Travelling to Argentina again for the second time was never part of my original travel plan. When my plans to travel to Africa was in jeopardy because of the omicron COVID-19 variant was declared, I had to make some sudden last minute decisions. South America is my favourite continent and I haven’t been back since 2017. By a stroke of luck, many South American countries began opening up for tourism again and that’s when I decided to pull the trigger. My travel in Argentina this second time around was much more memorable than the first time. I can now honestly say that Argentina is easily in my top 10 favourite countries of all time.
Flight from Vancouver to Montreal
My adventure to Argentina started with a flight from Vancouver to Montreal. I had redeemed my Aeroplan points and e-upgrades to score a Business Class flight going all the way to Argentina. This will be my first flight out of Canada since the pandemic travel restrictions started back in 2020.
I was both anxious and excited at the same time. I did my best to be prepared but last minute issues was bound to pop up. The first one was that I did not receive my PCR test yet until I reached the Vancouver airport. I then had to go to the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge to print a copy of it. However, that’s when I learned that the only way to print anything is to use a USB stick. They shut down the business centre because of the pandemic and aren’t printing anything for travellers. By sheer luck, I was carrying an old USB stick with me which allowed me to print out my PCR test result and other important documents.
The problems didn’t stop there. Our flight was delayed numerous times before boarding began. I made a video here with my experience of the flight. Overall, it was just “okay”.
Flight from Montreal to Sao Paulo to Buenos Aires
Because our first flight was delayed, Karen and I rushed to our gate in the Montreal airport to catch our flight to Sao Paulo, Brazil. To no one’s surprise, our Air Canada flight was also delayed.
Thankfully, our long flight from Montreal to Sao Paulo was much better than our flight from Vancouver. Sleeping is always hard when flying. And, by the time we arrived in Brazil, I felt exhausted. Upon arriving in Sao Paulo, we had to go through a security check again which I found to be a hassle. Before long, we made it to our gate to board the same airplane connecting to Buenos Aires.
Strangely, they printed us a new boarding pass at the gate and said our online ticket wasn’t valid for the final leg of this trip.
This last flight was extra strict compared to the first two flights. One female flight attendant began barking orders to the passengers to keep their mask on at all times. There was this one guy in our flight that kept taking off his mask when the flight attendant was looking away (and of course, they knew what he was doing).
First day of travel in Argentina
After a very long journey, we finally made it to Buenos Aires in the early afternoon. It’s nice to arrive at our travel destination during the day rather than in the evening. After clearing immigration, our first goal was to get a sim card and figure out a way to get to our hotel. We had booked a hotel stay in a budget hotel called Ibis in the centre of Buenos Aires. After Karen got a sim card, we realized that taking Uber from the airport is quite challenging so we decided to get a taxi. The taxi wasn’t cheap and we paid $27 USD in cash.
After a lengthy drive, we made it to our hotel. The Ibis hotel we were staying in was kind of run down but at least the front desk customer service was good. Our first goal was to exchange our US dollars to Argentine Pesos in the blue market. Luckily, the front desk guy was kind enough to point out to us where to safely exchange our money.
After changing our money with the friendly money changer, we went to eat some “parrilla” which is basically a steakhouse or grill restaurant in Latin America. The food was great and the portions were massive. We soon retreated to our hotel to get some rest…or so we thought.
Hellish first three days of travel in Argentina
When I tried booking my domestic flights within Argentina, this was when our horrible situation started. My credit card was charged but my flight was not booked. I was so frustrated that I had trouble sleeping that night. All I can think about is how I can reverse the charge on my credit card. The next day, we went to the Aerolineas office to sort out the issue but they told us to come back again later in the day as they figure out what happened.
Karen and I ended up going to another accommodation called Hostel Estoril (highly recommended). All the private rooms were taken so Karen and I opted to stay in the dorms. The customer service in Hostel Estoril was fantastic which I’ll cover in a bit.
Later in the day, Karen and I eventually returned to the Aerolineas office. They told us the charges on my credit card would get reversed which is good news. However, Karen and I made another mistake here. I forgot to tell Karen to bring all her Argentine pesos to pay for our domestic flights in Argentina (I brought all mine). As you know, it’s significantly cheaper to pay by cash in Argentina than with a credit card because the blue market rate is much more affordable than the official rate. We ended up eating the extra cost which further put a damper on the start of our trip.
More problems during my travel in Argentina…
When we got back in the hostel, another big issue came up. Our flight booking on our way back home using our Aeroplan points got messed up. Suddenly, it became an incomplete booking meaning we have no way of flying back home. I spent the entire evening trying to call the Air Canada call centre and even got charged a long distance fee as I tried to fix our itinerary.
After spending the entire night trying to fix this new problem, I was dead exhausted. I said to myself “when can I finally enjoy my vacation?”. Unfortunately, this is the new normal and travelling during the pandemic is a big hassle that is unavoidable no matter how much planning you do.
My recommended hostel in Buenos Aires
On a positive note, the hostel I stayed at in Buenos Aires is really good. Mainly because of the amazing customer service by the person that runs that place. Her name is Wendy and whenever I had a question or needed help, she always found a way to help me.
One of the unusual request I had for her is asking her how I can see the capybara in Buenos Aires. I told her about the news of the capybara’s invading a neighbourhood in Argentina and I want to know how I can go there to see them.
She did her best to research it. I ended up booking more night stays in this hostel after Karen and I returned from our trip to El Calafate and Bariloche.
Wendy also helped us find a place to get a PCR test done and also where to wash our laundry. I highly recommend staying in this hostel for the amazing customer service alone.
Flying to El Calafate
After dealing with all the problems so far during my travel in Argentina, Karen and I went to the Buenos Aires airport to fly out to El Calafate. Our goal is to then take the bus to El Chalten which is the launching point of the Patagonia hike. While waiting for our plane to board and fly to El Calafate, I suddenly had a random bleeding nose. All the Argentine people started staring at me while I was trying to stop the bleeding. After the bleeding has stopped, I was still being stared at. I was wondering if they think I have COVID-19 or something.
The three hour flight was relatively smooth and by the time we arrived, Karen and I purchased our bus ticket the next day to go to El Chalten in the airport.
I’m not a fan of El Calafate
We decided to stay one night in El Calafate which is a 20 minute bus ride from the airport. We stayed at a hostel called America del Sur hostel. I personally didn’t like it because this hostel felt cliquey and overpriced. They even charged us extra when we checked in because they wanted to charge the official rate for staying.
We also ate dinner at a local place which was trying to upsell us wine and stuff. Their salad was good; otherwise, I am not liking the vibe of this city.
Before leaving El Calafate the next day, we went to a local grocery store to buy some food that we will prepare for our upcoming long hike up Monte Fitz Roy.
Journey to El Chalten
The bus ride to El Chalten took 3-hours and is very scenic. At first glance, the bus that I took looked normal. Upon closer inspection, we found out that some seats are broken. I initially sat on the top of the bus but had to move down because my seat was broken. Unfortunately, many of the seats on the bottom of the bus didn’t feel very clean.
When we arrived in El Chalten, I was shocked how hot it was there compared to El Calafate. Karen and I decided to walk to our hostel which was a bad idea. The wheels on my luggage ended up breaking because of the amount of rocks and pebbles on the road.
We stayed in an accommodation called Patagonia Traveller’s Hostel and we booked a private room. Despite the bad wifi in this hostel (all the wifi in El Chalten sucks), it was a good stay. Their breakfast buffet was really good and even had protein which was lacking in the other accommodations we stayed at.
Before calling it a day, we also rented some trekking poles from a nearby shop which proved to be quite useful for our hike the following day.
Epic hike up Fitz Roy in Patagonia
Many people travel in Argentina for the sole purpose of hiking in Patagonia. And I’m no different. I’ve been planning to hike in Patagonia for years and I was both looking forward and dreading for this day to happen. Dreading because this hike is going to be really hard. But, I was looking forward to the view and the experience.
It was definitely an experience. The hike itself was beautiful. The first 2km is an uphill climb which I personally didn’t think was too bad. This was followed by 6km or relatively flat terrain. The last 2km was a brutal uphill climb that feels like it never ends. To make it worst, there’s annoying horseflies that never stop harassing you during the entire hike.
I would say that it was flies that made this hike hard. By the time we finished, my feet was absolutely destroyed. We ate some terrible Italian food at some snobby restaurant at the end of the day. At least they had some good flan with Dulce de Leche for dessert to make up for the shitty service.
This was one of the most hectic days during my trip. The first bad thing that happened was after going to the bus station in El Chalten to go to El Calafate, I realized I left my new jacket in my hostel. With 45 minutes to spare, I hailed a cab who drove like a maniac to help me get my jacket before my bus departs. The woman cab driver was awesome and I retrieved it on time.
This would set the tone for the rest of the day. While taking the bus back to El Calafate, I realized I messed up and my flight out of El Calafate would be the next day. I thought my flight would be in two days which would allow me to see the Perito Moreno Glacier the next day.
When we got close to El Calafate, I asked the bus driver to drop Karen and I in the airport instead. I started looking for ways to find a way to get to see the Perito Moreno Glacier and thankfully, we secured a taxi ride. We ended up using up all our Argentine Pesos but it was well worth the trouble.
Journey to the Perito Moreno Glacier
When I planned my travel in Argentina, I wanted to see Perito Moreno Glacier. It was high up my bucket list. The journey there was neat as I conversed with the taxi driver who spoke good English.
Seeing the Perito Moreno Glacier was worth the effort. It was one of the best experiences I had during my travel in Argentina. I could watch glaciers breaking off all day. If Karen wasn’t starving by the time we got to the Perito Moreno Glacier, I would have stayed longer to enjoy the experience.
I still don’t like El Calafate but at least they have good fries
When we got back in El Calafate, we got settled in Del Glaciar Libertador Hotel which was an okay hotel. The only bad part was there was a lot of bugs crawling at night. I also made a big mistake and accidentally booked two nights. Originally, I thought we were staying two nights in this town. There was no way to get a refund because we booked through booking.com and the night was already paid for.
After getting settled in, we quickly went out to get some food. Shortly after, we found a parilla restaraunt. It wasn’t very good and we were still hungry after.
We ended up getting some french fries from a local Argentina fast food restaurant. I brought it back to the hotel and ate it happily. I wish I ate fast food instead because their fries tasted so much better than the parilla restaurant.
Journey to Bariloche
The next day, we flew to Bariloche which is our next destination in Argentina. Bariloche was much more low-key compared to Buenos Aires. We grabbed a shuttle from the airport that took us to our hostel. This turned out to be one of the best decisions during our travel in Argentina.
Best hostel experience in Bariloche
The hostel we stayed at in Bariloche is hands down the best hostel we stayed at during our time in Argentina. The accommodation is called Hostel Los Troncos and because tourism is slow thanks to the pandemic, Karen and I had the entire dorm room to ourselves for the next two nights we stayed here. It’s a hostel done right with comfortable beds and a curtain to give you some privacy. The bed had outlets to charge all your stuff and a proper locker to store your luggage and belongings. And the washroom was also clean.
To make things better, the money changer was next door from the hostel where Karen and I were able to change our USD to Argentina Pesos for a better rate than Buenos Aires.
Exploring and eating treats in Bariloche
Our travel in Argentina has unexpectedly became a foodie kind of travel experience. During our time in Bariloche, we ate so many different food. We ate some delicious treats. Not all the food we ate was good and one of the worst tasting restaurant (with good customer) service was also in Bariloche.
But, the best fish I ever ate during this trip was in this city. Eating that delicious fish was the best way to end our trip in Bariloche.
Unsettling flight from Bariloche to Buenos Aires
The next day, we were flying out of Bariloche to go back to Buenos Aires to get ready to wrap up our trip in Argentina. While lining up to check-in the airport, we see kids coughing non-stop. Karen and I got really paranoid because we don’t want to get COVID-19 during our trip. This will make our travel experience a huge hassle if we have to quarantine.
The person doing the flight check-in can see Karen and I looking visibly disturbed by the sheer number of kids coughing. She told us that they are on their annual holiday and they’ve gotten a PCR test and tested negative. But, to ease our worries, she placed us at the front of the plane away from the kids. Thankfully, we were able to avoid the coughing kids and not get sick.
Best hostel customer service in Argentina
We went back to hostel Estoril after our amazing experience there. Wendy’s customer service is fantastic and told me and Karen that her aunts own the hostel and she works for them. We ended up booking two nights to complete our travel in Argentina.
Wendy also helped us book our ferry to go to Uruguay and provided us with as much information as she can about Buenos Aires. She even helped us get our laundry when we were coming late from a trip to Tigre.
Exploring the Bernardino Rivadavia Museum of Natural Science
After storing our belongings away, Karen and I took a taxi to see the dinosaur museum in Buenos Aires. Argentina is also known for having lots of fossils and Karen and I were excited to check them out. Our taxi driver spoke really good English but was also oversharing about his personal life. He told us how much he hates his wife and how they got a divorce and she took half his money and has to work two jobs now. One being a taxi driver and the other being a PE teacher for an elementary school.
Before going to the museum, we ate at a local restaurant across the street. This restaurant was awesome, probably one of the best ones we went to while we were in Argentina.
The museum itself was a mixed experience. All the exhibits was in Spanish so we couldn’t understand what the description of each exhibit represented. They were still neat to see as we made our way around this place. The only thing I didn’t like was how stuffy this museum was and we felt quite dizzy by the time we finished exploring.
PCR test #1
On our last full day in Argentina, we would be getting a PCR test which we needed for our next travel destinations. As usual, the PCR test hurt as they shoved the cotton swab all the way up your nose. It’s impossible not to tear up after shoving something so far up your nose that it feels like they’re hitting your brain.
The customer service in laboratory was top notch and we do recommend this place if you need to get a PCR test done in Buenos Aires.
Journey to Tigre
Our final mission in Buenos Aires is to see the capybara in Tigre and Nordelta. Karen and I took the metro and train to reach Tigre. The journey was long but very interesting. Lots of performers and peddlers came in the train trying to make some money.
Tigre itself was a nice city but the restaurant we ate at was snobby and the food was terrible. While in Tigre, we tried to find a way to reach Nordelta so we can see the capybara’s. Unfortunately, the local tourist centre told us that we cannot see the capybara because they are located in a private residential zone. We won’t be able to enter. I felt disappointed after learning this information.
We explored Tigre a little bit more before calling it a day and headed back to Buenos Aires.
Got stuck in an elevator
The last part of the day turned out to be crazy as Karen and I got stuck inside the elevator on our way up our hostel. On the way up, the elevator didn’t quite stop at our floor and we got stuck halfway. I started shouting for help and many backpackers rushed out to help us. They managed to pry the gates open as we crawled out of the elevator. We were lucky the elevator didn’t start moving while we were getting pulled out; otherwise, we could have gotten cut in half trying to get out.
PCR test #2
On our last day in Argentina, Karen and I decided to get a second PCR test because they’re only valid for 72-hours. In case of flight delays, I wanted to make sure we were covered.
To our luck, this second PCR test did pay off and we did need to use it later when we travelled to Paraguay.
Frustrating ferry ride from Buenos Aires to Colonia, Uruguay
The final struggle before leaving Buenos Aires was at the ferry terminal. Little did we know that we have to fill out an online exit-form. This was not mentioned on the website and we had to stand on the side and try to fill it out on our mobile phone. There was just one problem, we weren’t able to submit our forms online. I eventually figured out that the English version of the form doesn’t work and when we tried the Argentina Spanish version, our form went through and we were able to go through immigration.
I got paranoid at this point and asked the Uruguay side of the immigration if we need to fill out an exit from their side also. The guy said “What is the point of this exit form? It is stupid,” as he openly mocked the Argentinians exit form.
Our ferry was delayed by several hours which reduced our time to explore Uruguay.
Travelling during the pandemic can be quite a hassle. However, despite my complaining in this article, my travel in Argentina was overall a good one. I really liked Argentina and can see myself returning here again one day to further explore the country.