The Story of Getting to Buenos Aires
"The Four Seasons?!?!,” we laugh, in unison. “Seriously?,” still laughing. Oh man.
That’s how our taxi ride into Buenos Aires ends. This is how it started…
After a three hour flight from El Calafate, Lago Argentino and the Perito Moreno Glacier, we land in Buenos Aires around 9pm. We’ve booked an AirBnB apartment in the Retiro neighborhood, just a few blocks from the world’s widest avenue, 9 De Julio. The place looks great and the central location gives us easy access to the rest of the city, including the historic San Telmo, ritzy Recoleta, and trendy Palermo. But we digress.
At the present moment we’re standing in the Arrivals lounge, contemplating one of the few, financially brutal, transportation options into the city center. Ezeiza Airport is 20 miles outside of Buenos Aires, so it’s understandable that transportation isn’t cheap, but $50 for a taxi is pretty steep for South America, especially on our budget. Contributing to our pain is the Dollar to Argentine Peso exchange rate given by local banks compared to the value of actual US Dollars in Argentina. To elaborate, the rate is approximately 9.5 pesos to $1 when withdrawing Argentine Pesos from an ATM. However, if we pay with US dollars, the rate changes drastically - increasing to 14 or 15 pesos to $1. Unfortunately we’re fresh out of US Dollars (juggling currencies from 15 countries isn’t simple) and are forced to withdraw pesos at the much lower exchange rate, making a mental note to get our hands on some dollars asap.
We’ve heard there’s a public bus that goes from the airport into the city center for about a dollar. But where to catch it? After speaking with a few different people from the airport information desk we walk from Terminal C to Terminal A, in search of bus tickets. When we get there, it’s complete chaos and the tickets are nowhere to be found. Frustrated and hungry, we’re ready to give in. Back to Terminal C, where we see a special - only 350 pesos ($40) flashing on the screen above a taxi stand. We patiently wait in line until we’re nonchalantly informed that the special is “no longer available.” Excellent.
As we’re about to hand over our entire food budget for the next three days, we notice two ladies speaking english who just requested a taxi. Megan, in full budget travel professional style, approaches the women with an offer, we hope, they won’t be able to refuse. Would they like to share their cab with us? It would save us each $25. What a deal, right? They take their time pondering the offer, while Megan talks to them about how normal we are. Finally, they agree. We’re both, coincidentally, going to the Retiro neighborhood, so it really just makes sense.
In the taxi with Ryan upfront, Megan sits in between the two, slightly larger, ladies. The conversation quickly turns to the crummy exchange rate and the high cost and limited options for transportation. We share stories of places traveled and quickly “make friends” with the Australian woman and her mother. Once in Retiro, the taxi driver looks back and asks “which hotel?,” to which our new mates respond “Four Seasons.” Multiple repeated “Four Seasons??” and “Yes, The Four Seasons” exchanges later, and we’re pulling up to the Australian’s hotel. As we pour out of the cab, the hotel bellboys gently lift our dirty backpacks out of the trunk. Mistake. We quietly take our packs from them and thank the nice ladies for sharing their cab with us. They follow a gold bell cart into the elegant lobby and we roll out, off to our $35/night apartment. Hey, at least we saved them $25…
...And The Rest
With the exception of a few rainy days, our week in Buenos Aires is perfect. It may not be the Four Seasons, but our apartment is located in a cool neighborhood and is loaded with 5-star amenities: a washing machine, a bright, clean kitchen, and a television with CNN. We immediately hit the grocery store and cook dinners nearly every night (a luxury after being forced to eat out for the past few weeks), drinking Argentinian wine and Fernet Branca (a gift to Argentina from its Italian immigrants) like it’s going out of style. We explore the city’s many parks and varied neighborhoods, stopping at a couple of hip cafes and even a local microbrewery in the late afternoons. As we pack up for our 27 hour travel day to Central America (yes, you read that right), we agree that although our time here started off a bit shaky, Buenos Aires fully redeemed itself, securing its place as our favorite South American city.