Author: cindy murry
Date of Trip: September 2007
Argentina trip Report 9/20/2007
We have just returned from a 10 day trip to Buenos Aires including a 3 day side trip to Iguazu Falls and day trips out of the city. I planned the trip and booked all of my own reservations using suggestions from Trip Advisor, Frommer’s guidebook, and Time-Out Guidebook. We are from rural East Texas, in our early 50’s, have traveled some in Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, Russia, Greece, and Central America as well as the US. I consider us to be “Value” travelers—we don’t scrimp on our trips but try to get as much for our $ as possible by traveling in the off-season, booking air in advance, and seeking accommodations with more character than luxury.
We flew from DFW on a direct American Airlines flight to Buenos Aires. Leaving at night (7:30 pm) and having only a minimal time difference (2 hours) makes for an easy trip despite the 10 hour length. Upon arrival, customs were well organized and we walked out and went to the first remise (private car) booth in front of us and booked a trip into the city for $28 US. My husband had been worried about not having any Argentine pesos upon arrival so we exchanged $100 at DFW (very poor exchange rate and high fees) for peace of mind but this was not necessary. Trip into city was approximately 45 minutes.
We spent the first three nights at Bobo Hotel (54-1147740505) in Palmera Viejo in the “Pop Room”. It is on the second floor facing Guatemala Street and with taxes ran around $175US a night including a full breakfast. It was bright and cheery, clean, and smaller than I anticipated but the high ceilings and large French doors opening onto the balcony made it appear larger. It was minimalistic with sparse but functional furnishings. The internet connection was excellent. Someone was always available at the front desk to make suggestions and reservations. And, when they made a dinner reservation, they would also arrange for a radio taxi to pick you up without you asking. Breakfast was good—seven or eight times to choose from. Our only disappointment in the hotel was the dinner we ate there the first night. My husband had a very tough steak, the wine was quite expensive (by Argentina standards), and it was, overall, the most expensive yet one of the poorest quality meals we encountered. Our overall experience with the hotel was positive but felt it was, perhaps, a bit overpriced.
In Iguazu Falls, we staid at the Secret Garden (54-3757-423099). It is a three room B & B in Puerto Iguazu about 20 minutes from the National Park and Falls. Innkeeper John Fernandes and his staff were very friendly and especially accommodating. The rooms are spacious and very clean and neat. The bath is small but adequate. Breakfast was delicious. The rate was $70 per night. John arranged drivers to take us back and forth to the airport and the falls and even helped us arrange to have a driver take us to the Brazilian side of the falls (we did not have visas but the border agents just looked the other way). I can’t remember the exact amount that we paid for transportation but I think it was $20US roundtrip to the falls and airport and $50US to the Brazilian side and we shared some of the transportation with a second couple. John has a gift for pulling people together and at the end of our visit we felt like we were old friends with the other two UK couples who were also staying there. After John served us complimentary cocktails in the evening on the covered patio that is surrounded by tropical vegetation we all went together to dinner and John joined us the second night. I think it was the best B & B experience I have ever had.
Upon return to B.A. we stayed at an apartment on Laprida close to Pacheco de Melo rented in Recoleta thru ApartmentsBA. This was not a pleasant experience. Their representative met us at the apartment around 5:30 pm. She showed us how where things were and our approximately 20 page contract that itemized every single item in the apartment (every piece of silverware, etc). We weren’t sure it was all there but felt we had no choice but to sign the paperwork. I had forgotten that I could make the deposit by pay pal so we gave her the required $600 cash deposit and the balance of our rent. Five minutes after she left, I flushed the toilet and water gushed out of the drain in the bathroom floor and flooded both the bathroom and kitchen. One of us located a squeegee and tried to push it back down but it wouldn’t go. The other tried to call the agency on the local phone. We followed the directions we were given by the representative but could not get through. Knowing that they closed at 6:00 we panicked, tried emailing, and finally got through on the phone. They sent over repairmen who sucked out all of the sludge and paper that was clogging the drains. When they were finished, they used some rags to wipe up the mess but the tub where they had dumped the water was still nasty. We went out to eat and returned to the apartment later to take a shower. It did the same thing—flooding both the kitchen and bath with water, sludge and bits of toilet paper. The office was closed so we used the squeegee and our bath towels to clean-up the best that we could. We were leaving the next morning early (before the office opened) and would be gone till after they closed so I emailed them to tell them what had happened and requested 1)they try to fix it 2) they send someone to clean up the mess and 3) fresh towels to replace our badly soiled ones. No attempt was made to work on the system or clean but we did get fresh towels. We took a shower and used the toilet with no problems but when I washed dishes and emptied the water in the kitchen sink, we flooded again. This was Saturday morning, there was no one in the office and we had not activated the cell phone to call the emergency cell number so we cleaned it all up again. This was the end of our flooding but the apartment remained soiled (bits of dried paper) and neither of us felt comfortable using the tub for anything but a 2 minute shower. The agent who checked us out (he did not find anything missing and returned our full deposit) on Monday was apologetic and we hope he made an attempt to get the problem solved before the next renters arrived. As for the rest of the apartment, it was nicely furnished, clean (except for the sheets and they had hair on them) and at a great location. The internet connection was extremely poor to non-existent. I would rate the accommodations B- but the service D. I realize I have gone into extensive detail regarding this situation but want other travelers who are considering renting an apartment to be aware of the situation we encountered.
We found meals to be excellent, for the most part, and very reasonable. In general, we ate at moderate restaurants and the average price for two tenderloin steaks (loma) or one steak and pasta or chicken, one appetizer, one or two desserts, and a bottle of Malbec to be less than $40 including tip. The lunch specials which included a glass of beer or wine and from two to four courses were $8-12 each. Some of our favorite restaurants were as follows:
La Cabrera This Buenos Aires restaurant is written up in every guidebook which makes me sort of skeptical but it was the best meal we had all week as far as both food and service. We tried to order two dinners but the waiter assured us that one was plenty and he was so right. He brought out a platter with three thick steaks and a dozen small side dishes. The appetizer and dessert were also awesome. We tried to return at lunch a few days later but they were closed.
Aqua Located in Puerto Iguazu, this restaurant features a locally caught fish that is very mild and was well-prepared. Also, great desserts.
Juana M Cool Buenos Aires restaurant located in a basement. Known for it’s salad bar, it’ meat was also very good. Lots of locals—fun place to go.
59 (something—can’t remember the rest of the name) Located on Borges at about El Salvador Delicious breakfast for two for less than $7. Also, good fixed price lunch. Presentation seems to matter at this restaurant more than others we visited. Servers wear white wide-legged pants and flowing tops—seem quite trendy.
Deli at Felabella (Chilean department store on Florida St.) This was a quick lunch stop we made while shopping and had a terrific meat and cheese tray with the best pate’ I have ever tasted. About $10 including beer.
El Palacio de la Papa Frita on Laprida This is a huge restaurant that is very opened. Our meal was good and service was excellent but we made the mistake of eating at 8:30 and we were the only ones in the restaurant for 15-20 minutes. This made us slightly uncomfortable.
We ate at several less memorable restaurants but only one really bad one. We went to Colonia one day (described below) and ate at a restaurant right on the water as you round the curve sort of across from what looks like a little park. We ordered chevito—a beefsteak sandwich with tomatoes, lettuce and eggs and it was, literally, not edible (bad taste to the meat and extremely tough–I fed mine to a crippled sheep dog and she didn’t complain). Service was very slow and two sandwiches, fries, and beer were over $40US. We didn’t complain because the waiter (who appeared to be the manager) seemed to be very proud of the meal.
Colonia, Uruguay The Bobo Hotel made a first-class travel reservation for us on the Buquebus catamaran (fast boat) It was for a Monday and a reservation would not have been necessary because it was empty. Also, there was no need to go first class—the only difference I could see was that tourist class had more seats in a row—and the trip is relatively expensive for even tourist class (about $60pp). They requested that we arrive an hour early to go thru security then they were 45 minutes late leaving port so it was a long morning. The ride was quite smooth but boring. We had 5 hours in Colonia and that was too much time, in our opinion, because the museums are pretty minimal. The old part of the town is a complete contrast from Buenos Aires—very few cars, stores, or restaurants. The visitor center about 3 blocks from the port is very informative with English speakers. As I read back over this, I realize how negative it sounds and don’t mean for it to be—it was a drizzly rainy day and I’m sure we would have enjoyed it more had there been sun. That being said, if you have plenty of time—and some extra money—it makes for an interesting side trip.
Tigre—Delta Area This was another rainy day (we had a lot of those) and I had read from a trip advisor reviewer not to bother to go on a rainy day but ignored this very good advice. We enjoyed the train ride up but the charter taxis were not operating and we saw almost no river taxis. We talked to visitors who had taken the catamaran and they found it rather long and boring with the inclement weather. We shopped for awhile—prices are better but the fruit market consists of mostly tourist items and household goods—nothing too exciting. It is an easy trip to make. At the Retiro station, there are instructions at the ticket window on how to get there. The highlight of our trip was a train stop at San Isidro on the way back. This is apparently a very wealthy suburb and the homes are amazing. There is a nice plaza and church and just walking up and down the streets and looking at the mansions was fascinating. And the tourist shops at the station were pretty nice and had reasonable prices.
Estancia Los Dos Hermanos We had read about this estancia on trip advisor and had to try it. Despite the rain (once again) it was a lovely day. The guides Mercedes and Don Juan were very gracious hosts—making sure everyone was comfortable and having a good time even with the challenging conditions. Arrangements had been made for a driver to pick us and two other couples up around 9:00 am for the 75 minute drive ($40 for each couple).
The rain had flooded the entry road to the ranch but Mercedes met us in a 4-wheel drive vehicle and loaded us into the bed to take us on the last leg of our journey. After a continental style breakfast and introductions, we mounted our horses and began a one hour ride around the ranch. I think they doubted my riding ability (ok, so I was the oldest and fattest one of the group and had already told Ana that I hadn’t been on a horse for 10 years and not many times, period) and my horse fancied being at the back of the pack—way at the back. Every few minutes Mercedes would get behind me and employ her switch because no amount of kicking on my part could persuade my horse to “get-up”. After a delicious barbeque including a lomo (tenderloin) steak that melted in your mouth, we mounted our horses again for a two hour outside-the-estancia ride. This time, Don Juan stayed behind with me and continuously mad a “tsking” sound and my horse did much better about keeping up. We didn’t get to gallop as much as other groups because it was so muddy that the horses sunk down in at places—but, the ride was challenging enough for me! After a snack of warm, homemade cake and a tour of the overnight cabins we returned around 6:30 to the city. I believe the total cost was $65 per person plus the transportation.
Iguazu Falls Truly awesome—and I am not a huge nature lover. We spent two half days on the Argentine side and ½ day on the Brazilian. The guide books and trip advisor both cover this area pretty well so I won’t go into detail—just follow their guidelines for touring. One question I had before leaving was if I could store my luggage at the airport and I could not find an answer or anyone who knew.
So, I emailed Jorge Newbury Airport (the domestic one) and they assured me that I could (we had more luggage weight than allowable) and to just check with customer service at the terminal. At the customer service desk, I filled out a form and was escorted by a porter to the storage room. There were only 5 other bags stored. He gave me a claim check and locked the bag. When I returned 2 days later, I went by customer service for paperwork and paid my 18 pesos then picked up my bag at the storage room—all super easy. I want to highly recommend traveling by LAN. Our flights were on-time and hassle-free. Aerolineas was on strike two different days while we were in the country and did not try very hard to accommodate passengers who were unable to make their flights (told them they could reschedule their trips for 3 days later). And, two different couples who had been traveling extensively in Argentina reported that they never had one single “on-time” flight with Aerolineas. Also, I had a hard time seeing a good reason to stay at the Sheridan. You certainly have an excellent view of the falls from the rooms but they are definitely not right on top of them. And, I do think you would feel very isolated. One good feature of the Sheraton is their high tea from 4-6pm. The desserts are really good and it is only $6US. This is a nice way to end the day visiting the falls.
Shopping We hit several of the popular outdoor markets. The first weekend, it was warm and sunny and there were so many vendors and shoppers that it was a little overwhelming. The San Telmo Antique Fair, La Boca, and the Florida St. area were very entertaining—lots of performers. The Recoleta/Francia Fair and Plaza Serrano seemed to have more crafty items and less mass-produced souvenirs. To be very honest, we did not find great bargains but we live in a pretty inexpensive area of the country and realize that Americans, particularly living on the East and West Coasts, might differ with us.
Gallerias Pacifico was the only true “mall” that we visited and I recommend it not so much for the shopping as for the beauty. I also enjoyed the Design Recoleta stores—wonderful art and home furnishings.
This was a good trip and I could go on and on but this report is already longer than I intended. I hope it is helpful to at least a few others who are traveling to Argentina. I would like to emphasize that all of the above is simply my opinion/impression. You may not agree with me or like/dislike the same type of activities that I do. For that reason, I respectfully request that you limit your criticism. I am obviously not a professional writer or traveler. Reports take a great deal of time to prepare and I really don’t care hear about it if you don’t like the one that I am submitting. With that said I rely a great deal on Trip Advisor and appreciate all those who contribute to the website.