Destination guide: Mendoza & Nearby, Argentina
Mendoza is the main wine-producing area in Argentina and one of the largest producers of Malbec in South America. Don’t put it off any longer, purchase your tickets to Mendoza and visit the wine route, enjoy the winter in ski centers like Las Lenas and Los Penitentes and discover the magic of the forests and gardens of the General San Martin Park, inside which there are more than 300 species of plants, together with dozens of decorative statues.
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Mendoza - Practical Information
Mendoza is 1050km west of Buenos Aires via RN 7 and 340km northwest of Santiago (Chile) via the Los Libertadores border complex. The provincial capital is a relatively small area with a population of only about 120,000, the inclusion of the departments of Las Heras, Guaymallén and Godoy Cruz, along with nearby Maipú and Luján de Cuyo, swells the population of Gran Mendoza (Greater Mendoza) to nearly one million.
The city’s five central plazas are arranged like the five-roll on a die, with Plaza Independencia in the middle and four smaller plazas lying two blocks from each of its corners. Be sure to see the beautifully tiled Plaza España.
Av San Martín is the main thoroughfare, crossing the city from north to south, and Av Las Heras is the principal commercial street. A good place to orient yourself is the Terraza Mirador (free; [hrs] 9am-1pm), which is the rooftop terrace at City Hall (9 de Julio 500), offering panoramic views of the city and the surrounding area.
If you’re on a budget, you can get by on AR$80 to AR$100 per day (outside Patagonia) by sleeping in hostel dorm beds or cheaper hotels and eating at the cheapest nontouristy restaurants. Things get pricier when you add tours, entertainment and travel. Outside the capital and Patagonia, midrange travelers can get by comfortably on AR$180 to AR$200 per person per day if traveling with a companion, staying in a comfy hotel and eating at restaurants.
Buenos Aires and especially Patagonia are more expensive than the rest of Argentina. In the capital, good hotel rooms start at around AR$200 per double. In the provinces you can land a good hotel for AR$160 per double, while an extra AR$50 will get you something very comfortable. Except in Patagonia, a pasta dinner can be as cheap as AR$15 per person at a no-frills family joint, while a full gourmet meal at a top-end restaurant can cost around AR$100 per person. In Patagonia a cheap restaurant meal starts at around AR$25.
1L petrol: AR$3.15-3.60
1L bottled water: AR$5
1L Quilmes beer: AR$4-6
Double scoop of ice cream: AR$10
Souvenir T-shirt: AR$20
Midrange hotel AR$180-250
Five-hour bus ride AR$75
Slice of pizza AR$4
Sirloin steak AR$30
Average in-city cab ride AR$20
Nationals of the USA, Canada, most Western European countries, Australia and New Zealand do not need visas to visit Argentina. upon arrival all non-visa visitors must obtain a free tourist card, good for 90 days and renewable for 90 more.
Dependent children traveling without both parents theoretically need a notarized document certifying that both parents agree to the child’s travel. Parents may also wish to bring a copy of the custody form;
Weights & Measures
Metric; Rural areas may use the legua (league, about 5km).
Argentine officials are courteous toward tourists. Electronic items, including laptops, cameras and cell (mobile) phones, can be brought into the country duty free, provided they are not intended for resale. If you’re over 18 you may also bring in up to 2L of alcohol, 400 cigarettes and 50 cigars. If you’re entering with expensive computer, photographic and/or other electronic equipment, you should play it safe and declare it.
Traditionally, business hours in Argentina start at 8am and break at midday siesta (rest) for three or even four hours, during which people return home for lunch and a brief nap. After siesta, shops reopen until 8pm or 9pm. This schedule is still common in the provinces, but government offices and many businesses in Buenos Aires have adopted a more conventional 8am to 5pm schedule.
Two companies, Telecom and Telefónica, split the country’s telephone services. For emergencies dial [tel] 107, for police [tel] 101 (or [tel] 911 in some larger cities) and for fire [tel] 100. Directory assistance is [tel] 110. The easiest way to make a local phone call is to find a locutorio, which has private cabins where you make your calls, and then pay all at once at the register. Locutorios can be found on practically every other block. They cost about the same as street phones, are much quieter and you won’t run out of coins. Most locutorios are supplied with phone books.
To use street phones, you’ll pay with regular coins or tarjetas telefónicas (magnetic phone cards available at many kiosks). You’ll only be able to speak for a limited time before you get cut off, so carry enough credit. The cheapest way to make an international call is to use a phone card. International calls can also be made at locutorios. Faxes are inexpensive, widely used in Argentina and available at most locutorios.
Services like Skype (www.skype.com) and Google Voice (www.google.com/voice) make calling home cheap. It’s easily done at many internet cafes in Argentina.
Cell (Mobile) Phones
Argentina operates on the GSM 850/1900 network, so, if you have a triband GSM cell phone (sometimes called a ‘world phone’ in the USA), you should be able to use it in Argentina. If you plan to use your own provider, you probably have to contact the company to have your phone unlocked for international use. Unless you have a plan tailored specifically toward international use, your rates on calls made and accepted in Argentina will likely be high.
The best option with an unlocked triband GSM phone, however, is to purchase a SIM chip/card (about AR$15) and insert it into your phone; you’ll get a local phone number this way. Then you pay to add credits as you need them. Both SIM chips and credits can be bought at many kiosks or locutorios; look for the ‘recarga facil’ signs. Many Argentines use this system with their cell phones. Phone unlocking services are available; ask around.
If you plan to travel with an iphone or other G3 smart phone, prepare yourself – you may need to purchase an international plan to avoid being hit by a huge bill for roaming costs. Do an internet search for ‘iphone international use’ for current tips. Another option is purchasing a new cell phone in Argentina. You can pick one up for as little as AR$150, usually with some minutes already on the phone – but most companies require you to sign a contract. Cell-phone rentals are also available in Buenos Aires.
Finally, you can rent or purchase an international phone or a prepaid international SIM card from one of numerous companies that likely operate in your home country.
This is a fast-changing field so check the current situation before you travel; take a look at www.kropla.com or do an internet search on GSM cell phones for the myriad of products on the market.
When dialing abroad from Argentina, you must first dial ‘00,’ followed by the country code. The característica (area code) for Buenos Aires is [tel] 011, and all telephone numbers in the Greater Buenos Aires area have eight digits. Area codes vary wildly throughout the provinces; those of larger cities have four digits (always beginning with a zero), followed by a seven-digit telephone number. Smaller towns have six-digit telephone numbers and five-digit area codes (again, always beginning with a zero). Basically, when calling from outside an area code, you’re always going to dial 11 numbers.
Cellular phone numbers in Argentina are always preceded by ‘15.’ After that simple fact, it gets confusing Usually you just dial the regional code corresponding to the person’s location, regardless of where the phone was purchased. Other times, the regional code you must dial depends on where the person bought the cellular phone. So you may have to try more than once to get through. Your best bet is starting with the regional code where the person is located, followed by ‘15’ then the number. If you’re calling a cell phone from within the same regional code, you don’t have to dial the regional code.
Toll-free numbers begin with [tel] 0800.
Telephone calling cards are sold at nearly all kiosks and make domestic and international calls far cheaper. However, they must be used from a fixed line such as a home or hotel telephone (provided you can dial outside the hotel). They cannot be used at most pay phones. Some locutorios allow you to use them, and although they levy a surcharge, the call is still far cheaper than dialing direct. When purchasing one, tell the clerk the country you will call so they give you the right card.
Calling Argentina from Abroad
To call a number in Argentina from another country, dial your international access code, then the country code for Argentina (54), then the area code (without the zero) and number.
When dialing an Argentine cell phone from outside Argentina, dial your country’s international access code, then 54, then 9, then the area code without the 0, then the number – leaving out the 15.
European plug with two circular metal pins
Australian-style plug with two flat angled blades and one vertical grounding blade