Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world and there is far more to see than most backpackers will have time for. This makes knowing where to start with planning your backpacking trip more than a little overwhelming! In our ultimate guide to backpacking Argentina, we cover all the need to know info to help you plan your adventure! From the best time to go to the must-visit places, the cost of backpacking Argentina, safety tips and more…
Also See Our Argentina Travel Guides (Listed A-Z) – Each guide will open in a new window
INTRODUCTION | Backpacking Argentina
- Currency: Argentine peso
- Capital city: Buenos Aires
- Population: 45 million
- Main religion: Roman Catholic
- Main language: Spanish
- Telephone code: +54
- Time: GMT – 5 hours
- Emergency numbers: Ambulance, fire & police: 911
You’ll love Argentina if…
- You’re a culture vulture who wants to experience the Argentinian lifestyle first-hand. With everything from tango to mate, Argentina is rich with traditions and art.
- You enjoy exploring the great outdoors! Argentina is one of the most beautiful countries on earth, with towering glaciers, metropolitan cities and sprawling vineyards.
- You are a foodie who may be partial to the odd glass of wine (or twelve)… Mendoza is Internationally renowned for its wine production. Pair a glass of Malbec with a big chunk of steak and you’ll be sorted!
- You are on a budget. Argentina might not be one of the cheapest countries in South America but it’s far friendlier to your wallet than neighbouring Brazil or Chile.
- You want an overland adventure. Argentina is one of the best destinations for road trips in South America.
WHEN TO GO | What is the best time of year to visit Argentina?
Due to the sheer size of Argentina (the 8th largest country in the world), the weather can vary dramatically and largely depends on where you are in relation to sea level.
To avoid the peak times and high season, as well as stretching your backpacker budget as far as possible, we recommend travelling to Argentina in Spring (October to mid–December) or Autumn (April to mid–June).
During this time, the vineyards are lush and green, the lakes are crystal clear, and the evenings are warm enough to sit outside and enjoy an Asado. The country really comes to life and springtime is the perfect time to trek your way around Argentina, stopping off here and there for a dip in a waterfall, lake or stream!
However, it is important to mention that this is not a simple blanket statement that applies to everybody. If you are headed to a specific destination and especially if you are considering visiting Patagonia, check the more detailed climate breakdown below.
If you’re heading north on your Argentina backpacking trip, you can expect humid and hot temperatures year-round.
Jaw-dropping natural wonder Iguazú Falls sits on the border with Brazil and thunderstorms are commonplace during the summer months (January – February).
On the other side of the country, as you head towards Salta, the average temperature sits around 17°C. Expect it to get even hotter the further west you travel, especially the closer you head towards the Atacama desert. Be aware that the daytime winter temperatures are much more manageable than in summer, as on some days it can climb over 40°C.
The capital of Buenos Aires and much of the central region benefits from four fairly mild, yet pleasant seasons. The warmest months are between December and February. During the summer months, many porteños (people from Buenos Aires) head to the beaches to make the most of the sunshine. If you’re a wine lover (and let’s face it, who isn’t?) Head to Mendoza in February or March to time your visit with the harvesting of the grapes.
If you’re planning to take a trip to Patagonia in the south of the country, then try to visit during the summer months (December to March), when the mountains are most accessible.
At other times of the year, access to the mountains can be restricted by snowfall or ice – perfect if you’re planning a snow sports trip but not so good otherwise. During the winter months (June to August), many of the hostels and visitor attractions shut for the season.
Read more: 1 and 2-week itineraries for Patagonia.
WHEN TO GO | Events in Argentina
If you want to plan your Argentina backpacking trip around the festival calendar rather than the climate, then don’t miss these key carnivals, festivals and events:
- JANUARY / FEBRUARY – The Cosquin Folk Festival: January/February are the months to visit Cosquin as the locals celebrate with traditional folklore dance and song for nine days straight.
- FEBRUARY – Carnival: Watch out Brazil, Argentina’s carnival is not to be ignored! Taking place at the end of February, the main celebrations can be found in Gualeguaychu, but there are parties to be enjoyed all over the country.
- MARCH – Fiesta Nacional de la Vendimia: If wine is your thing, then be sure to visit Mendoza in March. This month sees the grapes being turned into wine, and the farmers celebrate in style. Starting way back in 1963, this festival now involves shows, concerts, live music, and yep, you guessed it — plenty of wine.
- AUGUST – Tango Buenos Aires: In August, Buenos Aires hosts the world’s largest tango festival, drawing in crowds of up to half a million tourists! This beautiful South American dance pours out onto the streets across the city. If you’re feeling brave, why not give it a go?
- OCTOBER – Oktoberfest: You’ll find this festival of beer taking place wherever you are in the world and Argentina is no exception. This German festival is a weekend dedicated to beer! In Argentina, they celebrate Oktoberfest in Córdoba, a city founded by the Germans. Expect traditional German food and plenty of booze.
Read more about the best time to visit South America.
VISAS | Do I need a visa for Argentina?
90 Days Visa-Free
Most nationalities don’t need a visa to visit Argentina. You will usually be granted a 90-day stay in the country, but you may be required to show proof of onward travel when you enter.
Extensions beyond the initial 90-day period can be applied for but the extension given won’t be more than the original length of stay granted e.g. 90 days.
If you are from a country that does not require a visa, you can leave the country and re-enter for a new entry pass into the country. The amount of times that you can do this is at the discretion of the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones.
Penalty for overstaying your visa in Argentina
If you overstay your visa, you will be required to pay a fine of $600AR (around $15USD).
HEALTH | Vaccines and malaria tablets
Do I need vaccines to travel to Argentina?
Disclaimer: We always recommend that you seek professional medical advice before travelling.
It is recommended that you get the following vaccines if you are travelling to Argentina:
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Yellow Fever (although note a certificate is not required to enter Argentina)
Do I need malaria tablets for Argentina?
The risk of malaria across Argentina (including in the area around Iguazu Falls) is low. It is not recommended that backpackers take antimalarials whilst visiting Argentina. However, it is advised to take precautions against mosquito bites, including wearing long-sleeved clothing in the evenings, using mosquito nets and insect repellents.
Dengue fever can also be spread by mosquitoes, and symptoms include fever, headaches and body aches. Currently, there is a moderate risk of the Zika virus (ZIKV) in Argentina. Pregnant women are advised not to travel to the country for this reason.
Always remember to protect yourself against mosquitoes. A pop-up mosquito net can help (especially at night) if you’re willing to give up the backpack space. If not, remember to cover up in the evenings (thin, long layers are most practical) and use an insect repellant (ideally with DEET).
Disclaimer: We advise that you visit a travel medical clinic before travelling to Argentina for the latest health information.
SAFETY | Is Argentina safe?
Argentina is relatively safe, especially in comparison to its neighbours (we’re looking at you Brazil). However, the country suffers from high unemployment and high inflation so a lot of people are struggling. Most crime occurs in busy cities, such as Buenos Aires, where pickpocketing and petty theft is fairly common. Luckily, violent crime levels are relatively low. A good dose of common sense should keep you safe in Argentina.
Crime in Argentina
Argentina is one of the safest countries in South America. Whilst the cities can be a little daunting, they are mostly safe and violent crime is uncommon. As with any kind of large population centre, pickpocketing and petty crime is common in places such as Buenos Aires.
Always keep your valuables on your person, out of sight. A money belt or an anti-theft backpack are a good idea if you are going to be travelling with expensive tech. Scams are also commonplace in the larger cities so make sure you are clued up on the most common of these and how to avoid them.
Inequality is an emotive issue within the country and protests regularly occur protesting austerity measures. Travellers are recommend to avoid them whenever possible.
Roads in Argentina
Traffic poses arguably the biggest risk for travellers in Argentina. The locals drive very defensively and it is not uncommon for to see people jumping red lights. Always look before crossing the road and be vigilant when navigating the streets. If you want to hire and car and embark on a road trip, bear in mind that you will need to have your wits about you!
Be scrupulous with deciding which taxis to use as scammers sometimes pose as drivers. Legitimate taxis are black with yellow trim in Buenos Aires and display ‘Radio Taxi’ on the top. Uber is generally the safest option for short, local journeys.
Food and water hygiene in Argentina
There is a good standard of food and water hygiene in Argentina although unlucky travellers may still experience the dreaded travellers’ diarrhoea. To avoid it, stick to this simple rule whenever possible: boil it, peel it, cook it or forget it!
Tap Water in Argentina
Argentina is a well-developed country and tap water is safe to drink in most places. In rural areas, it is not uncommon for tap water to taste of chlorine, however, this won’t do you any harm. If you are in doubt, ask the locals if the tap water is safe. ¿Se puede tomar el agua de la canilla?’
If you’d rather not take the risk, invest in a filtered water bottle prior to your travels so that you can drink water from anywhere on the go.
Drugs in Argentina
As with any country, we do not recommend using drugs in Argentina. Rosario has long been on the drug trafficking route and there has been an increase in gang violence there. However, this is unlikely to impact travellers who keep their noses clean. Always stay vigilant and be aware of your surroundings.
10 Tips for Staying Safe in Argentina:
- Be subtle with expensive items. Don’t wear your flashy watch or hang a camera around your neck, or you might as well stick a target on your chest! Argentina is a country of low wealth, so don’t flash the cash.
- Bag snatching from a motorcycle is common so stay alert at road crossings and when you’re walking along pavements. Walk away from the roadside.
- Don’t carry more cash than you need. Leave it in the bank!
- Argentina is fairly volatile when it comes to politics. Keep an eye on the news, and keep out of the cities when things are kicking off.
- Drivers are dangerous in Argentina. Road safety is not a priority for many of those on the road in this country, so beware of drunk drivers or those not following the highway code.
- Keep belongings on your person, in a secure place (i.e. not in the front pocket of your backpack, or a cross-body bag slung around your back).
- Use your hotel or hostel safe. Many insurance policies will only pay out if your valuables were in the safe, so if you find one in your room, use it.
- Email yourself (and your loved ones back at home) a copy of your passport. Then if you lose it, or it’s stolen, you’ve got a backup to take to the nearest embassy or passport office.
- If you’re taking a taxi, try and book it in advance. Don’t get in an unmarked car (look out for the words ‘Radio Taxi’ and take note of the company name), and don’t share your cab with strangers.
- 10. Don’t go wandering alone. This is not a sensible idea in any country, let alone Argentina! Stick to well-lit areas, and don’t get lost. If in doubt, get a Radio Taxi.
Also read: Is Argentina Safe?
TRAVEL INSURANCE | What’s the best travel insurance for Argentina?
Travellers heading to Argentina will need to make sure they are adequately covered by travel insurance. Medical bills can be very costly in Argentina and that is without factoring in the cost of return travel to your home country if necessary. In the past, we have used World Nomads for our trips who we would definitely recommend.
Backpackers who are working as digital nomads or those on longer trips may be better suited to a rolling kind of insurance. In this instance, we would recommend SafetyWing Nomad Insurance who offer flexible monthly payment plans.
WHAT TO PACK | What should I pack for a trip to Argentina?
With so many terrains, climates and experiences to be had, it’s hard to know what to pack for a trip to Argentina! Don’t miss the following essentials from your backpack.
Clothes for Argentina
When it comes to knowing what to wear in Argentina, the best advice that we can give you is to layer up. Carry a few essentials which can be repurposed with different items of clothing to suit all weathers. With unpredictable temperatures, thin layers are key (and also save space in your backpack). They also dry quickly so if you get caught in the rain you’ll soon dry out.
Don’t miss a lightweight waterproof jacket. It could be raining one minute and sunny the next. The climate really varies in this South American country!
We also recommend bringing some good quality sunglasses. Don’t damage your eyes! Invest in a good pair of sunglasses that protect your eyes from both UVA and UVB light and a hard case to protect them (trust us, it’s worth the space in your bag). It is hard to believe how blinding a glacier can be until you see one firsthand!
Footwear for Argentina
When it comes to packing shoes for your trip, this will vary depending on what kind of activities you plan on doing. We definitely recommend a pair of decent hiking boots/shoes if you plan on taking some of the treks.
Walking sandals or light trainers are good choices for city exploration and flip flops always come in handy for hostel showers. For more suggestions on travel shoes, check out this post!
Whilst it is likely that you will need more practical items than the ones we have detailed below (see our South America packing list for a more detailed breakdown of what to pack for your trip), these three essentials are must-haves.
- A filter water bottle: We don’t travel anywhere without one nowadays. A bottle like the Grayl Geopress will stop you from getting unpleasant stomach upsets and put your mind at ease when brushing your teeth in the hostel sink! Worth every penny (and they help to stop clogging up our oceans with plastic).
- A microfibre towel. When you’re on a sweaty hike, they’re the ideal gym towel. If you’re cold on the overnight bus to Iguazu, they’re the perfect blanket. They also double up as a scarf when you’re trying to cover up from the sun. A microfibre towel is the ultimate backpacker travel hack.
- Compression sacks or packing cubes. These will help to organise your backpack, make it easier to find things and give you a place to store soggy clothing.
FLIGHTS | Airports and airlines in Argentina
Flying to Argentina:
Most travellers will fly into the capital, Buenos Aires. There are two airports in the city, Buenos Aires Ezeiza Minister Pistarini International Airport (EZE) and Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP).
The first of these series mainly international flights whereas AEP is the hub for domestic flights.
Although Buenos Aires is the most popular city for travellers to fly into, there are also airports in Mendoza, Cordoba, Bariloche, El Calafate and Ushuaia. We recommend using Skyscanner to search for the best deals on flights.
British Airways is the only carrier that offers direct flights to Buenos Aires from the UK. Iberia, Lufthansa, Air France and TAM are just a few of the airlines which serve travellers heading to Argentina from Europe.
Flying within Argentina
Flying within Argentina is expensive because tickets are taxed for foreigners. For this reason (and to help the planet), we recommend bus travel over long distances.
If you do have to fly internally, you will likely travel with Aerolíneas Argentinas or LAN.
LANGUAGE | Spanish tips
“Italians who speak Spanish and think they’re British living in Paris…” That’s how the saying goes.
Basically, Argentina was a former Spanish colony that was flooded by Italian immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. About half of today’s Argentineans have Italian ancestry and this is obvious from the second you hear them speak.
(And in case you’re wondering, the British thing comes from the fact Argentina was highly influenced by British culture in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.)
Okay, back to the Spanish. Even if you have some degree of familiarity with the Spanish language, travelling around Argentina is likely to throw up all kinds of language learning issues for you.
Firstly, the accent can be hard to understand, sounding more like a mix of Italian and Spanish. For example, you may be used to hearing “ll” pronounced in Spanish as “y” but in Argentina, this sound is said “sh’. Quite the difference!
Many backpackers also report that Argentinians are less patient with language learners than in other Latin American countries. Don’t let this put you off though – people still appreciate the effort and having a basic command of Spanish is bound to make your own life easier.
To give yourself a head start before you venture over to Argentina, have a watch of the video below. It outlines some of the most common Argentinian expressions.
BEWARE! It may be over 30 years since The Falklands War happened but it’s still a sore topic in Argentina. If the topic does come up in conversation with a local, remember they call the Falklands the Islas Malvinas and if you’re British it’s probably worth steering clear of the topic altogether.
COMMUNICATION | Phone & internet in Argentina
If you plan to use a smartphone once you arrive in Argentina, you will need to buy a SIM. All SIM cards will need to be registered before they can be activated and you will need to present your ID to do this.
SIM cards can be bought at kiosks for a reasonable cost. The easiest way to spot places where you can top up is to look for signs which say ‘saldo virtual’ or ‘recarga facil’.
WiFi is generally available at accommodation options as well as in cafes. Bear in mind that in remote spots such as some areas of Patagonia, WiFi may be unreliable across the board.
BUDGET | How much does it cost to backpack in Argentina?
Backpacking Argentina is far cheaper than its neighbour, Brazil. Expect to budget around $40-60 per day, or more if you’re doing tours and treks.
See below for an idea of how much you’ll spend on transport, accommodation and activities in Argentina. Don’t forget to check out our guide to travelling South America on a budget!
Exchange Rate: Argentinian Peso to US Dollar – 92 ARS = $1USD Approx.
Cost of Accommodation in Argentina
When it comes to accommodation, there are some bargains to be found. You can expect to pay anywhere from 200-400ARS ($5-$10USD) for a dorm room in a hostel in Buenos Aires.
In a hostel, private rooms with shared bathroom usually come in at double the price of dorms. It is worth mentioning that some parts of the country are more expensive than others and budget options can be limited in certain places. For example, accommodation in Patagonia will be significantly more expensive than in cities on the Gringo Trail such as Buenos Aires.
Of course, if you are visiting any of the national parks, the cheapest accommodation available is camping. You can expect to pay between 80-400 ARS (around $2-$10USD) for a tent pitch.
Remember how little time you spend in bed and don’t splash the cash on accommodation in Argentina. Save your pesos for meat and wine!
Cost of Food in Argentina
Sadly for backpackers, food is fairly costly in Argentina. However, there are ways to keep your spending down. The local street food is a good option, with Argentinian empanadas clocking in at less than $1USD and lunch specials costing around $2USD.
If you’ve heard anything about Argentina’s food scene, you’ll know that the signature food is the steak, called un lomo. It might not be the cheapest option on menus but it is a definite must-try! Expect to pay around 475 ARS (around $12USD) for steak and Malbec in a mid-range restaurant.
Vegetarians beware in this meat-eating country – you will often be met with perplexed stares when trying to explain your veggie-loving tendencies.
Cost of Beer in Argentina
Now onto the really important stuff: beer. As with anywhere, you will pay less for a domestic brand of beer than an imported one. Likewise, beer is also cheaper when brought from the shop instead of in a bar.
Look out for local favourite Quilmes. A bottle of this will set you back around 100 ARS ($1.10USD) for 0.5 litres. Imported beer is more expensive, at around 150ARS ($1.60USD).
Cost of Wine in Argentina
Argentina is the largest wine-producing country in South America. That means that there is wine in abundance, offering variety and bargain prices! For a bottle of mid-range Malbec, you can expect to pay in the region of around 280ARS ($3USD).
Cost of Activities in Argentina
Argentina is one of the more expensive countries in South America when it comes to tours and trips. However, to get the most out of your trip, some of the costs will be inevitable. Here is what you should expect to pay for some of the most popular trips.
- Alternative Perito Moreno Glacier Tour: $52USD
- Tango class: Free – $3USD
- Day Trip to Iguazu Falls: $26USD
- Mendoza wine day tour: $150USD
- Bike rental in Mendoza: $8USD per day
- National Park entry fees: Between $2-$22
TRANSPORT | Getting around Argentina
Remember to factor in the cost of transport. Argentina is a huge country so you’ll need to include buses, trains or internal flights into your budget.
Taxis in Argentina
In Buenos Aires, taxis are metered and prices are decided by the local government. The standard daytime fare begins at 46ARS (around $0.80USD). It increases every 200 metres and there is a 20% increase during nighttime hours (22.00-06.00).
Buses in Argentina
Overnight buses are a good way to travel, saving money on accommodation. The buses are comfortable too, with fully reclining seats, personal TV screens and catering provided by many bus companies.
To give you an idea of prices, a ticket from Buenos Aires to Cordoba will cost in the region of $30-40 and the journey takes between 8-11 hours, depending on the route.
Traveller Tip! Change is gold dust in Argentina so hang onto it! Buses will only accept coins and shopkeepers will often refuse some sales if it involves giving you change.
Flights in Argentina
Flights can be a good way to travel when you have limited time, however, the domestic system can be very unreliable. Cancelled and delayed flights are commonplace and airports are sometimes impacted by labour strikes. The main domestic airlines are Aerolíneas Argentinas, LATAM and Líneas Aéreas del Estado.
WHERE TO GO | Places to visit in Argentina
For Natural Vistas…
It has to be Patagonia right? To be fair to Argentina, there are plenty of beautiful spots but for breathtaking, stop-you-in-your-tracks kind of landscapes, Patagonia is the place. Head to El Calafate and make sure you cram in Mount Fitzroy and the Perito Moreno Glacier!
For Football Fans…
Maradona, along with Lionel Messi, is probably Argentina’s most famous footballing export. If you’re football crazy, head to Buenos Aires to explore huge stadiums and even to visit the Diego Maradona House Museum!
The area close to the Iguazu Falls is home to an incredible 400 species of bird and 500 species of butterfly. Complete with the picture-perfect backdrop of the falls, there is no better place to look for exotic wildlife. If you spot a coati (a type of raccoon-like animal), give them a wide berth and be very wary of their sharp claws!
Mostly known for its Malbec, Mendoza is a cracking destination for both foodies and wine lovers. Sample some of the country’s best tipples here, many of which complement a traditional Asado (Argentine barbecue) wonderfully.
Argentina is one of the best places to road trip in the whole world. A variety of terrain and stunning vistas offer sheer escapism for travellers. The sheer size of Argentina means that having your own vehicle will allow you to get off the beaten track and explore less visited places. Check out the popular Seven Lakes route for a taste of what the country has to offer. If you want to extend your road trip, just keep heading down Route 40.
THINGS TO DO | Top 10 things to do in Argentina
1. Tour the Vineyards
When it comes to wine, Argentina is a world leader. Most famous for its deep, rich Malbec, Mendoza is at the heart of wine country. It is responsible for around two-thirds of Argentina’s wine production. Many of the bodegas offer tours and tastings. Alternatively, if you’d rather save your money, you can rent a bicycle and explore independently.
2. Feel the Spray from Iguazu Falls
Sitting on the border between Argentina and Brazil lies the UNESCO World Heritage Site Iguazu Falls. Extending nearly 3km, Iguazu is made up of between 150-300 individual waterfalls, all sitting in an interlocking chain. Take in the views from the walkway or hop in a boat to feel the spray on your face.
3. See the Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the world’s most famous and one of the only glaciers which is not retreating. Standing in front of this epic ice wall has a way of making you feel very small. Although this is a popular attraction with visitors, it is possible to see it without the bulk of the crowds. Read one backpacker’s experience on the Alternative Perito Moreno Glacier Tour for more information.
4. Try Your Skills at the Tango
Argentina is the capital of the tango and no one should visit the country without taking the opportunity to see the national dance firsthand. Head to one of Buenos Aires’ regular dancehall tango events (known as milongas) for the spectacle and make sure to get there early to take advantage of a class.
5. Feast on Asado
Vegetarians look away now! Get ready to feast on the king of barbecues: Asado. This epic meat fest is Argentina’s pride and joy served in local parrillas (grill restaurants) all over the country. Just follow your nose, you’re bound to find one!
6. Road Trip the Seven Lakes
Spanning around 100 km from Villa La Angostura to San Martin de Los Andes, the Seven Lakes trail is one of Argentina’s best road trips. For some inspiration for your adventure, check out this list of our favourite road trip quotes!
7. Explore the City at the End of the World
Ushuaia is the most southerly city in the world and gateway to southern Patagonia. It is a popular launch point for trips to Antarctica and also sits on the edge of Tierra del Fuego, one of South America’s best national parks. Don’t miss it.
8. Hike in El Chalten
El Chalten is one of the best hiking spots in the whole of Argentina. If you fancy getting out into the big outdoors, why not take on one of South America’s best treks, the Fitz Roy Hike? Offering world-class views of crystal clear lakes and looming mountains, this is a hike you won’t forget!
9. Be a Gaucho for the Day
Argentina has a long history of horseback riding and the image of the gaucho (cowboy) is synonymous with the country. To learn more about gaucho traditions, embark on a tour to one of the many estancias (ranches) in the Buenos Aires province.
10. Go Whale Watching
Reserva Faunística Península Valdés, located in the east of Patagonia is home to a wide variety of marine life. In this protected area, it is possible to see elephant seals, Magellanic penguins, orcas and sea lions. The highlight comes between June to mid-December, when sightings of the southern right whale are frequent.
Written by: Sheree Hooker, Harry Van Schaick and Laura Davies.