As I’m writing this, I’m just a few hours away from boarding a plane to New Delhi, India to start a new stage of my life. As I wait in London’s hectic Heathrow Airport, I fondly remember the best memories of my time in Buenos Aires, Argentina, a city where I spent the last five months of my life.
I embarked on this South American journey on late February 2013, starting with a 4-week stay in Peru and Bolivia, followed by two weeks in Brazil and finally crossing the land border at Iguazú Falls in order to reach Buenos Aires, Argentina. For five months, from May to September 2013, I enjoyed the best and worst than Argentina has to offer.
Working and Traveling abroad
This was the first time in my life that I was both working and travelling so it took me some time before adapting to my new lifestyle. For five months I was location dependent and had to adjust to a 9 to 6 work schedule, devoting only national holidays and weekends for my favorite activity of all: Travelling and photography. Luckily for me, I loved the work I was doing (producer and creative planner at an Advertising firm), so every morning I woke up with all the energies that I would have when travelling abroad.
While I didn’t do much travelling within Argentina itself (I deeply regret missing out on an opportunity of visiting the Patagonia region), I fulfilled my life-long dream of going to Santiago, Chile and catching a somewhat economic flight to Easter Island, home of the enigmatic Moai heads and one of the new wonders of the world. My week in that place taught me a lot of lessons about universal concepts such as freedom, humility and in the end, the difference between having a life of happiness or opting for a life of meaning. In future entries of A Journey of Wonders, I shall go in depth about my experiences in this island of magical dreams.
However, plese do note that If you’re planning on using Argentina as your base of operations for travelling to other South American countries…you better think twice.
Flights in South America are extremely expensive when compared to flights in Europe or Eastern Asia. My Buenos Aires-Santiago flight costed me the same amount as my Paris-Cairo one. If you’re keen on exploring South America, I would definitely advice against using a base of operations and opt for instead traveling by land all the way, without any base whatsoever.
Tips for future expats
Besides the amazing night-life and its many cultural attractions, Buenos Aires itself is a wonderful city where expats like me are always finding new venues of opportunity and more in order to succeed more than in our home countries. I could even go so far as to say that foreign people in Argentina have more opportunities than local people, mainly due to the government economic policies involving the official fixed rate of AR to USD and the difficulty in obtaining them, this, mixed with the ever-increasing inflation, allows for a black market of speculators to arise, mainly because the only way for Argentinians to secure one’s savings is to either buy a property or to buy USD.
The best suggestion I could give to all travelers and expats alike is to bring USD. I cannot capitalize enough on the importance of having dollars in Buenos Aires. In the black market you can gain a lot of money with the “arbolitos” (literally meaning trees), who are speculators who buy and sell dollars at an alternative rate (called the dollar blue) than the official one. The reason for this being that in Argentina, you cannot legally buy dollars at the official rate (1 USD = 5.5 AR) unless you prove that you have an upcoming journey to other country and even then, you can only convert a fraction of your saving accounts into USD (after paying a fee, of course). Also, if you have an Argentinian bank account, you cannot withdraw USD (or any other foreign currency) when you’re travelling abroad, forcing you to pay with your credit/debit card (and paying an exorbitant fee for doing so).
Another method is to travel to Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay, a city located just a couple of hours away from Buenos Aires by boat. There, as long as you have a foreign credit/debit card, you can withdraw as many USD as you like and it is also good for renewing your 90 days tourist visa in case you haven’t obtained a resident visa yet. I’ve met expats who have been living in Argentina with a tourist visa for more than four years!!! Also be aware that if you overstay your 90-days, you can always just pay 300 AR at any exit border and then get another 90 days upon re-entry. Amazing, isn’t it?
Farewell but not goodbye?
While I absolutely enjoyed every single minute of my Argentinian experience and I would definitely return should the opportunity arises, I must say that this is not a country meant for people who love to have a travel lifestyle like the one I’m used to. Travelling within the country is very expensive and travelling abroad is even more so, plus, the price of the gadgets that I love to buy are extremely high when compared to North America or Europe (mainly due to the 21% consumption tax and the many restrictions of importing products from abroad).
Will this economic situation improve with a new government? I guess only time will tell but now, I have to board my airplane to New Delhi and enjoy my two-month Asian journey. Follow my adventures as I explore these different new cultures and share wonderful photographic moments with all of you and remember to always…
Travel. Explore. Dream.