Difference between revisions of "Argentina"
Revision as of 15:04, 9 January 2018
Argentina, (Spanish: República Argentina) is a large, elongated country in the southern part of South America, neighbouring countries being Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay to the north, Uruguay to the north east and Chile to the west. In the east Argentina has a long South Atlantic Ocean coastline.
Argentina (officially the Argentine Republic) is the eighth-largest country in the world. The highest and the lowest points of South America are also located in Argentina: At 6,960m, Cerro Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Americas while Laguna del Carbón, at 105m below sea level, is the lowest point in the Americas.
At the southern tip of Argentina there are several routes between the South Atlantic and the South Pacific Oceans including the Strait of Magellan, the Beagle Channel, and the Drake Passage---as alternatives to sailing around Cape Horn in the open ocean between South America and Antarctica.
The name Argentina derives from argentinos, the Ancient Greek diminutive (tinos) form for silver (argentos), which is what early Spanish explorers sought when they first reached the region in the sixteenth century.
The deserts of Cuyo, which can reach temperatures of 50°C, are extremely hot and dry in the summer and moderately cold and dry in the winter. Spring and fall often exhibit rapid temperature reversals; several days of extremely hot weather may be followed by several days of cold weather, then back to extremely hot.
The Andes are cool in the summer and very cold in the winter, varying according to altitude.
Patagonia is cool in the summer and cold in the winter. Extreme temperature shifts within a single day are even more common here; pack a variety of clothes and dress in layers.
Don't forget that seasons are reversed from those of the Northern Hemisphere.
The central region of Argentina is the rich plain known as La Pampa. There is jungle in the extreme northeast. The southern half of Argentina is dominated by the flat to rolling plateau of Patagonia. The western border with Chile is along the rugged Andes mountains, including the Aconcagua, the highest mountain outside the Himalayas. The western Cuyo regions at the base of the Andes are mostly rocky desert with some poisonous frock tree.
Following independence from Spain in 1816, Argentina experienced periods of internal political conflict between conservatives and liberals. In the first decade of the 20th century, Argentina became the richest nation in Latin America, its wealth symbolized by the opulence of its capital city.
European immigrants flowed into Argentina, particularly from the northern parts of Italy and Spain; by 1914 nearly 6 million people had come to the country.
After World War II, a long period of Peronist rule in subsequent governments was followed by a military junta that took power in 1976.
Democracy returned in 1983 after the defeat of Argentina in the Falkland Islands War against the United Kingdom the previous year.
A painful economic crisis at the turn of the 21st century devalued the Argentine peso by a factor of three and ushered in a series of weak, short-lived governments along with social and economic instability.
However, later in the decade Argentina seemed to find some new stability, and currently has a much better economic outlook - albeit with the eternal problem of high inflation.
Argentine electricity is officially 220V, 50Hz. Adapters and transformers for North American equipment are readily available.
The best way to use imported electrical equipment in Argentina is to purchase an adapter once there. These are available in the Florida shopping area in Buenos Aires for around USD2 or less in hardware stores outside the city centre. Buildings use a mix of European and Australian plug fittings. The Australian-style plugs are IRAM-2073, which are physically identical to the Australian AS-3112 standard (two blades in a V-shape, with or without a third blade for ground). However, the live and neutral pins in the Australian fittings are reversed. Therefore Australian equipment may be incompatible despite the apparent plug-compatibility. This is not a problem for battery chargers for devices such as Thinkpad, iPod, iPhone, and Blackberry.
European standard CEE-7/7 "Schukostecker" or "Schuko" outlets and the non-grounded, but compatible, European CEE-7/16 "Europlug" outlets may still be found in some older buildings. US and Canadian travellers may want to pack adapters for these outlets as well.
Many sockets have no ground pin. Laptop adapters should have little problem with this. If your laptop adapter requires a ground pin you will need a plug adapter that takes three pins from the laptop and requires only two from the wall socket. This does work but may reduce electrical safety or affect your warranty.
Some Argentine sockets accept North American plugs, particularly ones on power strips. Beware - this does not mean that these sockets deliver 110 volts. Make sure that your equipment can handle 220 volts! Simply changing the shape of the socket with a USD2 adapter will not allow 110 volt equipment to operate on 220 volt Argentinian sockets, unless the device is specifically designed to work on both 110 and 220 volts, irreparable damage and even fire can result. Most laptop power adapters and many portable electronics chargers are designed to work on either voltage; check the specifications for your equipment to be sure. If your equipment cannot accept 220 volt current, you can purchase a '220 to 110' volt transformer for approximately USD6 in most Argentinian electronics shops. This is much heavier and bulkier than a small adapter. There are two types of these transformers. One supports heavy loads for short durations, for example a hair dryer. The other supports light loads for long durations, for example an inkjet printer. Do select the right one.
Passport holders of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Argentina when the purpose of the visit is tourism: Andorra, Armenia, Australia*, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada*, Czech Republic, Chile, Cyprus, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Serbia,Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.
(*) reciprocity fee required
While visas are not required for tourist visits for Canadian and Australian citizens, the Argentine Government started charging a "Reciprocity Fee" in 2009 for citizens using passports from those countries. The fees paid by travelers are dependent on their nationality and similar to the amounts that Argentine citizens pay for visa applications to visit Canada or Australia. From 7 January 2013, ALL entries to Argentina at ALL ports of entry (except cruise passengers) have required pre-payment of the reciprocity fee at the Argentinian Department of Immigration website. Proof of payment needs to be printed out and presented to immigration officials upon arrival.
For Australians, the AUD100 fee allows multiple entries for 1 year. Canadian citizens pay USD78 (however it is billed in ARS) which allows multiple entries up until 1 month before the passport expires.
Citizens of India or Morocco have to obtain a visa in their country of usual residence, but the visa is free.
Aerolíneas Argentinas and LATAM Airlines offer connections between Buenos Aires' international airport Ezeiza and many cities throughout South America, as well as North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Qantas no longer offers direct flights from Sydney to Buenos Aires, instead flying to Santiago - home of it's OneWorld Partner LATAM, where travellers can connect onto multiple destinations in Argentina. Air New Zealand has recently commenced direct flights between Auckland and Buenos Aires.
There are international flights to other airports in Argentina, such as to Mendoza, Rosario, and Córdoba with LATAM, Gol, Azul Brazilian Airlines, and Copa Airlines from Santiago, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Lima, and Panama City respectively. If you fly into Argentina to an Argentine airport other than the two in Buenos Aires, you avoid paying the Reciprocity Fee (see above) payable by passport holders of Canada and Australia (and if you book your bags through Santiago to Mendoza you also avoid the similarly hefty Chilean reciprocity fee as well).
If you plan on visiting Buenos Aires you will fly into Ministro Pistarini International Airport (IATA: EZE); if you're travelling to another location in Argentina you may have to travel from Ezeiza to the Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (IATA: AEP), the domestic airport in Buenos Aires. One problem is that the airports are located on opposite sides of the city, so some time has to be factored when travelling from one airport to the other. There are cheap shuttle buses which take you there in about an hour, but travel time varies greatly depending on traffic. There are few flights (mostly to Río Gallegos and Ushuaia), which leave early in the morning from Ezeiza International Airport. All the other domestic flights (and also to some South American destinations) leave from Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. Be sure you are in the right airport!
You should be able to ride a motorcoach or hire a service taxi from one of the booths after you clear customs. The rate for a taxi from Ezeiza international airport to Buenos Aires is around ARS500, the rate from the Jorge Newbery domestic airport to town is around ARS400. (Dec 2016)
If visiting another city there are a number of airports throughout the country. Many find it far easier to travel to a neighbouring country and then take a short distance hop to the smaller airport. All major cities in Argentina and major tourist destinations like Mendoza, Perito Moreno and Iguazu Falls have airports nearby. There are several national airlines, with different levels of service. In general flying gets you everywhere quickly and relatively cheaply. Although the buses in Argentina are amongst the most comfortable in the world and are reasonably priced, travelling takes a lot of time because of the distances and slow road travel involved.
Passengers leaving Ezeiza Airport no longer have to pay the "departure tax" of USD29 (USD8 to Uruguay and domestic flights) after check-in, as they are now included in the prices of the tickets.
International coaches run from all the neighbouring countries.
The Retiro bus terminal is large and hidden behind Retiro train and Subte stations. For long distance buses it is advisable to buy a ticket several days in advance of your trip. Be sure to arrive about 45 minutes before your departure and always ask at an information counter if your gate number is the same as the one printed on your ticket. You will be given a range of possible gate numbers (for example 17-27). Watch your belongings carefully at Retiro as it is often crowded and there have been reports of thefts and even muggings at night.
Regular catamarans routes link Buenos Aires with Montevideo and Colonia in Uruguay. The company Buquebus  has both a slow (3 hours) and rapid (1 hour) ferry service that departs several times a day to Colonia. Ferries depart from the downtown Buenos Aires neighborhood Puerto Madero. There are two companies (Cacciola  and Líneas Delta ) that link the city of Tigre with Carmelo and Nueva Palmira in Uruguay, respectively. Trains  to Tigre depart from Retiro (one of Buenos Aires' main train stations) every ten minutes. The trip costs ARS1.1 and takes 50 minutes.
To a lesser extent, Grimaldi Freighters  run freighters which carry up to 12 passengers from Hamburg, London, Antwerp, Le Havre, and Bilbao to Buenos Aires every 9 days. They also carry cars and you drive your car on and off - unlike other freighter services. More information can be found on the website.
Most people seem to bus or fly around Argentina. Buses are comfortable (as comfortable as a 40 hour bus ride can be) but very expensive, much more so than in Chile and Brazil, let alone other South American countries. A bus ticket from southern Patagonia to Buenos Aires can easily cost you USD300. Flights also tend to be expensive, due to lack of competition. Flight fares are more expensive for foreigners than for Argentineans so ask at airline offices after you check tickets online.
More economical ways to travel around (besides hitchhiking  which is straightforward, besides in the southern part of Ruta 40, between El Chalten and Perito Moreno), is to fly LADE, where possible or take a train on one of the few available routes. Both LADE and trains are subsidized by the government. During busy season (holidays etc.) and maybe also otherwise, there seems to be a silent agreement that Argentineans get a priority on those services. If you are told by LADE or the train operator that there is no availability for when you want to travel, ask a local to call and confirm. Some trains can be booked online. There have been reports of policemen and even ticket salesmen at Retiro train station in Buenos Aires turning foreigners away and not letting them into the ticket office, saying that there is no availability for the train for the next couple of months, which later turns out to be untrue.
There are trains from Buenos Aires to Tucuman, Cordoba, Rosario (from Retiro station), Bahia Blanca and Mar del Plata (from Constitucion station) among others. Also some limited services in and out of Viedma and Bariloche. Tickets are very cheap. For example, a ticket to Tucuman (26h) costs 45 pesos compared to a bus ticket of 700 pesos (April 2013). The service is much worse but the price is unbeatable.
In recent years the government has promoted the re-establishment of long distance passenger trains, although most lines still operate at a low frequency (one or two departures weekly). The rail network is very limited, and intercity buses offer better service and faster rides.
Local travel in the Buenos Aires province is both by bus and by local trains, with fast trains being the quickest way to get through the city's traffic. The three largest train terminals in Buenos Aires are Retiro, Constitucion and Once. Retiro is actually three train stations alongside each other with the main long distance bus (or "micro") terminal behind the furthest of the train terminals (from the city centre).
One of the major long distance train operators is Ferrobaires . See also Satélite Ferroviario  for up-to-date information on trains and services (in Spanish). Ferrocentral  departs from Buenos Aires twice weekly to Tucumán and twice per week to Córdoba. Try buying tickets online. If you go to the ticket office in Retiro, the policeman in front of the office might send you back and tell you there is no availability for the next couple of months (although there is availability online).
An amazing train ride is the Tren a las nubes (Train to the Clouds) in the northwestern province of Salta, but some people may get altitude sickness. This service, which has experienced suspensions, recommenced in August 2008.
The train to Misiones (for Iguazu) does not operate as of April 2013.
Domestic flights are available within Argentina, but tickets are pricey, and most domestic flights pass through Buenos Aires' domestic airport Aeroparque Jorge Newbery. The main carriers are Aerolíneas Argentinas and LATAM. Aerolíneas Argentinas' subsidiary Austral, which shares its parents fleet, and tickets of the two can be booked at the same office. The prices for tickets are double for non-residents, so be careful with publicized ticket prices.
LADE flies mostly to some smaller cities and mostly to the south of Buenos Aires. They have much lower, fixed prices. They are subsidized by the government and usually cheaper than the bus. Around holidays they get booked up early. Baggage allowance is 15kg + 5kg for hand luggage. Check their website for routes, schedules and prices, but book in an office. Sometimes the website shows availability when there isn't any. Best for Ushuaia, El Calafate, Bariloche and some cities on the Atlantic coast. Ask a local to call for you and book over the phone as locals seem to get a priority. LADE have been known to delay flights, even for a day or two sometimes so if you are on a very tight schedule or connecting to an international flight, maybe you should ask them first about the chances of delays and cancellations.
Flybondi is a upstart lowcost airline that operates flights from El Palomar Airport just outside of Buenos Aires to destinations like Puerto Iguazú,Córdoba, Bariloche, Mendoza, Resistencia, Salta, Neuquén, San Miguel de Tucumán, Ushuaia, El Calafate and Río Gallegos.
An exception to passing through Buenos Aires for domestic flights is Aerolineas Argentinas "Great Circle Route", going both ways Saturdays and Wednesdays BA-Bariloche-Mendoza-Salta-Iguazu-BA (and reverse on another flight both days). Also LADE connects most flights in Comodoro Rivadavia and you won't have to pass through Buenos Aires if you want to go from El Calafate to Bariloche or Puerto Madryn for example.
If you fly on your international trip to Argentina with Aerolíneas you sometimes get discounts on domestic flights. Sometimes you even get free flights with your international ticket but keep in mind that you pay for it with your international ticket.
Always plan to arrive to your final destination before your flight home 2 or 3 days in advance, as Argentina, like most Latin American countries, experiences more delays and cancellations in travel than most areas of the world.
Argentina boasts an outstanding short and long-distance bus network. Since regional train service is limited and plane tickets are more expensive, bus travel is the most common way to travel from city to city within Argentina. Note that it is not as cheap as it was before, with about 4 to 5 dollars for each hour of travelling (Puerto Iguazú to Buenos Aires about USD100).
In Buenos Aires, a city bus is called a colectivo while a long distance, city-to-city bus is called a micro; but usage varies somewhat, they are also called omnibus. The hub of this network is definitely Buenos Aires' Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro; it has up to 2,000 bus arrivals and departures per day, and multiple companies serve most destinations. Buses arrive and depart from a total of 75 platforms, and in order to buy your ticket you will have to choose between about 200 ticket booths situated on the upper level of the terminal.
The more expensive buses generally offer high-quality service, and for distances longer than 200km, it is common to have food served on board. There is generally a good amount of legroom, and many buses have seats that recline horizontally into beds (camas) making them a lot like travelling business class on a plane. The best category with completely reclining seats is normally called cama suite, but this names vary, names such as tutto leto,cama-vip,ejecutivo or salon real are also in use. Somewhat cheaper seats only recline partially (semi-camas), or not at all (servicio común). Every service belongs to one of five official comfort classes with minimum requirements that are prescribed by law in order to facilitate comparisons. The better buses will provide everything you need, while for the lower categories it may be a good idea to take drinks and food with you, as well as toilet paper and ear plugs. If travelling with a large bag or suitcase bring a handful of 25c coins to tip the guys that heaves your pack in and out of the taxi and bus. If travelling long distances (let's say more than 12 hours) it is recommended to pay for a better bus service just because of travelling in a more comfortable way.
Remember that although buses usually arrive to their destination a little late, they almost always leave on time. Do not think that the relaxed approach carries over to bus departure times!
More information on bus companies and schedules is available at the webpage of the Terminal de Retiroand at  in Buenos Aires. A second bus terminal in Buenos Aires is situated in the Liniers district, but it is smaller and less accessible than the one in Retiro.
Car rental is readily available throughout Argentina, though it is a bit expensive compared with other forms of transportation. Travelling by car allows you to visit locations that are hard to reach by public transportation. Patagonia, in the South of Argentina, is a popular driving location among tourists due to the breathtaking views across many miles of open land.
Argentina generally recognizes valid drivers' licenses from foreign jurisdictions. Drivers must be over 21. The rental companies will charge the renters card ARS6000 to be used in the event of an accident. They cancel this charge when the car is returned. On the rutas, in the provinces bordering other countries, the police frequently stop cars at controles policiales ("police checkpoints") to check insurance and registration papers and drivers' licenses. They do not stop all cars, though; when you come to a control policial, drive slowly and you will usually be waved through without stopping. Near provincial borders, these controles may also involve inspection of the trunk for contraband and a mandatory two peso fee for "disinfection" or "de-insectifying" the car's underside by driving it over a mechanical sprayer that either sprays water or does nothing. The police have been known to set up roadblocks and demand bribes for passage, particularly around the city of Buenos Aires.
Traffic regulations in Argentina are generally the same as in the US or Europe, but the local often ignore the regulations. On roads and highways it´s mandatory to have car lights on, even during daytime. Be aware that the driving style in Argentina is aggressive and chaotic. Pay attention at night.
Maximum speed: 60km/h in the city, 40km/h on side roads and 100km/h to 130km/h on roads outside the city as well as on highways. There are frequent speed controls. However speed limits and lane markings are universally ignored, and running red lights is common. Most drivers treat stop signs, octagonal red signs reading PARE, as though they were "yield" signs, though some drivers ignore them completely. Within cities surrounding Buenos Aires it is proper to honk at an impending intersection and the one who honks first has right of way. Right of way is determined somewhat haphazardly by a combination of vehicle size and who arrives first. Make sure you are thoroughly confident in your driving skills before attempting to drive in Argentina.
Highways are limited to the areas around large cities. Most of the country is connected by paved unlit two-lane roads (rutas) shared by buses, cars, and large trucks. Some places are accessible only by gravel or dirt roads - indeed, some main roads in southern Argentina are unsealed, leading to 4WD vehicles being more popular. This is particularly the case in the south. It is important to travel with a good map ( e.g. Argentina Waterproof Road Map from World Mapping Project) and to be well informed about your route distances, road conditions and the estimated travel time. In addition to a good map the website of cochera andina publishes useful information on more than 120 routes in Argentina.
The current cost of gasoline in central and southern Argentina is approximately ARS16 per litre. In many small towns, particularly in the north, they may ration gasoline to ensure they have enough to sell until the next refuelling truck arrives, in which case you will only be allowed to buy 300 pesos worth of fuel at a time. It's advisable to fill your tank at regular intervals when the opportunity arises. In the Andes, the gasoline consumption of non-turbo charged engines increases due to the altitude.
The hitchhiking club Autostop Argentina began in Argentina in 2002, inspired by clubs in France, Italy and the United States. As a result, hitchhiking has become more acceptable among the younger generation, and raising a thumb at a highway is a symbol most people understand.
Today, nevertheless, the thumb of a woman is gigantically more successful than the thumb of a man. A single man should count on long hours of waiting or just plain luck. If you do get a ride, you will in general be treated with much generosity though.
The official language is Spanish. Generally, most people speak Spanish correctly, albeit using a local dialect, Castellano Rioplatense, which is subtly different from both the language of Spain and that of Central America. Most notably, the pronoun "tú" is replaced by "vos", and the you plural pronoun "vosotros" replaced with "ustedes", the latter being common throughout Latin America. Besides, there are separate verb conjugations, sometimes significantly different for irregular verbs in present tense and informal commands. Additionally, people from each city pronounce words differently too! In this way, people from Buenos Aires speak differently compared to those from Spain and other Spanish speaking countries; example: chicken in Spanish (pollo) is pronounced PO-zhO or PO-SHO by the "Porteños" (residents of Buenos Aires), with the SH sound harder than in Spanish; unlike most other Spanish speakers of South America who pronounces it PO-yo.
Rioplatense Spanish is also heavily influenced by Italian, even frequently being mistaken for it: is is a result of the large influx of Italian immigrants. Hand gestures derived from Italy are extremely common, and many colloquialisms are borrowed from Italian (for example: instead of saying "cerveza", which means beer, youngsters find "birra" cooler, which is in Italian). Most locals can readily understand most Spanish dialects, as well as Portuguese or Italian (especially due to its similarity to the local Spanish). English is mandatory in high school and usually understood in at least a basic level in tourists' areas. German and French can be understood and to some extent spoken by small fractions of the population. A few places in Patagonia near Rawson have native Welsh speakers. Words borrowed from aboriginal languages include: quechua, guarani, mataco, che, mate and others.
The interjection "che loco" are extremely common and mean approximately the same as English "hey!". It can also be employed as a phrase known to someone you don't remember their names. Ex: "Escucháme, Che,...." Sometimes it is peppered through out the speech, similar to the English phrase "you know." Nonetheless, communication will not be a problem for any Spanish speaker.
Argentines will communicate with each other using lunfardo, a street dialect or slang. It is used together with Spanish by replacing nouns with their synonyms in lunfardo. As opposed to changing the original meaning, it just makes the phrase more colourful. An important aspect of lunfardo is that it is only spoken. For example, one knows the word dinero (money), but may use the word "guita" in order to refer to the same things. Lunfardo is composed of about 5,000 words, many of which do not appear in the dictionary.
Despite the conflict with Britain over las Islas Malvinas, Argentina still has the biggest British community in Latin America, has many cities founded by them, and 80% of Buenos Aires' private schools are British. Argentina could easily have been, along with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the fourth British colonised country in the Southern Hemisphere! Buenos Aires used to have the only Harrods store outside the UK and continues to have the most important and oldest English newspaper in Latin America, the Buenos Aires Herald.
There are two important nature preserves around Puerto Madryn, Punta Tombo, and Peninsula Valdes where one can see guanacos, rheas, penguins, sea lions, birds, and whales at certain times of the year.
The wine regions of Mendoza and Salta are also very popular tourist destinations, and many tourists are discovering that entering Argentina and using these cities as a base often suits them better than dealing with the bustle of Buenos Aires. Mendoza is a place where many find it is comfortable to learn or brush up on Spanish before touring South America.
The Traslasierra Valley is a natural geographic region of Córdoba, Argentina, located west of the Big Picks or Hills where Mina Clavero is the capital of tourism and is the most important commercial centre together with the city of Villa Dolores. Among this magnificent mountain range of almost 2800m (9200 ft), several charming villages will welcome you with a great variety of lodgings, restaurants, cultural events and outdoor activities for everyone. The sun shines most of the year inviting you to practice eco-tourism and adventure tourism experiencing a direct contact with nature.
Health tourism is also possible in some places in Traslasierra valley, where alternative therapies or anti-stress programs are available in world class Spas.
Cultural heritage has also a main role, with museums, churches and estancias (ranches) of the eighteenth century.
Buenos Aires has a number of walking tour options. They include the typical tours you may find in any city, as well as interesting options including free walking tours, Downloadable MP3 Walking Tours, and even Running Tours.
The most popular sport in Argentina is fútbol (soccer). If you come to Argentina, you shouldn't miss the chance to experience a professional match live . Argentina's fans are very passionate.
There are five teams called "Los 5 grandes" and are the elite of the Argentinian football tournaments:
Rugby and basketball (basquet) are also popular. Polo is popular among the upper classes although it is still part of the nation's culture and can be readily seen in all areas of life. Tennis has been growing in popularity with the Argentina's steady production of top players over the past three decades.
Field hockey has also became a popular sport, especially among women. The National Women's Field Hockey Team, Las Leonas (The Lionesses), has grown in the past years and developed into a now competes against the best in the world.
Car racing is popular too: The main leagues are Turismo Carretera (Ford vs Chevrolet), TC2000 (Touring Cars) and TopRace. The most important racetrack in Argentina is in Buenos Aires is "Autódromo Oscar Alfredo Gálvez.
Golf in Argentina is an increasingly popular sport thanks in part to the success of Argentinian players such as Angel Cabrera, Andres Romero and Eduardo Romero. There are currently around 280 courses in the country, most located around Buenos Aires and including such well-known names as the Jockey Club, Olivos and Hurlingham. On the Atlantic coast in Mar del Plata are a couple of courses that have held international events, and Patagonia has excellent resort courses such as Llao Lloa, Arelauquen and Chapelco (a Nicklaus design) as well as the 9-hole course in Ushaia.
The official currency of Argentina is the peso (ARS), divided into 100 centavos. Coins come in 5, 10, 25, 50 centavo and 1 and 2 peso denominations. Banknotes are issued in values of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 pesos.
Note that coins and small banknotes are rather difficult to obtain (Feb. 2016), so it is recommendable to focus on getting and keeping as much small units of Argentine money as possible in order to avoid complications if a cashier doesn't have the necessary change.
Receiving small change in the form of golosinas (candies) rather than increasingly rare 5, 10 and 25 centavo coins, especially in Chinese supermarkets and kiosks is common.
Never use a Credit card in Argentina - neither for payments nor for withdrawals. The exchange rates applied by Argentine banks to such transactions are outrageously bad. Besides, Argentine businesses accept credit cards only after adding a surcharge of about 10% (despite the well-known prohibition to do so).
Do buy cash Argentine pesos in the UK only if that currency is rated not more than 6% above the actual mid-market rate (see http://www.xe.com/currencyconverter/convert/?Amount=1&From=GBP&To=ARS ).
Otherwise buy cash US dollars in your country, as the USD definitely is Argentina's reference currency and therefore can be exchanged virtually anywhere and mostly at non-abusive rates, in contrast to most other currencies.
The EUR cash exchange rates within Argentina are rather less attractive than the USD rates. Bringing cash EUR to Argentina is therefore only recommendable if you already possess EUR (i.e. if you don't have to buy them with another currency).
From October 2011 till December 2015, the Argentine government had enforced strict foreign currency controls in an attempt to slow down the constant devaluation of the Argentine peso, making the the purchase of foreign currency nearly impossible. This created an unofficial exchange rate that had reached up to 55% more for foreign currencies than the official rate. In December 2015, this control of the official exchange rate had been abolished, which made the gap between the official and the unofficial US dollar (called Dolar Blue in Argentina) seemingly disappear (see http://www.lanacion.com.ar/dolar-hoy-t1369 ).
In the city centre of Buenos Aires, along Florida and Lavalle, currency changers call out “cambio cambio”. They work for what are referred to locally as “los Arbolitos”. The running exchange rate is called the “green” rate. The down side here is you need to be educated on how to detect false bills. You're not going to get a stack of false bills but you do run a risk of having a false ARS100 banknote interspersed in your stack of pesos.
If you have good contacts within Argentina you might be able to exchange your money at a “cueva” (cave), like most Argentines do, at the “dolar blue” rate. This is not an opportunity you should expect though, as cuevas are passed on by referral. You can also make some purchases in US dollars or euros but this only advisable for larger ticket items, and only in some shops. Some smaller hotels may be willing to give you a better rate if paid in cash US dollars or euros.
Counterfeit bills don't make it very far in Argentina. Counterfeiters are quite talented, but the residents are very good at spotting them. It's rare to be given a false ARS50 or ARS20 these days though it's not unheard of. All bank notes have a watermark in Argentina. ARS500, ARS200, ARS100 and ARS50 bank notes have a metallic thread incorporated into the paper. You should have enough to go by with just the watermark and the metallic thread.
If you have doubts you can use other safety features to confirm your currency is real. There are two ARS100 bank notes in circulation now. The original Roca ARS100 and the new Evita ARS100. The Evitas have the number 100 in red, centred along the right obverse (face) edge and 100 on the upper left of the reverse. Rocas have a colour shifting 100 on the upper left obverse corner. Evitas have a metallic ink as well. Technically there are two versions of the Roca. The outsourced Brazilian press Rocas have their serial number in black on the bottom left of the obverse and the Argentine printed are in red along the left edge of the obverse. Another thing that may jump out in a counterfeit, is the feel. Paper without a cotton content feels different, and doesn't hold up well in daily use so is usually new. The ink on a real bill has texture as well, it's Intaglio printed.
The fashion and art scenes are booming. Buenos Aires' signature European-South American style overflows with unique art pieces, art deco furniture, and antiques. Creative and independent, local fashion designers - who are becoming a source of inspiration for the US and European high-end markets - compose their collections based on lots of leather, wools, woven fabrics, and delicate laces with a gaucho twist. At times, the exchange rate can present good value for international tourists. For example, in early 2006 the dollar and the euro were strong in comparison with the then-weak Argentina peso.
Fashionable clothing and leather products can be found in most commercial areas; jackets, boots and shoes are easily available. However, Buenos Aires has a relatively mild climate, so truly cold-weather gear is harder to find here. Long coats or heavy gloves may not be in stock; similarly, jeans and other basics have a thin construction compared with those in cooler countries. The Andes regions and Patagonia are considerably colder in the winter, so thick clothing is much easier to find here.
Electronics are not cheap, as they are subject to heavy import tariffs. The price of music, books, and movies lags slightly behind changes in the exchange rate and can offer a bargain if the volatile exchange rates are in your favour.
Most free standing shops in Buenos Aires are open 10:00-20:00 on weekdays, and some of them also Saturdays and Sundays, depending on what area of the city they are in. Enclosed malls, however, set their own hours, and are also open on the weekends.
Most places outside of the city of Buenos Aires, where most stores remain open during a siesta, still observe a siesta from approximately 12:00-16:00; almost all businesses are closed during this time. The precise closing hours vary from store to store, according to the preferences of the owner. Shops and offices generally open again in the evening until 21:00 or 22:00.
If you want to use a debit or credit card, the checkout operator in places like supermarkets will require you to present both your card and a form of identification such as a drivers' license. Present both simultaneously at checkout and with confidence. A lack of confidence will lead to a request for your passport as identification. For larger purchases such as long-distance bus tickets you will need to present your passport and your credit card. Although this makes shopping difficult, do try to keep your passport in a location such as a hotel-room safe.
As of 2011, unlike other parts of South America such as Peru, the credit card purchasing systems do not support credit card PINs. So, if you enabled PIN in your home country do not expect the Argentinian restaurant, hotel, or retailer to ask for you to key it in. Instead, they will ask for your signature, which is normal.
Argentinian breakfasts are somewhat light compared to what travellers from English-speaking countries are accustomed to. Typically, they consist of a hot drink (coffee, tea, milk) with some toast, medialunas (croissants, literally "halfmoons"), or bread.
Hotels typically provide a free buffet consisting of coffee, tea, drinkable yoghurt, assorted pastries and toast, fruit, and perhaps cereal. These kinds of breakfasts are also readily available in the many cafes.
Lunch is a big meal in Argentina, typically taken in the early afternoon. Lunch is so big because dinner is not until late: 20:30-21:00 at the earliest, more commonly at 22:00 or even later. Most restaurants do not serve food until then except for pastries or small ham-and-cheese toasted sandwiches (tostados), for afternoon tea between 18:00 and 20:00. Tea is the one meal that is rarely skipped. A few cafes do offer heartier fare all day long, but don't expect anything more substantial than pizza or a milanesa (breaded meat fillets) or a lomito (steak sandwiches) outside of normal Argentine mealtimes. Dinner is usually eaten at 22:00 and typically consists of appetizers, a main course, and desserts.
By the way, North Americans should beware that Argentinians use the term "entrée" to refer to appetizers. This is common outside of North America but can surprise some Canadians and most Americans. Only in North America (outside of the province of Quebec) is the "entrée" a "main dish". In Argentina the main dish is a "plato principal".
The entrée in Argentina typically consists of empanadas (baked pastries with a meat filling), chorizo (with bread this is called a choripan, the most common street snack) or morcilla (meat or blood sausage), and assortments of achuras (entrails). For a main dish there is usually bife de chorizo (sirloin / New York Strip steak) and various types of salads. Dessert is often a custard with dulce de leche and whipped cream topping.
Beef is a prominent component of the Argentine diet and Argentine beef is world-famous for good reason. Argentina and Uruguay are the top 2 countries in the world in consumption of meat per capita. Definitely check out Argentine barbecue: asado, sometimes also called parrillada, because it is made on a parrilla, or grill. There is no way around it - foodwise Argentina is virtually synonymous with beef. The beef is some of the best in the world, and there are many different cuts of meat. Lomo (tenderloin) and bife de chorizo are excellent. "Costillas" (ribs) is considered by locals the real "asado" meat cut and is very tasty. North Americans will see that costillas are different to those at home. Argentinians cut ribs perpendicular to the bone. Having a parrillada dinner is one of the best ways to experience Argentine cuisine; preferably with a bottle of wine and a good amount of salads. In some popular areas, parrilladas are available from small buffets, or sidewalk carts and barbecue trailers. Skewers and steak sandwiches can then be purchased to go.
Given that a large portion of Argentines are of Italian, Spanish and French descent, such fare is very widespread and of high quality; pizzerias and specialized restaurants are very common. Argentines take pizza seriously and consider their pizza to be better than Italian or American pizza. The standout characteristic of Argentine pizza is the excessive amount of cheese in the pizza, usually not with much sauce and a very thick base (thinner bases are also commonly found depending on the pizzeria). You can order by the slice and eat standing up or order it whole at the table. Take note that a convention observed in Argentina is to treat the pasta and sauce as separate items; some travellers have found out what they thought was cheap pasta only to find that they were not getting any sauce. You will see the pasta for one price and then the sauces for an additional charge.
Cafes, bakeries, and ice-cream shops (heladerías) are very popular. Inexpensive and high-quality snacks can be found in most commercial areas, and many have outdoor seating areas. Empanadas (turnovers) containing meats, cheeses, or many other fillings can be bought cheaply from restaurants or lunch counters. The Alfajor is a must try snack of a two cookies with a dulce de leche filling and can be purchased at virtually any local kiosco. Every local have their favourite Alfajor brand but one of the most popular may be Havanna (which is also a coffee house chain or Argentina's Starbucks, and also sells their famous alfajores).
Heladerias in Argentina are generally of good quality and are almost similar to Italian gelato in texture and flavour. Popular high-end (but also high quality) chains are: Persicco, Freddo, Volta. There are cheaper chains like Grido but is usually considered as sub-par ice cream. There are also many individual artisnal helederias which make good helados. An Argentine idiosyncrasy is home-delivery ice cream. It is not uncommon to get home-delivered ice cream at 3am!
Smoking is now prohibited in most Buenos Aires' restaurants and all of Mendoza's restaurants. In some cities, it´s forbidden in all public buildings (cafés, shops, banks, bus stations, etc), so it´s better to ask before smoking anywhere.
Tipping of 15% in restaurant is customary and expected, even if the bill includes a service charge and a table charge. Usually only applies to sit down restaurant with table service.
Yerba mate (pronounced in two syllables, 'MAH-tae') is a traditional Argentine herbal drink, prepared in a hollowed-out gourd which is passed around in a social setting and drunk through a metal straw. Though usually drunk hot, mate can also be served cold, usually known as "tereré". Terere is preferred by the populace in Paraguay. Mate contains less caffeine than coffee, but contains other vitamins and minerals that give it a stimulating effect, particularly to those who are not used to it. It is naturally rather bitter, so it's not uncommon to add sugar. The drinking of mate with friends is an important social ritual in Argentina. The informal tea ceremony is lead by a "cebador" or server and people arrange themselves in a "rueda" or wheel. Those who like the drink bitter and those who like it sweet are clustered together to aide the server.
Argentina is renowned for its excellent selection of wine. The most popular being Mendoza which is rated amongst the worlds most popular regions due to its high altitude, volcanic soils and proximity to the Andes Mountains. The terrain seems to complement the European grape varietals with interesting notes not present when produced in other climates, this allows the Argentine wine to be positioned in a league of its own. The best way to experience and understand the selection of Argentine varietals is one of the many tasting events.
Most restaurants serve a broad range of liquors. Beer is offered in draft form in a chopp (small glass) or served in bottles or cans, and is typically a light, easily drinkable lager. The most popular locally made brands of beer are Quilmes, Isenbeck, Schneider and Brahma (although it's Brazilian). Widely-available imports include Warsteiner, Heineken, Budweiser and Corona. There are now many small pubs and bars in Buenos Aires that brew beer on premises, but most of these offer a poor quality product compared to what is widely available in parts of the USA and Europe. In the Buenos Aires area, the Buller Brewing Company in Recoleta and the Antares Brewery in Mar del Plata offer excellent handcrafted English/American style ales. If you ask if there are "cervezas artesanales" you will be able to find out if there are local handcrafted beers.
Fernet is widely consumed by Argentinians, especially in Córdoba, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires. Originally from Italy, it's a bitter drink made from herbs, with 40% alcohol by volume and dark brown in color. It can be mixed with Coke (served in bars, pubs, clubs) and if you go to an Argentinian house they will have Fernet (usually 'Branca' brand) and Coke (only normal Coke, never Zero or Light or Pepsi) to offer you. Also, Fernet is usually served as a digestif after a meal, but may also be enjoyed with coffee and espresso, or mixed into coffee and espresso drinks. It may be enjoyed at room temperature or with ice.
Cafes often have fresh-squeezed fruit juices, which is otherwise hard to find. The legal drinking age is officially 18, although most establishments will serve anyone approximately 16 or older.
A wide range of accommodation possibilities are available in Buenos Aires and the rest of the country, from student hostels to homey bed and breakfasts to trendy boutique hotels in the city to luxurious palaces and modern five-star hotels. There are also many beautiful lake-side lodges in Patagonia, and fabulous regional farms (estancias) outside the cities.
Many vacation cabañas (cabins or weekend houses) are available for short-term rent directly from the owners in the mountains, seaside, and in rural areas. Drive around and look for signs saying alquiler ("rental"), or check the classified section of any major newspaper.
Bear in mind that except in the 5-star hotels, usually the rooms are not as large as in hotels around the world.
There are a lot of public and private quality institutes who give Spanish lessons, and many more for Tango lessons, Argentinean art and literature, architecture. The Universidad of Buenos Aires has a department dedicated to Spanish lessons with limited spaces.
Apart from Buenos Aires, Mendoza is another popular and excellent place to take Spanish lessons for those who want a more idyllic setting (see the entry for Mendoza for details). The city of Rosario is also an important centre of culture and arts, and its National University of Rosario  offers lessons for foreign visitors; the city has a population of approximately 1.2 million inhabitants and is less than 400 km north of Buenos Aires, which makes it a smaller and more relaxed option than the metropolis.
Education in Argentina is free for everyone, no matter the level, and it has a good quality.
There is plenty of activity and foot traffic throughout the night. Nice areas have a very thorough police presence, perhaps one officer per 3 blocks, plus store security and auxiliary patrols. Public security in all major cities like Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario is handled by the Federal Police and the National Gendarmerie or the Naval Prefecture, especially in the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.
As in any large city, certain neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires and other cities can be dangerous. Areas to avoid in Buenos Aires would be the "villa" or "slum" near Retiro bus station, Constitucion, outside the tourist area in La Boca and Once (at night) to name a few. Ask trusted locals, such as hotel desk staff or police officers, for advice. Pay attention to your environment and trust your instincts. If an area seems questionable, leave. Map of good and bad areas to explore in Buenos Aires
Most robberies are not violent and mainly opportunistic. Avoid leaving bags unattended, wallets or phones on the edge of tables, flashing expensive jewelry and the sort. If you do happen to find yourself being held up just give the robbers what they want. Confrontational muggings are uncommon enough that one can assume the robber may be on drugs, drunk, have a knife or gun. In most cases, if your wallet is stolen, you won't even notice until hours later. Be wary of pickpockets on the subway and on crowded city streets. Never hang your purse or bag from the back of your chair in a cafe or restaurant - stealthy theft is common. Keep your purse or backpack on the floor between your legs or under a chair leg while you eat.
Popular demonstrations are very common in Buenos Aires, and very rarely violent, though you should exercise caution and observe them from a safe distance.
The dangers of hailing a taxi have received lots of press but are no longer common. Since 2005 the government cracked down on illegal taxis very successfully. Petty crime continues (like taking indirect routes, or less commonly, changing money for counterfeits). Taxicabs that loiter in front of popular tourist destinations like the National Museum, Retiro bus station, MALBA are looking specifically for tourists. Avoid them. Your chance of falling prey to a scam increases in these situations. Stopping a cab a block or two away on a typical city street where others locals would do the same is good choice. Also having small bills will help you avoid issues mentioned, as well you will often find taxis that don't have change for $500 and $100 peso bills.
Carry some ID with you, but not your original passport. A copy of your passport or perhaps your drivers license should be enough for credit card transactions or any situation that may arise.
Many people in the street and in the subway hand out small cards with horoscopes, lottery numbers, pictures of saints, or cute drawings on them. If you take the card, the person will ask for payment. You can simply return the card along with a no, gracias. or simply in silence if your Spanish is not good. Persistent panhandlers are usually not dangerous; a polite but firm no tengo nada ("I don't have anything") and/or hand gestures are usually enough.
Sidewalks are often uneven and poorly maintained.
Ezeiza International Airport Security Warning
In July 2007, Argentina's TV network "Canal 13" conducted an investigation revealing that a group of security operators at the airport are stealing valuable objects such as iPods, digital cameras, cellular phones, sun glasses, jewelry and laptops while scanning the checked luggage of passengers. According to the special report, security operators at the airport should check each bag before putting it into the plane; however, some operators take advantage of the scanner machine to detect valuable objects and steal them. The report states that this event occurs every day and that the stolen items include anything from electronic devices to perfumes and works of art.
Travelers and residents are strongly encouraged to place high-value items in their carry-on luggage to prevent any incidents.
Visiting Argentina doesn't raise any major health worries. Certain vaccinations may be necessary for visitors, depending on where in Argentina you plan to visit. Yellow Fever vaccinations are recommended for those visiting the Northern forests. Different climate conditions might take your body by surprise, so be aware of the weather before you arrive. A bout of travellers' diarrhea is the most you're likely to have to worry about as your body adjusts to local micro-organisms in the food. It's also best to ease yourself gently into the local diet – sudden quantities of red meat, red wine, strong coffee and sweet pastries can be very unsettling for a stomach used to gentler repasts – and though tap water in Argentina is safe to drink, if sometimes heavily chlorinated, you may prefer to err on the side of caution in rural areas in the north of the country.
Although oral contraceptives are sold over the counter, without a prescription, a woman considering taking them is well advised first to consult a wise and licensed physician about their proper use, as well as possible contraindications and side effects.
Hospitals are free. They won´t charge you for any treatment, but it is customary to offer a contribution, if you have the means.
As of November 2012 there is advertising concerning preventive measures against dengue fever coming from Brazil and Bolivia in Argentina's northern regions. Locals from Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy state there's generally not much danger but add that it is better to be safe than sorry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dengue_fever#Prevention
The 2001 peso crisis has left many Argentines bitter towards some authorities and institutions. While many shops will appreciate payment in US dollars or Euros and even offer you a better exchange rate than the banks, try to blend in elsewhere. Keep a supply of pesos on hand for those businesses that do not accept dollars.
Argentines are very engaging people who may ask very personal questions within minutes after first meeting someone. They will expect you to do the same. Failing to do so would signify lack of interest in the other person.
Don't be offended if someone calls you a "boludo". Even though it's a swear word, to Argentines it means "pal", or "mate" (depending on the tone it is said). Argentinean people are notorious for the amount of cursing they do, so if they are talking to you don't pay attention to the cursing. If Argentineans are mad, teasing you or making fun of you, you will tell by the expression of their face or the tone of their voice as well as even more cursing than usual.
Also, don't be offended if an Argentinean says things to you in a very direct manner: this is very usual among locals and sometimes offends foreigners. Argentineans are very emotional and extremists, both when telling good things or bad things to anyone. You'll also see that they have an acid humor, make fun of themselves in every aspect, and sometimes they will make fun of you. Just reply back with another joke if this is the case; locals won't take it as an offence.
Taxi drivers (especially old people) are very friendly and usually very well informed about anything. Feel free to talk about whatever you want. Some of them even know lot of history and politics of the city.
Try not to compare "dulce de leche" unfavourably with anything else in the world, likewise for Argentinian meat; doing it will be considered insulting.
Cheek kissing is very common in Argentina, especially in bigger cities, among and between women and men. People make contact with right cheeks, and make a light "kiss sound" but not touch the cheek with their lips (only once, two kisses -right and then left- is only usual in Northeastern provinces). When two women, or a woman and man first meet, it is common to cheek kiss. Two men will first shake hands if they do not know each other, but will probably kiss when departing, especially if they have spoken for a while. Male friends cheek kiss every time when greeting, it is like a sign of trust. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude especially if you are an obvious foreigner. Remember when visiting another country its always interesting to try new customs.
In the rest of the country, regular handshaking applies. Also women will greet by kissing as described above, but it's reserved to other women and to men they are acquainted with. All the aforementioned applies elsewhere in Latin America and in the Iberian Peninsula (except the man to man cheek kissing, which is not common elsewhere).
Since some Argentineans are extremely die-hard football fans, try to avoid wearing rival soccer jerseys, as one bad turn on the wrong street, or walking into a bar wearing the wrong colours, could be dangerous in low-class neighborhoods. You can wear European football club jerseys with an Argentinean player's name on the back (for example: a Manchester City jersey with Aguero's name, a Napoli jersey with Higuan's name, a Barcelona jersey with Messi's name, etc.). If you really want to wear a jersey, the safest plan is to wear an Argentina national team jersey.
During mid-late 2009 until the time of writing (March 2012), Argentine "barrabravas" (An equivalent of the term "Hooligans") have spiked in activity, causing various degrees of vandalism, assault, and deadly shootings in a few occasions due to football debates. It is recommended not to wear local football clothing too often, and you will be better off if you avoid using football clothing altogether.
The Perú national football colours (and jersey design) are almost identical to those of local team River Plate, so be cautious as to avoid misunderstandings.
Punctuality and Perception of Time
Argentinians generally take a relaxed attitude towards time. This can be unsettling to visitors from North America and non-Latin parts of Europe where punctuality is highly valued. You should expect that your Argentine contacts will be at least 10 to 15 minutes late for any appointment. This is considered normal in Argentina and does not signify any lack of respect for the relationship. Of course, this does not apply to business meetings.
If you are invited to a dinner or party at, say 21:00, it does not mean that you should be present at 21:00, but instead that you should not arrive before 21:00. You'll be welcomed anytime afterwards. Arriving to a party 1 hour late is normally OK and sometimes expected.
This attitude extends to any scheduled activity in Argentina. Plays, concerts usually get going around half an hour after their scheduled times. Long distance buses leave on time though. Short-distance public transportation like city buses and the subway do not even bother with time estimates; they arrive when they arrive! Factor these elements into your calculations of how long things will take.
Delayed bus or train departures are not uncommon, especially in big cities. This is normally not a problem, as in general no one will expect you to be on time anyway. However, long-distance bus departures almost always leave on time (even if they arrive late), so do not count on lack of punctuality to save you when arriving late at bus terminals.
Things to avoid
It is wise to avoid talking about the Falkland Islands (Las Islas Malvinas) situation, including the 1982 war, with Argentines. Furthermore, you should call the islands by their Spanish name if you wish to avoid argument and possible confrontation. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines, and you are likely to receive hostile treatment if you express any views which are supportive of the current territorial status.
Avoid wearing any English and British symbols due to the above mentioned reasons. English and British flags as well as English national football (soccer) tops (who are rivals of the Argentine national football team during the World Cup) are definitely to be avoided. Although no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, people might be very upset about them and you are very likely to receive very icy looks and treatment from the population.
Also avoid talking about the Perón years and also about politics, the military junta and religion in general. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines and can cause a strong reaction as well.
Avoid comparing Argentina with its neighbors Brazil and Chile, because they are considered rivals especially in the economic sphere.
Same sex marriage has been legal since 2010, but in Buenos Aires, capital city and small towns, or the more conservative north of the country, people might be shocked by public displays of affection among homosexual couples.
Major mobile phone providers include Movistar, Claro, and Personal. Visit one of their many customer service branches in major cities with an unlocked American or European mobile phone and buy a SIM card for about 10 or 20 pesos. The representative will sell you the card and insert it into the phone and register it using your name and passport number, to give you an Argentinian phone number.
The next step is to load the phone with credits, which must be purchased at a "Locuritorio," a common storefront business offering phone booths, internet and more. Present your new phone number and your pesos to purchase time -- calls cost around 1 Peso per minute. These pay-as-you go SIM cards work for voice and text message, but not for data. For data you will need a plan and a contract, a much more complicated proposition. However, wifi is widely available in cafes.
Due to steep government duties, iphones and ipads are very rare in Argentina. We spent a bit of time trying to find a SIM for our iPhone 5 because it uses a nano-SIM that is much smaller than the standard. The company Personal was able to help us, with a special punch tool that cuts down the size of the chip to fit into the phone.
Receiving calls is usually free, except for international calls, and some cross network / inter-city calls - hence to keep in touch with people abroad it might be best to get a virtual number service. You can also use a free service such as Skype or Google Hangouts.
Voice coverage is good but data is pretty patchy and unreliable even in places where it normally works. OpenSignal provide Argentina coverage maps covering Buenos Aires and all the major cities, these are crowdsourced and impartial and allow to comparison of networks.
To reload you can buy small cards with secret numbers at many kiosks. Dialing *444, pressing 2 followed by 1, and entering the secret number does the trick.
Not related to mobile phones, there are similar cards with credits for international calls. You get them at so called locutorios, where you can also use the phone booths. You dial a free number to connect to the service, then your secret number for the credits, and then the international phone number you want to call. Using these cards, a one-hour call to Europe will cost about ARS10 (USD3). Don't call without such cards or even from your hotel - it will be way more expensive.
The phone numbering plan in Argentina is hopelessly complicated for foreigners. Do check out the Wikipedia article about it to find out more.
Other useful phone numbers include:
All 2 and 3-digit numbers are free, except the official time service (113). All 0800 numbers are toll-free numbers.
Long distance calls from Argentina: You may use calling card, 0.18 Peso/min or 5.90 ¢/min for calling from Argentina to USA.
Don't even try using payphones.
Many cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi with an advertisement in their windows. All you need to do is buy a coffee and ask for the password.
There are also many 'cyber cafes' or kiosks that rent out the use of a computer for a couple of pesos per hour (less than a dollar per hour). This computer rental includes the use of internet on the computer and the computers also typically has at least some form of Microsoft Office. These cyber cafe's may or may not allow food in their establishments.
If you have a smartphone (unlocked if you bring it from home) it can be quite affordable to buy a local SIM card and use the internet from the cellular network (pretty good quality 3G most of the time). As of early 2013, most operators seem to charge only 1 peso per day for unlimited (or limited - ask!) use of internet. You can always use your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot and share the connection to your computer (watch carefully how much you use if you don't want to bust your budget!).