Two weeks ago I came back from a modelling contract in the capital of Argentina. In this post, I’m here to share a few tips for models travelling there for the first time. I know when I was about to leave for Buenos Aires, I would have found it really helpful to read about living there as a model. That’s why I decided to put all the practical information in one place. Here, you’ll find out more about:
- Sim cards to connect to the internet
- The public transport card and getting around the city
- Money exchange and whether you can use a credit card
- The area you’ll (most likely) be living in
- What you can find in supermarkets and the prices of food products
- Where to go to yoga classes
- your safety in Buenos Aires
I’d like you to treat what I’ve written as a small guide to make your first few days in Buenos Aires easier and less stressful. If you’re headed there sometime soon, this post will help.
To avoid huge internet charges abroad (and in a different continent, too), buying a separate sim card is necessary. In Argentina, it’s not a problem at all. You will find prepaid sim cards in kiosks (around 60 Argentinian pesos (ARS) = below 2 USD) and then you need to charge it separately. There are three main mobile phone operators in Argentina: Personal, Movistar and Claro.
I chose Personal and had 50 MB of internet per day for 13 ARS (= 0.35 USD). It’s not much, but it was enough to connect to Google Maps and use Whatsapp. It’s definitely possible to find a better deal – I guess I was too lazy to do it. You can get wifi in most photography studios, of course.
Sube card – a must-have for public transport
Sube is a card you will need for buses, trains and the subway. You can buy it for 65 ARS (= 1.75 USD) at any bigger subway stations and recharge it there, too. After that, you can go to any kiosk to recharge your card.
Note: you can’t actually get a new card in kiosks!
I had plenty of castings outside the city centre – meaning if you wanted to use public transport, it would be over 2 hours to get there. The city is huge, two times bigger than Paris, for instance. Mostly, I used trains and buses because I wanted to save money. I did, however, take Uber several times when I’d had enough of getting around by bus.
Uber is fairly cheap compared to its European prices, I sometimes used it as a last resort when the way to a casting was too complicated. Don’t be surprised that the drivers might ask you to sit in the front seat. Here’s how much you’ll be saving if you use Uber instead of a driver that your agency would organise for you:
Ezeiza international airport to Palermo:
Uber: 18-24 USD
Driver: 35-40 USD
Jorge Newbery Airport to Palermo:
Uber: 3- 7 USD
Driver: 10-15 USD
If you decide on using public transport for getting around, there are a few things you need to bear in mind. The buses are slightly crazy, even some Argentinians I talk to would agree. There are no fixed timetables. You can only guess if your bus will ever arrive. It happened to me a few times that a train or bus didn’t come at all. Another thing is how they drive… you step in and don’t even manage to get both feet on before the bus drives away. Basically, you need to be extra careful.
On a more positive note, Argentinians are usually very happy to help you out when you’re lost. And trains (Mitre) are amazingly cheap. A ride from one end of the city to the other will cost you 8 ARS (=0.21 USD).
Tips for taking the bus
- Leave earlier than Google Maps tells you. There are separate bus stops for different bus lines and you will probably need extra time to find the right one
- Make sure you have enough credit on your Sube card. Finding yourself in the middle of nowhere with no money on your card and no kiosks around is no fun
- Wave the bus down. If you don’t show the bus driver you want him to stop, he will just drive past you
- Tell the driver your destination or show the address on your phone so they know how much to charge you
- Usually, the standard fare for your ride is 0.35 USD (=13 ARS)
Money exchange and using a debit/credit card
I brought dollars with me to exchange to Argentinian Pesos. During my first day there, I had a bit of a problem to find a place where I could get the money exchanged. I’d looked online that you can do it in some banks. To save you time – just go to money exchange houses (casa de cambio) and don’t bother with banks because in most of them you need to be their client to exchange currencies.
As for paying with a debit or credit card, it’s only possible in larger supermarkets, cafes and shopping centres. Keep in mind that when paying by card, you will be asked to show your ID/passport. In places such as fruit & veg markets, kiosks or subway stations only cash is accepted.
I couldn’t recommend enough a debit card called Revolut; it made life so much easier in Argentina. The card enables you to exchange currencies at a real exchange rate. That means you don’t get charged extra for paying in a different currency.
Top tip: Bring cash with you to Buenos Aires, having Argentinian Pesos is essential!
Living in Buenos Aires, you will most likely stay in Palermo, the largest neighbourhood in the city. That’s where many designers and brands are located, which also means many castings within walking distance. It’s also one of the safest areas to stay in. Parks, restaurants, cafes, gyms, supermarkets – it’s all there.
I was pleasantly surprised that food in BA is not too expensive. Comparing it to Paris or Milan, Buenos Aires is the winner. There are three supermarkets I did my shopping in – Jumbo, Dia and Zoja. The first two are chain stores; whereas Zoja is a health food store located in Palermo.
As my diet is mostly plant-based, this supermarket literally saved my life while living there. These are products you might have trouble finding in other supermarkets:
- Frozen fruit
- Vegan and gluten-free products such as pasta, rice crackers, milk and yoghurt (they’re not much more expensive than regular products)
- Every kind of nuts and seeds at reasonable prices
- The creamiest peanut butter for under 3 dollars (100% peanuts)
- Beans and lentils
I am a huge fan of avocados and, being in Argentina, I ate one or two every single day. They taste so much better than in Europe and they’re a lot cheaper, too. You can get one avocado for only 40 cents!
Where to eat out, relax and do some shopping
In Palermo, near Plaza Italia and ‘Palermo’ subway (Subte) station, you’ll find Distrito Arcos – a hidden shopping mall out in the open air. Here you can enjoy smoothie bowls, the best Argentinian ice-cream or have lunch in Le Pain Quotidien.
When I saw Buenos Aires on the map, I thought I’d get to live so close to the beach. But just to clarify…it’s nothing like a beach there. There is no beach, unfortunately. As for going out late to parties, I can’t really recommend anything because clubbing isn’t my thing. Nonetheless, I’ve heard BA has some amazing places to choose from.
Buenos Aires is full of yoga studios, but only two of them offer classes taught in English.
Yoga Project BA is located in Palermo and has a weekly, English-taught class.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve a class.
Buena Onda Yoga has two studios, one in Palermo and the other in the San Telmo area. There is no fixed price – you pay whatever you feel is right. A bit unusual, huh? Also, no pre-registration is required.
Is Buenos Aires a safe place?
And last but not least…your safety. I was a little anxious before coming to Buenos Aires; I’d been reading about how dangerous it can be. Two months later, I can tell you that it isn’t half as scary as what you could be reading online. Sure, you have to be careful. Watch out for your bag, don’t walk around with your phone in your hand – pickpockets know how to spot foreigners. Avoid walking around when it’s dark and keep a copy of your document in a different place than your bag. Just to stay on the safe side.
This list could go on and on but I feel these are all of the most important things to mention. Is there anything else you’re curious about? Let me know in the comments!
Until next time,