One thing I always recommend when going to a new city, is taking advantage of a free walking tour. These of course aren’t free but they are based on the idea that people should be able to experience a city on any budget. There is a suggested tip as a result.
If you’d like to learn more visit this website: http://www.buenosairesfreewalks.com/
I was fortunate to be able to go on both of the free tours offered and started off with the City Center Tour, meeting at the Congreso Nacional. This building was made in Europe but assembled in BA. It took 50 plus years to build!
The guide showed us a lighthouse type building which was designed to specifically reference the divine comedy in as many ways as possible. It has a level for hell, purgatory, heaven, etc. The designed made a specific statue for it and went back to Italy to design it but it was stolen once it arrived. It was found years later but before it could be moved back to the building, it was stolen again. A copy is currently where the original was supposed to be.
An obelisk monument was created to celebrate 400 years of Argentina. The porteños (word for people from Buenos Aires, referencing that they are from the “port city”) hated it and were calling for its removal as soon as it was installed. It was decided that nothing could be done since it was a national monument. For a campaign against AIDS, they put a giant condom over it, emphasizing the phallic shape.
Some miscellaneous facts:
- Argentina comes from the Latin word argento, meaning silver.
- Inflation is currently at about 45 percent. As a result Argentinians will change their pesos into dollars so that their money is kept in a stable currency, otherwise their money is worthless soon after. The guide mentioned that when he was young, he was at the supermarket and prices were going up so fast that the price may have changed by the time you got to the register to pay. They were calling out prices.
- 500 and 200 peso bills were recently added. Before 100 was the maximum bill. ATMs started running out of bills pretty quickly though because of inflation as you couldn’t do much with it. There are currently 4 types of 100 peso bills. One was created by the Vice President. Two are Brazilian as when they started running out of currency, the government asked Brazil to help make some. They differ slightly from the other model with letters in black and of a simple design. The last kind is more recent and celebrates Eva Peron.
- A couple of years ago the “blue market” was really popular was/is where you can exchange currency but not through a bank. It used to have a better USD to peso rate than the banks so many people would utilize it – 15:1 vs 9:1 at the banks. Now both exchange rates are about 15:1 so its better to just get money at the bank so you know it’s not counterfeit which is more likely to occur with the 4 different types of 100 peso bills.
- Uber has become popular in Argentina, especially due to the varying prices that cabs can change. However, there has been a battle over it. As a result, only people with non-Argentinian credit cards can use it.
- It is always a good idea to carry around some Argentine pesos as sometimes credit cards don’t work. There’s no rhyme or reason as to when or why this happens it just happens. I always made sure to never order more than the amount in my pocket.
- The San Ignacio Church is currently the oldest structure in Buenos Aires. It was built in 1722 by the Jesuits.
- All Argentinians currently receive a free education from primary through college. Everyone can attend any college that they want but it is up to them to finish and succeed.