Sunday, May 18, 2008

10 Traveling Lessons For the Inexperienced...Like me

Throughout my trip to Buenos Aires I kept a list of "Traveling Lessons". These are things I wish I had known before leaving the safety of my beloved Utah. They are very simple and you may think "duh, how could you not know that", well...I didn't, so here they are. I hope if nothing else, they make you laugh!

When Traveling to Argentina...

1. Know the language or travel with someone who does.

Pretty obvious right? Well not for us. We believed people who told us that everyone in BA speaks English. This is false. And to be honest, I think it is pretty rude to expect that everyone there would cater to our language when we were in their country. None the less, we somehow survived off of knowing 30 word of Spanish. :)

2. Always have a map and know how to read it.

Again, another no brainer. But let me tell you, when you get dropped off in San Telmo at the wrong place and you have no idea where to go, it gets pretty scary. Lucky for us, "hablas de Englais?" was one thing we knew. The first person I approached for directions was from Spain and was carrying a map of the city. He told us "if you are going to be here for any length of time, you might want to get one of these." Point taken. Lesson number 2 learned.

3. Carry a (cheap) watch with you at all times. Make sure the battery works!

Neither Heidi or myself wear a watch. So it is no real surprise that neither of us thought to pack one. We ended up carrying my brick phone with us every where we went. When we went to Uruguay, we talked about how silly this was and stopped into a local shop to buy a super cheap watch (side note: never Carry an expensive watch unless you want to get mugged). Well about 3 hours later we discovered that the watch had stopped. We went back to the watch store and pantomimed that the watch was no longer working. They changed the battery and everything was fine until we got back to our room and the back fell off. Still, I recommend carrying one.

4. Keep a hotel business card with you to give taxi drivers (room key can double for this as well).

Luckily this is a lesson I already knew and served us well our entire trip. I found that even if I told the taxi driver the address, my pronunciation was so horrible I would have to show him the address anyway. Me: "Honduras". Taxi Driver after being shown the address: "Oh, si! Honduras (pronounced without the h and rolling his r's)". Me: "That's what I said, Honduras".

5. Make sure the taxi driver has change for larger bills before getting in.

This is a lesson that Santiago taught us. Apparently some taxi drivers will give you fake currency for change or they will not have it at all. So if your taxi ride is going to cost around 17 pesos, don't hand the driver a 100 peso bill. Most hotels will have change so it is best to do that before leaving.

6. Know how to make local and long distance phone calls.

I few days into our trip, Heidi and I went to an ATM to pull out some money. My card was declined for some strange reason. I completely panicked! Went back to the hotel, checked my account online and there was plenty of money so I had no idea what was happening. I emailed my bank but they were taking too long so I wanted to call them, but I had never really made an international call. I looked online and got several different answers. The front desk of my hotel told me another answer too. Best to know in advance. Oh, and the reason my card didn't withdraw money (I figured it out the day before we left) was that it was pulling from the wrong account. Again, all the more reason to not only be able to speak Spanish, but read it as well.

7. Men are encourageable. Stay guarded at all times. Never be too friendly.

Now this rule serves true no matter where you are. The fun loving spirited Argentine men we ran into seemed to be very nice...but they didn't catch on to our we're trying to be nice, subtle hints. Best to not tap dance around things. Be firm if you do not want or appreciate their company. It is not only the best way, it's the only way!

8. Expect to pay airport taxes.

What can I say? At the airport, after waiting in line to get checked in, we then had to wait in line to pay "airport taxes". It was not big deal...about $18 US dollars. Just expect it, that's all.

9. Remember to bring your American Express for airport VIP lounge.

After waiting through countless lines and going through security it is always nice to unwind before boarding a long 10 hour flight, right? So when Heidi and I saw that there was an American Express VIP lounge we got excited! Only 2 problems: 1. I don't own an AE card and 2. Heidi didn't bring hers. We ended up using our last 20 pesos to buy 2 beers and sit in a crowded area of tables instead. Would have been nice though...

10. Get to the airport a minimum of 2 1/2 hours early when leaving.

Luckily Santiago advised us of this as well. I think we were both a little skeptical, but very glad that we heeded his advise. There was a line to check in, a line to pay taxes, a line to go into the terminals, a line for security, and another line for security once we got to our gate. It is always better to be early than late. Missing our flight would have sent us over the edge!

Well that is it! My 10 traveling lessons for going to Argentina. Hope you enjoyed them and will either learn from them or be grateful that you already have traveling experience and at least got a chuckle out of my lack of common sense!

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