Thursday, November 10, 2011

Argentine Adventure, Part 1: Logistics

When I was given the opportunity to travel to Argentina for work, my first thought was that there was no way I could go without taking my family with me. None of us had been to South America, or for that matter, the Southern Hemisphere. So in the last week of October we set off for a very different kind of adventure than those we usually enjoy.
The family near the Presidential residence, Buenos Aires
Rather than give a chronology of the trip, I thought it might be more helpful to just write about a few aspects of our experiences there. And then I figured out that there was too much that I wanted to write to put it all in one blog post. So I'm breaking it up into a number of posts in hopes that it will be easier to get them finished and published; and easier for you, Gentle Reader, to wade through the whole thing.


The flight to Argentina is long. There's no way around it. It helped a little bit that the flights in both directions were at night, so the kids spent a good bit of the time sleeping. The rest of the time they read books, drew, colored, and did other activities we had brought with us. My wife and I spent a good bit of the time reading and failing to sleep.

When we booked our flight, there was no way to specify meal choices or dietary restrictions. I was unaware of the fact until supper was being served. So on the way to Argentina, there was very little in the way of vegan fare available. I had some of the meager salad they offered, though I had to go without dressing. The rest of my meal consisted of granola bars and rice cakes.

I had intended to contact the airline to make better arrangements for the return flight, but I didn't get around to talking to anyone until we were checking in at the airport. The woman at the counter said that they required at least twenty-four hours notice for that kind of thing. But I was better prepared this time around with some fresh fruit, a large salad bought at a restaurant in the airport, and some other snacks.

Leaving the country with fruits and vegetables was not a problem. Had I failed to eat them all during the flight, U.S. customs would have confiscated them after we landed. But of course, that never became an issue.

Most of my work was in the city of Rosario, a little north of Buenos Aires. At the Terminal de Omnibus de Retiro, buses leave about every thirty minutes, so we had no trouble making the trip on Tuesday morning without making prior arrangements.
The kids at the Retiro Bus Terminal, Buenos Aires
Returning to Bs As from Rosario on Saturday was almost as easy, though we had to wait a little longer, since the next bus to depart was already sold out. While we waited, we ate the food we bought for lunch at the supermarket and hung out at the playground behind the terminal.
Near the Rosario Bus Terminal
Taking the bus was a good opportunity to see some of the Argentine countryside. The span between cities is very flat and agricultural. In truth, the landscape itself isn't very interesting. But it was nice to be able to see what the terrain is really like, and we passed several small villages along the way which I thought were worth seeing. And we saw many of the horses which are a national symbol of Argentina.

One of the few communication problems we experienced occurred upon arriving in Buenos Aires. After picking up our luggage, a driver for a non-taxi car service offered to give us a ride. We were tired and disoriented, so I figured it was as good as anything, though it turned out to be quite a bit more expensive. We were headed to the Hilton hotel in Puerto Madero, and of course we pronounced "Hilton" like Americans. He acted like he understood, but it turns out that he didn't. We should have said "Heel-tone." It took some doing to get things straightened out, but we made it to the hotel just fine.
M. playing near the Hilton at Puerto Madero, Buenos Aires.
When it came time to leave, we found out that there is a flat taxi rate of $140 Argentine Pesos to get to the airport. Considering the distance, this was a very good price. The concierge made sure everything was understood with the driver - I didn't want to get ripped off by paying a metered fare if the driver didn't think we knew any better.

It is probably no surprise that taking taxis in Argentina is a cash-only affair. There are none of the on-board credit card machines which are becoming ubiquitous here in the US. Most of the time, no tip is expected unless the driver helps with luggage or otherwise goes above and beyond getting you from point A to B.

So the logistical aspects of our trip went as smoothly as could be expected. The kids did great with the long flights and bus rides, all things considered.


  1. "One of the few communication problems we experienced occurred upon arriving in Buenos Aires."

    This just reminded me of the only full sentence I know in Spanish...the one you taught me over 10 years ago. Now I wonder if you got an occasion to use it yourself? *laugh*

  2. Heh... No, all of the bridges in Puerto Madero were pretty easy to find. And ever since you found out that "maldito" has much stronger connotations than my Spanish/English dictionary indicated, I've been a little reluctant to say that to native Spanish speakers.