The following article is written by Camilla – an Argentinian contributor to Wandering our World.

One thing about Argentina is that there is something for everyone here. If you like traversing the desert, venturing into the thick jungle, and hiking amid colorful sierras, you need a trip to the north of the country.

But heading south would be a better fit for those who enjoy seeing snow-capped mountains out their window, doing snow sports, and kayaking in crystal-clear lakes. The great thing is backpacking in Argentina will give you the opportunity to see both sides of the country, and see parts of the country most tourists never see.

Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, Córdoba, Santa Fe, San Luis and La Pampa constitute the Pampas region. As varied as it gets, this part of the country is home to endless grasslands and wetlands, the Atlantic coast, its beaches, and the hectic metropolitan area. (Recommended: 12 Unbelievable Beaches in Argentina).

Because Argentina is one of the largest countries in the world, backpacking is an excellent way of exploring it while capitalizing on your time and saving money. It also allows you the freedom of setting your own path and pace, all the while connecting with the natural wonders of the country in a way you wouldn’t be able to otherwise.

In case any of this tickles your adventure senses, we will give you some tips to help you face the challenges—financial and logistical—that backpacking in Argentina may hit you with. After all, being prepared is the cornerstone of a smooth sailing expedition.

CONTENTS:

  1. Plan Your Journey In Advance
  2. Get A SUBE Card
  3. Exchange Your Money Safely And Legally
  4. Work To Receive Free Accommodation
  5. Connect With Other Backpackers
  6. Think About The Weather Conditions
  7. Include At Least One Of These Destinations In Your Itinerary
  8. Spend Your Money On What Matters
  9. Insure Yourself
  10. Our Final Thoughts
multicolored signage

1. Plan Your Journey In Advance

As mentioned above, Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world. Unless you intend on carrying out a three-month or longer trip, covering the whole country is nearly impossible!

To keep your adventure as budget-friendly as possible, it can be helpful to grab an Argentina map and pin the provinces and cities you plan on visiting.

Looking into the transport prices is a good way of getting started. Many backpackers start their journey in Buenos Aires, the Argentinian capital.

The bus and train are the best alternatives when traveling between different regions. It will take time, but if you are on a budget, the prices will be more of your liking.

However the reality is, if you intend on going to a remote destination, be it Ushuaia or The Iguazu Falls, a long-distance bus can take up to two days.

You may be tempted to catch a plane in this case. Unfortunately internal flights are expensive in Argentina and do not go hand-in-hand with an affordable backpacking trip. You’ll have to decide whether the time saved will be worth the extra money.

photo of man standing on top of mountain

2. Get A SUBE Card

In 2009, the Argentinian government introduced an electronic system that allows people to access public transportation, replacing outdated physical tickets. It is called SUBE, and it operates through a blue plastic card that resembles a credit or debit card. It allows you to pay for the subway, bus, and train.

Public transportation functions in many parts of the country, especially in Buenos Aires and the south, and it is much cheaper than Uber and taxis. So, having a SUBE card is almost imperative for a backpacker on any backpacking trip in Argentina.

Now, the question is: how do you get one?

As a foreigner, you need to approach an authorized center (you can find a list on the official SUBE website), fill out a form, present your passport or a foreign ID approved by Argentina, and pay no more than 130 ARS to get the card. You could also buy it online from the SUBE website and have it delivered to an Argentinian address, or collect it from one of the centers linked above.

To use the card, you need to load money onto it in the same centers mentioned earlier, or in a subway or train station. The card also has a negative balance that you can use until it has reached -75 ARS.

Keep in mind that some provinces, such as Salta, haven’t implemented this system yet. Given the case, many backpackers that have already been to Argentina suggest hitchhiking or heading to the bus station. You could also rent a car, but, as in every part of the world, it is considerably more expensive than public transportation.

However, Argentina is a very walkable country. Most of the attractions of every province are better appreciated if you visit them on foot, which is good news if planning a trip backpacking in Argentina. Public transportation is only there to aid you should you need to cover longer distances. You can check your route on Google Maps or Moovit, and you are ready to go!

people standing on road beside market and high rise buildings

3. Exchange Your Money Safely And Legally

Argentina has been undergoing an economic crisis for decades now. One of the many consequences is the rapid devaluation of the national currency, the Argentinian peso.

As unfavorable as this is for Argentinians, it is an advantage for tourists whose country has a strong currency in circulation. For instance, the US dollars. Why? Because currently, 1 USD is worth around 130-140 ARS at the time of writing. So you can buy plenty of pesos with just a few bucks.

Apart from the official dollar, a parallel market arose a few years ago, when the government imposed some restrictions on dollar trading. The currency that is exchanged in the black market is the “blue” dollar. The cost of this new currency doubles the official price, but it is not restricted. It is usually exchanged by people called arbolitos, that stand—mainly—on Florida Avenue in Buenos Aires while shouting “Cambio, Cambio, Cambio”.

It is not recommended to exchange your dollars with these people for two reasons: firstly, “blue” dollar trading, although tolerated, is not entirely legal. Secondly, they may scam you and give you fake bills.

It is best to exchange your money in official and trustworthy currency exchange offices. You can find them at the airport as soon as you land and in Microcentro, Buenos Aires. The Argentine Central Bank has a list of exchange offices that you can look up online too. They operate with the official dollar price.

You will get fewer pesos than if you were to exchange dollars with the unofficial price, but it will give you the tranquility of knowing that what you are doing is legitimate and you are getting real pesos.

4. Work To Receive Free Accommodation

Many hostel and house owners offer the opportunity to help them with their day-to-day tasks. You can do some cleaning, gardening, complete administrative tasks, and work as a receptionist in the lobby, among other jobs. The average workload is 20 hours per week, meaning it will not take too much time away from you.

In return, you can get a private or shared room, free use of the kitchen and laundry, breakfast, and dinner. Some accommodation places also offer discounts or promos in nearby nightclubs and restaurants, tours, and even language classes. You also get at least two days a week when you don’t have to work at all.

You can apply for these jobs online on websites such as Worldpackers or ask in person once you get to a hostel if they are hiring. Of course, the first option is more secure and allows you to properly check the rewards you will be getting for your service, but it is also possible to go with the flow and ask while already backpacking in Argentina.

By doing this, you cover almost all your basic needs without spending money. All of this while helping someone out, and being able to stay in the country for longer!

tourist standing in front of reception desk

5. Connect With Other Backpackers

Whether you are traveling alone or accompanied, meeting like-minded people along your path can make your trip much more enriching. You can learn about foreign cultures and backpacking methods and maybe even forge long-lasting friendships.

These connections will most likely happen all on their own if you stay at a hostel in a popular region of Argentina. Many backpackers opt for this kind of accommodation place, so you will probably run into someone you can spark conversation with.

However, you can also take the initiative and download apps designed for meeting new people. Many in Argentina use Tinder, whose most common use is finding romantic partners or casual flings. But as a backpacker, you can give it a new purpose.

Another popular app among travelers is Backpackr. It allows you to associate with folks that are nearby. You specify a location and arrival and departure date. This way, the app will automatically show you a list of people who have similar plans so you can contact them if you want to.

women sitting and lying on bunk beds

6. Think About The Weather Conditions

As we have already mentioned, Argentina’s geographical diversity is enormous. This causes the weather to be incredibly varied as you move across the country.

If you are backpacking across the south of Argentina, it is not the best idea to do it during winter. The temperatures are shockingly low. If you are sensitive to the cold, the trip will be unbearable for you. Instead the Southern summer is friendlier, displaying a mild—though sometimes hot—climate that allows you to enjoy other activities rather than just the snow.

The same happens during the summer in northern Argentina. The temperatures can exceed 30 degrees Celsius, and it gets hard to enjoy any activities as it’s too hot. Winter in provinces like Salta and Jujuy can be extreme as well since they have a desert climate.

The best time to visit this wonderful country depends on what you want to experience. If you want to go skiing or skateboarding, winter is your season.

If you are keen on going to the beach, you can refresh yourself and dip your toes in the cold sea or southern lakes during summer.

Avoiding the extremes, the Argentinian spring is the milder season. It is cooler in the Patagonian lands and warmer in Buenos Aires but pleasant in general everywhere. Travel between September and December and prepare to be amazed by all the blooming flowers and the lovely weather conditions

drone shot of quebrada de humahuaca

7. Include At Least One Of These Destinations In Your Itinerary

All of Argentina is worth seeing, but some places stand out because of their culture, history, and landscapes.

Here’s a list of a few you have to visit on your Argentina backpacking adventure, and tips for each:

Buenos Aires

The giant metropolis is the capital of the country, popularly known as “The Paris of South America” due to the evident European influence on its architecture.

Energetic, vibrant, and chaotic, this city is home to its natives, the porteños. They’re always in a rush, are terrible drivers, but certainly some of the most fun and passionate people you will come across. 

Porteños love the nightlife, and Buenos Aires never disappoints. You can find several nightclubs in almost every neighborhood, especially in Palermo.

Costanera Norte—an avenue that runs along the shore of the most famous river in the country, Río de la Plata—also hosts many boliches (nightclubs), but they are expensive.

During the day, if you want to enjoy free activities, you can walk through the neighborhoods of La Boca, San Telmo, Recoleta, Palermo, and Microcentro.

You can immerse in Argentinian culture with the tango dancers, the grill houses or parrillas, and El Caminito’s colorful houses.

Recoleta’s museums will teach you about Argentinian art and history, and you can experience the elegance of Plaza Italia and Plaza Francia, the most European squares in the country. La Recoleta’s cemetery displays enormous vaults wealthy families have built for their late family members. And just across the street, there are endless restaurants and cafés you can visit.

Plaza de Mayo, in Microcentro, is surrounded by historical buildings such as the Cabildo, the Government House or Casa Rosada, and the Metropolitan Cathedral, where José de San Martín, South America’s liberator, is buried.

Whilst Palermo’s walls are covered in colorful street art and hipster posters. You can appreciate this eclectic sight from one of the many brewpubs, vegan restaurants, and coffee shops this neighborhood has to offer.

people walking on alley near buildings

Iguazu Falls

Located in Misiones province, the 275 cascades here make for a powerful and intimidating sight.

You get to walk just above it through a narrow platform. At some point, you will reach the Garganta del Diablo, an 80-meter set of waterfalls that holds the heaviest flow out of all the cascades. You will see gallons and gallons of water plunging into the river while roaring so loud it stops listening to the people around you.

It is worth mentioning that this attraction is not free. The entrance to the National Iguazu Park costs 4000 ARS, which is currently equivalent to around 30 US dollars. It is not cheap, but definitely worth the money. A breathtaking experience you won’t want to miss!

the picturesque view of the iguazu falls

Bariloche

When visiting this town, you’ll have a hard time knowing where to start. You can do whatever your heart desires, be it kayaking, rafting, skiing, or cycling.

There are many lakes—Lago Nahuel Huapi, Lago Moreno, Lago Escondido—that are surrounded by mountains such as Cerro Llao Llao and Cerro Campanario. They have circuits and hiking trails that reward you with spectacular panoramic views when you reach the end.

If you want a rest day, you can lay a blanket on the ground at one of the lake beaches and appreciate the relaxing view while drinking some mate, the quintessential Argentinian drink.

You can also head to the Civic Center, where you can find charming edifices built out of cypress wood and tuff stone. Most of these buildings are chocolate shops, galleries, craft shops, and restaurants.

green mountains near lake under white clouds and blue sky

Salta and Jujuy

These provinces are famous for their sceneries and authentic Argentinian cuisine. When staying there, empanadas, tamales, and locro are a must-have. You can eat these dishes with Torrontés Riojano white wine, brought to you directly from Cafayate’s vineyards and wineries.

Regarding the landscapes, the Hill of Seven Colors in Purmamarca is one of the most frequented by Argentinian and foreign tourists. Salta harbors the Quebrada de Las Conchas: another geological formation that provides fantastical views for hiking enthusiasts.

Patagonia

The most recommended destinations of wild Patagonia are El Chaltén, El Calafate, and Ushuaia.

When you arrive in El Chaltén, you can go hiking on the Laguna de Los Tres trail, located at the base of Fitz Roy Mountain. (Related: Camping In Patagonia).

Once in El Calafate the main attraction is the Los Glaciares National Park, where you will trek across the Perito Moreno glacier, astonished by the massive ice formations. Be sure to have the cash to pay for the park entrance since they do not accept cards. 

Ushuaia is a complicated destination. It is expensive and remote: it is quite literally the end of the world and where you can get a boat to Antartica! If you decide to go regardless, you can navigate across the Beagle Channel, hike through penguin colonies and visit the Tierra del Fuego National Park in addition to a city tour. There are many hiking trails with stunning views to explore and enjoy, too.

herd of horse green grass field

Mendoza

If Ushuaia is the Land of Fire, Mendoza is the Land of Wine. It boasts numerous vineyards where the pickers harvest Malbec grapes. You can bike or walk through the vineyards and see the grapes up close while learning about viniculture.

The prices of these tours range from 15 to 50 US dollars, depending on which bodega you visit, the number of hours you spend there, and the kind of grapes.

Mendoza is next to The Andes, which means you can go trekking, hiking, and rafting in spots like Cañón del Atuel, Puente del Inca, and Malargüe.

It is also possible to go skiing and snowboarding thanks to Las Leñas, the main snow sports center in the country. If you decide to go when the snow has already melted, that is not a problem: Las Leñas has over thirty artificial snow generators to save the day, and the prices are lower.

asphalt road among forest in mountainous terrain

8. Spend Your Money On What Matters

The most important part of any Argentina backpacking trip is the hiking, the sights, and the adventure. Many tours and activities mentioned above are neither free nor cheap. Saving money to be able to check everything on your bucket list is the main concern.

Treating yourself to a cup of coffee with pastries or a quality steak is totally fine. Going out to eat is part of any kind of vacation, just be mindful so it doesn’t turn into a habit.

There are cheaper, equally delicious meals you can resort to, such as empanadas or pizza.

You can also buy milanesas—breaded chicken breasts—, rice, pasta, and vegetables, and cook them yourself in your hostel. Gas stations count as an option, too since they usually sell reasonably-priced sandwiches, salads, fast food, snacks, and coffee.

In case you don’t want to work for free accommodation, you can take a tent with you. There are many camping sites across Argentina. They have bathrooms with showers and grills to cook your meals, and some of them even have pools.

Camping sites are cheaper than hostels, but not as comfortable or secure. However, if you check everything online beforehand, you shouldn’t have any problems. If you are an outdoorsy person, this might be a good alternative.

Saving money on food and accommodation should suffice and leave you with a budget big enough to spend on your excursions.

green tent on top of mountain

9. Insure Yourself

Although Argentina is the safest country in South America, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious. While there are no serious hygiene issues in this country, crime is a prevalent matter.

The recommendations are the same as in every part of the world: keep your valuables out of sight and avoid being alone at night, especially in big cities like Buenos Aires. Be aware of your surroundings, stay away from public crowding, and try not to wear flashy designer clothing items. 

Make sure your insurance works in Argentina before traveling in case something happens, though it is unlikely. If your insurance doesn’t cover this country, you can rely on multiple insurance companies that specifically target active and adventurous travelers.

Many backpackers use WorldNomads. It allows you to buy more cover in case your trip extends, contact a multi-lingual assistance team anytime, and it has one of the longest lists of covered activities.

woman jumping wearing green backpack

Backpacking In Argentina: Our Final Thoughts

Argentina’s beautiful views, wild and preserved natural treasures, rich culture, and captivating history wait for you. Hopefully, the above tips will make your backpacking in Argentina adventure even better, by making it easier to organize the information and administrate your resources.

Grab your backpack and enjoy everything Argentina has to offer. Traveling a country this extensive and varied will be a once-in-a-lifetime, deeply enjoyable experience.