Guide to Backpacking in Argentina

Guide to Backpacking in Argentina

In this guide we will tell you all about travelling in Argentina on a budget, including what to see, where to stay and how to get there.

Why Visit?

There is so much to love about this country it’s not funny. The food is delicious, the people are incredibly friendly, it’s easy to get around, it’s a spectacular country to look at and it’s home to some of the best nightlife on the planet – and you can do it all for a fraction of the cost of Europe!

Must-See Places

Buenos Aires

A lot of people dub BA as more European then South American and it’s not hard to see why as you walk around Plaza de Mayo in the heart of town. With leafy tree lined avenues, Parisian inspired architecture and amazing restaurants it’s easy to feel like you have landed in Europe. But the crazy nightlife, affordable food and accommodation and Argentinian hospitality will instantly remind you of where you truly are!

TRAVELATOR TIP: Head to the buzzing area of Palermo, grab yourself an outdoor table at a restaurant for dinner and a few drinks before heading to one of the numerous night clubs in the area. Don’t expect restaurants to be busy before 10pm and a lot of clubs won’t open before midnight, so prepare yourself for a late one!

Rosario

Rosario is a must-see place for Che Guevara fans. Alta Garcia, a short day trip from Rosario, is the location of Guevara’s childhood home, and offers a fascinating insight into his early years. Rosario itself is a pretty city, with a nice riverfront walk and plenty of great restaurants. Make sure you check out the Flag Monument during your stay. Rosario is an easy four hour bus ride from Buenos Aires.

Flag Monument in Rosario
Flag Monument in Rosario

Mendoza

Smack bang in the centre of Argentinian wine country, Mendoza is the perfect base for a few days of exploring the beautiful vineyards that surround the city. The city itself is great for a lazy stroll with some fantastic restaurants scattered throughout, but the real attraction is cycling from cellar door to cellar door just outside of the city. It is the perfect way to step a few afternoons!

TRAVELATOR TIP: Speak with your hostel about organising a cycling tour of one of the many wine regions just outside of Mendoza. It’s better spent with some company so grab a few like-minded travellers and jump on some bikes. Be careful though – the cycling gets harder as the day of wine drinking progresses.

Wine tasting bike tour in Mendoza
Wine tasting bike tour in Mendoza

Cordoba

Cordoba is a bustling student city right in central Argentina. It has enough amazing architecture and museums to keep you busy for a couple of days. What draws most people to Cordoba however is the incredible nightlife – with a huge concentration of students and some of the best bars in Argentina, Cordoba is definitely a city best explored after 10pm.

TRAVELATOR TIP: If you’re coming from BA, Cordoba is the perfect place to spend a few days before continuing west to Chile (via Mendoza of course) or north to Bolivia.

Puerto Iguazu

Iguazu Falls is the most spectacular natural attraction we have ever seen! Straddling the border of Brazil and Argentina, Iguazu can be seen from both countries but in our opinion the Argentinian side is the most impressive. The Argentinian side gives you the chance to get up close to the falls themselves – the boat trips are a real highlight. Puerto Iguazu is your base for exploring this incredible natural attraction.

TRAVELATOR TIP: You can cross the border into Brazil visa free for the day to visit the Brazilian side of the falls. Puerto Iguazu is also a great option for securing a normal Brazilian tourist visa. In 2013 when we visited, the turn-around time for an Australian passport was only 48 hours!

Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls

Salta

Still off the beaten track, Salta makes a great entry/exit point between Argentina and Bolivia. While there is not a massive amount to do in Salta itself the surrounding scenery is beautiful. If you’ve just arrived from Bolivia you will love having a consistently hot shower and a good choice of meals!

TRAVELATOR TIP: For some amazing scenery and even better wine, grab a cheap hire car in Salta and hit the road south to Cafayate. You will find some amazing cellar doors to taste some beautiful wine. Bodega Nanni is a good starting point. The views of the “coloured cliffs” along the way are worth the drive alone!

Our hire car from Salta
Our hire car from Salta

Where To Stay

Argentina is a haven for backpackers, with a massive range of hostels and cheap hotels. Argentina can cater for the hard partying traveller or the foodie looking for something a bit quieter. It has been a few years since we visited so here are our recommendations for the places we stayed that still exist:

  • Mendoza – Lao Hostel – Lao Hostel has one of the best atmospheres we have ever encountered in a hostel. The facilities are excellent, the rooms are perfect but the hosts/owners are what make this place really special! The wine tasting nights are awesome.
  • Cordoba – Tango Hostel – Tango Hostel is the perfect mix of a small hostel with a lively atmosphere. Perfectly located in the centre of town, Tango will cater for those who want to experience Cordoba’s infamous nightlife or those who want to chill out with a book and a glass of wine.

Must Eats

Argentinian BBQ (asado)

The barbeque is one of the best reasons to visit Argentina, it is absolutely incredible! Obviously not aimed at vegetarians, Argentinan BBQ is flame grilled meat at it’s best. It is considered poor form to use gas so all of the meat is cooked above open coals and you will instantly notice the difference. Grab a huge plate of chimichurrri sauce and tuck in!

Empanadas

These cheap, bite-size parcels of deliciousness are found pretty much everywhere in Argentina, from street vendors to classy restaurants. They can contain all sorts of ingredients, but the most common types are beef or chicken. They are similar to a miniature pie or pastie. We would eat these almost everyday in Argentina, our favourites being the standard beef or chicken with cheese.

Red Wine (vino tinto)

Going hand in hand with the cuisine is Argentina’s amazing varieties of red wine. Malbec, Syrah, Tempranillo – you name it and somewhere in Argentina will grow it, bottle it and do a damn good job at it too!

Getting Around

Buses are your key to getting around in Argentina, but the Argentinian buses aren’t your run of the mill Greyhounds! For longer journeys within Argentina, the buses are equipped much like passenger aircraft, and in some cases, even better. The seats are huge and recline to almost flat, there are TV screens showing movies and you can be provided with a meal (and a sneaky glass of scotch on some trips!). Buying tickets is a piece of cake – just head to the local bus station and visit one of the company booths. Check the price, what’s included and whether the bus is direct or not – it pays to be very clear on what’s included before handing over any money!

Argentina is also well connected via air, the national carrier Aerlineas Argentinas will got you most places but they can be quite expensive, especially if you are booking last minute.

Getting In and Out

If you are flying in from overseas, Buenos Aires is the best location for both price and variety. Now well connected to Australia (via New Zealand), major hubs in Europe and several cities in North America, BA is definitely the most convenient city to start your Argentinian adventure.

Entering via a neighbouring country such as Brazil, Chile or Bolivia is pretty simple. Crossing all three borders can be done by bus. Common routes include Tupiza (Bolivia) to Salta, Santiago (Chile) to Mendoza, and Foz do Iguacu (Brazil) to Puerto Iguazu.

For a more direct approach, most major cities in Argentina are now connected with other major cities within South America by air. There may be a transfer or two but it will save you A LOT of time when compared to catching a bus – although it might hurt your wallet. Check Skyscanner to see what’s available.

Budget

USD$80 (for a couple) will get you an excellent private room in a hostel, decent meals in cheap to mid-priced restaurants, bus journeys between major cities and all the cerveza you can drink!

Best Time To Visit

The summer months (December to February) can get quite warm but a great time for visiting Patagonia in the south. If you are staying norther, spring or autumn are your best bets. If trekking through Patagonia is on your list of things to do scratch out any time between June and August as it is just way too cold and most tour operators will stop running during this time.

Yay for transparency! This page contains some affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation through a link on this page, we get paid a small commission. Don’t worry – you don’t pay anything extra! And we promise that we only recommend places that we have truly enjoyed staying at.

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