Budget Activities in Buenos Aires

Following up on last month’s post about luxury activities in Buenos Aires, we realised that it’s credit-crunch time (soaring inflation and energy subsidy cuts, anyone?) and have unearthed some economical Buenos Aires days out, including a downtown spa, French tea-time treats and sightseeing with a difference.

Watch the Big Game

If, like me, your attention has been captured by adverts and billboards plastered with images of achingly handsome players brandishing mallets on horses, you’ll be chomping at the bit for a ticket to attend the polo world’s most important annual event: the Abierto Argentino 2011. Although a comfortable spot for decider matches ahead of the 118th final on December 10th will set you back a minimum of AR$500 (US$117), pauper polo fans can pick up a cheap seat for less than the price of a fillet steak and have a bird’s eye view of polo god Adolfo Cambiaso. Snap up a ticket in the Dorrego Lateral stand for just AR$40 (US$9), then splash that well-saved money on a bottle of Chandon rosé cava for AR$130 (US$31). A true budget activity in Buenos Aires, but with all the glamour of a fabulous day out.

Check out this rowdy yet supportive video of La Dolfina vs. Ellerstina in the Abierto 2010 Final:

Free Wheeling

Given that taxi fares are going up from Tuesday 29th November to a minimum starting fare of AR$7.30, it might be worth giving your method of transport a rethink. It’s time to start free wheeling and there really is no reason why you shouldn’t like your bike, now that the weather is gloriously warm. The Buenos Aires City government introduced bicisendas, or bike lanes, at the start of 2011 – you can see a map here. As a bonus track, if you have proof of residency (a bill is enough) you can sign up for the free bike-borrowing scheme. Collect a bike from one of the 21 stands dotted across the city centre and pedal your away around the city for up to four hours. Totally gratis. Visitors, however, can hire a bike from the La Bicicleta Naranja company for a trifling AR$15 pesos an hour.

Bikes tours are also growing in popularity in the city, so keep an eye out for those.

Budget Activities in Buenos Aires - Bike Tours
Hiring a bike is a great way to see Buenos Aires
Photo by Philip Choi

Spas in BA

Getting a massage and splashing around in bubbling water doesn’t have to result in a piggy bank raid – the price of a sumptuous dinner for two at some restaurants. Located in Microcentro at Sarmiento 839, book ahead for time at the oldest spa in Buenos Aires. Opening its doors to gentlemen in 1882, Colmegna Spa Urbano offers a “Dia Spa Face and Body” for ladies which includes a sauna, an intensive hair treatment, a 30-minute massage plus time out in the relaxation room – all for just AR$350 (US$82). Other services include the powerful Scottish Shower (which no Scotsman has ever heard of, let alone tried), manicures and pedicures, and cosmetología – not predicting your destiny from your date of birth, but non-invasive cosmetic treatments designed to improve skin texture. For the moment, only men can dip into the glorious swimming pool, although manager Luciano promises a pool for ladies will be finished in March 2012. This costs AR$110 (US$26), and includes access to the luxurious baths and showers. There are ladies baths and showers available too, for the same price.

Buenos Aires Days Out - Colmegna Spa Urbano
Take a dip… Photo courtesy of Colmegna Spa Urbano

Another great option is the Castelar hotel and spa, which offers a day pass for AR$319 (US$75).

Tea Time

Not only pretty mademoiselles are welcome for five o’clock tea at fancy French boulangerie Le Blé, on the Villa Crespo-Chacarita borders. Criminally delicious strawberry tarts and moreish pain au choclat are ripe for plucking from the kitchen table on weekends, and all cakes and pastries are freshly baked in-house. Meanwhile, on Wednesdays, Le Blé serves up an afternoon tea fit for royalty. Tuck into a slice of Victoria sponge and tiny smoked salmon finger-sandwiches, as well as other savoury delicacies for an inflation-busting AR$40 (US$9) – and with five blends of loose tea to choose from, you can’t say fairer than that.

Sights from Great Heights

Stepping up onto the number 64 bus may only be a metre from the ground, but it certainly reaches the sights other bondis can’t reach. Starting in La Boca, whiz up alongside San Telmo past the austere-looking Engineering Faculty and Ministry of Defence on Paseo Colón, behind the Bicentenary Museum, nip around the Cathedral and past the dusty pink Government House – and that’s already a load of sights ticked off for the price of AR$1.25 (US$0.29). The 64 bus takes in Avenida de Mayo, a leafy street which has played, and to this day stills plays, a prominent part in Argentina’s history. It also passes the revered Café Tortoni, crosses the self-proclaimed widest avenue in the world, the 9 de Julio, then goes straight on to Plaza de Congreso and the political heart of the nation.

Budget Activities in Buenos Aires - 64 bus stop
Jump on the 64 for a cheap city tour
Photo by Daniel Tunnard

On this, the most budget of activities in Buenos Aires, the 64’s return journey, which starts at Barracas de Belgrano, takes in Once neighbourhood, filled with hawkers, traders and a recent influx of Angolan salesman, all flogging their various wares on the street. Catch the 64 at all good bus stops. But be sure to de discreet with your camera.

What’s your favourite bondi for seeing the sights? Let us know in the comments section below!

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Sorrel Moseley-Williams
A freelance journalist and sommelier, Brit transplant Sorrel Moseley-Williams lived in Argentina in 1998 for a year before making a permanent move in 2006. She has contributed to CNN Travel, Condé Nast Traveler and Traveller, The Guardian, Saveur, The Independent, Departures, Wallpaper*, Fodor’s and Rough Guide books among others, and has written for La Nación, U-Like It and Forbes Argentina in Spanish.
Sorrel Moseley-Williams

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6 responses to “Budget Activities in Buenos Aires

  1. carly says:

    The polo and a day spa don´t count as budget experiences for me! If you want budget you have to stop thinking like a tourist and get more local. For example, buying some delicious French pastries at the panaderia Le Pí and taking them to any plaza to drink mate and do some old-fashioned people watching (about 10 or 20 pesos). Or going to the national park in Puerto Madero, amazing nature (free!). But I like the bus ride, bike hire and tea-time suggestions 🙂

  2. You should mention that if one stays on the 64 to the end at Barrancas del Belgrano, you can get off and take a quick tour of and eat in Barrio Chino, or at one of the neighborhood's Peruvian restaurants, and take a walk in the Barrancas park and see one of the original casts of the Statue of Liberty, in iron. Not to mention (okay, I will), passing the Botanical Gardens, the City Zoo, and then along Av. Campos, the various military buildings of the War College and Military Hospital, the Sacred Heart campus and Basilica, and the beautiful grounds of the German embassy. Oh the things you'll see on the 64….

  3. The 152 used to be my favourite bondi but I reckon you can see plenty more on the 64. If it weren't for those pesky word counts…

  4. juanita says:

    who cares about budget- when on holiday- 6 to the pound is good for me-

  5. carly says:

    Then don´t worry about reading articles like “Buenos Aires on a budget”! When you live here on pesos it´s quite different

  6. Krjkrj00 says:

    Brilliant suggestions! I just got back from Buenos Aires 2 weeks ago, so it will have to wait for next time :(…yes, I'm already planning my return in a year. 🙂 Though I'm not sure I'll be able to afford it by then if inflation countinues at it's current rate. It must be very hard for Portenos.

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