Note: For a synopsis of travel in South America refer to Lonely Planet or Frommers Travel Guides. These books are much more adept at describing the history, architecture and "do's and dont's" of Buenos Aires.
The Good: As previously mentioned, the exchange rate is favorable, 1 US dollar equals 3 Pesos. For the most part, everyone we've met has been friendly and helpful. The food is fantastic and very affordable, in restaurants and grocery stores. Almost all beef raised in Argentina is grass fed, they have very few feed lots and the beef raised there is for export. As many Porteno's (citizens of BA, people of the port) are of Italian decent, the Pizza and Pasta is simply wonderful. Bakery's are on every street with a wide variety of pastries, breads, sandwiches and foods to go. The wines from Mendoza are first rate and again, very affordable. This is a walking city, most everything a person could need is within walking distance, however should your destination be miles away, taxi's are inexpensive. Public transportation is prolific and inexpensive. The Subte (subway) is good, but the buses are the preferred manner of transport. It is said that Buenos Aires is the Paris of South America. I've never been to Paris, but I've been to NYC and the area I live reminds me of the upper West Side.
The Bad:Lack of books written in English! As Texans, we crave tortilla chips with guacamole, queso, salsa, etc. I prepared great guacamole the other day, but the only chips available were "Doritos, Nacho Cheese Flavor"...disgusting. The older locals have been through a lot living in this city; the dirty war of the late 70's, early 80's. The bank crash of 2001, etc. Many of them are quite pessimistic about life. Before leaving the US I knew the cost of import goods would be high, but I never thought a small container of Skippy peanut butter would cost $8.00 USD. Many of the sidewalks are in terrible condition. I've turned my ankle about 7 times since we arrived and now Deidre does not allow me out of the house without hiking boots and ace bandage. CUSTOMS....see below.
The Ultimate Dog and Pony Show: I mistakenly forgot my cell phone in the States. I didn't need it except for the contact information, MP3, photos, etc. My parents were nice enough to Fed-Ex it to us with a few other items we needed. First, very expensive, $177.00 USD for a 3.6 lbs package. 2nd, I was expecting the package to be delivered to the door. No, no, no...that's not how it works here. The Fed-Ex guy delivers a form for you to sign that allows you to go to the International Airport cargo area to retrieve it. Okay readers, hang on, here we go:
On the suggestion of our Spanish teacher we took the bus to the airport, a bargin at $1.50 pesos, 50 cents. What we didn't know is that the bus has 33 stops and takes one hour and 45 minutes. No one at the airport seemed to know where the cargo area was, so after about 30 minutes of looking we finally found it. Once at the cargo area, you must provide your Passport to recieve a ticket to enter the Customs area. Now that you have a ticket you are allowed through security to Customs, but they are on their lunch break. So one must wait in the corridor outside the offices. I've never visited anyone in the "pen", but I think it would look like this area, but with Shrek II on a continuous loop in Spanish. There are others waiting ahead of us, which is good because it gives us a clue of the procedure. Our turn comes around and we go to office #2 where 4 desks are crowded into a small office, a burly gent looks over my ticket, then the forms from Fed-Ex and then my passport, he types info into his desktop, prints a few documents, then signs a few, ink stamps a few and send me off to office #1. #1 has 2 desks and a nice woman that speaks English....our savior! She looks over our documents, prints something else, then sends us off to #3. She goes in first and has a conversation with one of the 3 residents of this office. OMG, Napoleon has been reincarnated as a Argentine Customs Official....5'3" tall, sweat stained dress shirt and lots of attitude. He looks at our documents, asks me a few question in Spanish, which I kind of understand, then speaks rapid fire Spanish with his office mates. Then it's off to the warehouse so he can look inside our package. Then back to his office, more excited talk with his office mates, then finally 3 very violent ink stamps and a few more signatures. Then to #1, but she sends us to #2 for another signature, then to #1 to pay a "storage fee" for the time our tiny package spent in their care..$27.00 USD, back to #2 for more forms and signatures, then to #3 for more signatures, then finally back to #1 for the last of the signatures. Finally we retrieve our package. Total time spend in customs about 3 hours. We took a taxi home, the best money ever spent. Happy hour started a little early after our experience with Customs.
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