30 Things You Need to Know About Living in Buenos Aires
Are you thinking about moving to Buenos Aires? The vibrant South American city that houses the presidential Pink House, famous barbeques, tango, and a never-ending story with inflation.
At first, it can seem quite confusing to live in Buenos Aires, and living here has its ups (and downs). But don’t worry! I’m here to help you with the 30 things you need to know about living in Buenos Aires!
After more than 6 years in Buenos Aires, I have learned a thing or two about life here.
There is, of course, a lot more to say about living in Buenos Aires than what I have mentioned here. So, if you have any tips or insides that you didn’t find here, please feel free to add them in the comments below. If you have any questions about living in Buenos Aires, you are also more than welcome to share them below.
Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that at no additional cost to you, Becci Abroad will earn a commission if you make a purchase via one of those links. This helps to pay the bills and the maintenance of the site.
#1 ¿y vos, que haces acá?
When living in Buenos Aires as a foreigner (especially, a European or North American), you will have to get used to being asked a dozen times: “¿y vos, que haces acá?” (i.e. and you, what are you doing here?).
The Argentines manage to say this in a way that indirectly indicates that you must be some kind of lunatic since you chose to stay voluntary in Buenos Aires.
When I’m not up for a huge explanation, I usually answer people this way: “Soy media loca” (i.e. I’m a bit crazy).
#2 General Paz
When living in Buenos Aires, you will soon learn that the reference General Paz is a way of saying that something is either located in the Buenos Aires Capital area or in the Province of Buenos Aires.
General Paz is the highway that surrounds the Capital area of Buenos Aires, also known as CABA or Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires, and separates it from the Province of Buenos Aires.
#3 Download WhatsApp
WhatsApp! If you are not already using this messaging app, download it right away! You will definitely need WhatsApp when living in Buenos Aires.
Porteños (i.e. citizens of Buenos Aires) usually communicate through WhatsApp by either texting, calling, or sending voice messages.
When moving to Buenos Aires, you will most likely soon be part of multiple WhatsApp groups too for whatever social group you become part of. Either at school, at work, or where you are staying.
#4 Small talk with strangers in Buenos Aires
When living in Buenos Aires, it will become completely common to small talk with strangers. But porteños don’t only talk about the weather. They also small talk about the current development in the Argentine peso’s exchange rate to the US dollar or the increase of prices in the local stores (also commonly known as inflation – read more below).
If you run into an awkward silence with people you don’t know, exchange rate and inflation are always a winner to kickstart the conversation.
#5 Chino supermarket when everything else is closed
If you ever need something on a Sunday or a Bank Holiday, the best place to turn to is your local supermercado chino. They are small supermarkets run by Chinese migrants. They are open most days from 9 am or 10 am until around 10 pm.
You will have the chinos almost every second block throughout the capital – literally! Read more about things that nobody tells you about Buenos Aires.
#6 Plenty of affordable activities
If you are living on a tight budget, there are plenty of free activities to do in Buenos Aires. Each neighborhood also has its own green areas whether it is a park or a small square for you to hang out and meet friends.
You can also easily do day trips to nearby locations such as the Tigre Delta, La Plata, or San Antonio de Areco.
#7 Always have cash on you
Cash, cash, cash – get used to always bringing cash with you when living in Buenos Aires
Bigger stores and restaurants will accept different types of debit and credit cards. But smaller places and most chino-supermarkets will only accept cash.
Patience… You will need a good portion of patience to live in Buenos Aires. Things might for unexplained reasons stop working. Or be out of order. Or people might show up late for meet-ups.
Basically, you will have to find a way to learn to just live with it. The good news is that after a while, you will become super tolerant toward any unforeseen things that come up!
When living in Buenos Aires, you will have to get used to a lot of paperwork (and you will need a lot of the above-mentioned patience).
Paperwork in the Argentine bureaucracy typically means bringing one paper from one person, office, counter (you name it) to another person, office, counter… Yeah, I think you got my point!
Argentines even have a specific word for running errands to do paperwork: tramites!
Tengo que hacer unos tramites simply means that you have to do some kind of bureaucratic paperwork.
Bureaucracy is not just in state institutions but also for simple procedures, for example, picking up a parcel.
#11 Signing a lot of papers
You will be signing a lot of papers! For opening a bank account, for paying with your debit card, when getting your paycheck (at least pos-pandemic)… I could go on and on but I will spare you.
Life in Buenos Aires includes a lot of signing papers!
Over time, maybe the same will happen to you as has happened to me: my signature just gets uglier and uglier!
#12 Finding a place to live in Buenos Aires
It can be a little bit tricky to find housing in Buenos Aires. Especially, because there a two different types of rental contracts with a lot of different requirements and differences in their pricing.
Alquiler temporal is a more expensive type of rental. It is better suited for foreigners since there are fewer requirements.
Whereas alquiler con contrato de 3 años are cheaper options for rental but it is super difficult to get a hold of if you don’t have a local contact in Buenos Aires.
Read more about how to find long-term housing in Buenos Aires.
#13 You need to tip!
Always remember to tip in Buenos Aires! Or give propina as a tip is called in Spanish.
It is not only expected that you tip the waiter in restaurants or bars, but it is also custom to tip the delivery guy who delivers stuff to your place.
And having paid delivery on your takeaway offer doesn’t necessarily indicate that you have paid the delivery guy his tips. So, always tip!
#14 Gender roles…
If you are a woman, don’t try to convince an Argentine man offering you to enter a door before him, to enter first – you will always lose!
And take it for somebody who has tried awkward situations of Argentine men holding the door, while I stubbornly waited for them to enter.
Inflation will soon begin to be an everyday thing…
And the longer you live in Buenos Aires, the more you will start to think something along the lines of “I remembered when this (inset a thing after your liking) cost $$, now look at THAT price!?”.
#16 Prices vary within neighborhoods
Prices vary quite a lot from one neighborhood to another. Even within the same neighborhood stores might have quite different prices on the same products.
In a country hunted by a monthly inflation of approximately 4-5% (at the moment of writing), you might want to check out where to get the best price.
#17 Exchanging money
It can be a headache to exchange money when living in Buenos Aires. I have already mentioned that Argentina currently has a double exchange rate. If you need to exchange any income or savings you have abroad to use your money in Buenos Aires, you need to keep this in mind.
Always try to exchange the closest to the ‘blue’ dollar rate. Read more about exchange rates and how to exchange your money in Buenos Aires.
#18 Everything can be discussed
Everything can and will be discussed; prices, politics, people.. Porteños generally love talking, discussing, and arguing. It is even better if it can be done with a lot of arm movements.
A common phrase to hear is something like “yeah, after all those years of Peronism see where we are today” (add a negative or positive understanding of this after your preferences).
#19 Strikes are common
Strikes (or paros, as they are called in Argentina) are common, especially in downtown Buenos Aires.
If you hear about a strike in an area, try the best you can to stay out of that area. Public transportation will stop working and manifestations will block the road.
#20 Mate and Fernet
The uncrowned national drinks of Argentina are without any doubt mate and Fernet con cola.
When living in Buenos Aires, you can be sure to be invited to share a mate with an Argentine at some point. Mate is a warm infusion drink that you drink through a metal straw.
For hanging out with friends or going out, most Argentines will prefer a Fernet mixed with coke. Also known as Fernet con cola!
#21 Be aware of Mondays
Many smaller cafés and shops that are open on Saturdays, will tend to be closed on Mondays.
So, remember to check whether Monday is a closing day or not before you head somewhere.
#22 Petty crime
Walking around Buenos Aires feels pretty safe, and generally, it also is safe. However, pickpocketing and other minor robberies do happen according to the featured in the local media.
Security is of high concern for many porteños. Be aware and watch out for yourself!
#23 Lines at the bank
There will always be a line at your bank! It’s just a fact of life in Buenos Aires.
No matter what time of the day you go, no matter which day of the week, and no matter what bank you choose! Even if you try to come before the bank opens at 10 am, there will be a line of people outside the bank.
However, Monday, Fridays, and around the 10th or 15th of the month is the worse time to show up.
So, try to do as many tramites online in your home banking as possible. And Argentines actually use the English word home banking for their online bank.
#24 People shouting in traffic
Don’t take it personally if somebody shouts at you in the traffic.
Porteños are usually very aggressive when they are trying to maneuver through the chaotic streets of Buenos Aires.
#25 Swearing and slang
Porteños swear a lot! And most of the expressions used in everyday Argentine Spanish are best left untranslated.
If you are still curious, read more about slang in Argentina!
#26 Public transportation
It will be a lifesaver for you to learn how to use public buses and the subway when living in Buenos Aires. The city’s many bus lines will take you all over the city.
The porteños mostly refer to the busses as colectivos. But a slang word for a bus is also bondi. And the subway is called el subte… More on how to use the public transportation system in Buenos Aires.
#27 Soccer is much more than a game
Maybe you have heard about the Superclásico? The infamous soccer match between Argentina’s two largest soccer teams, La Boca and River Plate.
In Argentina soccer is much more than just a game. Soccer is a political matter! And to some extent, the teams also represent socioeconomic and political stereotypes of Argentine society.
And you can get in deep trouble if you express sympathy for one of the two teams while among supporters of the other. Don’t say that I didn’t warn you!
#28 Mercado Libre
The longer you stay in Buenos Aires, the more you will become to enjoy the app and website Mercado Libre. Here you can find close to anything from new to second-hand merchandise.
You can sort your search results on Mercado Libre to be based on neighborhoods, figure out where you have a cheap option nearby, and thereby save the cost of getting it sent.
#29 Clothes and buying merchandise from abroad
The quality of clothes in Buenos Aires is not the best, and you might have a hard time finding popular international brands. The big sports brands such as Nike and Adidas are available but don’t be surprised with the quality is not as you are used to.
Buying merchandise from abroad through Amazon, eBay, etc. can also be quite a challenge. If buying something from abroad and send it to your home in Buenos Aires, you will have to go and pick it up at the international post office near the Retiro station. And you will have to pay like 50% taxes on what you brought.
So, remember to bring your favorite clothes with you before moving to Buenos Aires!
#30 Finding a job in Buenos Aires
Before moving to Buenos Aires, you need to know that it can be very difficult to find a job in Buenos Aires – not impossible but hard!
Because of the constant economic crisis in Argentina, finding a job in Buenos Aires as a foreigner can be hard and the pay is terrible. Most companies based in Argentina will only be willing to pay you in pesos, which isn’t recommendable. The high inflation in Argentina will quickly eat most of your purchase power.
The best recommendation is either to search for online jobs paid in foreign currency or for a job at requires English (or another language that you speak).
These were the 30 things I think you need to know about living in Buenos Aires. Have you ever thought about moving to Buenos Aires?
Or are you maybe planning to move here? Did I miss something about living in Buenos Aires that you would like to add? Or anything else you would like to ask? Please feel free to share your story, ideas, or tips in the comments below!
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Great list! A nice intro to the culture.
Thank you so much, Victoria! I’m happy to hear that you enjoyed the read and learned something new about the culture in Buenos Aires 🙂