Affordable Argentina Offers Unique Thrills

For me, one of the great things about spending a lot of time in South America has been the chance to explore Argentina.

I knew next to nothing about this massive country before arriving here but it quickly turned into my favourite place in the world. So much so that I now take every possible opportunity to go down there to check out a different part of the country. So what is it that is so good about Argentina?

The Size and Variety

Argentina is the 8th biggest country in the world but it didn’t sink in for me just how huge it is until I started travelling round it. The roads and bus services are good but a trip from the North of the country to Buenos Aires takes up most of a full day, with the expanses further South even bigger. You could literally spend years travelling round here without running out of new places to explore.

There is something thrilling about settling back into a good bus and just letting your mind go blank for 20 hours or so. The better bus companies even put on DVDs and serve you little trays of tea, biscuits and sandwiches along the way. Much of the country is flat and the roads are straight, so the journeys are a lot more comfortable than in some of the neighbouring countries. At the side of the road you will see tiny villages, massive crop plantations and other fascinating sights. I love seeing endless tobacco and sugar plantations roll past the windows as I catch a glimpse of the odd isolated house in the middle of nowhere.

The distances between the cities means that different places also feel very different. Salta is nothing like Buenos Aires, for example, while Cordoba and Mar del Plata are worlds apart, despite all of them having some sort of intangible Argentina-ness about them.

IMG_4822The Value

I have spent the last couple of years telling anyone who will listen to me that Argentina is astonishing value for money right now. Not too long ago, the Argentina peso had an exchange rate of a dollar and it was too expensive for many people to spend much time there. Now, the peso has plummeted so that 13 of them equal a dollar. (top tip: unofficial exchange rates can vary widely from the official rates).

The place still has a first world infrastructure, with fantastic hotels and restaurants. However, it is dirt cheap. A great meal in a decent restaurant near the main plaza is likely to cost you about $US5 if not less. We tend to stay in rented apartments now. The lovely 2 bedroom one we just stayed in – in San Miguel de Tucuman – cost us under $40 the dollars a night. It had room for about 5 people, a swimming pool and a central location. Inflation is currently high here but the money you bring in from abroad will still go a long way.

The People

Finally, we need to think about the people you will meet on your travels. No matter how amazing a place is, if the people are grumpy and un-welcoming you are unlikely to feel good there. Equally, even a fairly limited place can become a lot more interesting if the locals are friendly and approachable.

It is worth pointing out that Buenos Aires is a world of its own in Argentina, as many capital cities are. This is a big, boisterous city which feels kind of dangerous at times. However, away from Buenos Aires I found the people to be friendly, slower-paced and discreet. IMG_4706South Americans from neighbouring countries tend to classify Argentines as being loud, arrogant and foul-mouthed but I have found this to be very far from the truth.

As in most countries in this region, you will see smiles and happy faces everywhere you go. If you travel with a kid they will love the attention they get here, as many passers-by will stop to tell them how pretty they are.

Argentina has had a lot of economic and political issues in recent years but most people look genuinely happy with life. Their contagious smiles are one of the biggest reasons why I will keep on coming back here as often as I can.

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