Argentina

greeting

Cheek kissing is very common in Argentina, especially in bigger cities, among and between women and men. People make contact with right cheeks, and make a light "kiss sound" but not touch the cheek with their lips only once, two kisses -right and then left- is very rare. When two women, or opposite sexes first meet, it is not uncommon to kiss. Two men will first shake hands if they do not know each other, but will probably kiss when departing, especially if they have spoken for a while. Male friends cheek kiss every time when greeting, it is like a sign of trust. Trying to shake hands when offered a kiss will be considered odd, but never rude especially if you are an obvious foreigner. Remember when visiting another country its always interesting to try new customs.

In the rest of the country, regular handshaking applies. Also women will greet by kissing as described above, but it's reserved to other women and to men they are acquainted with. All the aforementioned applies elsewhere in Latin America and in the Iberian Peninsula except the man to man cheek kissing, which is not common elsewhere.

There is plenty of activity and foot traffic throughout the night. Nice areas have a very thorough police presence, perhaps one officer per 3 blocks, plus store security and auxiliary patrols. Public security in all major cities like Buenos Aires, Córdoba and Rosario is handled by the Federal Police and the National Gendarmerie or the Naval Prefecture, especially in the Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.

As in any large city, certain particular neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires and other cities are very dangerous. Some shady neighbourhoods include Retiro, Villa Lugano, La Boca and Villa Riachuelo. Ask trusted locals, such as hotel desk staff or police officers, for advice. Pay attention to your environment and trust your instincts. If an area seems questionable, leave.

Most robberies are not violent, if it is just give the robbers everything, because they may be on drugs, drunk, have a knife or a gun; in most cases, if your wallet is stolen, you won't even notice until hours later. In the unlikely event that you are confronted by a mugger, simply hand over your valuables - they are replaceable. Watch out for pickpockets in the subway and on crowded city streets. Never hang your purse or bag from the back of your chair in a cafe or restaurant - stealthy theft from such bags is common. Keep your purse or backpack on the floor between your legs while you eat.

Popular demonstrations are very common in Buenos Aires, and very rarely violent, though you should exercise caution and observe them from a safe distance.

The dangers of hailing a taxi have received lots of press but are no longer common. Since 2005 the government cracked down on illegal taxis very successfully. Petty crime continues like taking indirect routes, or less commonly, changing money for counterfeits. Taxicabs that loiter in front of popular tourist destinations like the National Museum are looking for tourists. Stay away from them. Your chance of falling prey to a scam increases in these situations. Stopping a cab a block or two away on a typical city street where others locals would do the same is good choice. Also having small bills will help you avoid issues mentioned, as well you will often find taxis that don't have change for 100 peso bills.

Carry some ID with you, but not your original passport. A copy of it easily provided by your own hotel should be enough.

Many people in the street and in the subway hand out small cards with horoscopes, lottery numbers, pictures of saints, or cute drawings on them. If you take the card, the person will ask for payment. You can simply return the card along with a no, gracias. or simply in silence if your Spanish is not good. Persistent panhandlers are usually not dangerous; a polite but firm no tengo nada "I don't have anything" and/or hand gestures are usually enough.

Sidewalks are often uneven and poorly maintained.

Passport holders of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Argentina when the purpose of the visit is tourism: Andorra, Armenia, Australia*, Austria, Barbados, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada*, Czech Republic, Chile, Cyprus, Colombia, Costa Rica, Croatia, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Japan, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, Nicaragua, Norway, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, San Marino, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia, Serbia,Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States*, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela.

* reciprocity fee required

football

Since some Argentineans are extremely die-hard football fans, try to avoid wearing rival soccer jerseys, as one bad turn on the wrong street, or walking into a bar wearing the wrong colours, could be dangerous in low-class neighborhoods. You can wear European football club jerseys with an Argentinean player's name on the back for example: a Manchester City jersey with Tevez's name, an Olympique Lyonnais jersey with Lopez's name, a Barcelona jersey with Messi's name, etc.. If you really want to wear a jersey, the safest plan is to wear an Argentina national team jersey.

During mid-late 2009 until the time of writing March 2012, Argentine "barrabravas" An equivalent of the term "Hooligans" have spiked in activity, causing various degrees of vandalism, assault, and deadly shootings in a few occasions due to football debates. It is recommended not to wear local football clothing too often, and you will be better off if you avoid using football clothing altogether.

The Perú national football colours and jersey design are almost identical to those of local team River Plate, so be cautious as to avoid misunderstandings.

talk

Hey Big BallsDon't be surprised if you hear some creative terms of endearment on the street. It's not uncommon to refer to one's friends as boludo "big balls" or loco "crazy". "Che" is also used.

There is no such thing as political correctness in Argentina. In a colloquial speech, larger people are unapologetically addressed as gordo fat, blacks as "negro", and anyone resembling indigenous peoples are also commonly addressed as "bolita" also regardless of their actual ancestry; Italians are tanos; Spaniards gallegos; Jews rusos; anyone Islamic as "turcos", anyone Asian chinos and the like. This sort of blunt address is considered somewhat normal in Argentina. Try to take it lightly, as it is usually not meant to offend, but don't copy it, because in certain circles this practice is considered racist and xenophobic.

The official language is Spanish. Generally, most people speak Spanish correctly, albeit using a local dialect, Castellano Rioplatense, which is subtly different from both the language of Spain and that of Central America. Most notably, the pronoun "tú" is replaced by "vos", and the you plural pronoun "vosotros" replaced with "ustedes", the latter being common throughout Latin America. Besides, there are separate verb conjugations, sometimes significantly different for irregular verbs in present tense and informal commands. Additionally, people from each city pronounce words differently too! In this way, people from Buenos Aires speak differently compared to those from Spain and other Spanish speaking countries; example: chicken in Spanish pollo is pronounced PO-zhO or PO-SHO by the "Porteños" residents of Buenos Aires, with the SH sound harder than in Spanish; unlike most other Spanish speakers of South America who pronounces it PO-yo.

Rioplatense Spanish is also heavily influenced by Italian, even frequently being mistaken for it: is is a result of the large influx of Italian immigrants. Hand gestures derived from Italy are extremely common, and many colloquialisms are borrowed from Italian for example: instead of saying "cerveza", which means beer, youngsters find "birra" cooler, which is in Italian. Most locals can readily understand most Spanish dialects, as well as Portuguese or Italian especially due to its similarity to the local Spanish. English is mandatory in high school and usually understood in at least a basic level in tourists' areas. German and French can be understood and to some extent spoken by small fractions of the population. A few places in Patagonia near Rawson have native Welsh speakers. Words borrowed from aboriginal languages include: quechua, guarani, mataco, che, mate and others.

The interjection "che loco" are extremely common and mean approximately the same as English "hey!". It can also be employed as a phrase known to someone you don't remember their names. Ex: "Escucháme, Che,...." Sometimes it is peppered through out the speech, similar to the English phrase "you killa man." Nonetheless, communication will not be a problem for any Spanish speaker.

Argentines will communicate with each other using lunfardo, a street dialect or slang. It is used together with Spanish by replacing nouns with their synonyms in lunfardo. As opposed to changing the original meaning, it just makes the phrase more colourful. An important aspect of lunfardo is that it is only spoken. For example, one knows the word dinero money, but may use the word "guita" in order to refer to the same things. Lunfardo is composed of about 5,000 words, many of which do not appear in the dictionary.

Despite the conflict with Britain over las Islas Malvinas, Argentina still has the biggest British community in Latin America, has many cities founded by them, and 80% of Buenos Aires' private schools are British. Argentina could easily have been, along with Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, the fourth British colonised country in the Southern Hemisphere! Buenos Aires used to have the only Harrods store outside the UK and continues to have the most important and oldest English newspaper in Latin America, the Buenos Aires Herald.

by internet

Many cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi with an advertisement in their windows. All you need to do is buy a coffee and ask for the password.

There are also many 'cyber cafes' or kiosks that rent out the use of a computer for a couple of pesos per hour less than a dollar per hour. This computer rental includes the use of internet on the computer and the computers also typically has at least some form of Microsoft Office. These cyber cafe's may or may not allow food in their establishments.

If you have a smartphone unlocked if you bring it from home it can be quite affordable to buy a local SIM card and use the internet from the cellular network pretty good quality 3G most of the time. As of early 2013, most operators seem to charge only 1 peso per day for unlimited or limited - ask! use of internet. You can always use your phone to make a Wi-Fi hotspot and share the connection to your computer watch carefully how much you use if you don't want to bust your budget!.

things to avoid

It is wise to avoid talking about the Falkland Islands Las Islas Malvinas situation, including the 1982 war, with Argentines. Furthermore, you should call the islands by their Spanish name if you wish to avoid argument and possible confrontation. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines, and you are likely to receive hostile treatment if you express any views which are supportive of the current territorial status.

Avoid wearing any English and British symbols due to the above mentioned reasons. English and British flags as well as English national football soccer tops who are rivals of the Argentine national football team during the World Cup are definitely to be avoided. Although no assaults on people wearing them have been recorded, people might be very upset about them and you are very likely to receive very icy looks and treatment from the population.

Also avoid talking about the Perón years and also about politics, the military junta and religion in general. These are very sensitive subjects to many Argentines and can cause a strong reaction as well.

Avoid comparing Argentina with its neighbors Brazil and Chile, because they are considered rivals especially in the economic sphere.

Same sex marriage has been legal since 2010, but in small towns, or the more conservative north of the country, some people especially older generations might be shocked by public displays of affection among homosexual couples.

Visiting Argentina doesn't raise any major health worries. Certain vaccinations may be necessary for visitors, depending on where in Argentina you plan to visit. Yellow Fever vaccinations are recommended for those visiting the Northern forests. Different climate conditions might take your body by surprise, so be aware of the weather before you arrive. A bout of travellers' diarrhea is the most you're likely to have to worry about as your body adjusts to local micro-organisms in the food. It's also best to ease yourself gently into the local diet – sudden quantities of red meat, red wine, strong coffee and sweet pastries can be very unsettling for a stomach used to gentler repasts – and though tap water in Argentina is safe to drink, if sometimes heavily chlorinated, you may prefer to err on the side of caution in rural areas in the north of the country.

Although oral contraceptives are sold over the counter, without a prescription, a woman considering taking them is well advised first to consult a wise and licensed physician about their proper use, as well as possible contraindications and side effects.

Hospitals are free. They won´t charge you for any treatment, but it is customary to offer a contribution, if you have the means.

As of November 2012 there is advertising concerning preventive measures against dengue fever coming from Brazil and Bolivia in Argentina's northern regions. Locals from Tucumán, Salta and Jujuy state there's generally not much danger but add that it is better to be safe than sorry.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dengue_fever#Prevention

conversation

Argentines are very engaging people who may ask very personal questions within minutes after first meeting someone. They will expect you to do the same. Failing to do so would signify lack of interest in the other person.

Don't be offended if someone calls you a "boludo". Even though it's a swear word, to Argentines it means "pal", or "mate" depending on the tone it is said. Argentinean people are infamous for the amount of cursing they do, so if they are talking to you don't pay attention to the cursing. If Argentineans are mad, teasing you or making fun of you, you will tell by the expression of their face or the tone of their voice as well as even more cursing than usual.

Also, don't be offended if an Argentinean says things to you in a very direct manner: this is very usual among locals and sometimes offends foreigners. Argentineans are very emotional and extremists, both when telling good things or bad things to anyone. You'll also see that they have an acid humor, make fun of themselves in every aspect, and sometimes they will make fun of you. Just reply back with another joke if this is the case; locals won't take it as an offence.

Taxi drivers especially old people are very friendly and usually very well informed about anything. Feel free to talk about whatever you want. Some of them even know lot of history and politics of the city.

Try not to compare "dulce de leche" unfavourably with anything else in the world, likewise for Argentinian meat; doing it will be considered insulting.

punctuality and perception of time

Argentinians generally take a relaxed attitude towards time. This can be unsettling to visitors from North America and non-Latin parts of Europe where punctuality is highly valued. You should expect that your Argentine contacts will be at least 10 to 15 minutes late for any appointment. This is considered normal in Argentina and does not signify any lack of respect for the relationship. Of course, this does not apply to business meetings.

If you are invited to a dinner or party at, say 21:00, it does not mean that you should be present at 21:00, but instead that you should not arrive before 21:00. You'll be welcomed anytime afterwards. Arriving to a party 1 hour late is normally OK and sometimes expected.

This attitude extends to any scheduled activity in Argentina. Plays, concerts usually get going around half an hour after their scheduled times. Long distance buses leave on time though. Short-distance public transportation like city buses and the subway do not even bother with time estimates; they arrive when they arrive! Factor these elements into your calculations of how long things will take.

Delayed bus or train departures are not uncommon, especially in big cities. This is normally not a problem, as in general no one will expect you to be on time anyway. However, long-distance bus departures almost always leave on time even if they arrive late, so do not count on lack of punctuality to save you when arriving late at bus terminals.

money

The 2001 peso crisis has left many Argentines bitter towards some authorities and institutions. While many shops will appreciate payment in US dollars or Euros and even offer you a better exchange rate than the banks, try to blend in elsewhere. Keep a supply of pesos on hand for those businesses that do not accept dollars.

As of December 2011, it is nearly impossible to obtain US dollars. They can no longer be obtained through the automated teller machines. In order to receive dollars for pesos, the official agencies require a receipt from an Argentinian bank for the amount of pesos, an official form of identification, and a copy of the individual's ATM/bank card. Damaged bills or those larger than a $20 US are very undesirable and may be declined. If you need to get US dollars, you can withdraw them from an ATM in Uruguay.

by phone

Major mobile phone providers include Movistar, Claro, and Personal. Visit one of their many customer service branches in major cities with an unlocked American or European mobile phone and buy a SIM card for about 10 or 20 pesos. The representative will sell you the card and insert it into the phone and register it using your name and passport number, to give you an Argentinian phone number.

The next step is to load the phone with credits, which must be purchased at a "Locuritorio," a common storefront business offering phone booths, internet and more. Present your new phone number and your pesos to purchase time -- calls cost around 1 Peso per minute. These pay-as-you go SIM cards work for voice and text message, but not for data. For data you will need a plan and a contract, a much more complicated proposition. However, wifi is widely available in cafes.

Due to steep government duties, iphones and ipads are very rare in Argentina. We spent a bit of time trying to find a SIM for our iPhone 5 because it uses a nano-SIM that is much smaller than the standard. The company Personal was able to help us, with a special punch tool that cuts down the size of the chip to fit into the phone.

Receiving calls is usually free, except for international calls, and some cross network / inter-city calls - hence to keep in touch with people abroad it might be best to get a virtual number service. You can also use a free service such as Skype or Google Hangouts.

Voice coverage is good but data is pretty patchy and unreliable even in places where it normally works. OpenSignal provide Argentina coverage maps covering Buenos Aires and all the major cities, these are crowdsourced and impartial and allow to comparison of networks.

To reload you can buy small cards with secret numbers at many kiosks. Dialing *444, pressing 2 followed by 1, and entering the secret number does the trick.

Not related to mobile phones, there are similar cards with credits for international calls. You get them at so called locutorios, where you can also use the phone booths. You dial a free number to connect to the service, then your secret number for the credits, and then the international phone number you want to call. Using these cards, a one-hour call to Europe will cost about ARS10 USD3. Don't call without such cards or even from your hotel - it will be way more expensive.

The phone numbering plan in Argentina is hopelessly complicated for foreigners. Do check out the Wikipedia article about it to find out more.

Directory Listing The White Pages: 110

International Operator: 000

National Operator: 19

Collect National Calls: 19 from regular phones, *19 from public phones

Mobile phone numbers start with 15

Regional code for Buenos Aires: 11

Other useful phone numbers include:

Official Time: 113

Consumer Defence: +54 11 5382-6216/17

All 2 and 3-digit numbers are free, except the official time service 113. All 0800 numbers are toll-free numbers.

Long distance calls from Argentina:You may use calling card, 0.18 Peso/min or 5.90 ¢/min for calling from Argentina to USA.

Don't even try using payphones.

ezeiza international airport security warning

In July 2007, Argentina's TV network "Canal 13" conducted an investigation revealing that a group of security operators at the airport are stealing valuable objects such as iPods, digital cameras, cellular phones, sun glasses, jewellery and laptops while scanning the checked luggage of passengers. According to the special report, security operators at the airport should check each bag before putting it into the plane; however, some operators take advantage of the scanner machine to detect valuable objects and steal them. The report states that this event occurs every day and that the stolen items include anything from electronic devices to perfumes and works of art.

Travellers and residents are strongly encouraged to place high-value items in their carry-on luggage to prevent any incidents.

Note: police officers will often try to get you to bribe them to prevent a traffic ticket being issued.The best thing to do is to give them the money they will keep you at a stop for a long time if you don't.However, if you do wish to take the ticket they will give it to you without any problems.

Since 2011 the currency exchange market is regulated by the government making it difficult for locals to get foreign currency. This opened a new brand parallel business because the US dollar and euro prices are much lower officially than the real market demands. It's tempting and of course good business to make the trip to Argentina with cash and make a direct deal instead of exchanging money at the bank for almost half or use the credit card with official rates charged but it is important to be wary of scams in the places where these operations happen. They're called "caves" and are hard to find, or the other way is to exchange currency with the street sellers. Neither are not safe at all because this is often the way to inject fake money in circulation.It is advisable to contact any Exchange Delivery service, fix an appointment and they will get you at your accommodation location an make the transaction currency exchange directly without problems

emergency numbers

Ambulance Immediate Health Emergency Service, SAME: 107

Firemen National Firemen Corps: 100

Police Argentine Federal Police: 101 currently Argentina is implementing a 911 service, but at the time of this writing it is available only in a few cities, which include Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata

Tourist Police: 011 4346-5748 / 0800-999-5000

Reciprocity Fee

While visas are not required for tourist visits for US, Canadian, and Australian citizens, the Argentine Government started charging a "Reciprocity Fee" in 2009 for citizens using passports from those countries. The fees paid by travellers are dependent on their nationality and similar to the amounts that Argentine citizens pay for visa applications to visit the US, Canada, or Australia. From 7 January 2013, ALL entries to Argentina at ALL ports of entry except cruise passengers have required pre-payment of the reciprocity fee at the Argentinian Department of Immigration website. Proof of payment needs to be printed out and presented to immigration officials upon arrival.

For US citizens, the USD160 fee allows multiple entries to Argentina for a period of 10 years. For Australians, the AUD100 fee allows multiple entries for 1 year. Canadian citizens pay USD92 however it is billed in ARS which allows multiple entries up until 1 month before the passport expires (http://www.canadainternat...).

Citizens of India or Morocco have to obtain a visa in their country of usual residence, but the visa is free.