HOLA HOLA HOLA!!! Bienvenido (welcome!!!) to our TangoIntensivo™ programs in Buenos Aires with Luciana Valle and Dance of the Heart! We are very excited to welcome you to what we predict will be a truly fantastic experience!!! As promised, directly below is your best friend – our REQUIRED READING SECTION.
Below the REQUIRED READING Orientation Info section, you will find what we hope will prove to be valuable resources and reminders to make your preparations and your trip the best ever! But first things’ first!
The Ins and Outs of TangoIntensivo™
Many joys and pleasures await you in Buenos Aires (BsAs)! To assure the most magical, memorable experience possible, please assist us in obtaining all the information we’re providing in advance of your training by reading all this admittedly somewhat exhaustive but necessary section! Another KEY resource (if you haven’t already scoured it by now!) is to read our TangoIntensivo™ FAQ.
Your main sources for accurate information will be delivered in your e-registration messages #1 through 6 and this REQUIRED READING SECTION. These platforms are our primary means of communicating the VITAL information you’ll need to have a FABULOUS and logistically smooth/easy/breezy training experience. It is CRITICAL to be diligent in reading each of your e-registration messages and this REQUIRED READING SECTION before attending your program/s. If you feel you might be missing information or can’t find answers to any questions not covered herein, do not hesitate to call, skype, email, snail mail, text, wave arms vigorously or send that carrier pigeon – whatever produces a prompt response. Your successful participation depends on it!
ORIENTATION INFO SECTION
Click on the underlined text below for specific information or scroll to read through all topics.
Rules, Regulations & Recommendations
Brief Legal Matters
Daily existence during the program
A Word About Our Fabulous Assistants
A Word About Tips For Luciana & the Assistants
A Word About Evenings & Non-Workshop Social Time
Ezeiza International Airport (EZE)
Upon Arrival/Upon Departure
Transportation from/to EZE
WHERE TO STAY
A little about Palermo
THE HOUSING LIST
WHAT TO PACK
Clothing for Airline Travel…the Street…the Program…the Milongas
Cell Phones & Lap Tops
Money (ATM’s…exchanging dollars for pesos…etc.)
Taxis & guidelines for on-the-street tipping etiquette
Security & Documents
THINGS TO DO
BsAs Milonga Resources
Other Amusements (Theater, Museums, Shopping, Tourism, etc.)
Orientation Info Section
We host our programs at a number of facilities in the Palermo/Villa Crespo districts of Buenos Aires. If close proximity is important to you (and we recommend it!), please refer to the parameters in this paragraph and always, your e-registration messages for any updates! We look forward to ‘breaking in’ a very nice new studio for the Oct/Nov 2022 Sessions -1481 Velasco between Bonpland and Fitzroy (the Dorrego stop on the B Subway line is nearby). For those of you interested in booking an AirBnB in this barrio (neighborhood), a head start to finding your lodgings can be accessed at this link: AirBnB offerings in the area.
The schedule for your TangoIntensivo™ program/s will look similar to the below ‘mock’ schedule. You will receive confirmed schedules via e-registration messages approximately two weeks prior to the start of your program/s. That’s why we are very insistent about the necessity to (por favor! without fail!) read e-registration messages promptly and carefully. Save and/or print hard copies for easy reference whenever you need a reminder during your trip. The below example/mock schedule reflects what your tuition covers. Asterisks reflect activities NOT covered by your tuition but we warmly encourage you to attend/enjoy if you feel inspired.
10:45am – 11am: Orientation Meeting
11am – 1pm: Morning Session
1pm – 2pm: Lunch Break
2pm – 4pm: Afternoon Session
*7pm – 8:30pm: El Motivo Classes @ Villa Malcolm
*8:30pm – 1am: El Motivo Practica @ Villa Malcolm (featuring incredible DJ’s, performances & other cool surprises)
Tuesdays through Fridays
11am – 1pm: Morning Session
1pm – 2pm: Lunch Break
2pm – 4pm: Afternoon Session
– recommendation: arrive 10 minutes prior to the start time of daily sessions
– rule: filming of Luciana during sessions is prohibited
– rule: no smoking in the workshop space
– recommendation: comfortable clothes (light casual layers) and dance sneakers
– recommendation: there are tons of cafes and shops on the street for a nice lunch but we only have 1 hour so consider ‘brown-bagging-it’ so you don’t miss one moment of dancing with our staff (both our staff and veteran students typically bring light snacks and rest in-studio during the break)
Brief Legal Matters:
Our DoTH “Waiver of Liability” and “Consent for Use of Video Image” Forms
In order to participate in our program/s, you will be requested to sign a Waiver & Consent form at the orientation meeting. You can read the waiver content here: Waiver page
To give you an understanding of daily existence during the program:
10:45 to 11am – Students & staff arrive
11am – Morning session commences
1pm – Lunch break
2pm – Afternoon session commences
4pm – We wrap for the day (typically ending with quick announcements)
A Word About Our Fabulous Assistants!
We’re very proud of the caliber of TangoIntensivo™ Assistants! All are high-level local BsAs dancers you’ll be rotating among to train our curriculum during our program/s. The core of this group has evolved over 59 week-long sessions we’ve successfully delivered in under 15 years. They have evolved into a powerful, experienced team dedicated to facilitating, nurturing and expanding your tango under Luciana’s guidance and direction.
Our Assistants are functioning as Luciana’s extensions, providing you with the ineffable experience of what it’s like to partner with tango dancers who train and dance at THE highest level of social dancing. We’ve greatly enjoyed our experiences with them over the years and we know you’re in for a treat, getting to spend so much time dancing with them. They enjoy the opportunity to work with you, too. Please be alert to the fact that they are carefully directed to train with you in a very particular way to maximize your experience, including respecting your needs on multiple levels during our sessions. We urge you to reciprocate by respecting their privacy during breaks or if you encounter them at outside dance events.
A Word About Tips For Luciana & the Assistants
In response to requests from appreciative students eager to express their gratitude through tips at the close of every TangoIntensivo™ program we’ve hosted (59 completed so far and still counting!), we’ve established a VOLUNTARY protocol to facilitate tip distribution. On the final day of each session, you will have the opportunity to tip in an organized, discreet and courteous way. The question always arises about an appropriate amount. Bottom line: let your heart be your guide but we note BsAs services (taxi’s, waiters, etc.) typically expect a 10% tip. For extraordinary service, more is always appreciated!
A Word About Evenings & Non-Workshop Social Time
While we expect you will greatly enjoy the company of your fellow students and our outstanding staff dancers (only one of MANY delights to look forward to in taking our programs!), it’s important to honestly assess your need for companionship and social time but especially REST outside our daily sessions. Take ACTIVE responsibility to cater GENEROUSLY to your down-time needs once we “turn you loose” daily at 4pm. There are ENDLESS diversions to enjoy in BsAs, one of the most fascinating, seductive cities on this planet. Despite our warnings, some students insist on exploring the milonga scene every night. We’ve seen the drama over and over – they burn out or develop a nasty cold or become injured or so sleep-deprived they are unable to complete the training! Please don’t underestimate your body and brain’s requirements for R&R before Luciana gets her hands on you again in the morning. Remember you’ll have the BEST partners in the WORLD to dance with all WEEK!
END of REQUIRED READING SECTION & “Orientation Info” Section
Reminders, Resources & Travel Tips
The below section and this entire private page is for exclusive use for our registered students ONLY. The information below is offered as an extra benefit or gift – our way of expressing our appreciation to you. Use and enjoy!
DISCLAIMER: Because we are not a professional travel agency and your tuition does not cover travel services or advice, we are not responsible for any difficulties you may encounter as a result of utilizing any of the below resources (if you benefit or score BIG, we’ll be glad to take complete credit!). Your tuition covers the cost of the TangoIntensivo™ program/s ONLY. Arranging for travel, meals, accommodations and extracurricular activities is your responsibility. Below is information we’re sharing as a courtesy to help make your trip as safe, pleasant, economical and comfortable as possible.
First and foremost, check your passport expiration date! If you don’t have one or yours has expired, give yourself a minimum of 3 months in advance of your flight date, to complete the application process. For USA citizens, your passport and an immigration form (typically provided by flight attendants before your flight lands) are needed to legally enter Argentina. Students from others countries, please check requirements a month or so prior to your travel day.
Travel insurance is always a smart idea. Below is a short list, but googling will produce many more options:
Air Fares: We recommend flying in to BsAs Ezeiza International Airport (EZE). A useful EZE website with English translations: www.aa2000.com.ar
We have seen fares as low as $945 from Denver (yes, round trip!), but typically you can expect to pay $1,400 to $2,000. It’s possible to find a great deal by googling ‘cheap flights’ or consulting with clever travel agents or even inquiring directly with airlines. SUERTE (good luck)!
Environmentally oriented? To maintain your ‘Green’ or carbon-neutral status, log on to myclimate to discover options to off-set the carbon dioxide ‘contributions’ you’ll necessarily make due to your flights to and from BsAs. This site contains non-profit options for consumers to contribute to renewable energy and reforestation projects. Very cool and worthy of consideration!
Ezeiza International Airport: Navigating the EZE airport upon both arrival and departure can be confusing and full of surprises, especially for incoming travelers who spent a restless night flying. Some survival tips and reminders follow.
Upon Arrival: Your flight crew will typically offer all passengers an immigration form (and very bad coffee) prior to landing. For optimum convenience, fill out your immigration form BEFORE deplaning (and consider choking down that caffeine – you’ll need it!). After an endless walk from the arrival gate to the immigration queue (just follow your fellow passengers), be sure to avoid the ‘Argentine resident’ line and march yourself over to the ‘VISITOR’ queue. When it’s your turn at an immigration kiosk, be prepared to present the immigration form (you oh so cleverly filled out already!) with your passport (and possibly other paperwork?). The immigration officer will stamp your passport, instruct you to provide a finger-print and take an iris/eye identification photo. It’s been 3 years since our last trip through EZE so things may have changed but it’s likely we’ll also be requested as in past years to provide the exact street address and possibly a local phone number where we’ll be staying during our visit (which you’ll also have oh so cleverly on your cell but also on a physical piece of paper Just in Case).
To assure you have the appropriate documentation and any required health protocols, we found through American Airlines, a website that provides some answers. Please take time to research your airline carrier for something analogous to the below:
Bueno! After immigration (take deep exhales and WELCOME to BsAs!!!), get ready for the next hurdle – baggage claim! Prepare to weave and werve through a labyrinthine duty-free shopping zone containing no exit where attractive young Argentines offer to baste you with expensive perfumes. Keep to your right for the baggage claim area where we recommend your first move – score a complimentary luggage cart. Once you’ve retrieved your bags and loaded your cart, your next queue is the luggage security check-point. Expect to place all bags on an x-ray conveyor belt. EZE staff will wave you to the other end of the machine to reload your cart when your luggage emerges. No paperwork will be requested, gracias dios! Proceed through a hallway of taxi stalls and more attractive Argentines inviting you to book their services (years ago we forgot to reserve wheels in advance so it worked adequately to book a service right there). For those who arranged advance accommodation transportation, continue until you pass through security doors into the main lobby of EZE. You’re likely to suddenly be center stage, confronting a chaotic sea of friends/families/hired drivers awaiting passenger arrivals. If you’ve reserved a car (remise, taxi, uber), look for an individual holding a sign with your name on it. If you haven’t reserved wheels, no problemo. There are endless options, even last minute. More on that as you scroll below for transport details from EZE to your BsAs accommodations.
We STRONGLY recommend arranging for transportation to EZE a day or so PRIOR to your return flight. Call an uber, taxi or remise service (remise services – private cars with drivers) or ask your AirBnB host or hotel front desk to assist you. If you were happy with your driver when you first arrived, they often provide a discount on their business card to encourage you to book them for your return to EZE at the close of your stay – a convenience you’ll appreciate on travel day home. We recommend ordering your car to pick you up 4 or even 5 hours prior to flight departure. This allows for an hour commute to EZE (in heavy traffic, it could take longer) and MINIMUM, plan to give yourself 2 hours once you make it to the airport to successfully navigate all the checkpoints (luggage check, security, immigration, etc.). After checking your luggage, proceed directly to your gate (do NOT loiter or be lured by other activities such as eating, shopping, etc.). We’ve often encountered lengthy queues at Immigration, so assuming you have tons of time to shop, eat, use the bathroom is potentially very dangerous. Embark on all those activities AFTER you’ve made it comfortably to your departure gate and you’re not in danger of missing your boarding time. Last minute duty-free shopping and food is plentiful near all boarding areas if you have extra time and pesos. EZE has been under construction for decades but the new departure gate areas are now contemporary and bursting with cafes and shops. As is typical of most airports, expect overpriced goods so preparing food and water as part of your packing to-do list is wise (and probably healthier).
While we ourselves have never encountered difficulties, we hear theft is on the rise so it’s important to be alert. Regarding EZE security, luggage and immigration check points, we’ve rarely experienced delays and find it’s a faster and less exhaustive process than in the USA.
Like most airports, there are multiple services and vendors at the EZE terminal including Banco Nacion ATM’s open 24 hours/daily. You’ll find one booth at Terminal A (international) and another at Terminal B (domestic).
Transportation to/from EZE:
Uber service is plentiful in BsAs and most tango travellers rely on them exclusively. Remise service (a private taxi or car) is another option that many claim is more expensive. A fellow dancer in BsAs we trust is available to provide taxi service at competitive rates at:
Another reliable but pricier taxisto:
Upon arrival, a remise can be hired at an EZE counter close to the exit doors from baggage security as described earlier. For example, Tienda Leon (one of several remise services at EZE) is perfectly reliable and competitively priced. Hang on to remise receipts – they generally offer a discount if you reserve a car from them for return airport service at the end of your trip. If your destination in BsAs is a hotel, inquire when you book accommodations if they provide EZE airport shuttle service.
English-based websites providing visitor tips and resources for Buenos Aires travelers:
The subway (el subte) is easy to use. Buy a farecard (‘monedero’) at most station entrances or Kioscos (think New York or Washington, DC).
The buses (colectivos) are difficult to decode in the Guia (Guide), but are inexpensive and convenient. Supply yourself with tons of change (cambio) because bus drivers do NOT make change if all you have is a big bill. When you board a colectivo, because of the fare zone system, simply tell the driver your destination. He’ll punch a button that will display your fare on the farebox at which point you feed the box and wait for the machine to print a ticket. Keep the ticket – in case transit enforcement officers board to check passenger receipts. Fares range from A$.70 to A$2 pesos (mas o menos) depending on distance.
WHERE TO STAY
Housing options in BsAs are plentiful and varied like all major cities. Tango tourist houses are great options for those of you interested in “clustering” with fellow students. We also note many satisfied travelers who use AirBnB Buenos Aires: https://www.airbnb.com/
As noted in the REQUIRED READING section, look for places near 1481 Velasco between Bonpland and Fitzroy. The studio is near the Dorrego stop on the B Subway line. To give you a head start, here’s a link to AirBnB offerings in the area.
In general, the closer most convenient barrios within easy walking distance to your sessions include Villa Crespo, Palermo Soho, Palermo Viejo and Palermo Hollywood.
A little about Palermo
Palermo is a great place for tango dancers for all the right reasons. For example, milonga and/or practica locations such as El Motivo, Salon Canning, La Viruta, Cafe Fulgor, etc. etc. are ALL within walking distance of each other. These Palermo-based tango hot spots host a steady stream of nightly music and dance performances, practicas, milongas and classes. Accessing milongas in other areas of the city – El Beso, Porteño y Bailarin, El Arranque, Lo de Celia, etc., is trivial – the #12 bus can deliver you in 20 minutes (mas o menos) for a handful of cambio. When we cab-it from Palermo, we typically arrive in under 15 minutes to most tango destinations anywhere in the city – IF traffic is light. Transportation is plentiful – buses, the subte and radio-taxis abound.
Need a break from the busy streets? Take a restorative stroll through the botanic gardens, the Japanese Gardens, the Parke Ecologico and finish on the lovely tree-lined streets this barrio is known for. Palermo Viejo and Soho also contain a vast selection of top-notch and delightfully inspired shops from chic cafes to unique restaurants.
A useful online city map: http://www.cybermapa.com/
THE HOUSING LIST
The following is a brief list of potential short-term apartment rental sources. The first 3 listings are known to us personally where we’ve had great experiences and reliable, marvelous service, so if you utilize any of them, be sure to mention you were referred by Deb & Brian of Dance of the Heart. In general, look for places in Palermo/Villa Crespo districts for reasonably close distances to the training studio and nice neighborhood experiences.
Beautiful 2-bedroom, 2 bath apartment in Palermo Chico on tree-lined street. Near trendy shops and restaurants, all conveniences plus Jardin Japonese and Botanico in walking distance, access to all transportation options. Owner Dierdre Black (from Aspen, Colorado) lives in BsAs where she runs her “Tango Gypsy” concierge service offering accommodations, professional massage (highly recommended!) and more. To book Dee, use us as a referral and write to: firstname.lastname@example.org or WhatsApp cell: (54911) 4026 0016.
Several vacation apartments in Palermo are available for short term rent. Jesse and Paula will work diligently to make you totally comfortable. Contact info: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or 415-992-5201. Please likewise mention you were referred by Deb & Brian/Dance of the Heart.
A fellow Intensivista, Judith, owns an Airbnb apartment a few blocks from one of our most frequently utilized studios. If you book, let her know we referred you. email@example.com
Other accommodation possibilities:
LunaLlena Tango Guest House: firstname.lastname@example.org
Olleros 3000 B&B: email@example.com
Conventillo de Lujo: firstname.lastname@example.org
Domus BA 3631 Cabrera, Palermo Viejo, (54) 11 4865 9907
WHAT TO PACK
We know some of you are seasoned BsAs visitors while others are traveling to this glamorous, busy tango mecca for the very first time. Whether this is your first or tenth BsAs experience, we hope the following suggestions prove useful.
In general, pack LESS than you think you’ll need – for bringing home your marvelous Argentine treasures! We also suggest WEIGHING YOUR BAG/S. Check with your airline but we note we’re permitted 2 checked bags per person on international flights with a (strict!) 50-pound weight limit per bag.
Clothing for Airline Travel
We recommend going for casual comfort to survive the brutal ten or more hours you’ll be plane-constrained. In anticipation of your arrival in EZE, we urge you to avoid ‘blingy’ accessorizing (no expensive camera or designer bags or fine jewelry dangling from necks/ears/shoulders; no clothing and/or luggage with bold colors or gaudy patterns; no gold chains or expensive watches; avoid Bermuda shorts paired with white socks and black shoes; etc.). These ‘scream’ visitor or foreigner and could invite the ‘wrong’ kind of attention.
Clothing for the Streets of Buenos Aires
We’ve never been the victims of petty street crime in all our trips down because (we believe!?) we dress casually – including casual totes/backpacks carried in FRONT (all zippers, snaps and latches CLOSED). Bring shoes that are FLAT FLAT FLAT because if you’re at all like us, while using/hailing cabs is typically wonderfully accessible at all hours of the day and night, you’ll do a LOT of walking. The sidewalks are extremely uneven at the most unexpected places – suddenly there’s a hole or a missing piece of sidewalk or a deep crevasse or excrement or WORSE. These are NOT the cleanest or smoothest sidewalks in the world, so go for comfort and function over chic (save chic for the milongas).
For those of you who HATE laundry-duty, you’re going to FALL IN LOVE with your local ‘lavanderia’. For ridiculously little, you can drop off your dirties at the nearest one and PRESTO – all will be meticulously cleaned and folded for pick up (same day service is typical) – some even iron your underwear and we’re not kidding. Most lavanderias will request payment at drop-off so hang on to your receipt for trouble-free pick-up.
BsAs has the same latitude as Savannah, Georgia which means they share a similar climate. For students registered for the TangoIntensivo™ programs scheduled in the fall (Oct/Nov), keep in mind that seasonally BsAs is transitioning from spring into early summer. This means it can get positively HOT while still dipping down into cool spring temps within the same afternoon or evening. We’ve found that preparing for humid weather by bringing light layers works beautifully and covers all possibilities even when it can be rainy or cool.
Coming down for the late spring (May/June) TangoIntensivo™ sessions? This season is late fall leading into early winter for Argentina. Fall to winter air is typically crisp and clean! It’s also low tourist season which is a pleasure because everything from shopping to interacting with the locals at milongas is more relaxed. Layering is again the answer. We pack raincoats or jackets, sweaters, sweatpants (perfect for ‘at home’ lounging) – don’t forget scarves, cozy slippers and thick socks. Because the days are growing colder, it’s also flu-season in BsAs so be sure to stock up on your favorite cold-preventatives. And wash your hands – a LOT!
Clothing for the Workshop
Go for comfort and flexibility, clean and casual. Stretchy, yoga-esque fabrics that BREATHE are ideal. For footwear, we recommend dance sneakers (favored by students and staff alike). Ladies, consider rotating between dance sneakers and a pair of practice heels.
Clothing for the Milongas
Our experience is that casual elegance is key. Men tend to wear button down shirts and dress trousers. Practicas and classes are informal – jeans and t-shirts are the norm. Some milongas may require more formal attire. Even in the heat of summer, some venues require gentlemen to wear a full suit.
For the ladies, go for casual or formal, elegant or sassy, whatever makes you feel SEXY! Portenas (BsAs women) tend to show a LOT of skin (form fitting/flattering high skirt-lines, plunging neck-lines, low-waist pants), so don’t be shy! While it’s typical to see chicas of all ages and body types in spectacular saucy dresses or skirts, pants are equally in evidence. However, all this impressively sexy splendor is rarely EVER on display on the streets. TOO DANGEROUS! Banos (bathrooms) at milongas are typically teaming with Portenas changing clothes/shoes/applying make-up/perfume/final touches, etc. The only ones shamelessly changing shoes in public are foreigners, so when in Rome, etc. Outdoor milongas and practicas are MUCH more casual – people dress WAY down (jeans and t-shirts totally acceptable) and boldly change shoes in the glaring public eye without concern (context is EVERYTHING).
Side note for bathrooms at high-end restaurants but also at certain milongas: you will most likely encounter bathroom attendants who control dispensing of toilet paper (warning: rarely will you find toilet paper INSIDE the stalls!) so be prepared with cambio (small change) or bring your own tissue stash. Some attendants provide an amazing array of toiletries in the bathrooms (hair spray, perfumes, lipsticks, etc.) but if you ‘borrow’ a dash of rouge or a spritz of scent, two things: 1. it’s distressingly easy to catch a cold/flu bug in BsAs and 2. expect to compensate the attendant or risk withering stares of outrage from EVERYONE who noticed – and in BsAs, everyone sees EVERYTHING.
We recommend, ladies, a small bag or clutch that you can strap fashionably on your person. We stash street shoes and backpacks/totes under our milonga tables and trust the fates. So far we’ve never suffered a theft, but it’s risky. Best guarantee is to attend milongas with a group of friends who take turns table-guarding.
Cell Phones & Lap Tops
Many hotels provide computers for guest use and it’s not unusual to be offered the option of a functional local cell phone during your stay. There are also TONS of local companies renting phones. Just google “buenos aires cell phone rental” and stand back.
Another option to check e-mail or make phone calls is available in the form of locutorios. Locutorios are shops in BsAs containing public access phone booths and computers for hire. They are so plentiful there are often 3 or more on every block. Most locutorios are open 24/7.
If you simply can’t be parted from your cell or lap top, pick up a converter so you can easily plug in and recharge – but take care to stash electronics in a secure place. We’ve heard TOO many heart-breaking tales about computer and camera thefts, including in highly rated hotels and restaurants. So back up computer files like crazy and use extra caution. All Argentines use WhatsApp on their cell phones to communicate via text or calls. We recommend it to keep in touch with your travel buds and with us. It’s free and easy!
The basic tender for financial survival in BsAs is cash – pesos are best but US dollars are also widely accepted. Cash is king in BsAs. This means cash and your ATM card will be keys to convenience and happiness. Travelers Checks are not typical and we don’t recommend them. Be aware and very alert at ATM’s – most Argentine ATM’s return your bank card at the close of transactions. We mention this because we’ve heard horror stories about jet-lagged tourists grabbing their cash and forgetting to collect their ATM cards. We used to recommend exchanging $25 or $50 USD for Argentine pesos BEFORE leaving the USA but exchanging dollars for pesos once you’re in BsAs is FAR more cost effective. Probably due to the black market, we note utilizing USD in bills of $50’s and $100’s are best. Smaller bills are treated with some skepticism probably due to the unsteady economy, so keep this in mind when paying with USD’s.
We use the following websites to assist us with conversion rates:
Many restaurants and shops accept credit cards but we recommend using cash – keep a combo of pesos and dollars to function comfortably during your stay. Even for large purchases, many vendors prefer cash and some even offer discount incentives. We also recommend having a decent stash of ‘cambio’ (small peso bills and/or change) on you. For a dramatic (and slightly dated!) example, let’s say you use an A$100 peso note for a purchase of under A$40. Don’t panic when the cashier gives you an aggrieved glare and dashes out the door. They’re not robbing you! They’re running next door to beg for change. Everyone is always on the lookout for it so you’ll have an easier time if you make a conscious effort to keep a decent supply on you. A common pregunta (question): “?tiene cambio?” (“do you have change”). The reason for this scarcity is a mystery, so please tell us if you discover the answer!
If this is your first visit, you’ll experience a very STRONG reaction (mine was feeling insulted!) the first few times you hand vendors paper bills because most Argentines will examine larger bills by holding them up to the nearest light to check for the watermark. Though we’re familiar with this practice NOW, the impulse is to take offense. FORGEDDABOUT IT!!!! This is NOT personal and in fact, consider getting into the habit of checking for watermarks when you receive change, too.
Taxis & guidelines for on-the-street tipping etiquette:
For waiters and food service, we recall that a 10% tip above the bill is expected. Obvio (obviously!), if you feel compelled to acknowledge or reward an extraordinary effort, tip generously. To acknowledge maid service, it’s customary to leave a tip on or under a bedroom pillow – this gesture could encourage future excellence. For taxi drivers, rounding UP to the nearest even number is the norm. For example, if the fare is A$12.49 we’ll give the driver A$15 or A$20. Most drivers will politely attempt to dig out change, but if it’s a handful of coins, we insist they keep it. On the other hand, if you only have LARGE bills, best to stop somewhere to procure ‘cambio’ (change) BEFORE entering the cab rather than tempt the fates.
A common tourist taxi scam we heard about: at the end of an A$6 peso ride, the foreigner in question handed her driver a A$20 and requested ‘diez pesos, por favor’ ($10 pesos por favor) as change. The driver insisted (apparently very rudely) that her A$20-peso note was counterfeit and wanted another one. When she requested he return the ‘counterfeit’ A$20 peso note before she delivered a fresh one, he initially refused, then belligerently complied. Anxious now, she stepped out of the car while promptly handing him a ‘fresh’ A$20, again requesting firmly but politely “diez pesos, por favor” at which point he abruptly drove off. We were amazed by this story – our experience with most cab drivers has been just wonderful – still, these things do happen, so alertness is key!
One other taxi story to demonstrate a cultural norm: homeless people will sometimes open the taxi door when the driver picks up or drops passengers off. A student of ours paid the driver and exited the cab with a quick “gracias” to the person holding the cab door. Next day she observed a child opening the door of a cab for an elegant Argentine Portena (a local lady) who smiled warmly while placing several small coins in his hand. The exchange brought with it a realization that gestures like this are common in Buenos Aires. Perhaps this reflects the ineffable charm and sweetness we commonly experience there?
In general, it’s recommended to use only those cabs that have the insignia “Radio Taxi” on the doors and/or roof racks. Professional cab drivers typically hang their certification with photo from the headrest of their seat so passengers in the back can read it. While we do our best to avoid entering unmarked taxi’s, with one rare exception, drivers we’ve encountered are warm and talkative, taking us directly to requested locations, producing correct cambio, sin problemos!
As far as driving habits in BsAs, celebrate the fact that YOU’RE not behind the wheel! It can be positively terrifying how cabbies dart through the streets magically avoiding an accident at every corner. Over the years we’ve come to view BsAs drivers as HIGHLY skilled athletes finessing their way through the streets. We can well imagine they’re probably great tango dancers, too (and many of them are)!
Security & Documents
Make a few photocopies of the picture page of your passport – one to leave at home in the USA and another to carry with you, separate from where you plan to carry (or hide) your original. In case of emergencies or trouble, there is a special tourist police center where you can report stolen items or any harm to you or your belongings. Tourist Police, Av. Corrientes 436, Square San Nicolas, Phone 4346-5748 or 4328 2135 or 0800-999-5000 (free dial is 0800-999-2838) and don’t hesitate to google your country of origin’s diplomatic agencies or local consulates for any concerns.
This section will hopefully be unnecessary! But in case you or a companion requires medical attention while you’re in BsAs, below are a few x-pat links that provide BsAs-based medical resources and English-speaking MD’s:
Here’s a site that offers online answers to medical questions:
Below is medical info from “Lonely Planet” that should be useful.
“For personalized medical care with English-speaking doctors and dentists who make house (or hotel) calls, contact Blue Care (4822-7244; 15-4165-0024), open 24 hours. Dental Argentina (4828-0821; Av Santa Fe 2227, 12th fl, suite G) provides modern facilities and good dental services with English-speaking professionals. Highly regarded hospitals include Hospital Italiano (4959-0800; Gascón 450) and Hospital Británico (4304-1081; Perdriel 74). The latter has a more central clinic for consultations only in Barrio Norte (4812-0040; MT de Alvear 1573); call for an appointment. Another popular medical facility is Swiss Medical (4824-7777; near Santa Fe & Scalabrini Ortiz) with various branches around town.”
THINGS TO DO
BsAs Milonga Resources:
Tango Publications containing listings of BsAs Milongas, Practicas and Classes (slightly dated!): El Tangauta, La Milonga Argentina, B.A. Tango, DIOSTANGO
Interesting or famous Barrios (neighborhoods) to explore:
- professional walking tours are abundantly available
- Recoleta (check out the weekend artesanal street fair and famous cemetery)
- San Telmo (historical tango center with weekend artesanal street fair and the famous Plaza Dorrego)
- Puerto Madero (stroll the renovated port area where you can sample multiple chic restaurants and shops)
- Caminito (very touristy barrio, but worth the adventure)
- Plaza Serrano (near Malcolm in Palermo, weekend artesanal street fair)
Museums & Theater
- The Fine Arts Museum (Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes),
- Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno
- The Colon Opera House (buy a few tix in the nose-bleed section & take their fabulous back-stage tour)
- so many more!!! just google!!!
- Florida Walking Mall (zillions of shops, cafes, etc.)
- Galerias Pacifico
- Abasto (visit the tango shops on Anchorena, just outside this shopping mall)
- so many more!!! just google!!!
Please refer to any BsAs tango guide for current addresses, business hours, etc., or just google and stand back!
You will find many cd selections at the well-known BsAs Music Store “Zivals” on the corner of Corrientes & Callao.
At Luciana’s El Motivo practica, you can sometimes find cd’s for sale and at most of the above-listed street fairs. Other milongas also vend cd’s, shoes, t-shirts and other tango memorabilia.
Food & H20
We typically live on bottled H2O which can be purchased at any SuperMercado or Kiosko on most every street corner in the city. It’s rare, but we’ve run out of bottled water and resorted (temporarily) to tap without consequences.
Prepare to eat simply and well, especially if you like beef and chicken. Vegetarians, you won’t starve. Many restaurants have bilingual English-Spanish menus. For those who eat beef, there are many interesting beef entrees – to play it safe, we recommend ordering the more expensive cuts. In general, we avoid fish dishes because Argentines seem to have a preference for what we’d label ‘overcooked’ fish.
It’s useful to note if this is your first trip to BsAs that the Portenos (citizens of the city) traditionally eat dinner LATE in the evening. Most restaurants are CLOSED in the late afternoon and rarely open for service before 8pm. Popular restaurants get packed around 10 or 11pm. Don’t panic about closed restaurants in the late afternoons or early evenings. Countless cafes serving lighter fare or tapas are heavily favored for a “pre-dinner/close of business hours” snack. This is the time of day when most Portenos indulge their passion for their signature hot tea, MATE which is typically served in gourds accessed by the elegant ‘bombilla,’ the Argentine version of our American straw.
For more about Argentine food, check out this amusing article: http://www.idlewords.com/2006/04/argentina_on_two_steaks_a_day.htm
Other Food Resources:
An ex-pat ‘foodie’ living in BsAs has a blog containing great restaurant recommendations: http://www.saltshaker.net/
Another friend sent the following ‘Vegetarians in BsAs’ link: http://travel.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/travel/07choice1.html?pagewanted=1
Yet another cool site for organic haunts: http://buenosbio.com/
We may put together other lists, including: vegan and/or organic shops, more restaurants, body workers, yoga classes, parks and other restorative destinations or activities, tango shows and dinner theaters. Meanwhile, if you have ideas, suggestions, contributions, concerns – please let us know!
As always, there’s more to come!