After months of planning and asking questions here on TA we've finally had our holiday in BsAs/Iguazu and returned a couple of days ago. You guys were SO helpful in so many ways and the information and advice I received really helped make our trip successful.
We had booked an apartment in Scalabrini Ortiz, Palermo, through ByT Argentina and were met there by one of their representatives plus a representative of the landlord. Strange system, but we were prepared, having read lots on TA. Our experience with ByT was fine, except that we had some trouble with the gas on our first day (a Sunday) and when we tried to contact them on their after-hours phone no one answered so we had to wait till the next day. This disturbed me a bit - what if it had been an emergency and we couldn't get hold of them? Apart from that there were no glitches, and our cash deposit was returned when we checked out (at 4am!) The location of the apartment was really handy to everything but pretty noisy, especially coming from life in the suburbs here! We got used to the noise after a couple of nights and enjoyed our 'home away from home' immensely.
We had planned out an itinerary for our time in BsAs so every day we set out to a specific destination. The hop on/hop off bus was our first day and was a great way to get a feel for the city and see some of the main sights. We were selective about where we got off, leaving places that we knew we were going to later in the week. Day 2 we caught the bus to Temaiken Zoo, exactly as described on TA. Our kids loved the zoo and being a week day it was pretty quiet, apart from school groups. While the bus was very comfortable and uncrowded, the windows were covered in a mesh (with advertising on it) so our view out the side windows was limited. Fortunately we were able to move to the front of the bus as others got off and look out the front windows for a better view.
Day 3 we caught the midday boat to Colonia - another great day. Walked around the historic town, had lunch and happened upon some sort of spring festival involving local school children dressed up as flowers. Hired a golf cart for an hour and hit the coast road - so much fun!! Caught the 8.30pm boat back after dinner.
Day 4 we went on the BAFree walking tour that leaves from the Plaza del Congreso. Had Maca as our guide and thoroughly enjoyed walking around as she explained/described landmarks to us. Pizza for lunch afterwards at 'Guerrin', then back to Plaza de Mayo to see the Mothers protest in the plaza, and a look inside the cathedral also. Day 5 we caught the regular train to Tigre - how cheap is that train???!!! Less than 3pesos each (return) for a one hour train trip! We took the kids to the Parque de la Costa - lots of fun there and again, it wasn't particularly crowded, being a weekday. Also took a trip up the river on the boat that leaves from the park.
Day 6 & 7 we flew to Puerto Iguazu and visited the Falls on both sides - great to have a New Zealand passport and not need a visa to enter Brazil! In hindsight we should have spent 2 nights there - we had to rush to see what we wanted to, and in the heat and with 3 kids that's not easy. But we loved the Falls - words and pictures just don't do them justice, and we're glad we made the trip from BsAs.
Our last 2 full days were spent shopping and exploring a bit more of the city that we hadn't got to - lunch at the square in San Telmo watching tango, souvenir shopping in Florida, other shopping in Santa Fe Ave. On our last night we went to the Opera Pampa show which was good but not great. A very small crowd there that night so not too much of an atmosphere; I think the performers outnumbered the audience.
Found changing US$ (cash) a bit of a pain - most banks would only do it for their own customers. Found a nearby cambio that we used. Took ATM card but didn't need to withdraw any extra money.
We didn't use the buses but did use the Subte - great except for rush hour! - and walked and walked and walked! BsAs is a great city for walking, so nice and flat, and our kids didn't complain at all. When we needed a taxi (to/from airport) we always said we had 5 people and they would send a minivan, really just a larger car but with room in the back seat for 4. It wouldn't have worked if we'd been 5 adults though; we got away with it because two of our kids are still relatively small. The one time we hailed a taxi he waited until we were all in the car then said that he wasn't allowed to carry 5 passengers so our youngest had to lie across our laps in the back seat! Luckily it wasn't a long ride!!
Things we'll remember about Buenos Aires:
- beautiful buildings: I know there's some contention about whether it's the 'Paris of Sth America' but it certainly reminded us of European cities we've been to. Loved the wrought iron railings, balconies on apartments, tree-lined streets, monuments.
- friendly, friendly people: so gracious and helpful as we used our limited Spanish.
- cheap prices!
- spotting faces that had 'had work done'
- late eating hours
- yummy food, cheesy cheesy pizzas, medialunas, empanadas, dulce de leche filled goodies
- people, people everywhere, anytime of day or night
What we'd do differently next time:
- definitely spend an extra day at Iguazu Falls
- wouldn't fly Aerolineas Argentinas long haul (that's another story, but at least we weren't delayed getting there)
- probably check out rental agencies more thoroughly. While our experience was fine, I was a little concerned that the representative of the landlord was the one who came to check the apartment and return our deposit - and she didn't speak a word of English. I don't know what would have happened if there'd been any dispute about returning the money, especially as she came half an hour before our taxi to the airport and it wasn't during business hours. It all worked out fine for us but if it hadn't.......
Our trip to Buenos Aires was all we had wished for and more! We never felt in any danger - we took usual precautions with handbags, cameras etc and had no mishaps. It was a great experience for all of us and now we have hundreds of photos to look back on until our next trip!
Thanks to all who answered our questions and gave such good advice, it was much appreciated. I would be happy to answer any questions for others who are planning a trip, especially those travelling with children.