Peter standing in front of the ecological reserve

Ecological reserve

In this final blog entry, I will try to explain some of the small things that can affect one’s exchange experience in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Transportation

In addition to getting the “SUBE” card and getting around via the local bus system, I would like to mention that in some of the busses right now, you can only pay with the “SUBE” card.

A sign that says you can only pay with a card now and the coin machine is gone

“You can only pay with a card now, the coin machine is gone”

Sometimes the bus trip deviates from its usual route even without any signs of a road block or street closure. There are two options to get around this problem. The first would be to go to the front and ask the bus driver what his driving plan is for today. Another is just wait and hope that you will get where you’re going, or at least somewhat close to your destination.

If you use “Subte” (the underground train system) on a daily basis, get ready to squeeze your way in and out! During the peak hours (8:00 – 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 – 7:00 p.m.) it becomes a real challenge to get from point A to B, especially on the stations located in the middle of the route.

Finances and Banking

As mentioned in my past entries, Argentina is still a “cash, please” country. Even paying by credit or debit card in the grocery store usually involves a lengthy process of connecting to the bank and checking documents. Every person paying with a card must show his or her DNI (a local ID card), so be prepared to carry your passport with you if you do pay with a card.

Also, if you are using your Canadian debit card to withdraw money from ATM machines, keep in mind that you will get an official exchange rate, plus double the withdrawal fee (a Canadian bank’s fee and a second Argentine bank’s fee).

It is still impossible to buy US dollars here for the official exchange rate that is 9,77 ARS to 1 USD as of Dec, 11, 2015. The locals use an illegal street market to buy and sell dollars at a higher price (14-15 ARS to 1 USD).  This way, the tourists can benefit from an increased purchasing power which comes handy in an economy where a 35% annual inflation is considered normal. By walking along Calle Florida or Calle Lavalle, you can hear the shady market money exchangers offering to change Euros, Dollars and Brazilian Reals at the unofficial rate. Note that these exchange places are NOT banks and there is a risk of being ripped off with fake bills.

Update: On the December 17; Argentine currency saw a 44% devaluation bringing the official exchange rate close to the one on the informal market.

Climate

I really like the climate of Rio de La Plata region! The city inhabitants never see temperatures drop below 7°C during the winter months (June, July, August). Also, it is relatively dry during any time of the year, so rain happens five times per month at the most. That being said, when December comes, it becomes very hot. Get ready to spend between 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. indoors with the air conditioning on anywhere from the beginning of December until the end of February!

Food and Drinks

What Argentina definitely lacks is well priced, good quality chocolate! Of course it is possible to buy an artisanal bar in a very good looking boutique, but let’s be honest – very few of us students are willing to spend $15-$20 CAD on a 100g bar.

A store window full of chocolate

Chocolate boutique on Av Corrientes

As the country is known for its red meat, it is very satisfying to find a good selection of beef in the supermarkets. White meat is also available but one neither sees the same variety, nor the same price tag. Fish and sea food are really not in fashion here either. Unlike Chile, it is hard to find good offer on salmon and other red fish. One of the solutions is to live close to the “barrio chino”, the local Chinatown in the neighbourhood of Belgrano, because that is the fish paradise of this city!

The local non-alcoholic drink is called “máte”. It looks similar to the loose leaf green tea, but tastes more bitter and rich. The whole idea of drinking mate is to share it among your friends. Historically, it was the tradition of the indigenous people “Guaraní” as the way to get to know someone and to have a good conversation over the “Calabaza de mate” or “cup of tea”. Anyone from Argentina reading this, please forgive me for such a hard translation!

a mate kit including a bag of mate, a spoon, a container and spices

The complete mate kit

loose mate resembling tea leaves up close

Yerba mate up close

Besides máte, a good complement for a typical meat-heavy late night dinner is wine. There are many types and brands, so one has to try and see which has the right taste!

Friday, January 8, 2016 in , ,
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