Balgrano/China Town - Just keep your eyes open
Nearing the end of our trip to Buenos Aires we had heard about Belgrano area and China town, so we wanted to check it out. It was about a 10 to 15 minute cab ride from Recoletta and it was nice to see. Lots of shops in China town. China town seemed safe, but we ventured just beyond the railroad tracks to get something to eat. As we did this I noticed what looked like a hand signal by someone sitting by the tracks. This was in the middle of the afternoon and there were a lot of people around.
We found a good restauraunt just passed the railroad tracks and sat down to eat outside on the table at the sidewalk. Shortly afterwards this big goony looking guy sat 2 tables next to us. Ever see a guy that just looks like a big f'n goon? This was the guy!
He's sweating. Ordering a beer. Looking at us. Sweating. Texting. Getting Nervous. Calling someone on his phone. Looking at us. Eventually just moved over to the table right beside us. Doing the same thing. It lasted at least 20 mins to half an hour. When we got our cheque he got his cheque at the same time.
He was looking quite nervous and was watching our every move. I suspect he was signalling to some other goons when we were going to leave. There were some shady looking people by the tracks. The restauraunt owner wouldn't let us use his phone to call a cab so lucky it's a busy enough street that cabs seem to go by every minute. We didn't attempt walking anywhere else - we stayed at our table, hailed a cab and within seconds we were gone in the cab. I flipped the goon the bird as the cab drove away ;) ... The goon looked kind of dissapointed.
Overall we felt in control of the situation, in a foreign land I'm always on the alert - just keep an additional eye out in Belagrano.
Fake pesos taxi scam
Honest taxi drivers don´t appreciate being paid with $50 or $100 bills. Dishonest ones take advantage to pretend to drop the bill you give them, swapping it for a fake and returning it to you saying they can´t accept it. Always remember how the serial number of the bill you´re paying with ends, eg 51C. This also happens in cafes etc but not so common.
There is a wide circulation of fake peso notes. It's important to distinguish what a genuine and a fake notes look like. At currency exchanges, especially at the international airport, there are information/advice sheets that would enable you to spot the differences and also notes, such as the australis, that aren't in circulation anymore and is known to be used as fake money. When changing money, always ask for small denomination notes for use at place as there is a shortage of change nationwide. It is best using reputable cambios and withdrawing money from reputable and secure ATMs (ideally inside banks).
Be Aware of Thiefs
Buenos Aires is a great city to visit, BUT: watch you things i.e. bags, cameras, ipods, etc. Thiefs work very fast; we were in a restaurant, just 2 of us at a table, my bag was on a chair next to me. There were not crowdy at all, but my bag gone in seconds. Nobody saw anything. It was the 1st day of our trip which, of course, was spoiled- camera, ipod, passport, cash, credit cards - gone.
Still, Buenos Aires is city to see.
- Family Travel
Chocolate milk spray/robbery scam - Rose Garden
This happened to us in the Rose Garden in Bosque de Palermo. As we entered we were surprised to see a guard on duty. As we wandered through the park, enjoying the birds and flowers, I felt something wet on my legs: it was a brown liquid that was also streaming down my husband's pants. At first, I thought we'd been hit by a massive bird! But within seconds a couple appeared with tissues and talking loudly in Spanish, began wiping us down. In the midst of the confusion, a woman walked by and said in English, they are thieves who are trying to distract you and rob you. As they are wiping your clothes they will pickpocket, or take your valuables. She suggested we go to the bathroom nearby to clean ourselves up. The couple quickly disappeared. we did wonder whether the other woman was part of the scam and if we went to the very deserted bathroom, if we would be robbed there. But it was fine. We carry nothing valuable with us in BA, so we do not make good targets. However, as savvy travelers we felt stupid that we had let our guard down -- probably because there was security in that area and for good reason. It obviously does not deter the scammers. At a dinner late that week, we met another couple who had been robbed in the Rose Garden. They had lost wallets and passports. All we got was a trip to the laundry and a valuable lesson. We have been to BA many times and always felt safe, this, we hope was an isolated incident.
- Hiking and Walking
Cafe Tortoni ****THEFT**** Tourist Trap be Careful
Big Mafia Cafe, inside theft job in my opinion. The restaurant tries to keep the integrity of the pass in this place for the tourist but in the 21st century, the cafe plots out their targets for theft. Why not, it is the perfect spot....ALL TOURIST!!
HERE IS HOW IT PLAYS OUT:
At the door you meet a greeter who peeks his head in to tell them there is a seating for two, he will not even let you in until he does that. He opens the door then you are seated by the Maitron D'. The waiter takes your order (does it wrong I might add) and waits for you to get your food. Our bag was on the floor by my husband foot tucked underneath oh so carefully(my only wish was he cuffed it around his leg), he just finished taking a picture of the wax statues in the corner and takes a bite of his really gross non-tasteless sandwich. Thirty seconds later, I asked him to hand me the camera, which is about $1000, so I can take a picture of the 12inch diameter table with our food. It was gone!!!!! The couple sitting literaly 5 inches away from us did not see a thing (yes, some tables are that close). The other people around us did not see it either.
My guess is that our waiter kicked it to the bus boy or another waiter and stashed it away. The thing is, they keep a close watch of who comes into this place and the timing was perfect. My husband just literally decided to put the camera into the back when he ate before that he has it around his neck. When we reported the issue, they were not helpful. Supposedly the camera they had did not tape a thing, it was just there as a fake set up. No one wanted to talk to us and everyone pretended that they did not know or see anything.
BE CAREFUL, THIS TRIP MAY COST YOU MORE THAN A COFFEE OR A YUCKY SANDWICH!!!
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Cheating in Buenos Aires
Although I thought it wouldn't happen in Buenos Aires (little bit naive of course), we were cheated a couple of times during our last visit.
Taxi driver - money change
After a taxi ride I had to pay 14 pesos and I'm absolutely sure I handed over two notes of 10 pesos to the driver. After a couple of seconds he showed me just one note of 10 pesos and one note of 2 pesos. So I had to pay 2 pesos more !!
Always have smaller notes and coins with you or be sure a driver hands over the change before you really pay for the ride.
Tortoni waiter - not working with a bill
After our two 'cafe cortados' in Cafe Tortoni I asked for the bill. The waiter didn't bring a bill, but he named the price in Spanish. I paid him 30 pesos and I didn't get any change. I later realised I paid much too much. Most probably it was 13 pesos !!
Insist on receiving a bill before paying anything.
Street vendor - fake price
My wife was hungry and she ordered one 'empanada' from a street vendor at the San Telmo (Sunday) market and I paid 10 pesos. This was our first day in Bs As and later I realised I had paid too much.
First ask the price and then decide to buy something.
Shoemaker - too pricey
I had to repair my camera bag and found a small shoemaker near Recoleta. It was a couple of seconds work. But he asked 15 pesos; I'm sure he wouldn't have charged a local for such a price.
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i´m not sure whether this was a just an taken oppurtinity or whether it is this guys MO but on our way to our hostel, after just arrivin Buenos Aries, we were confronted by a man who, after he vomitted all over us and our backpacks, attempted to help clean us up. my friend placed his bags down taking the bottle of water and tissues the man had offered. he then left along with, as we found as we went to leave, my friends smaller backpack containing his camera and his passport.
i´m not sure whether this man reguarlly does this or not but its something to keep your eyes out for. i never let any of my bags out of my grip, let alone my eyesight, however my friend never felt the need to be so careful. Buenos Aries is great city and pretty safe provided you take some care. Keep your stuff with you at all times and the worst that could happen is that you´ll end up cover in a local man´s vomit.
- Budget Travel
Buenos Aires. Counterfeit Money
On arriving in Buenos Aires International Airport we changed 300 US dollars at the Bank De La
Nacion (National Bank) in the main terminal for approximately 650 pesos. It was not until 2 days later we discovered that 3 of the 100 peso notes were counterfeit. We complained to the Tourist Police in the airport on our departure 3 weeks later, even producing the teller's receipt and counterfeit notes but they refused to pursue this and did not even record our complaint. I subsequently complained to the Argentinian Consulate in Toronto without success. Be warned that this can happen even from a Bank.
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Dont ask a girl if she is boliviana...
WHY? It means that the person is not pretty... It makes it little complicated if the girl is from Bolivia. But as a foregner or tourist I guess the locals understand you, that you dont know this. Even if they dont want to understand you, you have to ask if you want to know... No solution!
Broken, cracked, unleveled streets and sidewalks
Every where we went in Buenos Aires we noticed that the sidewalks were in desperate need of repair. They either were cracked, uneven, missing tiles so a plank was put over it to walk on and just large holes.
I definitely had a hard time walking around in the evenings with my heels and had to hold on for dear life to Ferni. During our last night in Buenos Aires it finally dawned on me to wear wedged heels (I had bought a pair a day before at a market) as I am prone to missing a step or falling into cracks and taking a tumble.
Thank goodness I didn't suffer any falls during this trip (a miracle).
So, if you are visiting Buenos Aires and want to wear heels, my advice, wear wedges.
Homeless in the Parks
We found large groupings of homeless people throughout the city's parks. They seemed to have formed small communities. We even observed a homeless woman given a homeless man a haircut in the park. They semed harmless and didn';t approach us for money but be on your guard as in any big city.
Graffiti was something we saw alot of in Buenos Aires. Graffiti is not uncommon in big cities so it was no surprise to find it here. It's a shame that buildings, statues and minuments are defaced in such a way. During my last visit to Buenos Aires there were several demonstations with people marching along the streets and spray painting buildings and walls as they walked.
The real Buenos Aires, but be aware!
La Boca is definitely the soul of the city, but you have to be careful, especially at night. Don't go alone, and try not to look like a tourist.
The main tourist streets (El Caminto) are pretty cheesy, with the colorful houses that everyone comes to look at. You'll want to wander around into the real neighborhood to get the true feeling for La Boca, just use common sense and be careful.
- Budget Travel
Scenes from another Planet
Do not freak out when you see sales people pee right in the middle of a six lane highway with the only precaution of turning opposite to the traffic. These hard working men might not have the time to visit a washroom (this Guinness hero of mine was even walking while doing it) and who knows may be there is no facility of this sort around. I doubt they would be welcomed in the Sheraton Convention and Towers Hotel despite the proximity.
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