my wife and I just returned from a three week visit to Buenos Aires, Puerto Iguazu and Salta. We planned and reserved everything on our own, relying very much on the internet and on sites like Trip Advisor as well as others such as Le Guide du Routard, Voyage Forum, and Lonely Planet.
I was aware that Argentina is a huge country and that one cannot expect to see everything in three weeks. So we decided to stick to three areas,Buenos Aires for a total of 8 days, Iguazu for 3 the city of Salta for 3 days and the triangle Salta/Cafayate/Cachi for 6 days. I think it best to remain at one place more than two days to avoid the hassle of constantly changing hotels.
I will not bother you with what and where we ate, our lodgings, the museums we visited, and the shopping we did. However I will tell you about our encounters with the people and our experience with the various means of transportation.
Buenos Aires is a huge city. But its transportation system makes it easy to move from one area to the other. Taxis are cheap while the subte and the busses cost next to nothing and will take you pretty well anywhere. Do not worry about getting lost. Getting lost is part of the adventure and in any case any Porteño will gladly help you. We walked a lot both during the daytime and during the evening. I think it's the best way to discover little out-of-the-way places where the people hang around. All those street corners where you can sit for a coffee, a beer or a glass of wine were ideal places to watch the daily activities on the street and the sidewalk.
And do not hesitate to strike a conversation with the server (if he is not too busy), with the taxi driver or with anyone else. The people are outgoing and will gladly talk to you. Moreover, they are very proud. Proud of their family, their barrio, their city, their country and KNOWLEDGABLE as well. For example a taxi driver took us to San Telmo. When we got there and had paid him, he took 20 minutes of his time to tell us how the population of that barrio had defeated British regular troops that were trying to force their way through the streets of San Telmo in 1807.
While visiting the ruins of Quilmes near Cafayate we met an off-duty indian guide told us the story of his ancestors who resisted the Spaniards for over 100 years before being defeated. Thousands were forced to march all the way to Buenos Aires (1000 km) during which hundreds of them perished. The story itself was not as poignant as the way it was told by this indian, a man obviously proud of his heritage.
Having some knowledge of Spanish will make a big difference. I had taken a couple of courses before the trip. Once in the country, I always opened up the conversation in Spanish. The people in general - and this applies throughout the world - will very much appreciate it if you are making the effort of speaking a few words in their own language.
I had read a few warnings about taxi drivers rip-off and lack of security in some areas. However we never felt "unsafe" or threatened in any way during our entire trip. We did not encounter rigged taxi meters and were never handed counterfeit bills.
We took a "cama suite" bus with Via Bariloche from Buenos Aires to Puerto Iguazu leaving at 7 pm and arriving at 9h45 am. Just a word of caution, at Retiro bus station, the departure time and gate number appeared on the screens only 20 minutes before the actual departure.
We flew Andes Lineas Aereas from Puerto Iguazu to Salta as it is the only company that offered a direct flight without having to go through Buenos Aires. Again no problems with that company. They were on time and just as efficient as any other in Canada.
After a weekend in the city of Salta, we rented a car for one week to visit Cafayate, Quilmes, Cachi and all the places around the are south of Salta. No problem with the car rental. I drove both within the city of Salta and on the highways including the narrow mountain roads. I had read both positive and negative reviews on driving in Argentina. A contributor to this forum (Capetien, I believe) has stated on many occasions that as long as one drives carefully, there is no problem. I completely agree with him. Do not tail gate, be aware of the cars coming from the side streets and you should be allright. In the mountains there are numerous areas to stop, take a break and admire the sights. An do not fear the police control on the highway. We encountered only one and the cops only checked my Quebec drivers licence and car registration and wished us a good trip.
I hope no one will find this report rambling on too much and too disjointed. Basiclally I want to say in this report that often the various interpersonal relations established are much more important to the success of a voyage than the scenery, the museums, the architecture. Gracias a la gente de Argentina para recibirnos en tu país.