After living in Buenos Aires for 5+ months, I’d say we know our way around studying abroad there…sort of.
Here’s some of the tips, tricks, and things we wish we had known before our journey to Argentina!
1. Money! Cash is used pretty much everywhere in Buenos Aires, and it can sometimes be a hassle (see #5). I went equipped with a credit card and debit card, but I don’t think I used my credit card even once. For everyday money, I (and I believe Alexa and Maddy did this, too) would just get a couple hundred pesos out every few weeks and pay the $3 USD transaction fee each time. A friend of ours used Western Union to get extra money transferred from the States, and she had a few problems and it just seemed like a huge hassle, so I wouldn’t recommend going with that route.
2. Visas. Ohh, Visas. We had to pay about $140 USD when entering Argentina for a 3-month tourist visa. Customs officers will put a sticker in your passport and then if you enter Argentina anytime in the next 10 years you won’t have to pay that $140 USD. If you need the tourist visa for a little longer, you can just leave the country (head over to Uruguay for the day!) and once you get back to Argentina, you will then have a 3-month tourist visa from that date.
In order for us to get our transcripts sent back to the US, we had to get student visas (which is a whole ‘nother story). CEA held our hands through the process but one thing that went wrong at the end of our trip was that we didn’t know we had to pick up the official copy of the student visa, and we needed to present that copy to leave the country on our way home. One of our friends didn’t have that copy at the airport and had to run frantically around the airport (almost missing her flight home) and had to pay for a whole new student visa. Luckily, our friend warned us about this so we were able to get our official copies before we flew home, but make sure that doesn’t happen to you!
3. Ignore online packing lists. We were told that porteños had an impeccable sense of fashion, which is true, but you aren’t a porteño. Bring some workout clothes (whether or not they are fashionable) if you think you are going to want to go for a run through the beautiful neighborhoods or join a gym. I remember reading, while researching my trip, that porteños don’t really wear shorts. I’m extremely glad I ignored that little detail and packed all my shorts. The second you open your mouth, they are going to know you aren’t from Argentina, so just put aside all those worries about fitting in and just pack what you know you will be comfortable in!
4. Take as many classes in Spanish as possible. You aren’t going to Argentina to learn English! We had the option of taking our courses in Spanish or English at the University of Belgrano and I think choosing all Spanish courses was definitely one of the most beneficial parts of improving our language skills. My listening comprehension skills have increased tenfold after hearing Spanish lectures for an entire semester!
5. Don’t pay for your cab with a $100 peso bill – even if they say it’s ok. It’s kind of a funny story. Well, not really funny. I mean, as funny as someone getting pepper sprayed can be. Yeah, now you’re intrigued! Here’s the rundown: Girl. 21st birthday. Goes out in Buenos Aires. On her way home, hails a cab. Gets in cab and tells the cabbie she only has a $100 peso bill. Cabbie says “Sure, come on in.” Takes girl home. Girl gives him bill. He refuses to take it. Gets angry. Verbal argument in drunken Spanish. Cabbie won’t give her change, so girl gets out. Cabbie jumps out of car, PEPPER SPRAYS HER, and drives off.
What?! Seriously?! I can’t even…
So, moral of the story: always break bills BEFORE going out on the town. (The girl was fine, by the way!)
6. Learn the bus system. Taxis are expensive. Walking is nice, but its a big city. This site saved us. Learn and love, my friends.
7. Bring your own tampons. They are nowhere to be found in Buenos Aires, so bring enough for your whole trip! Or, if you’re like Alexa and care about the environment and don’t want to take up all of your bag space with girl products, try one of these. Supposedly they’re awesome.
8. Sad news: There is no close beach. Looking at a map you see that the city has a river on one whole side and you think “sweet, I’ll get to hang out at the beach alllll the time!” Nope. For our beach experiences, we had to travel 5 hours down the coast or to an entirely different country.
9. Live close to an empanada place. You may not be able to control this one, but its great for many reasons. Empanadas are cheap, for one; they’re delicious; and you WILL miss them once you’re no longer in Buenos Aires.
10. Three words: Buenos Aires Delivery. We’ve mentioned this one many times before, but we almost lived off of this. And those empanadas from #9.
11. Hoard your coins. Seriously, don’t let anyone take your monedas! They are your most valuable possession if taking public transportation (buses don’t take bills.) You can always stop into a bank and exchange $10 or $15 pesos into monedas on your way to school!
Hopefully some of these tips will help make your trip just a little bit easier!
We are currently knee deep in finals, so writing this blog post was a nice little escape from the studying! Wish us luck!!
If you have any questions (seriously, any questions) please leave a comment or shoot us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!