Stepping foot into Argentina, we quickly realized that the prices were much higher than anticipated. Our flight to Africa was already booked and we had to figure out how to stall time cheaply. In Calafate, the previous town, we desperately searched for a WorkAway opportunity. Found one last minute.
What’s WorkAway? On the website we browse for employers at desired locations. The jobs can be anything imaginable, like gardening, language teaching, construction, etc. Often times work hours are 4 to 5 hours a day for 5 days a week. In exchange the worker doesn’t get paid money. No. Compensation is free accommodation and sometimes meals. Conditions can vary by employer, which is hopefully clearly stated on their profile. With this agreement, the worker doesn’t have to worry about obtaining a work visa. If a desired position is found, the interested individuals can email the employer over the website and keep their fingers crossed for a positive reply. Jobs tend to be more long-term, 2 weeks to 3 months.
We were gutsy. Not only did we request for only 1 week, but also contacted few employers a week before arrival. Very short notice. Of course most turned us down, but one person accepted and we could even start early, meaning as soon as we arrive in Buenos Aires. In the end we even extended our time to 2 weeks.
Our job was located on an island in Tigre. Typically, the home was run as a bed and breakfast, but the owners wanted a break. Instead we got various tasks to do. The house needed of some TLC, since the humidity creates the perfect conditions for mold. First we started washing down the walls and then I painted. My travel buddy hates painting. So instead he tackled outside yard work. We worked with another WorkAway couple, Ian and Anna.
The work wasn’t too exciting, but the accumulation of pecans was. The boys picked up buckets of pecans every day and we were allowed to eat as much as we wanted. In the evening we would sit in front of the fire place, crack nuts, and then roast them. The pecans were great to throw in with our cooking to provide extra flavor. Soup with pecans. Bread with pecans. Dessert with pecans.
On our day off, we headed to downtown Buenos Aires. First we went to La Boca. The area is known for the colorful buildings. The walls had great murals. We came here at the wrong time. At 9am there is barely anybody else out and no shops are open yet. Ian had raved how great the place was with the hustle and bustle during the afternoon. Colorful homes aren’t that special to us since we had seen whole towns with color. Hence a few streets didn’t strike us much.
Up next, the historic Plaza de Mayo, the political center. If the people have an issue, they will gather here to strike. I saw one forming. There are plenty of police and barricades stationed to guide the public (some times more than others). The shifted government has lifted or extremely lowered the exporting tariff and in country price cap of multiple goods, such as meat, gas, oil, cigarettes. Doing an immediate lift, instead of incremental over months, prices of goods shot up overnight. Average raise was 400 percent, but propane rose 5,000% within a month! I was shocked about the high costs here, but obviously the residents are affected much harder. I wonder how their economic situation will play out.
A lot of tourist attractions are free. So at least we could still sightsee on foot without breaking the bank. To use busses, you MUST have a SUBE card, which costs P.40 ($2.70) just for the card. With the card, train use will be at half price. SUBE can be purchased in the train station, be ready for a crazy goose chase since one store will send you to another store which “sells the card” only to be denied. The actual spot has a SUBE sticker and is across from the Tigre train gate entry. In my opinion, as long as you don’t want to go to La Boca, the colorful place, buying the card is not worth the cost during short visits (the area surrounding La Boca isn’t safe on foot). Walking is possible. Just takes more time. We saw everything we wanted in one day while walking, but had already booked a hostel night because we thought sightseeing would take longer. Our legs were tired at the end of the day though. Crazy high platform shoes are popular for females in Buenos Aires, avoid those and your feet will thank you.
The benefit of walking is that we were able to admire the architecture. Buenos Aires has a fantastic mix of the old and the new. Even their tomb stones in their famous cemetery are astounding. We took a while strolling through the maze. From the dead, we ventured to the Japanese garden. This garden is one of the largest Japanese gardens outside of Japan. Entry fee for foreigners is R.70 ($4.70), if I recall correctly. The garden is astonishing and surely will provide great photo spots, but I already toured a Japanese garden before. In our shoes, the fee encouraged us to skip the entry and instead peak in from the outside over a bare, nearby fence. Go take a peak and see if you want to go in or not. I was tempted.
Overall I loved exploring Buenos Aires. The architecture gives the city such flavor and beauty. Just be careful of the AC mounted on tons of windows above. AC water likes to attack non expecting pedestrians below. I got hit few times until I finally learned. Don’t let a few drops or the cost discourage you from visiting. This place has a lot to offer.
Cost breakdown of Buenos Aires (16 days with total cost of $308.69. Average daily cost is $19.29.)
- Hostel: $9 (1 night which incl. breakfast)
- Transportation: $257.56
- Airplane: $234.40 (initial flight to the city)
- Bus: $3.53
- Train: $1.60
- Boat: $14.33 (to get to/from WorkAway home)
- Metro: $0.80
- Taxi: $2.90
- Food: $42.13
- Meals: $20.90 (5 meals)
- Groceries: $19.50
- Snacks: $1.73