Argentina is a country of immense beauty and proportions. Its geographic diversity spans the most breathtaking terrain from Antarctica, through the wild, glacier-filled mountains of Patagonia and massive open plains of La Pampas to the deserts and tropical jungles in the north.
The country can be enjoyed for its natural wonders alone, but no visit here could be called complete without stepping into its soul, its capital city. The elegant Buenos Aires is home to 40 percent of the population, and is a buzzing metropolis with a rich, passionate and tortured history that is integral to its character. It is Europe and South America contained in one geographical location, with elements of the unknown around each corner. It is familiar and strange at the same time, but at its very core, wonderfully welcoming.
Along the elegant avenues of the fashionable districts, sophisticated diners observe passers-by while they sip strong coffee or enjoy smooth cervezas. There is a constant smell of meat grilling from every corner and sidewalk that reveals the Argentine passion for 'asado'. Neither glamour nor passion is in short supply in this cosmopolitan hub where Porteños are equally versed in football, politics and fashion.
There are disparities between the rich and poor, with many people living in near slum conditions in the outskirts of Buenos Aires. Since 1992 the economy has teetered near collapse due to corruption and government mismanagement, prompting regular and sometimes violent demonstrations. However it is business-as-usual as far as tourism is concerned; in fact, the resultant devaluation of the peso has made the country much more affordable for travellers.
The Argentinean Peso (ARS) is divided into 100 centavos. The
recent devaluation of the Peso has made Argentina more affordable
for travellers but there is still much economic uncertainty and
travellers are advised to keep an eye on the exchange rate.
Currency can be exchanged at banks and
cambios(bureaux de change) but it is easier to use ATMs,
available in most urban towns, which reflect the current exchange
rate. Credit and debit cards are generally accepted, and US Dollars
and Euros are normally taken everywhere, but some international
cards place limits on transactions. Cirrus cards sometimes aren't
accepted. There can be problems using travellers cheques in rural
areas, although most banks in major cities should accept them. It's
best to take travellers cheques in US Dollars to avoid additional
exchange rate charges.
|ARS 1 =||US$ 0.23||Â£ 0.15||C$ 0.24||A$ 0.22||R 1.96||EUR 0.18||NZ$ 0.29|
Note: These currency exchange rates are not updated daily and should be used as a guideline only.
There is a low risk of yellow fever, cholera and malaria in some northern provinces, so it is wise to seek your doctor's advice when travelling to these areas. However since the outbreak of yellow fever in neighbouring Brazil and Paraguay in January/February 2008, it is recommended that all visitors to regions bordering these countries, including Iguazu Falls, be inoculated against yellow fever. Outbreaks of dengue fever are on the increase, and visitors are advised to avoid getting mosquito bites as there is no effective treatment for it. A hepatitis A vaccination is recommended before travel to Argentina as well as a typhoid vaccination for those who might eat or drink outside major restaurants and hotels. Water is safe to drink in major towns and cities. Medical facilities are good in the major cities. Treatment is expensive, however, and medical insurance is advised. Asthma, sinus and bronchial ailments can be aggravated by pollution in Buenos Aires. Those with specific conditions should bring a sufficient quantity of medical supplies and medicines for the trip.
Valid passports are required for travel to Argentina. Visas are not generally required for stays of less than three months. Visas are valid for several entries within the period of validity stated in the visa. It is recommended that all visitors have sufficient funds (at least US$50 per day), as well as onward or return tickets and documents required for next destination. Extensions on visas are possible up to 90 days. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.
National Secretariat of Tourism, Buenos Aires: +54 (0)11 4312 2232 or www.turismo.gov.ar
Foreign Embassies in Argentina
Downtown Buenos Aires is as sophisticated as any European city, with its wide avenues, fine colonial architecture and rows of pavement cafes. The city was built by French, Italian and Spanish immigrants and the PorteÃ±os (locals) still regard themselves as more European than South American. Travellers walking through the leafy parks and boulevards could be forgiven for thinking they were in Madrid, Paris or Milan.
Buenos Aires was founded on the shores of the Rio de la Plata in 1570 and was named after the patron saint of sailors for the good wind or buen aire.The city remained a colonial backwater for 200 years while the Spanish concentrated their attentions on wealthier Peru. During this time Buenos Aires became a thriving centre for smuggling between South America and Europe. Dissatisfaction with Spanish economic and political dominance escalated to boiling point and culminated in the revolution of May 1810 and finally to independence in 1816. Its history since then has been dogged by military coups and political mismanagement; the consequences of which are growing disaffection with the government and widespread poverty, as is evident in the sprawling shantytowns on the city's outskirts.
This turbulent history has not managed to stifle the indomitable spirit of the PorteÃ±os whose passion, charm and vibrancy have forged this great city, a place in which the fire of Evita's soul and the allure of the tango endure. A holiday in Buenos Aires is a journey of discovering the fire that pervades Argentine culture, in everything from food and conversation to music, art and dance.
The southern region of Argentina is a fascinating mix of desert, ice-capped mountains, vast plains, sandy beaches and majestic glaciers. South of the Rio Colorado is the captivating Patagonia region, an area of diverse landscapes largely protected by the existence of a dozen national parks and reserves. Temperatures in the region can be extreme, from mild to well below zero and most visitors wisely choose to travel to Patagonia in summer. Patagonia is far from an icy wasteland, however. Bursting with wildlife, the area is also covered with large tracts of arable land (producing large amounts of fruit and vegetables), and is home to the country's biggest oil and coal reserves.
The coastline in the south has the warmest water in the country and a favoured destination is Las Grutas, a tourist-oriented beach resort on the Blue Gulf in the Rio Negro province. The area takes its name from the many caves dotted about the coastline, and provides visitors with an opportunity to sunbathe on the well-sheltered beaches, or engage in plenty of watersports. The southern coastline is also incredibly popular due to the large amounts of marine life that can be found here, from Southern Right whales to elephant seals, sea lions, and penguins, as well as an astounding array of birdlife.
Continuing further south, one hits the world's southern-most city, Ushuaia, situated on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago. This island territory (partly shared with Chile) is a favourite starting point for tours to Antarctica, but also offers plenty of activities, sights and sounds for the visitor, including trekking in the Andes in the western part of the archipelago, spectacular kayaking, some of the world's best brown trout fishing, and Argentina's only coastal national park. The southern region of Argentina is every bit as fascinating as the north and certainly has a lot to offer the intrepid traveller.
The northern regions of Argentina are an interesting mix of colonial heritage, incredible natural beauty, agriculture and an indigenous flavour. Two major Argentinean rivers, the ParanÃ¡ and the Uruguay, flow together in the northeast of the country, creating the Rio de la Plata estuary. The land in between the rivers is known as Mesopotamia, a swampy, wet and very hot region covered with yatay palms, orchids and tree ferns.
Perhaps one of the principal attractions in this region are the spectacular IguazÃº Falls in the IguazÃº National Park, tucked away in the extreme northeast, surrounded by Brazil. Lush forests bursting with wildlife and impressive, rugged mountains lie in contrast to the vast, fertile plains of the Pampas below. Spread over a large portion of the country, the Pampas are known as the Gran Chaco in the North, and these plains form the agricultural heartland of Argentina, where gauchos(cowboys) roam and where the country's famous beef comes from. The Gran Chaco is much drier than the central part of the Pampas and is a rich source of tannins and timber.
Closer to the Chilean border in the west is the impressive Andes Mountain Range, and its highest peak, Cerro Aconcagua, situated in the famed wine region of Mendoza. The bustling city and industrial hub of CÃ³rdoba is also to be found in the north and here, Jesuit traditions, colonial architecture and traditional guachoculture combine, with plenty of traditional festivals and local arts and crafts to be discovered. There are many treasures to be found by travellers willing to move beyond Buenos Aires, and the northern region is not to be missed.
Skiing in Argentina has a thrilling appeal to it, and the eastern slopes of the Andes especially are becoming increasingly popular with those seeking exhilarating skiing. Ski season in Argentina runs from June to September, with July and August bringing the most crowds to the resorts along with almost certain fresh snowfalls. Snow conditions vary from year to year, but there is usually excellent powder snow. Most prestigious of the resorts for downhill skiing is Las LeÃ±as, which once hosted the World Cup, while Los Penitentes near Mendoza boasts some of the best compact powder snow. The oldest resort, Bariloche, offers good aprÃ¨s ski and beautiful views of the Nahuel Huapi region, while Chapelco is a snowboarders paradise. Enjoy the breathtaking views from Mount Castor out across the South Atlantic near Ushuaia, which offers fantastic cross-country skiing.
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