What makes Argentina a unique country to travel to?
Argentina's cultural and culinary traditions, natural beauty, and diversity, as well as its business opportunities, attract several hundred thousand U.S. citizen visitors each year. Buenos Aires, other large cities, as well as some rural destinations, have well-developed tourist facilities and services, including many four- and five-star hotels. The quality of tourist facilities in smaller towns outside the capital varies.
Most U.S. citizens visit Argentina without incident. Nevertheless, street crime in the larger cities, especially greater Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is a problem for residents and visitors alike. As in any big city, visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers on the street, in hotel lobbies, at bus and train stations, and in cruise ship ports. Be careful in San Telmo, an older traditional neighborhood specializing in antique stores, and La Boca neighborhood (home to the famous “Caminito” street and “Boca Juniors” soccer stadium) in Buenos Aires, where violent robberies have been occurring with increasing frequency. Tourists who go to La Boca should limit their visits to the designated tourist areas during daylight hours.
Criminals usually work in groups, and travelers should assume they are armed. Criminals employ a variety of ruses to distract and victimize unsuspecting visitors. Be suspicious of anyone who approaches you on the street. A common scam is to spray mustard or a similar substance on the tourist from a distance. A pickpocket will then approach the tourist offering to help clean the stain, and while doing so, he or an accomplice robs the victim. Another scam is to entice tourists into a bar known as a “wiskeria” with a flyer for a shopping discount or free show. Once inside, the victim is not allowed to leave until he or she pays an exorbitant amount for a drink. Thieves regularly nab unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage, and criminals will often distract visitors for a few seconds to steal valuables. While most U.S. citizens are not physically injured when robbed, criminals are known to use force when they encounter resistance, and there have been some violent and even fatal attacks on foreigners carrying valuables such as expensive cameras and equipment. Visitors are advised to immediately hand over all cash and valuables if confronted. Thieves may target visitors wearing expensive watches or jewelry, or carrying laptop computer cases. When staying in a hotel or apartment, it is a good precaution to call the front desk or security to identify uninvited individuals before giving them access.
Some travelers have received counterfeit currency in Argentina. Unscrupulous vendors and taxi drivers sometimes pretend to help tourists review their pesos, then trade bad bills for good ones. Characteristics of good currency can be reviewed at the Argentine Central Bank website.
Along with conventional muggings, "express kidnappings" occur. Victims are grabbed off the street based on their appearance and vulnerability. They are made to withdraw as much money as possible from ATM machines, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually quickly released unharmed. There have been some foreign victims. Visitors are particularly advised not to let children and adolescents travel alone.
Travelers worldwide are advised to avoid packing valuables in their checked baggage. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the systematic theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. Authorities are working to resolve the problem and have made a number of arrests, but travelers should exercise continued care and caution.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
Your passport is a valuable document and should be guarded. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes. The U.S. Embassy has observed an increase in reports of stolen passports.
Spanish is the official language of Argentina, however many people speak some English. German, French, and Italian are also widely spoken, as are several indigenous languages. Argentine Spanish also contains many distinct phrases and terms not used in other Spanish-speaking countries.
Safety and Security
Pedestrians and drivers should exercise caution, as drivers frequently ignore traffic laws and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. The rate and toll of traffic accidents have been a topic of much local media attention.
The U.S. government is supportive of coordinated efforts by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to combat illegal activity in the tri-border region, where there is a long-standing pattern of trafficking of illicit goods. U.S. citizens crossing from Argentina into Paraguay or Brazil may wish to consult the most recent Country Specific Information for Brazil and Paraguay.
Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and occur in other major cities as well. Protesters on occasion block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. While demonstrations are usually nonviolent, some individuals break from larger groups and sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy and U.S.-affiliated businesses. U.S. citizens should take common-sense precautions and avoid gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to protest. Information about the location of possible demonstrations is available from a variety of sources, including the local media.
Domestic flight schedules can be unreliable. Occasional work stoppages, over-scheduling of flights, and technical problems can result in flight delays, cancellations, or missed connections. Consult local media or the airline company for information about possible strikes or slow-downs before planning travel within Argentina.
Public transportation is generally reliable and safe. The preferred option for travel within Buenos Aires and other major cities is by radio taxi or "remise" (private car with a driver). The best way to obtain safe taxis and remises is to call for one or go to an established stand, rather than hailing one on the street. Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses can order remises or radio taxis, or provide phone numbers for such services, upon request. Passengers on buses, trains, and the subway should be alert for pickpockets, especially during rush hours. Passengers should also be aware that these forms of transport are sometimes interrupted by strikes or work stoppages. Inter-urban passenger train service has been significantly replaced by bus and plane service as a feasible and reliable option for most travelers.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Argentina, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be aggressive, especially in Buenos Aires, and often ignore traffic regulations. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but Argentine or international licenses are required to drive in the rest of the country.
We suggest that you visit the websites of Argentina's national tourist office and national roadways office (available only in Spanish).