Mar del Plata: A Very Argentine Holiday

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I am not usually a big fan of going to lie on the beach on holiday. However, I was recently tempted to go to Mar del Plata for a classic trip to the Argentine seaside.

I had heard that this was a fun and family oriented type of beach resort. My wife had gone here as a kid and convinced me that I would enjoy it so I took the plunge and gave it a try.

The Basics

You can get here on easy bus trip from Retiro bus station in Buenos Aires. We chose a direct service that took about 6 hours to get down the coast.

The cost was about 650 pesos, which works out at around $USD 40. For that price you get a big, comfortable seat on an air-conditioned bus that goes smoothly down the straight, flat motorway. If you are happy paying more then there are regular summer flights from Buenos Aires too.

This is a good point to mention the cost of travelling in Argentina. You may hear a lot of scare stories about the rampant inflation here, with the cost of everyday goods going up every day.

It is true that inflation is high here but that is something that is more worrying for people who live here than for foreign tourists. The value of the Argentine peso keeps falling, so if you come here with money from abroad then this helps to cushion the impact of the rising prices.

I have been going to Argentina 2 or 3 times a year for the last 3 years and have noticed only a fairly modest increase in how much it costs me. However, one thing that is noticeable is that the quality of the hotels and food seems to have dropped due to the country’s economic problems.

Who Goes There?

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The first thing to mention here is that Mar del Plata is a massively popular tourist destination in the summer months. I went at the start of January and the place was pretty much packed out.

It also seems that at this time of year the city becomes the most Argentine place on the whole planet. The streets are heaving with people drinking mate, eating alfajores and enjoying other typical Argentine activities.

Strangely, it seems as though very few foreigners come here. The tourists come from all over Argentina but my “weird accent” turned heads everywhere I went.

The people here are incredibly friendly and many of them stopped me to ask where I was from as well as telling me about their lives and travels. It seems as though a huge percentage of the locals went to Spain to work a few years ago so they all have interesting tales to tell about moving abroad and then coming back home.

What Is There to Do

The big attraction here is the beach. The unusual thing about the beaches here is that there are big roped off areas called balnearios with tents that you can hire as your base for the day.

These balnearios reduce the size of the beach that can be used for free sunbathing and general horsing around on the sand. This is especially true in the wildly popular Bristol beach that gets packed to the rafters very early.

If you like some space around your towel then it is far better to head out on the bus to the quieter beaches out of town. The buses are usually absolutely packed but once you get out there you will find bigger and emptier beaches than in the city.

There is also a water park, a night-time artisan’s fair, an aquarium and plenty of theatre shows. For me, the highlight was heading out in the evening to the pedestrian shopping area to get a pizza, watch some live music and soak up a very Argentine atmosphere.

If you feel ready to experience a typical Argentine holiday then it the best place to do it. Just buy yourself a flask (for the hot water for your mate), buy a beach football and get ready for an amazing time.

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