Guide to Buenos Aires

September 16, 2014 BOGBA

Update: Some offers mentioned below are no longer available. View the current offers here – Citi Prestige Card

For first timers in Argentina’s capital, it’s often love at first sight. There is a reason Buenos Aires has been called the Paris of South America, after all. The melting pot of immigrants inspired the city’s wide range of architecture, from downtown’s Spanish colonial-style former Jesuit mission, Manzana de las Luces, to the Art Deco Kavanagh building, Latin America’s tallest skyscraper when it was built back in 1936.

The sprawling city spans 78 square miles and is home to 38 barrios, or neighborhoods, from cobblestoned San Telmo, one of the oldest that’s known for its tango and arts scene, to the newer Puerto Madero along the canal, with warehouses that have been converted into hip bars and restaurants. With a favorable exchange rate of $1 to 15.1 Pesos, and the elimination of the $160 visa fee, it’s a great time to plan a trip to the capital city. Here’s a guide on how to use your points and miles for your next trip to Buenos Aires.

Getting There

One of the many terraces lining the bar-heavy neighborhood of Palermo. Image courtesy of the Buenos Aires Tourist City Board.

Buenos Aires is home to two airports: Jorge Newbery Airport (AEP), serving many domestic flights and neighboring countries, and Ministro Pistarini International Airport (EZE), catering to the majority of international and long-haul flights. American Airlines operates nonstop flights to Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA) New York (JFK), and Oneworld partners like LATAM Airlines also offer service from MIA. Round-trip flights in economy range from 40,000-60,000 miles, while round-trip in business class requires 115,000 miles.

Delta offers a daily nonstop flight from Atlanta (ATL) to Buenos Aires with award travel starting at 30,000 miles one-way in economy, or 75,000 one-way in business. On United, travelers can book nonstop flights to EZE from Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), with round-trip in economy starting at 60,000 miles and business-class seats starting at 110,000.

For the ins and outs of booking tickets to Buenos Aires using miles, see How to Book Award Travel to Buenos Aires. 

Getting Around

Buenos Aires
Explore Buenos Aires’ 38 different barrios, or neighborhoods, by bike or public transport. Image courtesy of the Buenos Aires Tourist City Board.

From Ministro Pistarini International Airport, it takes about 50 minutes to reach the center of Buenos Aires, depending on traffic (which is notoriously bad in the evenings). Tienda León operates a bus service that runs from the airport to Puerto Madero and costs about $13 each way. You can purchase tickets online or at the airport.

From Terminal C, you can hop on the ArBus shuttle that heads into the Palermo neighborhood, leaving every 30 minutes from 6:30am until midnight. One-way tickets are about $2 and can be purchased in the Arrivals terminal at the airport or online.

There’s also the option of a taxi, which you can order at one of the white Taxi Ezeiza stands inside the airport. A taxi ride costs about $30.

Once you’re in Buenos Aires, you can explore the city a number of ways. With over 80 miles of bike paths and 90 free bike rental stations spread across town, cycling is one option (although if you’re not familiar with the roads and traffic, this may be a bit intimidating at times).

Neighborhoods like Telmo, Palermo Viejo and Soho, Recoleta and Balvanera, as well as the central downtown area, are easy to explore by foot thanks to the increasing number of pedestrianized streets. One of the quickest ways to jet across town is the Subte, or underground train network, one of Latin America’s oldest. Buy a rechargeable SUBE card at post offices, kioskos (or corner shops), or at one of eight Tourist Assistance Centers. Trains run every 10 minutes, and trips are only 4.5 Pesos (or $0.30). SUBE cards can also be used on the ArBus shuttle from the airport. 

Where to Stay

InterContinental Buenos Aires
Stay in five-star points properties like InterContinental Buenos Aires. Image courtesy of the hotel.

IHG features a number of properties for all styles and budgets spread throughout the city and even near the airport. The 114-room Holiday Inn Buenos Aires Ezeiza Airport is just 10 minutes from the airport and offers a comfortable, upscale stay with gourmet grilled fare at its traditional Argentinean eatery, El Mangrullo. Rates start at $126 or 20,000 points per night. In historic Monserrat, meanwhile, you’ll find the regal InterContinental Buenos Aires, a five-star hotel with 309 rooms, two restaurants and a health club with an indoor pool and spa. Rates are from $220 or 30,000 points per night. If you’re in need of IHG points, you could sign up for the IHG Rewards Club Select Credit Card and earn 60,000 points after you spend $1,000 in the first three months. This card has a $49 fee that’s waived the first year.

Park Tower, A Luxury Collection Hotel is another five-star spot in the city center, located near many of the museums and theaters, with 181 rooms showing off sweeping views of the river or skyline. Rates are from $368 or 16,000 Starpoints per night. To boost your SPG balance, you might consider the Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Card from American Express(with a $95 annual fee that’s waived the first year), which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 25,000 points after you spend $3,000 in the first three months. You can also transfer points from Marriott at a 3:1 ratio.

If you’re able to find a decent cash rate at one of these hotels or another property in Buenos Aires, it could be worth paying with the Citi Prestige Card ($450 annual fee), which is currently offering a sign-up bonus of 40,000 points after you spend $4,000 in the first three months. With this card, you’ll get a fourth night free when you book your stay through the Citi concierge.

What to Do

El Querandi Tango Show
Fill up on Argentine culture with a traditional tango show. Image courtesy of El Querandi Tango Show’s Facebook page.

Dinner and a Show — One of the highlights of a trip to Argentina is tango, best served alongside local wine and steak. Take a seat in a restored 19th-century home that’s been converted into restaurant and performance venue El Querandi, located in the city’s Old Town. The show makes its way through tango’s five historical moments from the late-19th-century immigrant arrival to the modernism of the 1950s, performed to the beat of Ado Falasco’s orchestra.

Buenos Aires Street Art
Bike through Buenos Aires’ street art on a guided tour. Image courtesy of McKay Savage via Flickr.

Bike Around Town — Hop on a bike and tour a more off-beat side of Buenos Aires on Biking Buenos Aires’ Hidden Graffiti & Urban Art Tour, which crisscrosses through the neighborhoods of San Telmo, Monserrat, La Boca and Barracas for a look at why the city is considered one of the world capitals of street art. When you wrap up the tour, head back to the bike center for a speakeasy-style wine pairing with local cheese and homemade treats.

The Argentine Experience
Whip up gaucho-style veggies like a pro at The Argentine Experience’s dinner party-style class. Image courtesy of The Argentine Experience’s Facebook page.

Cook Like a Local — While some cooking courses can be cheesy, The Argentine Experience takes on a more Latin American approach, teaching the class in dinner party form. While sipping on Malbec, you’ll learn how to prep local faves like empanadas and alfajores cookies with the help of a team of chefs who’ll show a few tricks and tips on perfecting these classics.

For more trip ideas, see Destination of the Week: Buenos Aires, Argentina.

What are some of your favorite things to see and do in Buenos Aires? Share with us in the comments below.

Featured image courtesy of Quim Pagans via Flickr.