Since the Argentinian economic collapse of 2001, Buenos Aires has had a reputation as a great bargain for travelers. Despite the fact that eight years have passed since the collapse, the reputation has remained, though the reality of the situation is that Buenos Aires is no longer the bargain basement of cities. The collapse, while sending large numbers of the country’s citizens plummetting into poverty, acted as a calling card for millions of tourists…and the money they brought with them. As a result, the low prices slowly began to climb as hotels and restaurants filled. Now, prices are no longer as jawdroppingly low as they once were. A double room at a hostel will set you back at least $20 a person and a double at a decent hotel is hard to find below $70. Dinner is likely to cost about $10. And tango shows can cost as much as a Las Vegas or Broadway show.
But before all you budget travelers cross Buenos Aires from the list, let me tell you that it’s really still quite the great deal. Dinner might be $10, but you’ll get a really amazing (and huge!) steak (or two!) for that bit of dinero. Hostels and hotels might not be cheap, but if you’re staying for at least a week, you can rent an entire apartment for two people for about $35 dollars per night. And as for things to do, many of the city’s highlights are free or inexpensive. In an earlier post, I highlighted the Free BA Tours, but that’s just the beginning.
You could also spend a day at the Hipodromo, as we did on our first Monday in town. As a Kentucky native, horse racing is in my blood, and with my parents in town, I couldn’t pass up a chance for us to see the ponies run in a different country. We found that admission to the track, which was conveniently located in the Palermo neighborhood (where our apartment was), was free, and bets could be placed for as little as one peso (about 28 U.S. cents). Though I’m not quite sure we ever figured out exactly how to read the board, and though the Hipodromo doesn’t hold a candle up to Churchill Downs, we still had a great time, cheering on our picks while standing so close to the track that we probably could have reached out and touched the horses. Only two things could have made it better: 1) A winning bet and 2) Racing hippos.
A fun and inexpensive way to fill another day is with a trip to Tigre, the delta town just 35 kilometers from Buenos Aires. It’s easily reached via commuter train, with a roundtrip ticket costing a whopping 2.70 pesos. Once there, you can check out the fruit market (though go early, because much of it shuts down before its posted closing time of 6 p.m.) and take a stroll along the river, past fancy rowing clubs, nice houses, and plenty of cafes and restaurants. Of course, to really experience the delta you need to hop abroad a boat. Don’t worry, you won’t be hurting for options. There’s everything from pricey lunch cruises aboard giant boats to the wooden boat public launches. A 17 peso ticket will take you half-hour down the river on the public launch to the island community of Tres Bocas. There’s not much to do there besides circumnavigate the small island on foot, but the boat ride itself is worth the trip, as it’s a very scenic environment.
What else? Well there’s the Museo Nacional Belles Artes, BA’s fine arts museum, which is completely free, as are the tours of the Congress and the Casa Rosa (the President’s office). There’s the Eco Reserve, another completely free site, that’s great for a stroll or a bike ride, with the chance of spotting birds, butterflies, lizards, and other wildlife while practically downtown.
And of course, there are the many fascinating neighborhoods each with their own highlights—the Sunday market in San Telmo, the many parks of Recoleta and Palermo, and the colorful Caminita area of La Boca, for starters.
Though there are plenty of things to spend your money on in Buenos Aires (and many of them well-worth it), you don’t have to empty your wallet to have a good time. It’s a city for all budgets, a city for all tastes, a city that you definitely ought to put on your list.