10 Reasons to Backpack in Argentina
Guidebooks for Argentina
I recently spent six months in South America and one of the countries that I was most impressed with was Argentina. So below are ten reasons why I liked Argentina and why I believe Argentina is a fantastic backpacker destination.
1) As a backpacker, the first consideration is always price. I would love to lie on the beach in the Seychelles but I wouldn’t love to book into a thousand dollar a night bullshit boutique hotel to do it. And that’s my first reason why Argentina is worth visiting it is cheap. If you stay in hostel dorm beds, use the hostel kitchen and take buses you can easily survive in Argentina for under $30 a day. And that still leaves you plenty of money to do a few excursions, hit the bars at the weekend and have the occasional meal in a restaurant.
2) Variety. Argentina is South America’s second biggest country and has an amazing variety of landscapes to savour. In the north there are the surreal moonscapes of the Andes, in the East are the steamy jungles near the Iguazu Falls, in the west are mountains and lakes and wine growing regions and in the south are the never ending horizons of Patagonia and the pristine wilderness of Tierra del Fuego.
3) Argentina has some great wildlife viewing possibilities. The natural habitats of a vast array of fauna and flora have been preserved. You can see llama, coatis, southern right whales, Magellanic penguins, seals and sea lions, condors, guanaco as well as hosts of beautiful flowers and trees. I love learning about nature when I’m backpacking and Argentina definitely provides the opportunity for seeing unheard of species.
4) Argentina has some great national parks that are well maintained and inexpensive to enter. Amongst the best are the Iguazu Falls National Park where you can trek through the jungle and see the spectacular Iguazu waterfalls; Valdes Peninsula where you can see whales, penguins, seals, sea lions, dolphins, and if you are lucky, a pod of orca whales; and the Glaciers National Park where one of only two advancing glaciers in all of South America is on display. In other parks such as Tierra del Fuego National Park you can do extensive trekking and camp for free.
5) Buenos Aires is a cool city to visit. Unlike other South American cities it is relatively safe to walk around and it is has a whole host of activities to offer to visitors. You can visit the Necropolis where Eva Peron is buried. You can watch street tango. You can stroll around colourful Boca; you can explore the ecological reserve. You can watch a street demonstration. And you can see the indigenous art display on the top floor of the Belles Arts Museum. In the evening there are many lively bars to check out and at the weekend the nightclubs are full of beautiful young people dancing to drum and bass, techno and salsa. Buenos Aires is inexpensive, diverse, cultural and alive. It looks like a European city but has a uniquely Latin heart.
6) Unlike Brazil, travel is very affordable in Argentina and easy to do independently. Most of the time it is fine to just turn up at the bus terminal in the morning, buy your ticket and wait for the next bus. Of course it is good to speak the locals and find out when the buses are going. If like me you are linguistically inept you can just turn up and have a meal while you wait. The long distance over-night buses are very comfortable with reclining seats and plenty of leg room. Several of the long distance buses even have wi fi. That’s better than National Express can manage.
7) The people are great. Unlike the stereotype the average Argentine is not haughty and arrogant. Far from it. The Argentines we met were mostly kind and friendly and happy to hang out with gringos. Many of the younger generation speak fairly good English and in many ways Argentines are Europhiles so I found lots to chat and laugh about with the people I encountered in Argentina
8) Beef. Argentines love the stuff and I must say they do it well. Their cows must have very happy organic lives because when they are put to the sword they make awesome steaks. Grilled or barbecued with a piquant sauce they taste delicious.
9) Tango music is something I never thought I would get into but when I saw it performed on the street in Buenos Aires I was incredibly moved. Listening to the music feels like being in an old and incredibly sad movie. The dancing is all jerky and violent, yet graceful and passionate. It is so unlike salsa and other Latin music styles. It takes you on a journey of pathos and nostalgia. It is a music that defines Buenos Aires and captures something of the Argentine soul.
10) Cheap accommodation is easy to find. I loved the fact that we were able to ignore our Lonely Planet in Argentina, which is a good thing because the newest edition is four years out of date. Instead we asked around to get travel advice and recommendations on where to stay. Sometimes we went to places not even in the guidebook and still had no problem finding a cheap bed for the night. Often hostel workers meet you as you get off the bus. They politely tell you their rates and you are saved all the hassle of wondering around trying to find a place to stay.
That’s 10 reasons why I thought Argentina was great. And yet there is still so much more to say. One word of caution: take taxis at night especially if you are going clubbing or bar-hopping in a city. For more up-to-date information on hostels, travel, destinations, food and music in Argentina please check out my website: Backpack in Argentina.
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