Prior to the beginning of our cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago, we had several surprises. As you might expect, not all surprises are pleasant…
Our first surprise was the currency exchange rate. We try to enter a country with a limited amount of local currency. We don’t want to look for an ATM or money changer when we are tired and jet lagged. While waiting for our flight to Buenos Aires from Houston, I exchanged dollars for Argentine Pesos. After the commission, we received about 5.5 pesos to the dollar, while the standard exchange rate is 6.5 pesos to the dollar. Not a good start, but we had pesos in our pocket.
While on the bus from the airport in Buenos Aires to our hotel, we were told the official rate is 6.5 pesos to 1 dollar, but many merchants and street traders will give you a much higher rate for dollars. This fluctuation in value appears to be caused by a high rate of inflation – the US dollar is in demand! The first day in Argentina, we were offered an exchange rate of 8 to 1. With this better exchange rate, we discovered it was much better to pay dollars with for our purchases. If we paid using our credit card, we got the official exchange rate. If we paid in cash, we could get an exchange rate as high as 10 pesos to 1 dollar! As you might imagine, we went thru much of our cash… After we left Argentina, we read the government deflated the peso by 15%. Not sure what that has done to the unofficial exchange rate. Based upon our experience, it was better to use American dollars than credit cards or pesos.
The standard electrical voltage in Argentina, is 220 volts, but many of the electrical outlets appear to be the same shape as found in the US – your plugs will fit these outlets. However, you might have a nasty surprise when you burned out your electronic gear. Some of these conventional outlets were marked 220, but not all. We were fortunate that most of our power consuming gear would work on 110 or 220 so it was not an issue, just a mild surprise.
Tour of Buenos Aires
Not sure what I expected while visiting Buenos Aires, but I believe we didn’t get to see much of what the city offered. The highlights of our two day visit to Buenos Aires was visiting the La Boca neighborhood (birthplace of the Tango), going to a Tango show, visiting the tomb of Eva Peron, visiting a church, and driving thru the city. I don’t know what I was expecting, but we had hoped to see more of what the city of 3 million residents has to offer. Maybe on our next trip to Buenos Aires…
What can we say about the weather, except it was sunny and warm – what a great place to spend January! Since we were in the middle of a large city, we didn’t feel comfortable wearing shorts, but wore casual pants and shirts. During our stay in Buenos Aires, the daytime temperatures were in the low 80 degrees.
Food & Drink
We enjoyed our dining experience during our short stay. The wine was excellent – and reasonably priced. Our meals were good, but I was surprised by the taste of the beef. In the US, our beef is grain fed, but in Argentina, the beef is grass fed prior to going to market. I believe this makes a difference in the taste and the marbling of the meat. However, we didn’t lose any weight during our stay…
We stayed at the InterContinental Hotel in Buenos Aires. It was the nicest hotel of the four we visited during our trip around South America. Per our guide, we were to have coffee and breakfast in the hotel at 5AM (prior to our departure for Iguazu Falls). However, what we found was a box breakfast for everyone and two medium carafes of coffee. Can you imagine how long two pots of coffee lasted when it was shared by 40 sleepy tourists? We are not sure where the disconnect happened, but we don’t consider a cold cheese sandwich and a bottle of water as a suitable breakfast. We finally got a cup of coffee at the airport on our way to the falls.
Cruise Ship Terminal
In Buenos Aires, all cruise ships use the same dock facilities as freighters. Therefore, we couldn’t walk around the docks – we were bussed everywhere. Since all the cruise lines use the same port authority building, the slow boarding procedure becomes a major disappointment to those trying to board a ship for a cruise.
The day we boarded the Celebrity Infinity, there were five cruise ships in port. The process was to clear security, check in with the cruise line, go outside and wait for a shuttle that took us to our ship. The shuttle took us back out to major streets to a difference entrance to the pier. We didn’t get to our ship until 7PM. The problem was not with Celebrity, but with the Buenos Aires port authority. They need to find a better way to get passengers to the ships. Our ship stayed in port overnight, but the next day, we didn’t get off the ship for more exploring in Buenos Aires. We didn’t want to experience the hassle of leaving/entering the cruise pier terminal again. It’s a working port…
Some minor disappointments, but we had a GREAT trip! We still need to write about our surprise with our international roaming plan on our mobile phone …