Rand-stretching Holidays

You can spend a fab week in Buenos Aires for under R9k. Here's how

From transport cards to free walking tours, Chris Moss has several money-saving hacks for a fabulous week in Argentina's most famous city

15 April 2018 - 00:01 By Chris Moss
La Boca is the Buenos Aires neighborhood famed for its colourful houses, its tango and its soccer team.
La Boca is the Buenos Aires neighborhood famed for its colourful houses, its tango and its soccer team.
Image: 123RF/weissdergeier

First, the bad news: flights. Getting to South America, of course, is something of an odyssey for South Africans. In fact, getting there will cost you roughly as much as the week you spend there.

A search on skyscanner.net reveals that the cheapest way to get to Buenos Aires from South Africa is on Chile's LATAM, which has day flights in June from around R10,000 (via Sao Paulo).

Once you've arrived though, you can have a brilliant time at budget prices.

Airport transfers: R290

Between the airport and the glitzy Puerto Madero district, the Manuel Tienda Leon bus  costs 480 pesos return; allow about R85 more for a local taxi to/from the hotel.

Accommodation: R3,800

Six nights in an en-suite double room with bathroom at the centrally located Recoleta Hostel, accredited by Hostelling International, costs AR$6,300.

Public transport for a week: R135

A Subte card, comparable with the Oyster in London, costs AR$25 (about R15) and is available at underground (Subte) stations, at tourist information centres and at many kioskos (holes in the wall and shops selling confectionery and tobacco) throughout the city.

BA's Subte system is a cheap and easy way to get around.
BA's Subte system is a cheap and easy way to get around.
Image: Wikiwand

Cards can be charged with credit at all Subte stations, national lottery outlets, and at kioskos with automated terminals. Load the card with AR$200 (R120) and you'll get more than 20 journeys on a bus, Subte or local train.

Birdwatching and fresh air: Free

Walk off your jet lag at the 350ha Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur, just east of Puerto Madero.

Bike hire for a day: R210

Che Bikes charges AR$350 to ride from Palermo to La Boca, the old port district.

Guided tour: R170

A guided tour of the affluent Recoleta neighbourhood, known for Paris-style townhouses, the Colón opera house and the famous cemetery, is free, but tips should be in the region of AR$280. See buenosairesfreewalks.com and bafreetour.com.

This obelisk in Buenos Aires was built in 1936 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city being founded.
This obelisk in Buenos Aires was built in 1936 to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the city being founded.
Image: 123RF/fotoquique

Day trip one: R140

The train to Tigre departs from Retiro station on the "Mitre" line every 15 minutes, with a journey time of one hour. Your Subte card covers the trip.

There's a good naval museum (AR$20 or R12) here and a quirky museum devoted to yerba mate (AR$60 or R36), the bitter green tea Argentines sip whenever the chance arises.

To see the Tigre delta, skip the touristy services and get a return on one of the inter-island colectivo services to Rio Sarmiento for AR$150 or R90.

Map: Free

These are available at any of the city's nine Tourist Information kiosks - their addresses can be found at turismo.buenosaires.gob.ar

Cheap eats for a week: R3,600

Avoid the smart listed cafés and head for any old corner for breakfast: you can get a café con leche and three medialunas (sweet croissants) for less than R35; almost all places have free wifi.

The asado (barbecue) and parrilla (grill restaurant) are the twin temples of the Argentine religion of cow consumption. A slap-up steak lunch or dinner could easily cost two people R1,200. But in less trendy areas, such as the corner of Alvarez Thomas and Avenida de los Incas, you'll find parrillas where you can eat for a fraction of the price. You can also get cheap meals and robust red wine by the litre at neighbourhood social clubs such as Club Eros, Estrella de Maldonado and Villa Malcolm.

Pizzas, takeaway empanadas, milanesa (schnitzel) sandwiches and streetside BBQs are also good options.

See Antigourmet for ideas and a map.

The Plaza de Mayo is home to Buenos Aire's famed Casa Rosada - or pink house - which houses the president's office.
The Plaza de Mayo is home to Buenos Aire's famed Casa Rosada - or pink house - which houses the president's office.
Image: 123RF/charles03

Day trip two (Sunday only): R180

Catch the No. 55 bus from your hostel to the Feria de Mataderos (country-style fête) on a Sunday to see a bric-a-brac market, live folk music and dancing, and gaucho horsemanship. Have a choripan (sausage sandwich) and a craft beer for lunch, costing about R120.

Follow this with some free sightseeing: visit the huge Chacarita cemetery (where legendary tango crooner Carlos Gardel is buried), Palermo park, Plaza San Martin and Villa Crespo with its street art, mapped by Google (see streetart.withgoogle.com/en).

Of the public art galleries, don't miss the Museo de Arte Moderno (AR$30/R18) and Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (AR$70/R42).

Day out in the city: R260

First, go for a swim and sunbathe. Parque Norte is a large pool club open to visitors. In the sweltering summer months, it's an ideal family hideaway, with three big pools and a shallow one for smaller children.

Loungers and sun-brollies cost extra (adults AR$195/R116).

Food such as burgers, hot dogs and salads, as well as beers and soft drinks, are cheap; budget for around R140. Catch bus no 75 then 45 to get there.

Culture: Free

All activities in the CCK or Centro Cultural Kirchner, including art shows and live music, are free. To collect tickets (two per person), go to the main hall on Sarmiento 151 at noon, between Thursday and Sunday.

The cultural centre is in the grand old Post Office and it's worth doing the free one-and-a-half hour guided tour if your Spanish is up to it.

Sports: R120

Why not watch a no-frills football match? Avoid the likes of Boca Juniors and River Plate and go to the more local Club Atletico Platense to see the "Squids" play other teams in the B-division. Entry from AR$200 (R120).

TOTAL FOR THE WEEK: R8,905

- The Sunday Telegraph, additional reporting by Elizabeth Sleith


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