonia, there are vast glaciers at sea level here.
Weather varies from the dry, temperate (if often wind-blown) summer conditions of El Calafate, Argentina (very little summer rainfall and average summer temperatures of 18ºC), to the forests and glaciers of the national parks – in the realms of the South Patagonian Ice Field – where annual precipitation is often over 1,000mm and strong winds are commonplace.
On the South Patagonian Ice Field (average height, 1,500 metres), the appearance of lenticular clouds – signifying changing conditions – can translate into extreme winds (up to 150 kmh) and heavy snowfall. Here, summer pre-dawn temperatures commonly reach -20°C, with wind chill lowering temperatures even more. However, on sunny, windless summer days, you might get away with wearing just a couple of thin layers.
Summer days in national parks can also bring sunny, windless conditions, and you may well find yourself hiking in shorts and t-shirt. Afternoons in Los Glaciares can be warm with lots of sunshine. (Note: Patagonian UV rays are very strong).
But because of the fickle – and localised – nature of the climate here, take nothing for granted. In a single day, all four seasons might be experienced, including a biting, wind-induced cold.
Note: In the summer and at these latitudes, permanent snow typically is not found lying below 800 metres, but it has been known to snow in camps in summer!
In Peninsula Valdes, the city of Puerto Madryn and the capital Trelew are all located in the province of Chubut, on the shores of three gulfs: San Matias, San Jose, and Nuevo. This area features a peculiar climate because of the effect created by the Atlantic Ocean. Although it does not rain much in the region on an annual basis, summers are usually mild, and the temperature sometimes gets very hot (touching 30ºC) and then eases off in the evening. The area does get very windy at times, especially on the peninsula, and warm and water/windproof clothing is recommended.
If you head to Ushuaia, due to its extreme southern location, temperatures may remain chilly during summer (Oct-March) the use of plenty of warm layers of clothing. Winter and Antarctic visits will require extreme clothing.
Passports and Visas UK Citizens do not require a visa to enter Argentina as a tourist. Please ensure your passport has at least six months remaining validity. On presentation of a valid UK passport you will be granted a 90-day stay in the country.
Citizens of the United States, Canada and Australia may have to pay a reciprocity fee to enter Argentina. All non-UK nationals should check with their nearest Argentine consulates for visa and fee information
On the ground
Currency & Money Exchange
Argentina’s currency is the “peso”. Notes are in 100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2 peso denominations. There are 100centavos in a peso.
Coins are in 1 peso and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavo denominations.
Travellers are advised to take funds to Argentina in US dollars to change into pesos. Make payments in pesos as,away from Buenos Aires, dollars are often not being accepted for fear of forgeries.
Bring mostly cash dollars, in medium to high denomination bank notes (dollar bills should be unmarked and undamaged, otherwise they may not be accepted – do not take 100 dollar bills). US dollar travellers cheques can be changed in most large towns, but typically incur a 2-5% commission.
Travellers are also strongly advised to carry an ATM cash card to make cash withdrawals from ATM machines (known as Cajeros Automaticos, and widely available – usually Banelco & Link).
Although the banking system has largely stabilised following the Dec 2001/Jan 2002 financial crisis, using ATMs is still often better than over-the-counter transactions.
Also take a credit card: Many businesses in large towns accept the major credit cards, but there is often a high surcharge on transactions.
Note: After Jan 2002, a variety of bonds, usually at provincial level, were issued in lieu of pesos. Wherever theymay still apply, travellers are advised to avoid provincial currencies, as they’re only valid in the province whereissued. If you pay for something in pesos (or dollars where allowed to do so), you should get your change inpesos.
Tipping is a normal part of life in Latin America. The norm in restaurants is approx 10%. Local staff, e.g. on trekking, biking, jungle and rafting expeditions, often look to group members for recognition of their services.
The tip will depend on satisfaction with service provided and length of time spent with staff. It should be remembered, however, that over-generosity is counterproductive.
A range of US$6-12 per day for the guide is usual plus further tipping for drivers, assistants cooks etc…Tips are best paid in US$ or Argentine Peso.
Throughout ARGENTINA, there are 2 taxi systems:
1) metred taxis (cars usually yellow and black; metred in pesos) which are flagged down in the street or can be called (Radio Taxis), and;
2) Remises, which have fixed fares and are booked, usually by phone, from an office.
The Buenos Aires public transport system consists of colectivos (buses: fare US$0.25 or 0.40) the Subte (a 5-line underground railway: are US$0.40) and overground trains.
Most of Argentina is a relatively safe country to travel around. However, we still recommend that in large towns and cities you take certain precautions (see below). Argentina is, overall, among the safest countries in South America.
However, in Buenos Aires, muggings and opportunistic crime – although not common – do occur. In Buenos Aires, ‘distraction muggings’ sometimes happen in quiet streets, in the daytime as well as at night. We suggest that you take the following precautions:
· Leave paper valuables in the hotel safe (caja fuerte), taking out with you only what you need for the day.
· Carry a copy of passport (leave original in safe). N.B. When travelling, carry paper valuables in a money belt under clothing, not in a ‘bum-bag’.
· Beware of distraction techniques, e.g. where X sprays you with mustard or similar substance, and accomplice Y comes up to offer to clean you off, but takes your bag or wallet while you’re distracted. If you do get sprayed, just walk straight on.
· Avoid marginal areas and be alert in lonely streets in the day and at night. Also, always take special care in busy streets, around markets and in and around bus terminals; either avoid carrying a bag in such areas, or secure it, as bag-slashers and pickpockets sometimes operate.
· NEVER leave your bag(s) unattended, especially in airports, bus terminals and hotel lobbies.
· It’s best to use taxis at night, wherever you are.
Public internet offices and Cyber cafes are commonplace in Argentina. Often, phone offices also have email facilities. Expect to pay around US$0.80 – US$2/hour.