Welcome to Travel Planning 101. Find country specific information about where you are going and what to do to prepare to get there!
- Travel highlights of the country.
- Fun facts and background information.
- History notes, facts on currency, health, holidays and transportation.
- Pre-departure tips, when to go, and visa information.
- Information on weather and electricity plugs.
- Suggestions on things to do if you have extra time to explore on your own.
Places To See
Fitz Roy Range
One of Patagonia's premier traveler magnets, El Chaltén, is a small, homely yet fast-growing village set in a pretty river valley. Travelers come here for the extraordinary snowcapped towers of the Fitz Roy range, which offer plenty of world-class hiking and camping along with some of the most stunning mountain scenery you'll ever see.
Climbers from around the world are drawn here for their chance to climb Cerro Fitz Roy (3441m/ 11,290ft), as well as other peaks. Pack for wind, rain and cold temperatures, even in summer, when views of the peaks can be obscured. If the sun is out, however, El Chaltén is paradise on earth; come see it soon, as the road to El Calafate is being paved and changes are sure to come. All water sources in the area are potable, so help keep them clean. Note that El Chaltén is within national park boundaries, and rules must be followed.
Parque Nacional Los Glaciares (South)
Few glaciers on earth can match the activity and excitement of the blue-hued Perito Moreno Glacier, the highlight of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Its 60m (197ft) jagged ice-peaks shear off and crash-land with huge splashes and thunderous rifle-cracks, birthing small tidal waves and large bobbing icebergs - while your neck hairs rise a-tingling.
The Perito Moreno Glacier was born to be a tourist attraction. The ideally located Península de Magallanes is close enough to the glacier to provide glorious panoramas, but far enough away to be safe. A long series of catwalks and platforms give everyone a great view. Hanging around for a few hours, just looking at the glacier and awaiting the next great calving, can be an existential experience.
Reserva Faunística Península Valdés
Lying on Argentina's barren eastern Patagonian coast, this oddly shaped peninsula is home to some of the country's richest wildlife. Elephant seals, Magellanic penguins, right whales, guanacos, armadillos and foxes are almost guaranteed sightings during their high seasons. This is where orcas have been filmed snatching pinnipeds (genus including seals and sea lions) off the beach.
Elephant seals, sea lions and dusky dolphins lounge around all year long. While the orca phenomenon occurs during high tide from February to April, note that sightings are very rare - you may be disappointed!
Parque Nacional Los Alerces
The spacious Andean Parque Nacional Los Alerces protects extensive stands of alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), a large and long-lived conifer of the humid Valdivian forests. Other common trees include cypress, incense cedar, southern beeches and arrayán. The colihue (a bamboo-like plant) undergrowth is almost impenetrable. The receding glaciers of Los Alerces' peaks, which barely reach 2300m (7546ft), have left nearly pristine lakes and streams.
Westerly storms drop nearly 3000mm (118in) of rain annually, but summers are mild and the park's eastern zone is much drier. An interpretative center provides information.
Quebrada de Humahuaca
Mountains ablaze with mineral color edge this barren yet stunning canyon, a historic trade route called the Camino Inca. Ancient adobe churches, photogenic traditional villages, crumbling old ruins and a rich indigenous culture provide highlights in the region. To top it off it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Surprisingly, Argentina has few festivals, and most public holidays reflect the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar. Things come to a stop from Christmas to New Year and during Easter. Saints' days and provincial holidays are other important events, as are May 25 (commemorating the May Revolution of 1810), Malvinas Day and Columbus Day.
When to go?
For residents of the Northern Hemisphere, Argentina offers travelers the possibility of enjoying two summers in one year, but the country's great variety and elongated geography means visiting is pleasant during any season. Patagonian destinations, such as the Moreno Glacier in Santa Cruz, are best visited in the summer months (December to February ) when the weather's milder and more services are available. Outside this time, services thin out and public transport becomes trickier. Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Buenos Aires (the summer is hot and humid). Mendoza, Córdoba and the Lake District are all spectacular in autumn, when the leaves are fiery reds and yellows, the temperatures are comfortable and the crowds are few.
Northern Argentina, including the Iguazú Falls in the subtropical Misiones province, is also more pleasant in the Southern Hemisphere's winter or spring when heat and humidity are less oppressive. Ski season runs mid-June through mid-October, and the resorts are most expensive and most crowded during July and August when every porteño (person from Buenos Aires) seems to be on the slopes. The most expensive times to travel are the Argentine vacation months of January, February and July.
Travel Visa Overview
Nationals of the USA, Canada, most Western European countries, Australia and New Zealand do not need visas to visit Argentina. In theory, upon arrival all non-visa visitors must obtain a free tourist card, good for 90 days and renewable for 90 more. In practice, immigration officials issue these only at major border crossings, such as airports and on the ferries and hydrofoils between Buenos Aires and Uruguay. Although you should not toss your card away, losing it is no major catastrophe; at most exit points, immigration officials will provide immediate replacement for free.
Very short visits to neighboring countries usually do not require visas. Despite what a travel agency might say, you probably don't need a Brazilian visa to cross from the Argentine town of Puerto Iguazú to Foz do Iguaçu and/or Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, if you return the same day. You should bring your passport, however, and double check this information - ideally with someone who has done it recently.
European plug with two circular metal pins
Australian-style plug with two flat angled blades and one vertical grounding blade
Several different viruses cause hepatitis; they differ in the way that they are transmitted. The symptoms in all forms of the illness include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, feelings of weakness and aches and pains, followed by loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, dark urine, light-colored feces, jaundiced (yellow) skin and yellowing of the whites of the eyes.
There are six known types of viral hepatitis: A, B, C, D, E and G. G is not dangerous. A and E are passed on by the fecal-oral route of transmission; there is a vaccine. Seek medical advice, but there is not much you can do apart from resting, drinking lots of fluids, eating lightly and avoiding fatty foods. A and E cause an acute illness, but you will recover fully from it.
B and D are passed on via blood, saliva, semen and vaginal fluids. They can be passed on by close contact, sexual contact, and blood-to-blood contact. The symptoms of hepatitis B may be more severe than type A and the disease can lead to long-term problems such as chronic liver damage, liver cancer or a long-term carrier state. There is a vaccine.
Hepatitis C is only passed on from blood-to-blood contact. There is no vaccine.
In the thinner atmosphere above 3000m (9842ft), or even lower in some cases, lack of oxygen causes many individuals to suffer headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, physical weakness and other symptoms that can lead to very serious consequences, especially if combined with heat exhaustion, sunburn or hypothermia. Acute mountain sickness (AMS) can affect anyone and care should be taken to avoid ascending mountain peaks above 3000m too quickly. Sleep at a lower altitude than the greatest height reached during the day, if possible.
This occurs when the body loses heat faster than it can produce it and the core temperature of the body falls.
It is frighteningly easy to progress from very cold to dangerously cold due to a combination of wind, wet clothing, fatigue and hunger, even if the air temperature is above freezing. If the weather deteriorates, put on extra layers of warm clothing immediately: a windproof and/or waterproof jacket, plus wool or fleece hat and gloves, are all essential. Have something energy-giving to eat and ensure that everyone in your group is fit, and feeling well and alert.
Symptoms of hypothermia are exhaustion, numb skin (particularly toes and fingers), shivering, slurred speech, irrational or violent behavior, lethargy, stumbling, dizzy spells, muscle cramps and violent bursts of energy. Irrationality may take the form of sufferers claiming they are warm and trying to take off their clothes.
To treat mild hypothermia, first get the person out of the wind and/or rain, remove their clothing if it's wet and replace it with dry, warm clothing. Give them hot liquids - not alcohol - and some high-energy, easily digestible food. Do not rub victims: instead, allow them to slowly warm themselves. This should be enough to treat the early stages of hypothermia. The early recognition and treatment of mild hypothermia is the only way to prevent severe hypothermia, which is a critical condition.
Unlike the malaria mosquito, the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits the dengue virus, is most active during the day, and is found mainly in urban areas, in and around human dwellings.
Signs and symptoms of dengue fever include a sudden onset of high fever, headache, joint and muscle pains, nausea and vomiting. A rash of small red spots sometimes appears three to four days after the onset of fever. Severe complications do sometimes occur.
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible if you think you may be infected. A blood test can indicate the possibility of the fever. There is no specific treatment. Aspirin should be avoided, as it increases the risk of hemorrhaging. There is no vaccine against dengue fever.
Yellow fever is transmitted through the bite of an infected mosquito. There is an effective vaccine against yellow fever, so if you have been immunized, you can basically rule this disease out. Symptoms of yellow fever range from a mild fever which resolves over a few days to more serious forms with fever, headache, muscle pains, abdominal pain and vomiting. This can progress to bleeding, shock, and liver and kidney failure. The liver failure causes jaundice, or yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes - hence the name. There's no specific treatment but you should seek medical help urgently if you think you have yellow fever.
Argentina's climate ranges from subtropical in the north to humid and steamy in the center, and cold in the south. The upper Andes region has erratic rainfall, flash floods (in summer), searing heat, snow at higher elevations, and the Zonda - a hot, dry wind. The lowlands receive sufficient rainfall to support swampy forests and upland savanna, but rainfall decreases towards the west; shallow summer flooding is common in the east. The winter dry season is pronounced, and the summer heat can be brutal. The flat Pampas areas are also vulnerable to flooding. Patagonia is mild year-round in the east and glacial in the south. Patagonian weather ranges widely during the year, from relatively temperate in the northeast to glacial along the Andes to fairly chilly in the far south.
History and Culture
European influences permeate Argentina's art, architecture, literature and lifestyle yet it manages to retain a vibrant identity of its own. This is evident in the writings of Argentine authors such as Jorge Luis Borges and Manuel Puig, whose works have pushed Argentina onto the world stage. Known for the liveliness of the tango, the exploits of Diego Maradona and the beauty of their Italian-accented language, Argentina prides itself on pulsating energy and a talent for sumptuous living.
Pre-20th Centure History
Pre-Columbian Argentina was farmed by sedentary Indian groups such as the Diaguita and used as a hunting ground by nomads. Indian resistance inhibited Spanish incursions and discouraged Spanish settlement. Buenos Aires was not successfully established until 1580, and remained a backwater for 200 years. A declining and unevenly distributed Indian population, which could not be milked for its labor, led to the creation of huge cattle ranches, known as haciendas - the genesis of the legendary gaucho (cowboy) and the source of great wealth for a lucky few.
Buenos Aires became the capital of the new Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata in 1776, acknowledgment that the region had outgrown Spain's political and economic domination. However, continuing dissatisfaction with Spanish interference led to the revolution of May 25, 1810, and eventual independence in 1816. Independence revealed the seething regional disparities which Spanish rule had obscured. The Federalists of the interior (conservative landowners, supported by the gauchos and the rural working class) advocated provincial autonomy, while the Unitarists of Buenos Aires (cosmopolitan city dwellers who welcomed the injection of European capital, immigrants and ideas) upheld Buenos Aires' central authority. After a disastrous and tyrannical period of rule by the nominally Federalist Juan Manuel Rosas, Buenos Aires and Unitarism prevailed, ushering in a new era of growth and prosperity with the Unitarist constitution of 1853.
European immigration, foreign investment and trade were hallmarks of the new liberalism. However, excessive foreign interests made the economy particularly vulnerable to world economic downturns; wealth was concentrated in the hands of very few, unemployment rose as smallholdings failed, and farmers were forced to leave the land and head for the cities.
The beginning of the 20th century saw increasingly weak civilian rule and economic failure, leading to a military coup in 1943 which paved the way for dictator Juan Perón. An obscure colonel with a minor post in the labor ministry, he won the presidency in 1946 and again in 1952. With his equally popular wife Eva, he instituted a stringent economic program which stressed domestic industrialization and self-determination. He was ousted in 1955 and banished to Spain; this initiated almost 30 years of disastrous military rule. Perón returned to rule briefly in 1973; he died in office in 1974, bequeathing power to his third wife, Isabel. Her government fell in 1976, and the new military government instituted a reign of terror - the Dirty War - until 1983; paramilitary death squads crushed government opposition and up to 30,000 people 'disappeared'.
This internal conflict came to an end when Argentina seized the British-controlled Falkland Islands (Malvinas to the Argentinians); Britain declared war and eventually won them back. Ownership, however, remains disputed.
This failure helped end military rule, and the country returned to the 1853 constitution. Carlos Menem instituted major economic changes, pegging the peso one-to-one with the US dollar in 1991, which reduced inflation from 5000% in 1989 to 1% in 1997.
Fernando de la Rua, elected in 1999, promised a crackdown on corruption, and tough fiscal measures to balance Argentina's budget. But austere plans prompted nationwide strikes and demonstrations, which grew violent after the government instituted harsh restrictions on bank withdrawals. Argentina plunged into economic and political turmoil in December 2001 when it defaulted on a 132 billion US dollar loan repayment - the largest default in history.
On January 1, 2002, Eduardo Duhalde became president. A staunch Perónist, Duhalde took a populist and protectionist stance by unpegging the peso from the dollar, which caused the peso to lose almost 70% of its value.
In 2003, Néstor Kirchner - a little-known governor of a Patagonian province - became president with only 22% of the vote. His hard-nosed fighting suspended Argentina's debt to the IMF in 2004, which led to better terms. In 2006, the country paid off its entire IMF debt (debts to private investors, however, are still in the billions of dollars). By the end of Kirchner's presidency in 2007, unemployment had fallen to just under 9% - from a high of nearly 25% in 2002.
When the presidential seat went up for grabs in 2007, Argentines elected his wife, well-known Senator Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, as president, with a whopping 22% margin over her nearest challenger. Her tenure has been a rocky road racked with corruption scandals, tax bungles and plummeting approval ratings.
While the government remains optimistic on economic growth, it's more likely the country's slowdown will continue. Argentina will also need to regain the confidence of international markets and pay back debts to private investors.
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