We're just back from an amazing 2 weeks in Buenos Aires (Mar 7 - Mar 20) and I wanted to thank everyone for the advice from this forum (I printed out many extracts from others trip reports and recommendations).
A bit about us: we're a family with 2 boys aged 12 and 11 and this was our first trip to South America. We love Europe, in particular Venice, Brugges in Belgium and Prague, and generally tend to stay in apartments we rent from owners. I wasn't sure how I felt about spending a full 2 weeks in BA given it is such a large city, but I found more than enough to do, and we enjoyed an overnight in Colonia and several day trips.
Short version: We loved Buenos Aires, very European feeling, friendly people (even with our limited-to-non-existent Spanish), felt very safe, and I would love to return, especially to see other parts of Argentina like Salta, Mendoza, Iguazu and Patagonia. BA would be a great place to spend 2-3 months - too bad work gets in the way!
Arrival at EZE:
We flew from Toronto on American Airlines via Miami (on points). Except for an hour delay leaving Miami, AA was very good. Very efficient arrival at EZE and we made it quickly through customs, paid our reciprocity fee ($70 US per person for Canadians: we used our US Visa, but the charge went on in pesos). We had arranged transfers with ApartmentsBA and had emailed them about the delay in our flight, which they were already aware of as they track this as well. Went to Banco Nacio and waited in line about 30 minutes (about 15 people in line). The line had only moved a bit as only one person was working, and given we had transfers outside waiting for us, we decided to exchange money at a bank in BA on Monday, as we had some pesos we got in Toronto and at the Miami airport (very bad rate of ~3.30 vs 3.82 in BA). I know others have had no wait, so it must have been an unusual time (we arrived Sunday morning at 8:30 am)
We rented through ApartmentsBA (AP56) - a perfect 2 bedroom apartment in Recoleta/Barrio Norte on Arenales and Ayacucho - only a block away from both Santa Fe and Callao. We were on the 5th floor, and I found it very quiet. ApartmentsBA was great to deal with right through from booking, arrival and departure. We wanted a washer and dryer, but only ended up using it a few times as there was a laundry place right across the street that would wash, dry and fold a load of laundry for about 15 pesos ($4). Plus, the dryer in the apartment took about 2-3 hours to get clothes dry!
We tended to eat at restaurants that were within walking distance of our apartment since we ate quite late (by our standards!) at about 8pm. We were usually the first ones in the restaurant, but it did start to fill up by about 9-9:30. To give everyone an idea of how inexpensive it is to eat in BA, I've indicated below what we paid for dinner (excl tip) - which normally consisted of 4 entrees (kids usually had pasta or pizza), a bottle of wine (where else can you get a bottle of wine in a restaurant for $5-6!), and occassionally dessert:
Cumana - very low prices and popular, with great cazuelos (stews), empanadas (my wife loved the dulce de leche empanadas - the only place we saw these). Cost: 137 pesos ($36)
La Cholita (parilla)- next to Cumana, and some of the best steaks we had. Huge portions, great food, good service. Desserts were some of the best we had as well. Cost: 170-200 pesos ($45-50). We ate here twice.
Parada Norte - great meals and service. I loved the pepper steak and my wife is still raving about the lemon sauce on her chicken. Cost: 210 pesos ($55)
El Callao - wouldn't recommend this place. Chicken tasted like fish, steak was very fatty with bones. Cost: 150 pesos ($40)
Rodi Bar - very popular with locals (filled up by 9pm). Unfortunately this wasn't one of our favourite meals, but I think it was what we ordered. Cost: 250 pesos ($65)
We also had a number of pizza and empanadas meals in our apartment. The pizzas were great (thinner crust), and the empanadas amazing (carne picante were my favourite - I really miss these!).
We walked a lot, used the subte (although the nearest station was about 10-15 minutes walk away) and took many taxis. I always hailed a taxi on the street and never waited more than 1 minute. Many were not radio taxis, but we never had any problems - they all started the meter at 4.60, and they took a direct route. Taxi rides came to 15-20 pesos ($4-5) per ride. The subte was often very crowded, even at non-rush hour times, but it was very efficient and inexpensive. They are not air conditioned and it was very hot and humid when we were there.
Activities and attractions:
Recoleta cemetary - great to wander around in this 'city'. My kids especially loved all the cats that they could pet.
Japanese Gardens - very peaceful oasis in the middle of the city. We had sushi lunch at the restaurant which was very good. Again, my kids found a cat that curled up on their lap, so surprisingly this was one of their favourite places.
Temaiken Zoo - this is a great zoo which is very large, clean and well laid out with an excellent area for birds and an aquarium. We went on a Tuesday and there were hardly any people there. Took the #60 bus from Plaza Italia, which was a 1 hour ride. Bus was not air conditioned and windows wouldn't open, so very hot. Return bus ride was very crowded and ended up standing most of the way.
Tigre - took the train from Retiro to Tigre on a Friday (only 2.70 pesos return!) for a 1 hour ride. Bought boat tickets (Interislena - 17 pesos per person return) and took a 30 minute boat trip through the delta to 3 Bocas (Santa Rosa Island). We decided to do the 2 hour walk around the island, but unfortunately the trail got too muddy and my wife ended up falling in the mud (very funny for us, not for her!), so we headed back to La Riveria restaurant at the dock and had lunch. I really liked Tigre - it's amazing to see how everyone lives on the delta with no roads, and it was good to get out of the city.
Reserva Ecologica Costanera Sur - my son and I went here to rent bikes and ride around the reserve. Unfortanately, we went on a week-day and there were no bike rentals to be found. We walked the entire boardwalk (~ 2 kilometres - lots of food stands), and wandered a bit through the reserve. We saw an iguana and a lot of interesting birds. Would have been much better with bikes!
Estancia - Lacinacina in San Antonio de Areco - probably the best day out we had. We arranged a day trip with transfers from BA for $49 US per person. It was a 2 hour bus ride (air conditioned!), and the bus took us through the Pampas and a bit of a tour through the town of San Antonio. It was a perfect day weatherwise, and we enjoyed walking around the ranch, petting the horses and llamas, a great lunch and (slightly touristy) show, and meeting a lot of other travellers. We could have done a short horse ride, but there was a line to get on, and my kids were missing in action when the lineup got shorter. I would highly recommend this estancia. Next time, I would consider staying overnight as the day went by too fast.
Colonia - we did an overnight trip taking the Buquebus and staying at the Radisson Hotel (very nice, modern hotel with a great pool overlooking the river). A great (very quiet) town to walk the cobbled streets and climb the lighthouse. We rented a golf cart and drove along the coast - great fun. We ended up being chased by 3 stray dogs along the main street in Colonia, which the kids thought was fun! I think this also happened to the Woodward family from NZ - could have been the same dogs! I did find Colonia more expensive than BA, especially for meals. When we left on the Buquebus, we didn't save our boarding passes from the BA-Colonia leg from the previous day, and ended up having to fill out more paperwork and pay an extra fee of $35 per person (150 pesos) to leave Uruguay. I thought having our passports stamped from Uruguay immigration was sufficient, but apparantley you need to have this boarding pass which they also stamped. An expensive lesson - I will post a warning on the Uruguay forum.