These days, so many people plan their trips via websites and e-mail that it's easy to forget that a computer can never replace the knowledge of a good travel agent.
Recommended U.S.-Based Operators -- The following U.S.-based tour companies offer solid, well-organized tours in various price categories, and they are backed by years of experience. All can arrange tours of Buenos Aires, the surroundings, and other parts of Argentina and South America.
- Borello Travel & Tours, 7 Park Ave., Ste. 21, New York, NY 10016 (tel. 800/405-3072 or 212/695-3200; www.borellotravel.com), is a New York-based travel firm specializing in upscale travel to South America. The owner, Sandra Borello, has run her company for nearly 20 years and is a native of Buenos Aires. Prices can vary, depending on the season, options, and hotel, but a 1-week package to Buenos Aires can cost about $3,000 per person. They maintain an additional office in Buenos Aires, which can be reached at tel. 11/5031-1988.
- Travel Dynamics International, 132 E. 70th St., New York, NY 10021 (tel. 800/257-5767 or 212/517-0076; www.traveldynamicsinternational.com), is a luxury cruise operator that specializes in educational enrichment programs aboard small cruise ships. TDI voyages include expert guided land tours and onboard lectures by distinguished scholars and guests. They cater to the traveler with an intellectual interest in history, culture, and nature. Operating for almost 40 years, this company offers voyages with destinations in South America and Antarctica. Their journeys to Antarctica usually open with an overnight stay in Buenos Aires, and begin at $8,995 for a 14-day program (prices may vary).
Recommended Buenos Aires-Based Operators -- Even if you have arranged things at home, once you're in Buenos Aires, there are always last-minute changes or new things you would like to see. The following companies are all excellent and have English-speaking staff members. All can also provide trips to other cities in Argentina outside of Buenos Aires, as well as South America.
- Say Hueque Tourism, Viamonte 749, Office 601, 1053 Buenos Aires (tel. 11/5199-2517; www.sayhueque.com), is a highly recommended small company with knowledgeable, friendly service and attention to personalized client care. The company began by catering to the young and adventurous on a budget, but has begun to deal with a more upscale yet independent-thinking clientele. Various tour themes include Literary Buenos Aires, Biking Buenos Aires, and Tango Buenos Aires, among many others. They also offer adventure tours within the vicinity of Buenos Aires such as to the Tigre Delta. Outside of Buenos Aires, they specialize in Patagonia and Iguazú, finding special out-of-the-way places for their clients. Based on their very personal service, this is among my favorite of the operators within Buenos Aires.
- Euro Tur, Viamonte 486, 1053 Buenos Aires (tel. 11/4312-6077; www.eurotur.com), is one of the largest and oldest travel companies in Argentina, specializing in inbound travel, but they can also help walk-ins to accommodate travelers' needs directly while in Buenos Aires. They can arrange basic city tours to trips of all kinds throughout Argentina and South America.
- Les Amis, Maipú 1270, 1005 Buenos Aires (tel. 11/4314-0500; www.lesamis.com.ar), is another large Argentine tour company, with offices throughout Buenos Aires and Argentina. They can arrange trips for Buenos Aires, Argentina, and many other parts of South America. Within the U.S., they are represented by Gina Heilpern, who maintains an office in New York. She can be reached at tel. 718/857-5567.
Organized Adventure Trips -- The advantages of traveling with an organized group are plentiful, especially for travelers who have limited time and resources. Tour operators take the headache out of planning a trip, and they iron out the wrinkles that invariably pop up along the way. Many tours are organized to include guides, transportation, accommodations, meals, and gear (some outfits will even carry gear for you, for example, on trekking adventures).
- Abercrombie & Kent, 1520 Kensington Rd., Oak Brook, IL 60521 (tel. 800/323-7308; www.abercrombiekent.com), is a luxury tour operator that offers "Patagonia: A Luxury Adventure," a 16-day trip that heads from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia for a 3-day cruise around Tierra del Fuego, followed by visits to Torres del Paine park, Puerto Varas, and Bariloche. Cost is $12,695 per person, double occupancy.
- Mountain-Travel Sobek, 6420 Fairmount Ave., El Cerrito, CA 94530 (tel. 888/MTSOBEK  or 510/527-8100; fax 510/525-7718; www.mtsobek.com), are the pioneers of organized adventure travel, and they offer trips that involve a lot of physical activity. One of their more gung-ho journeys traverses part of the Patagonian Ice Cap in Fitzroy National Park for 21 days; a more moderate "Patagonia Explorer" mixes hiking with cruising. Prices start at $6,495 per person. Sobek always comes recommended for their excellent guides.
- Backroads Active Vacations, 801 Cedar St., Berkeley, CA 94710-1800 (tel. 800/GO-ACTIVE [462-2848] or 510/527-1555; www.backroads.com), offers a 8-day biking tour through Northwest Argentina, with stops in Cachi and Cafayate, staying in luxury accommodations such as Estancia Colomé. Costs run from $4,498.
- Wilderness Travel, 1102 Ninth St., Berkeley, CA 94710 (tel. 800/368-2794 or 510/558-2488; www.wildernesstravel.com), offers a more mellow sightseeing/day-hiking tour around Patagonia, including Los Glaciares, Ushuaia, El Calafate, and Perito Moreno Glacier. Prices start at $4,295, depending on the number of guests (maximum 15).
- Wildland Adventures, 3516 NE 155th St., Seattle, WA 98155 (tel. 800/345-4453 or 206/365-0686; www.wildland.com), offers a few adventure tours of Argentina. The "Salta Trek Through Silent Valleys" tour takes in Salta, Jujuy, and the Andean plain. Two Patagonia tours are offered: "Best of Patagonia," which concentrates on Argentine Patagonia (including Península Valdés, Río Gallegos, Perito Moreno, and Ushuaia), and "Los Glaciares Adventure," which visits El Calafate, Fitzroy National Park, and Perito Moreno Glacier, among others. Accommodations range from hotels to camping to rustic park lodges. Eco-tourism is an integral part of Wildland tours. Prices start at $2,500 for the 8-day Salta tour and continue upwards of $4,125 for the 10-day Patagonia trip.
Private Tour Guides -- It's easy to hire guides through your hotel or any travel agency in Buenos Aires. You may also want to contact AGUITBA (Asociación de Guías de Turismo de Buenos Aires), Carlos Pellegrini 833, Sixth Floor C, Buenos Aires (tel. 11/4322-2557; www.aguitba.org.ar), a professional society of tour guides that has tried to promote licensing and other credentials legislation to ensure the quality of guides. Its offices are open Monday to Friday from 1 to 6pm.
Private guides I recommend include Buenos Aires-based Marta Pasquali (tel. 11/15-4421-2486 [cell]; email@example.com) and Monica Varela (tel. 11/15-4407-0268 [cell]; firstname.lastname@example.org). Both have conducted tours for several years in Buenos Aires. They offer high-quality specialized tours on various themes, and often work with corporations. I highly recommend them for their specialized knowledge of the city, which goes far beyond what many other tour guides know.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.