Many people come to Argentina thinking that many products should be cheaper than back home in North America and Europe. And while some items are more affordable (steak, anyone?), there are many important everyday items that aren’t. Below are some tips and advice to help you pack appropriately and save some time and avoid any unnecessary expenses during your Argentine adventure.
Clothing: This falls under the “expensive column” – so my advice goes as follows:
…if the weather changes drastically: You’re not likely to have much luck finding something inexpensive that you can wear once or twice and then toss at the end of your trip. Regardless of when you’re coming, bring 1-2 pieces of clothing that would be appropriate for the opposite of the weather you’re expecting. This means lighter clothing in case it’s warm during winter and maybe a light jacket or sweater during summer – the weather can be very unpredictable!
…if it rains: little umbrellas can be purchased quite cheaply (under US$10) and many kiosks and convenience stores will pull them out and put them on display when it’s raining. You can also find very expensive ones, so keep an eye on where you shop. However, if you prefer a raincoat you’ll definitely want to bring one. And as for rain boots: they’re very expensive, you are much better off bringing a pair of shoes (or two) that you don’t mind getting wet (Crocs, anyone?)
…if you like to go out: many clubs (but certainly not all) have a dress-code. If you think you may be going out a lot, bring at least one outfit that will be suitable for slightly nicer places (button-down shirts for guys, for example, and no tennis sneakers!!)
…if you like to shop: There are a lot of local and international brands, but the prices are likely to be the same or more expensive than at home. In particular brands like Zara, Lacoste, and Nike are very expensive here in comparison to North America and Europe.
…if you like it cold: The Patagonia-bound can rely on renting things like boots, jackets, ski equipment, etc. However, any imported brands (such as the North Face) will be much more expensive than in North America and Europe, so don’t expect to save any money if you want to buy this sort of equipment here.
Electronics: You probably have read this all over the place, but electronics here are very expensive (this article will shed some light on this matter). My advice:
…if you like technology: Any camera, computer, tablet, smartphone is definitely better brought from home. Keep an eye on the voltage though (here its 220-240v); most computers/tablet chargers will come with transformers, but if you DO need a transformer, bring it with you from home.
…if personal grooming is important: bring an electric razor, straightener, blow dryer, curling iron, whatever from home, but as I mentioned above keep an eye on the voltage and bring a transformer if necessary. As with other electronics, there is no “cheap” one down here that you can use during your trip and then toss later on.
…if you love Apple: While some items are available here, such as MacBooks and iPads, they’re typically 3-4 times more expensive (as you can see from the article I mentioned earlier), and they do NOT have iPhones available.
…if you like to talk on the phone: phones (like everything else) are expensive here (are you noticing a pattern by now?), but SIM cards are very cheap. You’ll want an UNLOCKED GSM cell phone (In the United States, companies such as Verizon and Sprint use another system, CDMA, that is not compatible with GSM).
…if you like to chat: Buenos Aires is a VERY Wi-Fi-friendly city, so any device that can connect to Wi-Fi (cell phone, tablet, computer) will come in handy. However keep in mind that such devices ARE very expensive here, so be sure to take good care of them!
…if you’re adaptable: one thing you can find easily and cheaply here (hardware stores or in the streets) is plug adapters – they have two plug types here: Australian and European, but you never know if you’ll wind up with one or the other or both. Visit this page for more information on what the plugs look like and where they’re used.
…if you take pills: bring your prescriptions, of course, but you can get any sort of over-the-counter medicines for colds, headaches, etc., and there are 24-hour pharmacies all over the place. However there is not a big “pill culture” here as I have observed in the United States, where every pharmacy and Wal-Mart has whole aisles dedicated to vitamins and supplements. Since these can be hard to find at all, in the quantity you need, and often they’re just plain expensive, you’re better off bringing what you’ll need down here.
…if you’re a girl (boys can skip this part, since it seriously does not apply to them): Sometimes I hear rumors of people finding tampons with applicators, but these reports are a bit spotty and I have not yet been able to corroborate any such stories. If you’re in a pinch, OB’s are easily available as well as sanitary napkins at any/all pharmacies, but if you’re a fan of the applicator, then very sincerely: bring some with you. And it will take up space in your luggage on the way here, but will free up some space on the way back home 🙂 So it’s like an extra bonus.
…if you like make-up: a lot of big brands are here (MAC Cosmetics, Lancome, Neutrogena, Revlon, Maybelline, etc.), but they’re much more expensive than back home – so if you run out of something or lose it while you’re here, you can certainly find a replacement/alternative, but it’s recommended that you bring everything you need from home. As with make-up, designer perfumes are also very expensive, as are big nail polish brands like OPI. As an aside, if you really like to get your nails done, there are many manicure/pedicure places but keep in mind that the typical ones are more like a get-in, get-out style than the all-pampered-big-chair-style, which they do exist but at high-end luxurious spas. So, you may want to come prepared with supplies of your own if you like to keep your nails in good shape.
…if you need info: you don’t need to bring a map of the city or a dictionary, since these can easily be purchased all over the city. In particular, you’ll be able to find a “rioplatense” Spanish dictionary that contains specific words and phrases used in Buenos Aires.
…if you like to eat (or drink): peanut butter and hot sauce can be found easily here nowadays but since they are not part of the typical Argentine diet, options are limited. Tea drinkers often say the tea here is weak, and imported brands are (you guessed it!) expensive. If you have a particular standard or needs in your diet, it’s better to bring your own. Lastly, maple syrup or any type of pancake syrup is still absent from the market place.