“The cheapest way for an American to visit Europe is to go to Argentina.”
On my 24 hour bus ride from Arica, Chile to Salta, Argentina, the Canadian guy sitting next to me told me this. I thought he was kidding, but it turned out to be very true when I got to Salta. I mean, come on! This looks like Europe!
Further evidence that Argentina is actually part of Europe and not South America:
- People have mullets
- There are bidets everywhere
- Stuff’s a lot more expensive
- I’ve met people who don’t like the show Two and a Half Men (it had unanimous approval in Ecuador in Peru)
Certainly lots of differences from Peru and Ecuador. My favorite so far is that I can drink tap water! For the past 3 months, I’ve been buying like 3L of bottled water per day, which is just more irritating than expensive. The extension of the safe water is that I can eat all fruits and vegetables without risk of getting sick (I’d previously been avoiding certain ones after getting sick in Mancora).
My Spanish teacher in Arequipa warned me that coming to Argentina would ruin my Spanish and it is certainly harder to understand people. They seem to talk faster than they did in Peru, but the big change is that they pronounce ‘y’ sounds like ‘j’ so it constantly sounds like they’re talking about someone named Joe, but they’re really just saying “yo.” They also have the “vos” form, which is a conjugation that replaces the informal second person plural “tu” form. I don’t really want to learn this, so I’ve only been making friends with people who are really formal or who don’t mind being addressed collectively in the 3rd person plural.
The conversion rate is another unexpected perk. The conversion rate in Peru was 2.78 soles to the dollar, which is not convenient for mental math. In Argentina, it’s almost exactly 4 Argentinian pesos to the dollar, which is a super easy conversion. It’s actually a little too easy because I can convert so fast that I sometimes forgot that I already converted the price. For example, I asked at a peluqueria the price of a haircut and the woman said 40, so I converted to $10, thought it was reasonable and got the haircut. At the end of the haircut, I took out 10 pesos and converted again thinking, “Wow, $2.50 is cheap for a haircut!” before the price suddenly shot up $7.50.
I’m currently looking for apartments in Buenos Aires, but it’s way harder than I expected. I’d briefly checked out craigslist in Lima, but it was all luxury apartments for business travelers. I was told that craigslist is actually useful for backpackers in Buenos Aires and I got excited when I looked at the apartment listings and saw dozens of posts per day of rooms to rent in apartments shared with native speakers for $300-450 / month, which seemed perfect. On Wednesday, I enthusiastically began sending out e-mails, certain everyone would want to rent a room to a friendly American guy who sort of speaks Spanish, but 3 no’s, 3 no responses, and 1 “you’d have to stay longer than a month.”
I met a French girl today who’s been looking full-time for 3 weeks and has found nothing and she’s looking in more neighborhoods and is staying longer. After this conversation, I decided to expand my search to short term furnished studios. These are a lot more expensive, but I’m rationalizing that it won’t be too painful for just a month and it’ll be cool to have a whole place to myself. I’m really just looking to take a break from hostels for a bit.