Area Codes -- The city area code for Buenos Aires, known locally as a característica, is 011. Drop the 0 when adding Argentina's country code, 54. The number 15 in front of a local number indicates a cellphone number, though some phones no longer use this code. You'll still need to dial 011 before the 15 if you're calling these numbers from outside Buenos Aires. Calling cellphones from overseas can be complicated. Dial whatever international code you need from your country (011 from the U.S. and Canada), then 54 for Argentina, then 9 to indicate a cellphone, then the area code of the cellphone, then the number. Thus, to call Buenos Aires cellphones from the U.S., you would dial 011-54-9-11 and then the eight-digit number. Be aware that phone numbers in other areas have anywhere from 5 to 7 digits, but always ask if a number seems strange.
Business Hours -- Banks are generally open weekdays 10am to 3pm, and ATMs work 24 hours. Shopping hours are Monday through Friday from 9am to 8pm or 10pm, and Saturday from 10am to 8pm or 10pm. Shopping centers are open daily from 10am to 10pm. Most independent stores are closed on Sunday, and some close for lunch. Some kiosks selling water, candy, and packaged food are open 24 hours. Most neighborhoods have a 24-hour pharmacy, and locutorios or phone centers.
Doctors -- Your hotel or apartment service can arrange for you to see a doctor in Buenos Aires. Your embassy can also provide you with a list of English speaking doctors.
Drinking Laws -- The legal age for purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages is 18 in Argentina, and proof of age is almost never required, meaning that teenage travelers may have easy access to alcohol. Alcohol is available for purchase in grocery stores and convenience stores, and virtually all restaurants serve wine and beer, if not hard liquor. Drinking on the street and in parks is allowed. Drunk driving is illegal and on weekends, especially during holidays, road blocks are periodically set up to identify drunk drivers. Rowdy drunken behavior is not typical in Buenos Aires, but can be observed after football (soccer) games, particularly near the Boca Juniors stadium. Bars generally close anywhere between midnight and 4am, and nightclubs can close as late as 7am on weekends.
Electricity -- Argentina uses 220-240 volts AC (50 cycles), like most of Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Travelers from the U.S. will need a converter for any electric appliances or electronic devices they bring with them. Standard electric plugs use a slanted two-prong similar to Australia's, but the round European two-prong is also common. British-built hotels will sometimes have British outlets, so a universal adapter is useful.
Embassies & Consulates -- All embassies are in Buenos Aires, Argentina's capital. Embassies have to deal with everything from concerned mothers whose sons have not called home during their Argentina trip, to real emergencies like passport theft, suicide, and murder. While each embassy has different rules and can be limited in providing certain kinds of help, your embassy is your best resource in the event of a problem. Before you leave for Argentina, check your embassy's website for updated information on the country as well as lists of resources, from doctors and hospitals to lawyers. The U.S. Embassy (www.travel.state.gov) provides detailed information, and it's a good idea to register on STEP (the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program; https://travelregistration.state.gov/ibrs/ui), so that the embassy and your relatives will be able to contact you in an emergency. Other embassies provide similar help for their citizens.
The embassy of Australia is in Belgrano, Villanueva 1400 at Zabala (tel. 11/4779-3500; www.argentina.embassy.gov.au).
The embassy of Canada is in Palermo, Tagle 2828 at Alcorta (tel. 11/4808-1000; http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/argentina-argentine/index.aspx).
The embassy of Ireland is in Recoleta, Av. del Libertador 1068 at Callao, 6th Floor (tel. 11/5787-0801; www.embassyofireland.org.ar).
The embassy of New Zealand is in Retiro, Carlos Pellegrini (9 de Julio) 1427 at Arroyo, 5th Floor (tel. 11/4328-0747; www.nzembassy.com/argentina).
The embassy of the United Kingdom is in Palermo, Luis Agote 2412 at Guido (tel. 11/4808-2200; www. ukinargentina.fco.gov.uk).
The embassy of the United States is in Palermo, Av. Colombia 4300 at Cerviño (tel. 11/5777-4533; www.argentina.usembassy.gov).
Emergencies -- For an ambulance, call tel. 107 or 11/4923-1051; for fire, call tel. 100; for police, call tel. 101 or 911.
Hospitals -- English-speaking hospitals include Clínica Suisso Argentino, Av. Pueyrredón 1461 at Santa Fe (tel. 11/5239-6000; www.cymsa.com.ar), and Hospital Britanico, Perdriel 74 at Caseros (tel. 11/4304-1081; www.hospitalbritanico.org.ar). Traveler's insurance is highly recommended. Be aware that in an emergency, you may be taken to a public rather than private hospital. For specific and unlikely traumas such as knife or gunshot wounds or burns, public hospitals are often better than private hospitals, as they have more experience dealing with these sorts of cases.
Insurance -- As on any trip, traveler's insurance is a good idea. In Argentina in particular, strikes at the airport are common, which can create unexpected expenses (as well as significant delays). In addition, even with a good insurance plan, know that you will likely have to pay all your hospital expenses out of pocket and wait to be reimbursed later. If you plan to visit remote areas of Patagonia or go mountain climbing, it's good to buy increased insurance protection that will cover evacuation or repatriation, the uninsured costs of which can be between $10,000 and $25,000 in an emergency and are the responsibility of those for whom these services have been rendered. For information on traveler's insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and medical insurance while traveling, please visit http://www.frommers.com/planning.
Language -- Spanish is the national language of Argentina, spoken with a slight Italian lilt, and with y and ll pronounced "zhe." With the massive influx of tourism since the peso crisis, English has become ubiquitous on the streets of the city and many young people know some of the language. Shops, hotels, and restaurants are usually staffed by at least one or two English speakers. (A rule of thumb is that less-expensive venues will have fewer, if any, English speakers.) While non-Spanish-speakers should have little trouble getting around in general, those who know a bit of Spanish will be more reliably able to communicate with hotel and restaurant staff, less likely to be ripped off in cabs, and better able for directions and converse with locals in general. For a comprehensive, pocket-size phrase book, check out Frommer's Spanish PhraseFinder & Dictionary.
Legal Aid -- In the event of a robbery or other crime, call tel. 101 or 911 for the police. If you get into serious legal trouble, or your passport is stolen, call your embassy. The Federal Police also maintains a special division to help foreign travelers, the Comisaría del Turista, Corrientes 436 between San Martín and Florida (tel. 0800-999-5000 or 11/4346-5748; www.policiafederal.gov.ar; firstname.lastname@example.org). Javier Canosa, Montevideo 711 between Viamonte and Córdoba, 4th Floor (tel. 11/5252-2462; www.canosa.com.ar), is an English-speaking lawyer who has helped foreigners with legal issues. See also "Embassies & Consulates," above.
Mail -- Post offices can be found everywhere and are open weekdays from 10am to 8pm and Saturday until 1pm. The main post office, or Correo Central, is at Av. Sarmiento 151 (tel. 11/4891-9191; www.correoargentino.com.ar). In addition, the post office works with some locutorios, which offer limited mailing services. At press time, it cost 7.5 pesos to send a postcard or letter to the United States or Canada, and 8 pesos to send mail to the rest of the world outside of the Americas. The purple-signed and ubiquitous OCA (tel. 0800/999-7700; www.oca.com.ar) is a private postal service that can mail items overseas. UPS has many locations, including Calle Tucumán 300 at 25 de Mayo (tel. 0800/222-2877; www.ups.com), and there's a FedEx office at 25 de Mayo 386 at Corrientes (tel. 11/4630-0300; www.fedex.com.ar).
Medical Tourism -- Plastic surgery is an obsession for many Argentines. Depending on your view, Susana Giménez, one of Argentina's most famous stars, is an example of either the dangers or delights of that obsession. Botox and breast augmentations are the fashion and are often covered by private health insurance. Because of the exchange rate, Argentina is also becoming a place for plastic-surgery tourism. If you are planning to be here for a long time and have been considering cosmetic procedures, Buenos Aires might be a place to have it done. Two websites with more information on medical tourism are www.medicinaargentina.com and www.argentinahealthcare.org.
Newspapers & Magazines -- Newspaper kiosks abound in Buenos Aires. The main Spanish-language newspapers are El País (www.elpais.com.ar), Clarín (www.clarin.com), Página 12 (www.pagina12.com.ar), and Perfil (www.perfil.com). Magazines like Caras (www.caras.com.ar) and Gente (www.gente.com.ar) will keep you up to date on celeb gossip, and Lugares (www.lugaresdeviaje.com) is a good source for travel articles in Spanish. If you want to help the homeless, purchase a monthly issue of Hecho en Bs. As. (www.hechoenbsas.com), which has good articles about the music and arts scene and is Buenos Aires's version of London's Big Issue. U.S. and other foreign newspapers and magazines are commonly sold in Buenos Aires, though expensive, along with the International Herald Tribune (http://global.nytimes.com/?iht). The main English-language newspaper is the Buenos Aires Herald (www.buenosairesherald.com), which is an excellent resource for travelers. You might also want to visit the website for the formerly printed but now Web publication, Argentina Independent (www.argentinaindependent.com).
Packing -- Even the most expensive restaurants in Buenos Aires rarely require formal attire, but it's a good idea for men to bring a dinner jacket. Women already know a little black dress will go a long way. If you plan to explore the milonga scene, even if you do not dance the tango, wear shoes, not sneakers.
For more helpful information on packing for your trip, download Frommer's convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to http://www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Police -- For police assistance, call tel. 101 or 911. The Federal Police also maintains a special division to help foreign travelers, La Comisaría del Turista, Corrientes 436 between San Martín and Florida (tel. 0800-999-5000 or 11/4346-5748; www.policiafederal.gov.ar; email@example.com). Police in Argentina are not generally the corrupt figures you may have heard of in other Latin American countries or the merciless characters that patrolled Buenos Aires during the military regime. There is, however, an ongoing dispute between the two police forces operating in Buenos Aires: the Federal Police, controlled by national government (which is headed by the Peronist party), and the Metropolitan Police, created by Mayor Mauricio Macri, a member of the opposition and right-wing conservative party, the PRO. At times, during riots, according to Macri, the Federal Police are called out from the city in order to foment chaotic conditions. This is something to be aware of, but does not generally impact the tourist experience. You will find both police forces in most tourist-heavy areas. The Federal Police are distinguished by the rooster symbol on the medallions of their uniforms.
Smoking -- In 2006, Buenos Aires passed a law banning smoking in indoor public spaces, and in general, it is very well adhered to. It's not uncommon, however, to find a few people still smoking in bars or in clubs throughout Buenos Aires, especially as the evening drags on. Although smoking is not allowed in taxis, some drivers will still smoke; it's okay to ask them to stop if it bothers you.
Taxes -- The 21% sales tax (or VAT) is already included in the sales price of your purchase. Be aware when checking into hotels that the posted or spoken price may or may not reflect this tax, so make sure to ask for clarification. Foreign tourists are entitled to a refund on a portion of the VAT tax for purchases of certain items over 70 pesos, provided that the items are made in Argentina and are intended to be taken out of the country. However, you must request a refund invoice at the time of purchase from participating shops and present this invoice to Customs before departing the country. Check www.global-blue.com for more information.
Time -- Argentina does not have daylight saving time, so the country is 1 hour ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States in the U.S.'s summer and 2 hours ahead in the U.S.'s winter. Neighboring Uruguay does have daylight saving time, so be aware of this when making trips across the Río de la Plata.
Tipping -- A 10% to 15% tip is typical at cafes and restaurants. Taxi drivers do not expect tips, but many people round up to the nearest peso or 50-centavo figure. If a taxi driver helps you with bags, it's a nice gesture to give a small tip. For help with tip calculations, currency conversions, and more, download Frommer's convenient Travel Tools app for your mobile device. Go to http://www.frommers.com/go/mobile and click on the Travel Tools icon.
Toilets -- You won't find public toilets or restrooms on the streets in Buenos Aires, but they can be found in hotel lobbies, bars, restaurants, museums, department stores, railway and bus stations, and service stations. It's not impolite to ask to use them in bars and restaurants even if you are not a patron, and even if there's a sign saying not to ask. Many public toilets do not have soap or toilet paper, so it's a good idea to carry hand sanitizer and a tissue packet. Bus and train station bathrooms should be used with some caution; do not, for example, leave pocketbooks on toilet door hooks. Public toilets do not generally cost money to use, but the cleaning people leave tip jars at their cleaning station and it's a nice gesture to leave some change.
Visitor Information -- The headquarters of Buenos Aires's City Tourism Office (tel. 11/4114-5734; www.bue.gov.ar), responsible for all visitor information on Buenos Aires, is located at Calle Balcarce 360 in Monserrat but is not open to the general public. The city runs free tours (for details, call tel. 11/4114-5791 Mon-Fri 9am-4pm). Most are in Spanish, but a few are offered in English. The City Tourism Office provides information to tourists at various kiosks throughout the city, which have maps and hotel, restaurant, and attraction information. These are found at the intersection of J.M. Ortiz and Quintana in Recoleta near the cemetery, in Puerto Madero, at the central bus terminal, at Defensa 1250 in San Telmo, on the Caminito in La Boca, and at Calle Florida 100 at Diagonal Norte. Most are open Monday through Friday from 10am to 5pm. Some are also open on weekends as well, including the one at Defensa 1250. The center on Caminito in La Boca is open Saturday and Sunday only, usually from 10am to 5pm.
Argentina's Ministry of Tourism has a booth at the Ezeiza airport with information on Buenos Aires and the rest of Argentina, open daily 8am to 8pm (tel. 11/5480-0192), and one at Aeroparque with the same schedule (tel. 11/4773-9891). The Ministry of Tourism is headquartered at Suipacha 1111 between Santa Fe and Arenales, 21st floor (address is also sometimes indicated as Sante Fe 883; tel. 11/4312-5550), with a street-level information office in the building's shopping arcade open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm. Government websites www.turismo.gov.ar and www.argentina.travel have databases and links to hotels and other services, searchable by subject, city, province, and region. The toll-free hotline number for tourism information on Argentina is tel. 0800-555-0016. Also visit http://www.frommers.com/go/mobile for travel information you can download.
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.