Hosteling

Tallying Up The Cost: 21 Days In Argentina

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Posted on / by Alex Berger

El Calafate Airport - Patagonia, Argentina

What does a breakneck, budget conscious, adventure trip through Argentina cost? Here’s the financial break down from my recently completed 21 day trip.  These figures cover all of my direct trip expenses (they don’t include equipment I already had such as shoes and a backpack). Travel period: December 15th – January 4th.

This trip visited Buenos Aires (3 times), Ushuaia in Tierra del Fuego, El Calafate/El Chalten in Patagonia and Iguazu in Misiones.

Argentina is commonly hailed as an extremely cheap destination.  While I’d agree that by western standards it is a relatively cheap destination it is not, by Latin American standards, cheap.  At best I’d flag it as moderately priced.  As I understand it the nation has seen massive inflation in the last half-decade, particularly in its tourism infrastructure.  An infrastructure which operates as part of their greater transportation infrastructure, but with deep discounts for locals and natives.

The size of the country also contributes significantly to the cost of exploring it in depth.  While Argentina has a train infrastructure, it is limited and tourists are widely encouraged to avoid it.  Similarly, the country has a decent air infrastructure, but it is only serviced by 3 major airlines. Of which the government influenced Aerolineas is the primary provider.  The other significant provider is LAN Airlines.  Unfortunately, there are no ultra-budget airline providers as can be found in Europe and parts of the US which make flights fairly expensive. On the upside, Aerolineas offers a tourist pass which allows you to buy discount credits.  While not vastly cheaper, for anyone flying the minimum of 3 legs it is a viable option.

Lastly it is important to note that Bus travel is the primary method for long distance travel in Argentina. While relatively slow compared to high speed rail or air travel the long distance bus system in Argentina was surprisingly pleasant albeit somewhat expensive.  Even my 18 hour bus ride from Buenos Aires to Iguazu was a relative pleasure with the level of service and comfort well above what I’ve grown used to while flying.  For a little bit more (~420 vs ~360 Pesos) I opted for the S/Cama or near-bed service which allowed me a full night’s sleep (almost unheard of when I fly/do trains).  On the BA -> Iguazu leg they served complimentary Scotch, beer and wine in addition to two meals and a beverage service.  The bus also boasted several TV screens which played American movies with Spanish subtitles.  For those visiting and on a budget, don’t rule them out if you’ve got the time to travel a little slower. Make sure to read through Wikipedia’s writeup on Transport in Argentina.

The Raw Figures

ATM (Cash) – $1,680.40

Bank Fees – $27

Credit Cards – $256.99

Airfare – $1,968.71

Total: $3,933.10

Argentina is a Credit Card phobic country.  That means that $1.25 stick of bubble gum you’d normally purchase with your Credit Card in the States is going to have to be a cash purchase.  Most larger purchases (over $10 USD) can be put on a Credit Card though it is surprisingly hit or miss.  This in large part accounts for the $27 in added bank fees I had to pay.  Though that figure is misleading as that’s only the fees charged by my domestic bank.  Each transaction also had an added 16 Peso ($4) fee charged by the Argentinian bank and my domestic bank adds a 3% currency “exchange” fee. Ouch.  Especially since my Capital One Credit Card doesn’t have any international use penalties.

Note that a full half of my trip expense was for Airfare.  Of the actual on-trip expenses, the Cash/Credit Card fees include several major purchases. These include $200 for the Big Ice Glacier Trek in El Calafate, Approximately $150 combined in Ushuaia for Penguin and Tierra del Fuego National Park tours, $80 for an amazing Tango show at Cafe de los Angelitos in BA, an extra $50 in accommodation over hostel prices during Christmas in El Chalten  and $200 for round trip Bus travel from Buenos Aires to Iguazu.

Concerning airfare: I took a total of four flights. They were a mixture of round trip, one-way and progressive tickets.  They were as follows:

-Phoenix to Los Angeles Return

-Los Angeles to Buenos Aires Return

-Buenos Aires to Ushuaia / El Calafate to Buenos Aires

-Ushuaia to El Calafate One Way

In general the remainder of my expenses went to food, drink, entertainment, accommodation and minor transport.  All accommodation was hostel based and with 1 exception ranged between $10-$20 USD.

In Buenos Aires only use “Radio Taxis” and don’t set a custom price unless you’re doing a long haul trip and know what is reasonable.  In general, relying on the meters was a much more cost effective option.  Of the 3 times I negotiated my own fare I came to realize later that I’d paid almost double what it would have cost otherwise.

Hopefully this helps you plan your adventure to Argentina.  Questions or areas you’d like more in-depth information about?  Please feel free to leave a comment and I’ll be happy to answer what I can.

For those who are regular readers, you may note that this was the most expensive trip I’ve taken so far.  This was in large part due to the egregious airfare costs associated with the trip and fast rate of travel.  Faster = more expensive every time.

Safe travels, open roads!

Alex Berger

I am a travel blogger and photographer. I also am involved in academic research into the study abroad and backpacker communities.

16 Comments

  • Pacu
    January 11, 2011

    In Argentina tourists get ripped off. Specially if they show off their money. I would say that your trip was really expensive because of the “tours” you took. There are lots of other things to do in Buenos aires just go outside of the tourist route. Go where the locals go. I’m from Buenos Aires, I know what I’m talking about. It’s sad but true. Instead of going to the Cafe de los angelitos, you can eat something there, when the “bandoneonista” plays Piazola’s work and then go to a normal “milonga” to have a drink and watch people dance or even take lessons there. Every borough of BA has its own. Palermo and San Telmo are nice places, but they will live up at your expenses. When shopping for antiques, go to other places than those located in palermo or san telmo. look for them in the yellow pages you will pay 1/3 of the tourist price.
    The patagonia is expensive but if you aim to the north of argentina you will find exotic landscapes, local food and really cheap prices. In february you will enjoy the “carnabal” where people from jujuy, salta and formosa worship the “pachamama” (mother earth) it’s amazing. It’s really a party.

    Next time you visit us, take my advice. You will make your stay longer for half of the money or so.

    Reply
    • AlexBerger
      January 11, 2011

      Thanks for the post Pacu. Yes and no. The tours bumped up the price without a doubt, but they were also unavoidable in the south. Both the Glacier and the Penguin tour are restricted destinations which only allow a limited number of people per day/week and require a guide. While there are alternatives as well (other glaciers etc.) the price point to do them independently/especially on a limited time frame and with limited Spanish isn’t very feasible.

      I actually did a normal Milonga as well and absolutely loved it, but for sheer performance value (not authenticity) it was a fundamentally different experience than the performance at Cafe de los Angelitos. As a ballroom dancer the quality of the performance, music, and atmosphere was well worth the ticket price. Especially since it was in essence on par with what would be a symphony or Broadway show in other settings. The tip for going and catching the bandoneonista is a great one – definitely wish I’d known about it!

      I’m a hostel/backpacker so never ended up shopping and was mostly just browsing for interesting things, but I can definitely believe that an actual antique shop outside of San Telmo would be a much better value opportunity. The market is fun, but without a doubt more tourist attraction than anything.

      I’d love to get into the North West more and see that region. Especially if there are any alpine areas. The jungle around Iguazu was cool, but outside of the falls I tend to prefer the mountains and richness of more moss/pine tree esque countryside over the typical flat plains or jungle I ran into up north.

      The carnabal sounds absolutely spectacular. If i ever make it back in a February that will be on the top of my list!

      Some great insights and tips, thanks!

      Reply
  • Barbara Weibel
    January 11, 2011

    Whoa! That’s WAY more than my budget could tolerate. Even without using frequent flier mileage, that boils down to about $90 per day. I average around $30. Guess I’ll be passing on Argentina.

    Reply
    • AlexBerger
      January 12, 2011

      Barbara, part of the problem was the speed I was traveling at. I know of at least one person who was moving much slower (RTW traveler) and he was doing ok on $40/day.

      Reply
  • Amer
    January 14, 2011

    Great article on the overall cost (and your itinerary) to travel to Argentina. I guess it is quite expensive considering your airfare alone is the highest single expenditure.

    Reply
    • AlexBerger
      January 14, 2011

      Thanks Amer! Definitely was a rough component. Especially since it’s not offset by the absolutely dirt cheap (as I understand it) food prices and accommodation you’d find in other parts of South America or Asia.

      Reply
  • My Argentina Trip in Review – Analyzing One of the World’s Greatest Destination Countries — VirtualWayfarer
  • Joanna
    May 4, 2012

    Hi,
    Nice and helpful, thanks:) I am sctually planning my trip for December 2012, 35 days, including Christmas and New Year. Already decide to spend New years in BA, but nmot sure where to roll for Christmas. You mentioned El Chalten? Would you have any tips or experience of Xmas in Argentina that you can share? I am not religious, but would like to experience Christmas argentinian way if possible.
    Another wuestion: internal flights – reading a lot of good about buses and I will probably do most of the transport this way, but cannot avoid flying to Ushuaia and then Ushuaia – BA< what airlines did you take and could recommend? Hjow much did it cost you?

    Thanks in advance.
    P.S. So envy of your travelling:))

    Joanna

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      May 5, 2012

      Glad it was useful! That is a great time to visit, and the right amount of time – 21 days was too short for me! I ended up in El Chalten because it was what worked best with my schedule. However, meals were fairly expensive and all on a fixed Christmas menu. Also, El Chalten is basically a season tourist town created as a base camp for hikers visiting Fitz Roy and the surrounding area. Accommodation goes pretty quickly, so if you want to be in the proper hostel (we were not) it’s worth booking ahead. It was an exotic and cozy place to spend Christmas, but from a fun or authenticity standpoint somewhere a little larger may be better (Ushuaia perhaps).

      Unfortunately, there are no real budget options for flights in Argentina. However, the two main airlines LAN and Aerolinas both have a special pass for visitors (or at least did). It is a bit hard to find, but if you fly into the country you become eligible for a multi-leg ticket that works on a coupon system. Basically allowing you to purchase a ticket with 4 or 5 legs for the price of what might normally be 1 or 2. The buses in Argentina are fantastic, especially the semi-cama ones (check out my writeup about the bus to Iguazu). However, they’re also a huge time sink and are actually somewhat expensive. I flew BA to Ushuaia, Ushuaia to El Calafate and El Calafate to BA, then did the overnight bus to Iguazu.

      Reply
  • aliona ladiki
    May 9, 2012

    Dear Alex,
    i am planning for a trip to argentina in december.i hope if you can help me to find the best and more effective rooting there since i am organizing my own trip and if there are any important helpful tips i should notice.thanks in advance for your help.
    Regards,

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      May 9, 2012

      Hard to say specifically. I suggest all the places I visited and outline in my posts. Getting from place to place can be a time consuming and expensive challenge (but is worth it!). The Semi Cama bus seats are really nice. Flights are also good if you have to cover extremely far distances (like my flight from BA to Ushuaia). Take a peak at all my posts from my Argentina trip, and let me know what more specific questions you have. I’d love to answer them =)

      Reply
  • rahul
    July 15, 2014

    If I plan a visit for 10 days to Argentina from India. Any idea how much it would cost.

    Reply
    • Alex Berger
      July 15, 2014

      There’s just no way to say, as it depends on where you are visiting, what your life style is, how much you’ll eat out, how much you’ll drink, if you’ll shop, etc.

      Reply
  • Mike
    October 26, 2014

    Inflation it’s a great chance to know Argentina in the cheaper way. Also it could help locals with the actual economic status.

    Still pretty safe and full of fun.

    Reply
  • Brandy S. Burns
    April 26, 2015

    Thanks for the post. It was useful.

    Looking forward for more. God speed.

    Reply
  • Martie
    October 5, 2016

    Wow! So awesome! I have been reading these posts all evening, listening to old Carlos Gardel tangos… Thinking of going to Argentina but being an RN, I can’t even get out of the hospital! Ha! 😄 thank you for sharing!!

    Reply

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