A Gringa’s guide to your first few days in BA
Rachel Flynn is a 3rd year student from Manchester, studying Spanish and Politics at the University of Edinburgh. She is working as an Editor for The BA Plan.
It’s a bit of a weird one – having a cup of tea with your mum knowing the next day you’re travelling to the other side of the world, with very little knowledge of Argentina other than the vibrant tango and better-than-anywhere-else Malbec. You’re excited, but you’re also terrified. Mostly scared of the unknown. But honestly, having been here less than a month I can tell you that discovering the unknown is the most beautiful part.
You’re excited, but you’re also terrified.
After a lot of chaotic packing, a few tears when accepting you can’t pack half of your shoes – there you are. Stood at the front door, hugging your dog for the last time, buzzing with hope and excitement. With a few elongated farewells, you’re on your way to start your new adventure. My brother grunts a few more syllables than usual, which I shall take as a sign he will really, truly miss his little sis. Messages pop up on your phone exclaiming ‘Omg I can’t believe you’re actually going!’ alongside a few from those committed friends who’ve translated ‘Buena Suerte!’ I personally found that this goodbye part didn’t upset me really – in fact, it was the opposite. I knew my family and friends were as excited for me as I was, which is a really nice feeling.
I definitely packed far more than I should have, meaning the walk to the check-in desk was slightly nerve-wracking – with the possibility of having to pay an extra-fee. As the lady at the check-in desk observed my bursting suitcase, huge backpack and the drip of sweat on my forehead as a result of travelling to Heathrow Airport via tube, I think she might have taken pity on me – giving me the nod to go through. Result.
Don’t mind me, just flying across the world…
My first experience of Argentinians was delightful. I found myself sat next to a lovely man named Tomas , who was returning home to Buenos Aires. He filled me in with the current economic and political situation, an impressive feat for even a 14 hour plane-journey. Luckily it was an overnight flight, so after a few tears to ‘A Star Is Born’ and a complimentary cup of tea, I fell asleep content in the knowledge that the next day would be ever so slightly offbeat.
My first experience of Argentinians was delightful.
Ezeiza, the international airport in Buenos Aires, is hectic at best. Don’t forget that you’re travelling to a country with a size comparable to London, so expect this level of chaos. Having said this, my transition was relatively smooth, and my Taxi Driver Silvia was waiting eagerly at the meeting point. I would highly recommend booking a taxi in advance : The BA Plan can recommend Ethel Olivari (Phone: +54 9 11 4048-7100.) To get to Palermo it takes about 40 minutes, closer to an hour with traffic. Make sure you fasten your seatbelt tight, as in Buenos Aires lanes are optional and speed-limits apparently non-existent. (Not by law, claro, but you get the gist.) Once you’ve dumped your bags, (or to me what seemed to be my entire life in limited suitcase space) my advice is to breath. There’s no rush to tick everything off your bucket list straight away, but it is so important to look after yourself and let your mind and body adjust to this big crazy adventure you’re about to embark on.
…it is so important to look after yourself and let your mind and body adjust to this big crazy adventure…
Do not forget under any circumstances!
Regardless of when you’re arriving in BA, make sure to pack a rain-coat. My first two days of admin-sorting were very wet and rainy – mainly because of my British naivety; thinking that anywhere in the Southern Hemisphere MUST be sunny 24/7… it’s really not. The first thing on my to-do list was to swap my sim. Wi-Fi does still work on your UK/home sim, but you can forget about being able to call/ text/ use the internet. All you need to do is go to your local Movistar and they will give you a free sim and even insert it for you (if you’re slightly technically challenged like me.) Next, go to one of the thousands of kiosks dotted around the city, where you will see a small machine with the option to top-up your Movistar account. Don’t try and put your card into the cashpoint like I might have done, with a queue of increasingly impatient Porteños behind me. For 380 pesos a month you get all you could possibly need. And with that, your phone is ready! Another essential first-day activity is getting some cash in your wallet. It is unlikely you will be able to get pesos from home, but don’t worry. It’s as simple as downloading either the World Remit or Small World app, where you can transfer money from your bank account and pick up the cash from many safe points around the city. As well, don’t forget to tell your bank that you’re leaving the country, otherwise you could (as I delightfully experienced) be blocked from your account at home. I promise, Royal Bank of Scotland, there is no suspicious activity here other than, perhaps, too many transactions in the local Panadería.
I’m lucky enough to be living with a crazy gang of girls in Palermo, Soho. This transition for me was less scary, as I already knew my flat-mates Flora and Nicole from University. Living with students your age, like many of you will have experienced before, certainly has its ups and downs. However, I can confidently say that the fun and support overrides the messiness and occassional crisis. It’s really common in BA to have some sort of outside space, and our terraza (albeit full of plants who faced their death this winter) is a beautiful and unexpected addition. Palermo Soho offers everything you could ever wish for – an abundance of funky bars, beautiful parks and restaurants. What an amazing feeling; knowing how much more there is to explore in this wonderfully chaotic place.
What an amazing feeling; knowing how much more there is to explore in this wonderfully chaotic place.