Tango in New Zealand Tango in New Zealand
Articles

Buenos Aires Guide

 

(updated October 2008)

This is a simple guide for first time visitors dancing in BsAs, written by Neville Waisbrod

Things to take:

  • Business or personal cards – you’ll need lots if you want to make lots of contacts
  • Pesos for the taxi from the airport . About 120 pesos will do
  • Camera – don’t use a flash at the Milongas if you can help it
  • Gran’s Remedy – you’ll need it
  • At least 2 pairs of dance shoes, one to dry out
  • If you are going in winter, it’s freezing at night, so lots of warm clothes. Cold winds during the day
  • Phrase book and/or dictionary if you don’t speak Spanish
  • Small gifts from New Zealand
  • A spare suitcase for all the shopping you’ll do.

Travel from the airport:

Have your luggage tab available when leaving with your luggage before customs. It will be checked against your bags to make sure you are not leaving with someone else’s.

From the Airport there is a real budget bus trip into town. About 2 pesos. Not advisable if travelling with luggage, but worth it if you are meeting someone at the airport. It takes over an hour and is a real sightseeing trip of the suburbs, some of them very poor, of BsAs. Very bumpy.

The second is to get a taxi for about 100pesos, which you pay for at the taxi counter as you come out of customs, and get accompanied to the taxi. Don’t take a taxi from one of the hawkers at the airport.

You can also get an air conditioned transfer direct bus, about 45 pesos, also organised in the terminal. This will take you into town and then transfer you to your destination by minibus. Make sure your ticket includes the mini-bus leg. You can also get a taxi from the city terminal if you don’t take the mini-bus option. This is quite a good option as taxis are cheap and you won’t wait more than a minute for one to go by.

When you come out of customs into the terminal go to the tourist counter immediately to the right and get a big map of BA, also, a small Tango map should be available, and any other material they have on Tango. BA Tango and Tangauta are monthly magazines promoting Milongas and lessons, and are a must. These are also usually available at some milongas ans shoe shops.

If you don’t manage to get one there, ask for one from the oldish lady who hands out pamphlets at many of the milongas.

Taxis:

Only take radio taxis!!! Don’t be shy to refuse a non-radio taxi. The radio taxis can be identified by a sign on the back door or/and on the light on the roof. They are safest.

It’s not usual to tip a taxi.

After milongas there may be a guy outside offering to hail you a taxi. They are ok and do it for the tip. You will also get your door opened for you. The after-Milonga taxis are usually OK - again don’t take a non radio one, even if offered - and will know all the Milongas if you are Milonga hopping in one night. Again, don’t be shy to refuse a non radio taxi.

It is best to learn the nearest corner you are going to, e.g. Peru y (pronounced ee) Belgrano. Taxis are cheap and you can expect to pay between 5 and 15 Pesos to get to a Milonga from most parts of the city.

Get an idea of where you are going so that if you see you that you are being taken for a ride, you can jump for it. The city is a one-way dream so it’s fairly easy. Taxi drivers don’t usually take you a long way around for an extra buck.

Watch out when you give the driver a note. They have been known to change it by slight of hand and say that you only gave them a much smaller one. It’s always wise to have lots of smaller notes to prevent this from happening and to say out loud the amount you’re giving them (“cinco [five] pesos”) as you hand it over.

Subte (subway):

Clean, easy, and runs till about 10.00 or 11pm. Cost 1.20 pesos for a single trip to anywhere. You buy a ticket at the gate and use it to enter the subway system. You don’t need it to exit. The network is on most maps of the city.

Buses:

Great if you know how they work. They run all night but with longer wait times in the early hours. You can get a route booklet (Guia T) at any of the newsstands and try and decipher which bus to take where. Most inner city trips cost about 1.2 pesos and you tell the driver which street you want to go to, drop your money, coins only, in the machine and your ticket hopefully pops out. Because of all the robberies, the drivers don’t handle money.

Money:

There are plenty of ATM machines around town. Best to take money out in daylight or in a busy area. They may run out on the weekends and only get refilled at about 3pm on a Monday so make sure you have cash for the weekends. My cheque account from NZ worked fine with the Cirrus option. Try not to change money, or as little as possible, at the Airport. If you have 120 pesos on you when you arrive for the taxi, it will save heaps of time at the airport. The exchange rate there is ridiculous. After taking your money out of an ATM, ask for small change, say 20 peso notes, from a bank, as large notes 50 and 100 pesos) are not always accepted. There are a lot of counterfeit notes around so be careful. Try not to carry credit cards or bankcards around and only take the money you need when you go out. Forget about keeping money in shoes, if you get mugged, your shoes will probably go as well. Most credit cards are accepted at most places but you may need your passport for ID for larger purchases. A photocopy of the main page in your passport is usually adequate but not always.

Travellers cheques may be a problem to change and you may need to go to a special bank which can be a waste of valuable time.

Scam Alert:

A favourite one is an excuse to clean some bird poop off your clothes that has been purposely put there. Rubbing you down is an ideal opportunity to pickpocket your wallet or purse. They will remove your cash and credit cards and return your purse so it may take a while before you realise you have been robbed!!

Tips:

10% is the usual tip at restaurants. The waiters earn peanuts so be kind.

Shopping:

Goods made locally are a lot cheaper, especially clothes.

Shoes. The best shoes are custom made and about 20% more expensive than off the shelf ones but well worth it.

For dance shoes there is Artesanias. The lady’s name is Leo – you will need a translator to make an appointment – she comes to your hotel/apartment and measures you up with a choice of leathers, heels, styles – she carries the samples with her. It takes a week for the fitting, again at your place, so leave time for it. They have no retail outlet. Phone/fax number is 4280-3912. She is well known to the locals. Great quality.  Do your shoe shopping early as it can sometimes take 2 weeks if you can't get something off the shelf.

You can also get those soft practice Tango dance shoe at most shops. Fabio specialises in them and he has a shop at Riobamba 10 apt 10a. There is no sign on the door so you’ll need to ring the bell and wait to be let in..

CDs: A huge choice of them at Zivals, corner Callao and Corrientes. It’s easy to listen to them there as well as they have a system where you scan the barcode in and can listen to them at your leisure. Their prices are good as well. Also look around in the little shops in the Subte where you can pick up some bargains for 10 pesos.

There is a list of shops for dancers in the tango magazines mentioned above.

Florida Street is an experience not to be missed for the shop-aholic.

You can buy tango dresses at some of the Milongas as well, sometimes in the ladies restroom area. Also in some of the shoe shops.

Internet and phoning home:

Hundreds of cafés (Locotoria) around, just about every block. About 1.5 pesos/hour. The keyboards are slightly different. The @ sign is “alt 64” which had me stumped for a while. You can also use the phones there to phone home. There are also heaps of cafes that have wi-fi these days for free but be careful about walking around with your laptop.

Phone cards are also widely available at most kiosks and it’s worth having one on you for emergencies. The best deal for phoning NZ I found was the “Hablemas” card available for 5 and 10 pesos. You can buy them at some of the sweet kiosks in the city and it’s worth hunting for when walking around. If you have a local phone available, local calls are free, at the Locotoria a local call costs about 20 centavos.

Bring your mobile phone. You can buy a sim card for 15 pesos which is prepay. It takes about 24 hours to become active and is great for keeping in touch and for emergencies.

Some emergency numbers:

Police 101

Free ambulance 107

Tourist police 08009990500 or 43465770

Water:

The water is OK for brushing your teeth but buy your drinking water from any kiosk.

Electricity:

220 volts. Some outlets are the same as in New Zealand but it may be worthwhile taking a European 2 pin adaptor if you have one. They are also widely available for about 2 pesos. They will cost you about NZ$15 in NZ.

Entertainment:

There are heaps of non-Tango shows. Concerts, plays, musicals. They are dirt-cheap. Get the Buenos Aires Herald every day at any newsstand for what’s on. There’s an insert of “Get Out” in the Friday edition, which is quite good. You can go to the ballet for 10 Pesos and I went to a concert at Teatro Colon for 2 Pesos!! This theatre is also worth a tour which they have in English at set times.

These cheap tickets are part of government policy for making culture available to the masses.

Some of the shows are more expensive cost up to 40 pesos at times.

Milongas:

You can order a table by phone at most of them. It will give you, women and men, a better chance of getting dances if you have a prime spot. The locals know each other and can afford to take a back seat. It will also give you a better view of the floor if you just want to watch, and you do want to watch if you aren’t dancing. You can also order food at most of the Milongas if you haven’t had time for dinner. The host at all the milongas will seat you so wait at the door when you arrive.  

Don’t leave any valuables at the table while you are dancing. Especially woman dancing with closed eyes. Your bag is an easy target. The last thing you are thinking about is your handbag while you are having your Tango moment. So, take only what you need to a milonga. The same goes for men. Don’t leave any cards or money in your jacket or bag while you are dancing.

You can check your coat and bag in at most milongas, which is usually quite safe.

Dress. Lots of women dance in slacks. Personally, with all things being equal, I will ask a better-dressed woman to dance first. I think that the same goes for the woman. The locals who sometimes wear jeans and sneakers know each other well and can afford to dress as such. Guys, wear a smart suit and your chances of getting dances will be better – this from one of the local woman.

Women: the ladies’ room at many milongas (and some public toilets around the city) often have caretakers who keep loo paper on a table at the entrance. You need some centavos to pay for it – anything from 50c to 1 peso seems to be adequate.

Talk to some locals about which milonga will be good for you. Choose a milonga of your level and style and you’ll have a great time!!

Be discreet when taking photos at a milonga and never use a flash. Most people will usually leave their last night in BsAs for photographs. This is a good article on seating at a milonga http://www.loksze.com/thoughts/2008/03/07/where-is-your-seat/

 

 

 

Laundry:

There are lots of them around and for a large load with some ironing the cost is about 7 to 10 pesos. You don’t have to wait around, just leave it there and pick it up later. Also plenty of dry cleaners.

Restaurants:

There are obviously thousands of them around, from the all-you-can-eat for 18 pesos to the more expensive ones. Generally you will pay about twice the price for the same meal in NZ.

Again talk to the locals but remember when travelling that a full restaurant is usually a good one. Stay away from the corner places on the main avenidas. They are usually expensive and not that great. Dinner starts late and some places will only open at 9.00pm

Classes:

Most of the Milongas have lessons before they start and it’s a good way to get to know people and check out the teachers. The price of the lesson is 15/20 pesos and sometimes includes the Milonga.

Private classes can cost between 60 and 600 pesos depending on the teacher so ask around.

 

If you know the style of dance you like, try and pick a teacher and stick with them.

 

Tango Teachers:

Again talk to the locals or someone who has spent some time here. Try to focus on one teacher you like and who’s style you like while here or you may get very confused.

Side Trips:

If you are thinking of going to the Iguazu falls up north, make sure that you have a visa for Brazil. It may be cheaper to book the trip in BA and the cost for a 3 night trip, all inclusive i.e. hotels (3 star – very basic) breakfast and dinner, excursions in Argentina and Brazil is about 12,00 pesos for a single.

Take the boat and safari ride in the park as well. It is well worth it. The best deal I got for this trip was from Savarin Turismo at 250 Florida – down the passage. Ph/fax 4326-5747

Going Home:

There is an US$18.00 airport tax when you leave BsAs which can also be paid in Pesos.

Note: Prices are going up continually so some prices quoted may be out of date soon.

 ENGLISH/CASTELLANO TANGO VOCABULARY

The milonga ran like a grass fire from one end of the room to the other.

Jorge Luis Borges