Throughout South America, Buenos Aires is famous for its shopping. You'll find it in glitzy malls, along major shopping thoroughfares, and in small boutiques and little out-of-the-way stores. Buenos Aires is most famous for its high-quality leather goods, which, since Argentina is a beef-loving country, should come as no surprise. You won't find as many native crafts here, however, as you will in other South American capitals.
Argentina's peso crisis spawned an interesting trend: With Argentina's inability to import designer fashion items, demand for locally made items increased, and creative-minded local boutiques were able to expand and flourish. In particular, you'll find a wealth of young designers catering to the young-women's market, offering unique, feminine, and funky fashions. While not the bargain they once were, most items are still reasonably priced compared to their European and North American counterparts. Antique shops, especially in San Telmo, are also a famous part of the Buenos Aires shopping scene.
Many Buenos Aires stores, particularly those catering to tourists, also allow for tax-free shopping. You'll know them by the blue-and-white logo on the door; ask if you don't see one. Leather-goods stores are exceptionally well versed in the process, and it is part of the sales spiel. You can save even more money by looking for the Groupon offers that are posted on some of the websites of stores we list.
Look for the Mapas de Buenos Aires shopping map series (www.mapasbsas.com) as well as the GO Palermo (www.gopalermo.com.ar) shopping booklet at your hotel and tourism kiosks. DeDios has an excellent laminated shopping map, available at Buenos Aires bookstores and online at www.dediosonline.com and www.amazon.com. To help you make sense of it all, a number of tour guides specialize in shopping tours, like Argentine native Julieta Caracoche who runs Al Tuntunno Tours (tel. 11/15-4197-238 [cell]; www.altuntunno.com). Look also for fashion articles in the English-language publications Buenos Aires Herald (www.buenosairesherald.com), or The Argentina Independent (www.argentinaindependent.com).
Hours, Shipping & Taxes
Most stores are open on weekdays from 9am to 8pm and Saturday from 9am until midnight, some closing for a few hours in the afternoon. You might find some shops open on Sunday along Avenida Santa Fe, but few will be open on Calle Florida. Shopping centers are open daily from 10am to 10pm.
Certain art and antiques dealers will crate and ship bulky objects for an additional fee; others will tell you it's no problem to take that new sculpture directly on the plane. If you don't want to take any chances, contact UPS at tel. 800/222-2877 or Federal Express at tel. 810/333-3339.
Various stores participate in a tax-refund program for purchases costing more than 70 pesos. Ask for a special receipt, which can entitle you to a refund of the hefty 21% tax (IVA) when you leave the country. Most of these stores have blue-and-white TAX FREE signs, but always ask when making a purchase. The process is this: The store will provide you with a special Global Refund check form that indicates the value of what you will get back when you leave the country. You must have this special form, which participating stores will create for purchases costing more than 70 pesos, to get a refund. Some restrictions do apply, however. The item has to have been made in Argentina and purchased with the intention of taking it out of the country (so food does not qualify). The system is used mostly for clothing and leather goods, but you should ask about it whenever making a purchase, even if you do not see the sign. Upon leaving the country, have all of these checks ready and look for the Global Refund desk. At Ezeiza airport, it is located in the immigrations area just before you have your passport stamped to leave the country. For more information, check the website www.global-blue.com, and choose Argentina under the selection of countries.
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.