Thought I'd let everyone know how our first visit to Buenos Aires (and South America, for that matter) went. Sorry for the length, but I'm trying to be thorough:
My son is studying abroad in Buenos Aires so we thought we'd visit him on our vacation. Flight takes a LONG time (16 hrs total from NYC, including the stop-over in TX), but we managed to sleep on the plane. Arrived at 9AM. There's a kiosk in the middle of the terminal as you come out of customs that provides vouchers for taxi's for 98 Pesos a ride. First thing I noticed is that you don't get change - apparently the metallic value of coins exceeds their monetary worth so everyone is always rounding up or down.
Hotel rooms are large by European standards, and bidets are commonplace (a feature my fiancee loves). It's dedinitely spotty getting someone that speaks English once you leave the hotel unless you're in Recoletta's high-end shops or restaurants frequented by tourists. But, everyone is universally friendly so pointing at things and broken Spanish worked just fine for us. Smiling and "gracias" are as useful as you'd imagine.
There is an enormous disperity between wealthy areas such as Recoletta, the "real" sections of B.A., and the countryside. My son, as befits idealistic college-age students, spoke most disparagingly of Recoletta and we spent a lot of time in other areas.
We had arrived on Sunday, so we wanted to go to San Telmo's flea market but my son took us to Mateodoras (please forgive mis-spellings here throughout) instead. Great choice. The weekend market in Mateordoras consisted of more crafts than San Telmo (which we heard was mostly "old stuff" being sold off), and had a central area with tango dancing, gaucho's, and singing. People in the crowd spontaneously broke out into their own dancing, and everyone was polite and engaged. Interestingly, our taxi driver warned us not to leave the fair area but we never felt threatened for even a minute.
We had been warned about pickpockets and such by almost everyone, but I can tell you that the streets of New York City can be a lot more dangerous than anything we encountered in B.A. as long as you obey the simplest rules of walking a city (no flashy jewelry, money broken up in front pockets, don't frequent marginal neighborhoods past dark, keep valuable cameras and "tourist" gear in front of you - not hanging in backpacks or purses). We walked through Palermo and Recoletta at night all the time, but used door-to-door taxis at night in other areas.
We had no problems with police at all - in fact, they were friendly and gave us directions several times. Taxi drivers WILL take you on long routes if you're not paying attention, but that's a common ruse in every city we've ever been to (only use radio cabs according to my son - which can be hailed on the street). B.A. is a large city, but taxis are cheap. We normally only use subways in a city, but we never even used the subway once in B.A.
Be prepared for some "hard sells" in areas like La Boca and Florida Street (the latter should be avoided if possible - there's absolutely nothing there that can't be bought elsewhere and it's a tourist trap environment of the worst kind). We liked Murillo Street better for leather, but the quality varies wildly.
We wound up buying more "expensive" goods (like boots, handbags, and briefcases) in the better neighborhoods than in "bargain" areas - the prices weren't as cheap, but they were still better than the US and the quality was outstanding. My advice is to shop on Alvear or Sante Fe first, so that you can see the best quality and then see what you can get cheaper somewhere else (that being said, we wound up going back and buying it from those shops because the cheaper places couldn't match the quality).
Food is almost obscenely cheap for the quality and quantity. If you like Dulche de Leche and/or meat, you'll be in heaven. Be aware that Argentinian's have a preference for meat done more well than a typical American. For the quality of the steaks available in B.A., I like my meat medium rare but you'll typically get it medium to what I'd call medium-well. Ask for "a punta" for what we'd call medium and "a juegoso" for medium-rare. The wines are decent to very good - you don't have to go overboard to get a good bottle, but you should let it breathe if you get a red because the tannics when you first open a bottle need some time to dissipate before you drink it.
There is considerable differences in the quality of the Dulche de Leche's available. Do yourself a favor and buy some of the good stuff (even in the Alfajores) even if you only try it once. It's like Belgian chocolates - you can get Dulche de Leche anywhere but the best stuff can only be bought and tasted at the source.
If I left anything out that you're curious about (from a first-timer - I'm certainly not an expert on B.A.), give me a shout.