A traveler’s basic budget (excluding entertainment) consists principally of three things: food, lodging, and transportation. Here are some tips to reduce the cost of all three while traveling in Argentina’s capital.
Take Advantage of Cheap Fast Food
Buenos Aires does not offer the variety of street food available in most other Latin American countries. It does, however, offer a lot of cheap fast food, the most popular of which are empanadas. Empanadas are baked or fried pastries filled with meat, cheese, vegtables, or some combination of the three. They are available at most restaurants as well as outlets that specialize in empanadas exclusively. They cost between two to four pesos, depending on the establishment, and most outlets offer reduced prices for orders of a dozen. Tartas, baked soufflé-like pastry-cakes, are also readily available. Pizza and hotdogs (referred to locally as panchos) round out the options.
Rent an Apartment
Long term visitors will find that renting an apartment can cost the same or less as staying in hotels and only slightly more than staying in hostels – especially if the cost is shared among two or more travelers. Renting an apartment also provides the benefit of kitchen access to reduce the cost of meals.
Others may prefer to stay in hostels either because they will not be in the city long enough to rent an apartment or because they prefer to stay in a place where they can more easily meet fellow travelers. Reducing the cost of hostels depends on two criteria. First, hostels located in the ritzier areas of the north such as Palermo or Recoleta with quick access much of Buenos Aires’ pricier restaurants and night venues will raise the price. The central and southern neighborhoods of Montserrat and San Telmo are more economical. Generally speaking, foreigners should avoid staying in la Boca or anything to close to Constitución unless they will be accompanied by locals, due to security problems. Second, travelers should make advance reservations by phone or internet if arriving on the weekend, as many hostels fill up, even outside of high season.
Another option is to open a Couchsurfing account and stay with a local. Buenos Aires’ couchsurfing community is one of the most active in the world.
Take the Bus or the Subway
While Argentina has a relatively efficient and easy to use subway system, although it suffers from overcrowding during peak hours, making it off-limits for claustrophobics. Subways are not as convenient as buses, however, because they almost exclusively serves those traveling from the outlying neighborhoods to the center and viceversa.
The bus (“colectivo” or “bondi” for locals) is by far the most common form of publc transportation. The system is efficient and operates 24 hours a day, but it is very confusing for foreigners since most routes do not travel in anything resembling a straight line. It only costs one peso (rougly $0.33 USD), however, so it pays to learn how to use it. But keep in mind that there is a coin shortage in Argentina, so try to break small bills whenever possible. The Guía T, available at most newstands, has detailed maps of all the cities neighborhoods and summarizes all of its bus routes by enumerating the streets at which each bus turns. Locals are by nature helpful and gregarious and will help the uninitiated to decipher this system of notation.