Though much has recently changed, Argentina remains a very traditional, Catholic society that is fairly closed-minded about homosexuality. Buenos Aires, however, is a more liberal exception to this rule, where gays and lesbians are part of the fabric of city life. Gay and lesbian travelers will find numerous clubs, restaurants, and even tango salons catering to them. Buenos Aires has become a major gay-tourism mecca since the peso crisis, outshining Rio de Janeiro in popularity for this market. Gay maps are now produced by the Buenos Aires Tourism Office for distribution with standard travel information. Most hotel concierges also easily provide this information, recognizing the importance of the emerging market. The locally produced website www.gayinbuenosaires.com.ar also provides more details on many sites of interest.
In 2003, Buenos Aires enacted a Civil Unions law for gay and lesbian couples -- the first major Latin American city to do so -- and this law may eventually be made national. Still, throughout Argentina, while there are visible venues and efforts, for the most part many gays and lesbians remain fairly closeted. Violence is sometimes aimed at the transgendered, even by police.
Be aware of a few rules of thumb in a country where close contact is perfectly normal. Women walk hand in hand on the street, and it does not necessarily mean they are lesbians. It's simply common among women. Men kiss each other hello in public, and again this does not mean they are gay.
The International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA; tel. 800/448-8550 or 954/776-2626; www.iglta.org) is the trade association for the gay and lesbian travel industry, and offers an online directory of gay- and lesbian-friendly travel businesses.
The Comunidad Homosexual de Argentina (CHA; tel. 11/4361-6382; www.cha.org.ar) is the main gay- and lesbian-rights group in Argentina. They were the main proponents of the Civil Unions law, which they are attempting to expand to the entire country. They also run the annual Gay Pride March, known as Marcha del Orgullo Gay, in November.
Many agencies offer tours and travel itineraries specifically for gay and lesbian travelers. Above and Beyond Tours (tel. 800/397-2681; www.abovebeyondtours.com) is the exclusive gay and lesbian tour operator for United Airlines. Olivia Cruises & Resorts (tel. 800/631-6277; www.olivia.com) charters entire resorts and ships for exclusive lesbian vacations and offers smaller group experiences for both gay and lesbian travelers.
Pride Travel (tel. 11/5218-6556; www.pride-travel.com) is an Argentina-based company specializing in inbound Buenos Aires travel and other trips throughout South America. They also run the local gay guide publication La Ronda and started Argentina's first gay travel magazine, Pride Travel, in 2005. BueGay Travel (tel. 11/4184-8290; www.buegay.com.ar) handles upscale gay tourism within Buenos Aires and other parts of Argentina. Viajeras Travel (tel. 11/4328-1857; www.viajeras.net) is a woman-run travel company, specializing in travel for lesbian visitors to Buenos Aires. The women's scene is harder to tap than the men's scene, so this is a very useful resource.
Since 1992, Gay.com Travel and its predecessor Out and About (tel. 800/929-2268; www.outandabout.com) have provided gay and lesbian travelers with objective, timely, and trustworthy coverage of gay-owned and gay-friendly lodging, dining, sightseeing, nightlife, and shopping establishments in every important destination worldwide. Out Traveler (tel. 800/792-2760; www.outtraveler.com) is a gay travel magazine published by LPI Media, the owners of the U.S. gay newsmagazine the Advocate. Spartacus International Gay Guide (Bruno Gmünder Verlag; www.spartacusworld.com/gayguide) and Odysseus (Odysseus Enterprises Ltd.) are good, annual English-language guidebooks focused on gay men, with some information for lesbians. You can get them from most gay and lesbian bookstores, or order them from Giovanni's Room bookstore, 1145 Pine St., Philadelphia, PA 19107 (tel. 215/923-2960; www.giovannisroom.com). Within Buenos Aires, the gay monthly magazine Imperio is available at central newspaper kiosks.
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.