Argentina

Ranging from balmy subtropical reaches in the north to the frosty Antarctic shores of the Patagonian south, Argentina is one of the world’s most geographically diverse countries. Its kaleidoscope of landscapes offers endless adventure and leisure opportunities, and this natural variety – coupled with its warm, animated locals, delectable carnivorous cuisine, and fascinating history – makes it a captivating and unforgettable travel destination. Allow yourself to be spellbound by the spectacular torrents of Iguazu Falls, the sprawling ski slopes of Bariloche, the vibrant capital of Buenos Aires, or the age-old Inca city of Humahuaca. Argentina has gifts to delight and mesmerize even the most seasoned explorer.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Peso (ARS; symbol AR$) = 100 centavos. Peso notes are in denominations of AR$100, 50, 20, 10, and 5. Coins are in denominations of AR$2 and 1, and in 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos.

US Dollars are accepted in some hotels and tourist centres. Prices in US Dollars are typically marked with US$ to avoid confusion, but sometimes both peso and dollar prices are both preceded by just $, so check if unsure.

Banking

Banking hours: Monday-Friday 10h00-15h00.

Most major credit cards are accepted, but not as widely as in the US or Europe; even some major hotels do not have credit card facilities.

ATMs are available in most cities and have options in English, but it is still best to carry alternative forms of payment as daily withdrawal limits are low and machines don't always work. During national holidays ATMs can run out so it is wise to withdraw in advance.

Foreign tourists who are not resident in Argentina can no longer pay for tourism-related services (air tickets, bus travel, hotel rooms, all-inclusive tours etc) in Pesos. These services must be paid for with foreign credit and bank cards, money transfers (in foreign currencies) from abroad, in cash with foreign money (eg US Dollars) or with cheques from foreign accounts.

It is advised to bring traveller's cheques in US Dollars; these can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and some hotels. However, it is often difficult to exchange these in the smaller towns.



Travel, Transport and Getting Around

Argentina is huge, making air travel the most practical way to get around. Many flights are routed through Buenos Aires. Aerolíneas Argentinas (AR) (www.aerolineas.com.ar) serves many domestic destinations from its key hubs in Buenos Aires, Cordoba and Bariloche.


Driving conditions in Argentina offer everything from excellent roads to rural traxks. A 4x4 is recommended if venturing too far outside rural areas. It is advisable that only confident drivers tackle Buenos Aires’ roads. Major roads are generally in good condition, although rural roads, composed of packed dirt, can become impassable after rain. The 'A' roads are the autopistas (motorways) and those labelled 'R' are rutas (roads) - tolls exist on all main roads.

Visitors aged 21 or over may hire a car in Argentina. Car hire is available in most towns and cities, and many international companies operate out of Buenos Aires and main tourist destinations. The maximum speed limit on motorways is 130kph (80mph), 80kph (50mph) on one-lane roads, while the speed limit in built-up areas varies (40-60kph/25-37mph). Argentinians drive on the right side of the road.


In Buenos Aires the safest option is to telephone a radio taxi; a reputable company is Radio Taxi Pidalo (tel: (011) 4956 1200). Taxis are readily available and can be hailed from the side of the road but make sure the metre is used. It is advisable to use recommended remises (taxis) - which can only be booked by telephone and have fixed prices. Passengers should enquire beforehand.

Buenos Aires runs a cycle scheme. Register at www.mejorenbici.gob.ar for free, two-hour use of yellow city bikes.

Buenos Aires is the only Argentine city with an underground train service, known as the Subte (www.subte.com.ar). The Subte has six lines and is generally clean, safe, fast and efficient. Access to the subway operates under the card called SUBE. You can buy the card at any point of sale and recharge it at the underground ticket offices. Overland urban trains also serve the capital city and its suburbs.

Trains and trolleybuses operate in Argentina's second city, Rosario. Colectivos (local buses) operate on main thoroughfares in all large towns and cities.


Several rail companies operate in Argentina, including Ferrobaires (tel: (011) 4304 0028;www.ferrobaires.gba.gov.ar), serving destinations such as Mar del Plata and Bahia Blanca. Trenes del Litoral (tel: (011) 4554 8018; www.trenesdellitoral.com.ar) operates between Buenos Aires and Posadas, linking many little towns in the provinces of Entre Rios and Corrientes.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Tap water is generally considered safe in main cities and towns, especially in Buenos Aires, but otherwise bottled water is recommended. If bottled water is unavailable then boil water for over a minute before drinking.

Argentina serves up an exceptional standard of food, although choices can often be restricted to meat, pasta and pizza. Buenos Aires, however, offers a wide selection of culinary genres, with Japanese, Thai and Asian-fusion food becoming increasingly popular. Vegetarians may struggle to find extensive veggie options, but most restaurants do serve vegetables and salads. Outside Buenos Aires, however, vegetarians may be faced with quite limited choices.

Wherever you are in the country, meat is the name of the game here, and if you fancy broadening your carnivorous horizons, then there is a weird and wonderful array of meat treats to get stuck into. The traditional Argentine parrilla (grill) is the very heart and soul of Argentina's cuisine. Sample morcilla (blood sausage), chinchulines (intestines), or simply go for a slab of prime Argentine beef - all sizzled to perfection. Don’t forget to liberally douse your chosen meats in delicious chimichurri – a sauce made from finely chopped parsley and oregano, garlic, olive oil and vinegar. Those after an authentic and reliably delicious meat experience in Buenos Aires, try El Trapiche in Palermo, and Desnivel in San Telmo.

For breakfast, head to a traditional confitería (café) and sample a few medialunas (small, croissant-like pastries) and a strong café con leche. In cities, fashionable resto-bars (restaurant-bars) are taking hold, offering more contemporary takes on traditional Argentine cuisine, and all manner of lunch options. A strong Italian influence means quality ice cream is also popular, and in summertime Buenos Aires the many gelaterias (ice cream parlours) are certainly worth making use of. In the evening, Argentines dine late - 9pm is considered early – and the feasts are typically massive.

Argentina's wines have flooded the international market in recent years, and are famed for their quality and value. Try a light pinot noir from Patagonia or an inky and smooth Malbec, and don’t miss Argentina’s celebrated white, the aromatic Torrontés.

Around 15% is acceptable in restaurants as well as bars (unless you were dissatisfied) which waiting staff rely on to survive.



Climate and Weather

Argentina's climate ranges from the great heat and extensive rains of the subtropical Chaco in the north, through to the pleasant climate of the central Pampas, and the sub-Antarctic cold of the Patagonian Sea in the south. The main central area is temperate, but can be very hot and humid during summer (December to February) and chilly in winter.

The most pleasant times to visit Buenos Aires are September-November and February- March. The city is best avoided in January, when the heat is at its most intense and many of its residents flee to the coast leaving behind a comparative ghost city. Exploring the wilds of Patagonia is best done in the late spring and summer months – between November and February – whilst the northern regions are at their most hospitable in the spring, autumn and winter. If heading to Argentina for a ski trip, hit the slopes during mid-June to October.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

Lightweight clothing is generally all that is required in the north, whereas warm clothes are certainly necessary in the south, up in the mountains and during winter months in the central area. It is sensible to carry waterproofs in all areas and bring a good sunscreen, sun hat, sunglasses and good walking shoes.








Internet Availability

Internet access is available in most towns and cities in locutorios (phone centres) and internet cafés. Many estancias and rural areas are cut off from both internet and telephone access. Wi-Fi is increasingly found in more upmarket hotels.


Electricity and Plug Standards

The official standard for plugs and sockets (outlets) in Argentina is the "Type I" IRAM-2073 which is practically interchangeable with the standards in Australia and China. However, many non-grounded sockets in Argentina are the "Type C" Europlug type. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need one or more travel plug adapters in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it is crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Argentina usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.

But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If your appliance is not compatible with 220-240 volts, you will need a voltage converter.


Chile

Chile is a slender ribbon of land flanked by the South Pacific Ocean to the west, and surrounded by Peru, Bolivia and Argentina. The country is a mystifying amalgam of extraordinarily diverse scenery, vibrant cultures, and exciting cities. From the fjords and glaciers of Patagonia and Antarctica to the driest desert in the world at Atacama, volcanoes to tropical islands, Chile boasts nearly every landscape imaginable. One of the country’s defining characteristics is its warm culture, summarised in its motto of ‘buena onda’ (‘good vibes’). Rituals surrounding relaxation and connection - such as the ‘mate’ tea custom - are integral to Chilean culture, as well as a strong connection with food, music and dance. World-class cities like Santiago weave together 21st century global culture and time-honoured traditions, and provide everything from phenomenal restaurants and buzzing nightlife to gorgeous, trendy beaches. Wine lovers will also find worlds of taste to explore in the lush valleys of vineyards offering some of the best wine on earth.


Banking and Currency

Currency

Chilean Peso (CLP; symbol CH$) = 100 centavos. The local symbol is simply $. Notes are in denominations of CH$20,000, 10,000, 5,000, 2,000 and 1,000. Coins are in denominations of CH$500, 100, 50, 10, 5 and 1, although the latter is no longer in circulation.

The import and export of local and foreign currencies is unlimited, however amounts exceeding the equivalent of US$10,000 must be declared.

Foreign exchange transactions can be conducted through commercial banks, casas de cambio, or authorised shops, restaurants, hotels and clubs. Casas de cambio are open daily 0900-1900 (Mon-Sat) and 0900-1400 (Sun). Ask to be given smaller denomination bills as these will be easier to spend, and you may run into trouble trying to get change from larger notes.

Banking

Banking hours are from Monday to Friday from 09h00-14h00.

Visa and MasterCard credit cards are commonly accepted – although Diners Club and American Express slightly less so - in towns and cities, where ATMs are also largely available. Outside of the larger, more tourist-centred towns, currency exchange can be tricky.

ATMs (also known as redbancs) are also largely available in larger, more tourist-centred towns. Access to ATMs in smaller towns and more rural areas is often more limited so plan accordingly.

It is possible to exchange money and traveller's cheques at any casa de cambio at market-driven exchange rates. However, exchanging traveller's cheques in Chile has been reported to be problematic.



Travel, Transport and Getting Around

There are frequent services between main cities. The southern part of the country relies heavily on air links and reservations are essential. Flights are operated by LAN Express, a subsidiary of LAN (www.lan.com), and by Sky Airline (www.skyairline.cl), as well as a number of air taxi companies such as Aerovías Dap (www.aeroviasdap.cl) which flies around the Magallanes region and Antarctica.

There are regular flights with LAN from Santiago to Easter Island (journey time - five hours), and Easter Island is currently included as an option in the Visit South America Air Pass. Flights fill up quickly so it is essential to book in advance throughout the year. An air taxi runs a daily service during the summer months to the Juan Fernández Islands from Valparaíso and Santiago, run by Transportes Aereos Isla Robinson Crusoe (www.tairc.cl). Sky Airline flies south to Punta Arenas and north to Antofagasta amongst other routes.

The Visit South America pass has replaced the old Visit Chile pass. It is available with LAN transatlantic flights and covers Chile as well as Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. Passes must be obtained outside South America and it is advisable to make reservations well in advance. Once purchased, reservations can be changed at no additional cost; but if re-routing, a charge is made for each change.

Chile has a large network of good roads, with the exception of the fjord-filled south of the country which is not always connected to central Chile by road. Crossings have to be made at times through Argentina, and water transport also plays a part there.

Chileans drive on the right side of road. There is around 80,000km (50,000 miles) of highway in the country, only half of which is paved. Foreign drivers should feel comfortable driving in Chile, as in general, traffic rules are obeyed here more than in other Latin American countries – although you will often find horses, bicyclists, and pedestrians on the highways, so be aware! Most highways are well-marked.

There is a toll for using the highway, with rates differing according to distance and section. Outside Santiago, you’ll be expected to pay in Chilean Pesos. In Santiago, the toll is automatically charged via the TAG-system - a little sensor that is fixed at the windshield of each car, mandatory for driving on Santiago’s city highways.


Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice

Standards of hygiene are generally reasonable in Chile, and should not cause visitors any undue concern. Tap water in the cities is fine to drink but it does have a high mineral content and may taste different to what you’re used to. Bottled water is easily available should you prefer to stick to that. When it comes to eating out, use common sense – only eat food that has been freshly cooked and looks to have been prepared in hygienic conditions.

Santiago has a wide range of options for eating out, from excellent vegetarian restaurants to hearty, good-value grills. However, you can also find sushi, Indian, Middle Eastern, seafood and Peruvian restaurants. Borago, Astrid y Gaston, Puerto Fuy, Sukalde, El Jardin de Epicuro and and Osaka are consistently named as some of the city’s finest restaurants. Plenty of economical set lunch deals are to be had downtown, and cheap eats can also be found near the university.

Once outside of Santiago, options tend to be limited for vegetarians. Seafood, red meat (including lamb), and chicken dominate the menu in the provinces. For carnivores, any chance possible to experience a leisurely countryside asado (barbeque) or curanto (shellfish stew) is an opportunity to participate in a cherished Chilean tradition. If you have the good fortune to be invited to a local’s home to eat, you should show up with something to share - a bottle of decent wine or a dessert would be appropriate and appreciated.

It is customary to add 10% to the bill when eating out. Some restaurants and bars automatically add this.


Climate and Weather

Due to its long coastline, clearly Chile’s weather is extremely diverse and unpredictable although it is seasonal in much of the country. Summer runs from December to February, and winter from June to August.

It is difficult to pinpoint temperatures ranges for the country as a whole as they’re so variable. There’s the dry, arid Atacama desert in the north where temperatures reach a maximum of 32°C (90°F) and can drop to -2°C (28°F). Chile’s central region has a Mediterranean feel with a colder, wetter season (May to August), while it is usually cool and damp in the south. Easter Island has its own humid sub-tropical temperatures, while much of the south, from Region VII down has a very high annual rainfall.

Arica, Iquique, Antofagasta, La Serena and Coquimbo are the principal summer beach hubs in the north for local tourists, while Pucón in the south sees high tourism numbers from January to March. Due to its proximity to Santiago, Viña del Mar and Valparaíso beach areas see plenty of sunshine and beach bums during the summer, often filling up with neighbouring Argentinians. As Chile is in the southern hemisphere, the ski season takes place between June and August.

In terms of visiting Patagonia and south, the summer months from December to March are ideal as it is warmer for trekking and other outdoor activities. November and April are quieter times in terms of tourism but the weather is less dependable. It isn’t advisable to visit the south from the end of autumn to the end of winter - May to September - as many trails close due to bad weather and strong winds and waterways ice over. However, places in the north, such as the Atacama, can be visited all year round.


Clothing and Dress Recommendations

When visiting the warmer areas of the country during the warmer months, bring lightweight, natural fabrics. During the wet season, you’ll need to bring waterproofs – aim for breathable materials so you don’t overheat. More substantial waterproofs and warm weather clothing are often needed in the south and at altitude.


Internet Availability

Internet cafes are open all hours in the main towns and tourist areas. Many hotels and hostels will have access to the internet which is relatively cheap at around US$1 for 30 minutes, while free Wi-Fi is also becoming increasingly popular, with many hotels offering this.


Electricity and Plug Standards

For the most part, electrical sockets (outlets) Chile are the "Type C" European CEE 7/16 Europlug. Also reported to be in use is the "Type L" Italian CEI 23-16/VII. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for both types.

Electrical sockets (outlets) in Chile usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.


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