Quick Guide to Argentina: Visa-free travel for South Africans

2018-06-18 16:43
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a couple dances in the street doing the tango in a

Home to successive generations of legendary football icons, the tango, great steak and wines, snowbound mountains in the south and lush, subtropical waterfalls in the north - Argentina is a curious cocktail of European influences in South America.

If you’re looking to enjoy the natural splendour of South America, there is almost no place better to see the extreme contrasts of the continent than Argentina. From the frigid, windy and snow-capped peaks of  Arctic south to the warm, mist-spewing thunderous roar of Iguazu Falls in the subtropical north, you will be enamoured by Argentina’s natural wonders.

From Buenos Aires to Cordoba, Mendoza to Salta - Argentina has plenty of great urban and cosmopolitan experiences on offer for the eager traveller. Feel the buzz of South America buzzing authenticity as you stroll by busy sidewalk cafes, share in a tea drinking ritual or just take up some tango lessons as the city goes by. From creative and cultural centres to exciting dining opportunities, the cities of Argentina will have you hooked. 

Here's what you need to know if you go:

Visa: No. South African qualify for stays of up to 30 days, from date of arrival. 

Passport validity: Passports need to be valid for at least 6 months after the return date.

Costs: Not applicable

National Carrier: Aerolineas Argentinas

Airport Hub: Ministro Pistarini International Airport

Useful app to download: BA Taxi, a cab-hailing app, is the legal, government-approved version of Uber.

Flight Route Access:

Airlines that service South African travellers heading to Argentina include: Turkish Airlines, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, Alitalia, South African Airlines, VRG Linhas Aereas, Brasil Central Linha, Kiwi International Airlines and British Airways.

Flight time: Johannesburg to Buenos Aires: 13 hours, 35 minutes. Johannesburg to Mendoza: 23 hours, 40 minutes. Cape Town to Buenos Aires: 19 hours. Bloemfontein to Buenos Aires: 18 hours, 50 minutes.

Currency: Argentine Peso

Medical and health:

You should be up to date on routine vaccinations while travelling to any destination. Some vaccines and medication may also be required for problem-free travel. Of particular importance is the Yellow Fever vaccine. South Africans are required to produce their original vaccination certificate for Yellow Fever before they even get to customs. The vaccination needs to have taken place at least 10 days before departure.

It is recommended that you also get inoculated against some relatively common medical problems. Common illnesses experienced by travellers in Argentina include respiratory infections and diarrhoea which are, fortunately, preventable and easily treatable. 

All women travelling to South America should be aware of the risk Zika, a virus passed on by infected mosquitoes, which affects unborn babies.  

Religion: Argentina is an overwhelmingly Christian nation with the vast majority subscribing to Roman Catholicism.

Travel Adapter: Yes - The power sockets are of type C and I. The standard voltage is 220V and the frequency is 50Hz.

Country code: +54

Time Zone: ART (UTC -3) South Africa is 5 hours ahead of Argentina.

Emergencies: General emergencies in Buenos Aires: 911 (dial *31416 from a mobile phone). Police: 101 (dial *31416 from a mobile phone). Fire brigade: 100. Medical: 107. Tourist police: 0800-999-5000 / 0800-999-2838 (English is spoken)

Public Transport:

The road transportation network in Argentina is well-developed and provides an easy way to traverse the cities and towns of the country. Hop onto the local Argentine buses, called colectivos, and head out to explore. It may be a little confusing as these buses often take seemingly complex routes. It helps to identify the number of the bus and check the sign they carry to see their final destination and work from there. Most of these buses, in the cities, are coin operated so it's a good idea to get some change handy unless you’re looking to cause a commotion with all manners of Spanish being thrown at you. In the bigger cities, you have to buy transport cards which are available all over.

Another way to get around on the road is by taxi. Relatively inexpensive by international standards, taxis offer travellers a comfortable and simple way to get from A to B. Be wary though as some of the taxis are unmetered, so its best to agree on a price, or at least seek clarity on the fixed fare before you set off on your journey.  

If you’re in the capital, you’ll be able to get around via the subway system which is the only one of its kind in Argentina. Fast and cheap, this comes highly recommended. Lastly, if you’re looking for the simplest but least immersive way to get around you should consider getting BA Taxi, a cab-hailing app, which is the legal, government-approved version of Uber.

Useful App to download: Cómo Llego is the government’s transit app. You can use it in English or Spanish.

Climate:  

Argentina is renowned for the diversity and contrast of its various climates. The north is warm and subtropical while the south is chilly and sub-antarctic. The main populated areas where you will likely be spending your time, however, is largely temperate.   

Best time to go:

The best time to go to Argentina would certainly be during the summer months which run from November through March. Enjoy the warm weather with the locals as they fill out the street side cafes and tango in the streets.

If you’re looking to enjoy some wintry action then best skip summer and head down to the snow-capped peaks of Argentina between the months of June and August. If you’re looking to enjoy the cultural side of Buenos Aires then the shoulder periods of September to November and March to May are great times to head there as many regions play host to their wine and grape harvest festivals.    

Language: Argentinian Spanish.

Useful phrases to know:

Though the urban population of Argentina tends to be cosmopolitan and relative well conversant in English, it's never a good idea to assume that people will speak your language. Outside of the tourist centres, you should expect no English to be spoken and as such, it's a good idea to learn a few phrases to ensure that your stay runs smoothly.

Useful app to download: Where other language apps may teach you the basics, Porteno Spanish teaches you Argentine Spanish with all its unique nuances.  

  • Buenos días (Good day/morning)

  • Buenas tardes (Good evening)

  • Hola (Hello)

  • Adiós (Goodbye).

  • Mi nombre es… (My name is…)

  • Sí (Yes)

  • No (No)

  • Cuánto cuesta este? (How much is this?)

  • Gracias (Thank you)

  • Hermosa (Beautiful)

  • Delicioso (Delicious)

  • Mi español es malo (My Spanish is bad)

  • Habla usted Inglés? (Do you speak English?)

  • Oh Dios mío! (Oh my goodness!)

  • Disculpe, dónde está...? (Excuse me, where is ...?)

  • ¡aclamaciones! (Cheers!)

Practical Tips:

  • It is seen as being rude to not acknowledge and greet everyone when entering or exiting a room.
  • Referring to the above, don’t be shocked if men and women alike offer their cheeks for light ‘kisses’ or besos as a greeting. It's not really a kiss anyway, it's more of a cheek touch.
  • You have to maintain respect at all times but that needn’t mean you need to be uptight. Where hasta luego means goodbye, chau is a far more casual goodbye.
  • You may find it difficult to get small change. Go out of your way to find small change! Most buses will require you to pay with coins and merchants and others who handle money frequently are wary of large denominations due to rampant counterfeit scams.
  • Watch out for counterfeit money scams. Make sure your money is authentic.
  • While Argentina may not have the same reputation for criminality like Brazil, they share similarities. One such similarity is that the spaces between premium, tourist-friendly neighbourhoods are right next to shadier, rough spots. Stay woke and know where you are and where you’re going.
  • Don’t pour the wine. Allow the locals to do that. You just don’t want the trouble. Pouring wine in Argentina is a complex ritual that if done incorrectly can mean a lot of bad things. Just don't pour the wine.
  • To get an authentic experience of the main city areas, walk around on foot. Pack good, comfortable walking shoes and a light rain jacket and pack a warm sweater.

Top attractions in Argentina: 

  • Buenos Aires

Food, art, tango, nightlife and more - you can get it all in the capital city of Argentina. Part European and part Latin American, this city is alive with a passion-infused vibrancy that simply must be experience.  To get a real feel of the city make sure you check out the Parrillas (steakhouses) for some of the best beef cuts in the world cooked Argentinian style. Help the steak down with some of the finest wines anywhere in the world, grown in Argentina. This city really does not sleep so after your 21:00 dinner, make sure to head out after midnight and find someone to tango the night away with. 

  • El Chaltén 

For world-class hiking in an area that boasts gorgeous glaciers, pristine lakes and unparalleled mountain landscapes look no further than El Chaltén. This offbeat, frontier location is perfect for travellers looking to enjoy the natural splendour of Argentina. 

  • Pinamar 

This popular hotspot offers travellers excellent exploration opportunities and is also home to one of Argentina’s most exclusive beach resorts, Cariló. Rent a bike and get exploring as this relaxing town is filled with spots to stop and chill. Hang out and try your Spanish on the locals on the beach. If you're looking for some activity, try windsurfing, waterskiing or perhaps even some horseback riding. Argentinians ride horses from a very young age so they're more than capable of helping you to get going.

  • Patagonia

Way down south is another American frontier, South America's frontier - Patagonia. This iconic, post-card ready location in Argentina is a wild, barren and mystical place filled with natural beauty. With large, open spaces, snow-capped jagged mountain peaks and pristine rivers flowing through the area, Patagonia is a must-see on any trip to Argentina. It is enormous so take the time to explore the landscape and take it all in.