10 Weeks in Buenos Aires: My Summary
Sadly my time in Buenos Aires is now at an end. I knew at the start that it was unlikely to be open-ended. I’ve had an amazing time in the city, but it is not practical for me as a long-term home and I am now looking to move somewhere cheaper.
Bear in mind that ten weeks living in a city does not make me an expert, however what I’m sharing here is my experiences and the experiences of people I have spoken to in the ex-pat community. If your experience is different then please feel free to comment.
Don’t let my descriptions put you off visiting Buenos Aires as it is a fabulous place, but maybe do some research if you are planning on living here, particularly if you are on a tight budget or a fixed income.
I knew at the start that Buenos Aires was unlikely to be a suitable place for me to put down roots, but I came anyway because I have wanted to come here for a long time and have been boring people with stories about how I’m going to ‘go live in Buenos Aires’ for longer than I can remember.
The cost of living is high in Buenos Aires. If the numbeo.com website is to be believed, higher than Barcelona, Madrid or Berlin, for example. Inflation is high and prices are rising daily.
Although it’s easy to live here as a perpetual tourist, just leaving every few months to get a new stamp in your passport, being a tourist will mean you pay tourist rates for apartments. This normally means paying six months rent in advance, plus another 1-2 months as security deposit, in cash in US dollars.
Even if you come into the country with sufficient cash to do this, remember that in six months’ time you will need to pay the same amount again, so you will need to give some thought to where you are going to get the dollars from.
A one bed apartment in the centre of the city rented in this way will cost you around US$600-700 a month (or more if you want something fancy).
It is relatively easy to pick up work teaching English for example, or other types of work. However they are unlikely to pay enough to live on unless you have some other kind of income coming in. The language schools employ foreigners without papers (meaning you still pay tourist rates for accommodation). A website I looked at employing foreign teachers rambled on about how ‘most of our teachers like to share accommodation with other teachers’. Well whether they like to or not that is all they’d be able to afford on the money they get paid from these jobs.
A job I looked at involved working 3 hours a week (2 separate classes on a Wednesday and a Saturday) for 110 pesos. That’s around $2.60 an hour. You may like to calculate how many hours you’d need to teach to make your $600 rent. Remember those are teaching hours and don’t include preparation time and travelling.
If I wanted to work 50 hours a week in order to barely survive, I would stay in London.
My favourite peso note is this $50 which depicts la guerra del atlantico Sur. British people would remember this as the Falklands conflict.
The general advice for travelling to Argentina is to bring all the cash you need with you in US$. This is great advice for a 2 week holiday but a little impractical if your trip is more open-ended.
The new government got rid of the so-called blue dollar rate, meaning the banks and the semi-legal exchange houses now give roughly the same rate of exchange.
However, sometimes every day feels like a battle for cash. The cash machines give a maximum of 2000 pesos a day, that’s around £100/US$140. Remember that every time you use the ATM with your foreign bank card your bank will usually charge you a fee. Sometimes, the ATM machine will also charge you a fee. This morning I drew out my 2000 peso allowance, which is around £100.82 according to my xe app. My bank charged me £104.30. Remember this happens every time you draw money. £100 does not last long in Buenos Aires.
I have been using a website called Azimo, which charges £3 per transaction and you can get more money at a time (order online and pick up your money usually within an hour). You need a decent internet connection to get it to work. If you have a US bank account there are other (I believe easier) ways of doing it, but don’t even get me started on the red-tape involved in opening a US bank account as a non-US resident.
Bank cards are not a popular way to pay for stuff. Often there is a separate (higher) price for paying with card, or sometimes it won’t work and they’ll just direct you to the nearest ATM. You need to bring ID with you and expect to be in the shop for a while for them to check and fill in numbers and call a supervisor. Plus your bank usually make a charge for using a different currency (mine charge an extra £2, or £5 for my credit card; if yours doesn’t charge then you’ll be paying for something else. One way or another the banks make money out of this).
Living as a digital nomad
This is not just relevant to Argentina but really to everywhere I’ve been.
(WARNING: RANT ALERT)
I am so tired of being told that somewhere has ‘good high-speed internet’, only to find that it doesn’t. The worse part about it is when you complain getting patronised and told that you should ‘go out and enjoy yourself instead of sitting there worrying about the internet’. Firstly, I would be out enjoying myself now if I hadn’t have had to wait three hours for a page to load and secondly, I really want people to provide the services they promise in their advertisements.
Something to bear in mind if you are trying to work remotely, or even if you just like chilling with a bit of Netflix at the end of the day, sometimes home owners/hostel managers lie about the strength of their internet.
Buenos Aires is a great city for free internet in the streets, handy if you want to make a quick check of your emails whilst you’re out and about, but not that great if you want to submit 2000-word articles on a deadline.
If you stay in Argentina any length of time you may find the food a little bland. There is a plethora of great restaurants offering multi-cultural cuisine, however if you are on a tight budget you may find the choice slightly lacking. Since there is not a great popularity for spices, food can be loaded with salt (or alternatively sugar). After spending the first week here bloated out with pasta and pizza, I increased my food budget so that I could buy more fruit and vegetables (then I had to increase it again because inflation was sending these prices up even further, but that’s a different story). I certainly would not name Argentinian food amongst my favourites, and the amount of salt added to pizzas and such would make it unlikely to be amongst the most healthy either.