Living in an unfamiliar place can sometimes make you feel like a little kid again. Not in the sentimental “life was so simple back then” type of way but in the “I don’t know what any of these adults are talking about” kind of way. Nothing is particularly difficult but you just don’t know how to do anything. You’re clueless. And if there is a language barrier, not knowing what someone is talking about can be two fold. Do I not know the literal words you are saying to me or is there a contextual piece of this conversation that I’m missing?
Today, I am going to list the all of the things that I wish I knew the very first day and how to do them. These are all small, mundane, and EASY things but would have made life simpler if I had gotten it out of the way from the very beginning.
Cell Phones – Buenos Aires is an enormous place to navigate. Service and data are totally not necessary but it makes things much easier and will give you an added sense of security. A phone can be purchased cheaply and the sim cards come for free. I went to a Movistar store. There are a couple of other phone stores to choose from and they are all over the city. Adding data and minutes costs about $10 USD for a week or two, depending on your usage, and this can be done at any kiosk or online.
Money – There are a few ways to attain Argentine pesos but I believe that one is far better than the other two. First, one should know that cash is much more important in Argentina than in America because many places don’t accept cards or don’t like to accept cards. Furthermore, many credit and debit cards have fees that can be very expensive after several weeks of living there.
Taking out cash is expensive as well. Charges from my own bank and the ATM combined would amount to up to $20, per transaction. (Most ATM fees are 95 pesos.) Then, there is a limit of 2,400 pesos per transaction with no more than 2 transactions per day. The exchange rate is rapidly changing but 2,400 pesos equals roughly $96 USD. The ATM fee is already sitting at 3.96% and any added charge from your home bank raises that rate. All in all, ATM’s can be more expensive than the fees placed on your credit or debit card.
My overall recommendation is to use a money wiring service. There are a few services in Buenos Aires, however, I liked World Remit the most. It is a UK based company that works with your bank to encrypt your information. The fee is about $1-3 USD and the limit is $9,000 USD. While there are not as many locations as there are for ATMs, there are kiosks throughout the city no more than a few miles apart.
Transportation – Buenos Aires is a ver large city geographically but there are a few options for getting around. Ubers and taxis are the the most expensive option. Ubers are technically illegal; however, they still operate, just more discretely. The prices for both are similar to those in the United States and will usually range anywhere from 50-500 pesos depending on the time of day and the location. On the other hand, public transportation is 7 pesos a ride.
There are subways and bus lines in the city. For both of them you need a Sube card that can be purchased and reloaded at most kiosks or in the subway terminals. This is the first step. Their subways are easy to use and are clearly labeled on signs, while the buses are slightly trickier. You need to know the name of the bus stop you are getting off at before you get on so the driver can adjust your fare depending on the distance. I suggest downloading the Moovit app to locate bus line routes and the names of all the stops. Map.me is also an awesome app because once it is downloaded, it can give you directions without using wifi or data.