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Argentina requires no vaccinations to enter the country, except for passengers coming from countries where cholera and yellow fever are endemic.

The medical facilities and personnel in Buenos Aires and other urban areas in Argentina are very professional. Argentina has a system of socialized medicine, in which basic services are free. Private clinics are inexpensive by Western standards.

Most drugs requiring a prescription in North America or western Europe do not require one in Argentina. Thus, if you lose or run out of a medication, you may not need to see a doctor and get a new prescription. The same is true if you become ill and know what medicine you need. Many pharmacies in the Microcentro have English-speaking staff. (Be aware, however, that some medicine can be expensive in Argentina.) Pack prescription medications in your carry-on luggage, and carry them in their original containers, with pharmacy labels -- otherwise they might not make it through airport security. Also bring copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your pills or run out. Know the generic or chemical name of prescription medicines, in case a local pharmacist is unfamiliar with the brand name. Don't forget an extra pair of contact lenses or prescription glasses.

Buenos Aires's streets and sidewalks can be disgustingly unsanitary. While there is a pooper-scooper law on the books, dog owners seem to take delight in letting their pets relieve themselves in the middle of the sidewalk. Watch where you step, and wash your hands thoroughly after handling your shoes, even if you don't think you stepped in anything. Roaches also love the city's streets. If you don't want unwelcome visitors in shopping bags or pocketbooks, don't leave them sitting on the ground while you dine outdoors. (This is a good theft-prevention measure as well.)

Dietary Red Flags -- Water and ice are considered safe in Buenos Aires, though many people prefer bottled water. Travelers should be careful with Argentine steak, however. Because it is generally served very rare, if not almost raw inside, people with delicate digestive systems or immune deficiency should request it well-done (bien cocido). Cross-contamination of uncooked meat with salads and other items is unfortunately common in restaurants. You should also avoid street food and drinks served out of canisters at city festivals. Vegetarians should be aware that with so much leftover cow fat as a byproduct of the cattle industry, lard is commonly used as a cooking ingredient and finds its way into many baked goods. Read labels and ask. Kosher and halal foods are also easily found in Buenos Aires.

Bugs, Bites & Other Wildlife Concerns -- Malaria is not an issue in Buenos Aires, but in summer, and especially in parks and along the Río de la Plata, mosquitoes are everywhere. Wear repellent to avoid bites. Visitors on hiking trips to the Tigre islands should be aware of saw grass and wear light full-length sleeves and pants to avoid cuts.

Respiratory Illnesses & Allergies -- Some people with allergies can be affected by the pollution in Buenos Aires's crowded Microcentro, where streets are packed with cars and buses. The beautiful spring blossoms also bring with them pollen, and even people not usually affected by plants might be thrown off by plants different from those in their home countries. It's a good idea to pack a decongestant.

Sun/Elements/Extreme Weather Exposure -- The summer sun is hot and strong in Buenos Aires. It's best to wear sunblock and carry it with you (it's available in stores and pharmacies throughout the city, so you can purchase it after you arrive).

Tropical Illnesses -- For advice about shots for various illnesses if you are traveling to other parts of South America, contact Vacunar, a chain of clinics specializing in vaccinations and preventative illness, with locations all over Buenos Aires (www.vacunar.com.ar). Keep in mind that many shots require a period of time before they become effective.

Safety

The fact that former U.S. president George W. Bush's daughters were robbed despite being surrounded by Secret Service and local cops says a lot about Buenos Aires. Crime -- especially pickpocketing, robbery, and car theft -- has increased sharply in recent years with the volatility of the economy and an influx of naive tourists. Visitors need to be aware at all times. Real violence is unlikely; pickpocketing is likely to be your top problem, so be careful in large crowds, on subways, on buses, and while watching street performers. Never leave a bag or purse unattended or on the ground. (Though official accounts differ and/or deny the Bush daughters were robbed at all, the method by which they were likely hoodwinked was the "soccer" method: A purse on the ground under a chair is kicked to another thief who then takes it away.)

While it's generally safe to walk around Recoleta, Palermo, and the Microcentro day and night, some tourist areas deemed safe by day, such as La Boca, should be avoided at night. While you need not avoid San Telmo by night -- many of the best bars and milongas are in this area -- you should watch out for theft here as well, especially in outdoor restaurants. I would also warn tourists against walking around in Monserrat at night, though with increasing gentrification and tourist spillover from San Telmo, the area has become safer. Visitors should walk in pairs or groups when possible but avoid conspicuous tourist behavior, including speaking loudly in English. Do not flaunt expensive possessions, particularly jewelry. Call for a radio-taxi or remis when leaving a place of business. The number-one rule to keep in mind is that thieves take advantage of naiveté and opportunity.

Because motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of injury among travelers, walk and drive defensively. Do not expect buses and cars to stop when you cross the street. Always use a seat belt, which is the law in Buenos Aires, even in taxis.

 

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.