Travel, Tourism, and Tango: A Buenos Aires Blog

The most helpful of information for those with the South American travel bug.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Looking for an Apartment or Room Share in Buenos Aires

So, about a week or so ago, the hostel kindly informed me that, after 7 months of faithful and reliable service, they didn't need my skills as a breakfast-maker any longer.  They haven't told me why, and gave me a week.  I'm kind of relieved, actually, and a little amused.  The manager is pretty new, and she doesn't realize that it's kind of hard to find someone to take over breakfast long term.  I believe the scientific term is "Neener Neener."

The plusses:
       I am not working 24 hours a week for the hostel (for a value of $3.70 an hour...)
     I will be able to sleep late and stay out late tango dancing!
The minuses: I will have to pay for housing.

The purpose of that trite and slightly bitter personal anecdote is that it quickly got me online looking for housing that was NOT a hostel.


You can opt for fully furnished apartments.  Or move in with a family.  This means you don't have to buy cooking supplies, sheets, pay for the WiFi, pay the bills, etc.

If you move in with an Argentinian family or find Spanish-speaking roommates, you can practice your Spanish, and you'll be able to fulfill that lifelong dream you've had since you were 3 and a half years old of being fluent in a foreign tongue.

The benefit of getting a room as opposed to splitting the cost of an apartment/house with people is that if they bail, you're not stuck paying their share of the rent/the bills, or forced to move out.

You meet people and have a social life as opposed to living cold and alone.

You are not in a hostel, and can feel like an adult.

And for $300 a month, living in an apartment is cheaper than living in an average hostel's 6 person dorm ($315 a month) with the card discount.


If price is not an issue, there are a gazillion and a half websites for apartments and room shares in Buenos Aires, and many of them are in English.  Just google "Apartment, Buenos Aires," or "roomshare, Buenos Aires," or the like, and you will get site after blessed site.  (I wasn't able to find much under $450 on the fancy-looking, easy to navigate sites.)

I got the cheapest results from the Buenos Aires Craigslist.

Yes, there is a Craigslist in Buenos Aires!  However, it's a little more limited than the US Craigslist.  Here, it's pretty much only good for looking at listings for severely underpaid jobs at horrible hours or jobs that require specific experience, getting a good laugh at personal ads, (which mainly features desperate Americans looking for desperate Argentine women to be their wives and those with odd sexual inclinations looking for their soul mates), and searching for housing opportunities: (the diamond in the rough).

On Craigslist, (like many other housing websites,) most of the ads are listed by "rent per week," and in $USD.  The monthly price is cheaper, and buried further down the ad.

So I sent out a whole bunch of emails to people asking for more details.  I sent inquiries for rented rooms, apartments, houses, basically anything I could find that I might be able to afford.  I knew what neighborhoods I wanted to live in, and what my price range was, which helped narrow down the search.  That day and the next day, the emails came pouring in, and I set up a couple days to visit the places that looked like they might appeal to me.  I found two places I easily could have gone with.


Come with a list of questions to make it seem like you have options:
  • Does it have heat?
  • Is it in a safe neighborhood?
  • What is the noise level/how is the traffic?
  • What are the rules on guests (can they sleep over)?
  • Is there a curfew (mostly with families)?
  • Are there "no-noise" hours?
  • Can I have parties?
  • How good is the WiFi?
  • Can I do my wash in-house?
  • Are sheets/towels provided?
  • Is there maid service?
  • Are water/electricity/other costs included in rent?
  • How is the transportation?*
  • Is there a reduced price if I pay more than 1 month in advance?**
Take notes.  You will forget if you look at more than one apartment.

What you need to go around the city by bus:

  1. Lots of monedas (coins), 
  2. a Guiat, (bus guide).

  3. A notebook and pen (with the addresses you're going to listed.  It's annoying when you realize you've forgotten the address.)
  4. A cell phone.  (Get the #s of the people you are meeting.  You will probably use at least 1/2 of them, because you will be late to appointments.)
  5. Also, something to do on inevitably really long bus rides.  Like a book or a music-playing device.

I'm now living in a very cushy house (pool, air conditioning and heat, a huge kitchen space, a separate room outside for eating/asado, a bar area, and huge tvs, good WiFi, maid service, cable, dance floor space, musical instruments...) all for $300 a month.  The family is Argentinian - An older couple and their two grown daughters, plus 7 guests from all over the world.  The tiniest catch: I'm sharing a room with one person.  This, however doesn't bother me, as I'm 23, the room is big, and I'm not looking for anyone to make out, (etc.) with.


Several of my acquaintances have arranged with people to move into an apartment, only to find that when they show up at the door with all their stuff, they are told the room has already been rented.  So make sure you speak to the owner, have a contract written up and if you make a deposit, get a receipt. (Sometimes people haven't gotten their deposits back.)


You are going to want an apartment that is near many bus lines and probably by a subway station.  Unless you are WAY too poor, and have to live well outside the central city.  Or unless you're rich, and can afford the taxis.


The longer you stay, the cheaper you can get the rent.  Per week is more expensive than per month.  So I figured, why not check to see if they had a "per 3-month price!"  With every place I checked with, I asked if I could get a discount if I payed 3 months in advance.  Every single place knocked off a significant amount.  (Both $300 a month places said that for three months, the rent would be $800 - ($100 off every 3 months.)  The $350 a month place knocked off $50 a month.)

I still haven't moved in to the place I rented, so I hope I'm not going to regret living there - otherwise, I'm stuck having paid 3 months!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Visas and Shots

This post is for people who are planning on traveling in South America, and want to check visa accessibility, cost, shot requirements, and want to know how to skip out of the normal visa requirements in Argentina.  The Argentina stuff, especially, is from experience.


You don't need a yellow fever shot to get into Argentina, but it is necessary for Venezuela and Bolivia, and it is recommended to have for other South American countries. You need to have had it 10 days before you get to the border.

When I told my friends about the free shot, they all smacked their foreheads and exclaimed about the exorbitant prices they paid in their country of origin. (Forehead smakers from the UK said it costs upwards of 90 pounds there.  And $80 in the US.)

The Public Health Office:
Av. Ingeniero Huergo 690, (The corner of Huergo and Chile).
Monday to Friday, 10 am - 3 pm.

Just bring your passport in, give it to the Man, who tells you to sit down. 10 minutes later, he calls you into a room, gives you the shot, gives you a yellow piece of paper (cute! color coordination!) and sends you on your way.

I felt a bit wonky and tired for a couple days following the shot, but nothing unreasonable. The shot lasts 10 years, so you may as well get it for free, and save yourself the trouble later.  (Like learning Spanish when you're younger.  You don't think you need it until you do.)


OK - As far as I know, the most recent information on Visas as of May, 2010


You get a 90 day tourist visa on entry of the country. There's now a new fee for those flying into the main Buenos Aires airport:

"U.S. citizens coming to Argentina for tourism and business travel through Ezeiza International Airport [EZE, Buenos Aires] must pay a reciprocal entry fee of $131.00 dollars.  Currently, the fee is only charged at Ezeiza airport.  It can be paid in dollars, by credit card, or with travelers checks, and is valid for ten years and multiple entries." (US Department of State Website)

It's still free with entry into other airports and by bus/boat/car/bike etc.

When your visa is expired, you have several options:

1. Don't do anything. If you're planning on staying for a long time, this is definitely a feasible option. Stick around until you decide you want to leave. The fee for violating your 90 day visa stay is 300 pesos ($81 USD). I had stayed an extra 2-3 months beyond my visa, and last month, I traveled to Chile. When they looked at my passport stamp, and said, "This was from October." I said, "Yes." They said, "300 pesos." I paid, they gave me a receipt, and on I went. Very simple. A friend of mine did the crossing, and apparently they were so busy, they didn't check the visa stamp, and didn't charge him the fee. Apparently this is very "done" here.

2. Go to Retiro (a major bus/train station in Buenos Aires):

Someone's blog told me that "it is much closer and cheaper to go to the immigration office in Retiro and request a "prorroga", or extension, of your visa. For $100 pesos, and less than 2 hours, you are granted 90 more days in Argentina.... [but] you can only do it once. The second extension is for 30 days."

3. Go to Uruguay
A nice-ish vacation from your vacation, take a day or two trip to Uruguay. It's a 2-3 hour ferry ride from Buenos Aires to Colonia or Montevideo.  Buquebus

The ferry trip to Colonia is 3 hours on the slow ferry and costs around 250-300 pesos round trip.
To Montevideo, the slow boat is 6 hour and 250-300 pesos as well.

You probably want to book ahead.

And if you're not really keen on going to Uruguay but are keen on not being illegal, you can try "tipping" the guy who stamps passports at the ferry office 50 pesos or something to get him to stamp your passport. It's Argentina... you're not going to get busted for bribing officials. That's how things are DONE here.

For Argentina, they required no information on any shots/vaccinations I'd had. (Which I didn't have.)

There are also study visas and work visas, and residency cards, which I have no experience with. Although I did go to the Embassy to ask:
"How long does it take to get a work visa?" I asked the man at the window.
"A long time." he answered. "And it's very time consuming. One of the steps, for instance, is sending your fingerprints to the F.B.I. so they can tell you you're not a criminal. That takes about four months," he raised his eyebrow, a seasoned veteran of the Argentine system.
"Ah..." I answered again.

So, basically, getting a work visa takes forever. You can try working for a company that will sponsor you, but usually you have to do your time with that company. I almost worked for a US real estate agency that called people in the states that said they'd sponsor me after I worked for them for 9 months.

Apparently, if you talk to local Argentines, they might be able to find a way of bribing an official to expedite your residency, work/study visa, or even Argentine citizenship. Haven't really pursued this option yet.


To get into the country, you need a couple things. As a U.S. citizen, the reciprocity thingy (we charge them so they charge us) means that we have to pay $135 USD. Cash is easiest.

I didn't have that when I arrived in the border city, Vicunia/La Quiaca, by bus, so I ended up leaving my bags and passport at the border with my friend, walking 10 blocks on the Bolivian side (very illegally), getting money out of an ATM, and walking back.

You need a 4x4 color photograph. (May as well carry a couple of these around with you if you're planning to country hop. Never know when these come in handy.)

You'll need to fill out a form when you get there.

You obviously need a passport. The Gov website says that you need "evidence of a hotel reservation or a letter of invitation in Spanish, proof of economic solvency (credit card, cash or a current bank statement)," but I don't remember needing that. Plus, I didn't have any reservation anywhere.

You need an International Vaccination Certificate for yellow fever.

The border town is terrible, (we couldn't even find orange juice) so make sure you figure out the days the train leaves.

The Bolivian visa is good for "five years from the date of issuance and allow the bearer to enter the country three times in a year for a cumulative stay of not more than ninety days."

You must pay airport/bus tax when leaving an airport. Bus tax is cheap. I think airport tax is between $10-35 USD, but I can't remember.

Apparently the visa is cheaper if you work it out ahead of time, but don't ask me how.  (US Department of State Website)


Free, easy, no shots required. Great for day trips.

You just get on a ferry boat and get your passport stamped.


Entry by bus is free. Or, it was when I went March, 2010. Didn't need any proof of shots.

By airplane, the .gov site says there is a "reciprocity fee at the port of entry," but this might be just from flying in.


I didn't really research Brazil, so when I got to Iguazu falls and found out that it requires foresight to get your Brazilian visa, and that it costs $130 USD to get in, I decided to skip the Brazilian side. $130 is exactly what the US charges Brazilians to get into the US. Reciprocity. Hooray.

I've heard it takes a week or more to get your Brazilian visa, which you can do at a Brazilian consulate/embassy. You can probably do it online if you have an address to which it can be mailed. You pay, do paperwork, add a passport photos, and write an essay called "Why you want to go to Brazil."

OTHER MAJOR COUNTRIES about which I have NO PERSONAL EXPERIENCE: (unfair exclusion of Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, French Guiana, Falkland Islands, and other islands because I haven't heard anyone who has actually gone to these places on their South American tour.)


Free, recommends (doesn't require) vaccination against Yellow Fever.


Required to have current Yellow Fever vaccinatin certificate.

An exit tax and airport fee must be paid when departing Venezuela by airline. for updated info, check the gov website.


You need to apply for your visa before hitting the border. You can do so at your nearest Paraguayan consulate. ($45 USD estimate as of info from 2009).

Departure tax on airlines is possible.


US citizens don't need a visa if staying less than 90 days. You need to get a visa beforehand if you're planning to stay longer. Unlike Argentina, if you overstay 90 days, there's a huge fine, and you can't come back for the next nine months. As a tourist, you can't stay more than 90 days anyhow.

Airport exit tax.


For a tourist stay of less than 60 days, a visa is not necessary.

Apparently, "Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point." There is the possibility of fines or prison if you are caught without proper documents. Also fines if you overstay your visa.

"Any traveler possessing a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at a DAS immigration office within 15 days of arrival in Colombia or face fines."