Few months ago, it was my brother’s turn to travel. If I choose a cold destination, he decided to leave in a warner part of the world:

Argentina!

I asked him a few questions about his experience:

Can you introduce you briefly?
I’m Ludwig, 22 years old and French.
I finished my studies in mechanical and production engineering one year ago. Then, I had the choice between starting a regular life or doing something crazy. I made my choice!

Why did you decide to leave?
I always wanted to travel, discover the world and other cultures. And, more than everything, I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.
After being graduated, I’ve noticed that Spanish was often required by companies I was interested in (in addition to English). So I looked for a way to improve my English and learn Spanish. And why not, at the same time, have the opportunity to fulfill my wanderlust.
Argentina seemed logical to me. Indeed, it’s a Spanish speaking country, with a different way of life than the one I grew up with.
And finally, thanks to a bilateral agreement between France and Argentina, I could get a long-stay visa (WHV: Working Holidays Visa).

Why Buenos Aires?
As an international city, I thought it would be easier to spend the first days of my journey there. Eventually, I’ve spent more than three months in Buenos Aires, before exploring other parts of the country.
Soon, I found myself in Paraguay, Bolivia and I finally arrived to Peru.

Iruya, in northwestern Argentina
Iruya, in northwestern Argentina

How did the first few days go?
I arrived in Buenos Aire airport in the morning, around 10am, after 16 hours of flight.
I didn’t speak a single word of Spanish but luckily, I found French people who helped me reach the city by bus.

After that, I had to handle it alone and it was kind of comical.
I was looking for a hostel and I enter into a building, asking for a room. I still remember the old lady’s face, trying to figure out why this curious guy was asking her a room in this residential building!

An hour later, I finally found a real hostel with free beds.
The next step was to order food. Believe me, it’s not so simple when you can’t understand or speak the local language!

I spend the rest of the day walking around, exploring the city.
At first, Buenos Aires appeared complicated to me, but I quickly found my marks.

What can you say about the cost of living? Buenos-Aires
This is a difficult topic to discuss, because the exchange rate fluctuates constantly. Plus, there is an official exchange rate and an unofficial that we call « Blue-market ».
It sounds impossible to me to give advice about traveling in Argentina without talking about this famous « Blue Market ». It’s definitely not the funniest part of this interview, but it’s probably the most important one (Unless if you’re amazingly rich, but in this case, you don’t care about cost of living anyway!).

Blue Market is a very complex part of Argentina’s economy, so if you want more explanations, you can find more information by yourself!
But what you really need to know about the blue rate:
Official rate: 1 us$ = 9.40 Ar$
Blue Market rate: 1us$ = 16.00 Ar$
(As it changes really often, check on lanacion.com.ar to get the current rate).

So as you can see, if you change your money in the street instead of in the banks, the cost of living will decrease!It may sound crazy and dangerous, but you’ll realize quickly that it’s part of life there. Even if it’s not officially « legal » the rates appear every morning in the national newspaper!

How change your money in blue market:
1/ Bring some cash with you.
2/ go on one of the main street of Buenos Aires, called « Calle Florida » . There, look for guys yelling « Cambio, Cambio! » .
3/ You can also find in every city a « Kiosko » where you can change some cash (Euro, Dollars or Reales).

What about accommodation?
Most of the time, prices are fixed in dollars, so they don’t fluctuate much.
A flat sharing will cost you around 400/600$ per month.
For a hostel, you can expect to pay 10/12$ per night.

For further information, have a look to these websites:
–  http://www.mercadolibre.com.ar
–  https://www.facebook.com/groups/BuenosAiresExpatHub/
–  (for French) https://www.facebook.com/groups/46728894402/

Do you have some tips for those who plan to work in Buenos Aires?
You can work as language teacher. The simplest way to find students, is to post a message on the Facebook page I gave you in the previous question.
You might find a job in a bar but you won’t get paid a lot
Generally speaking, you must be okay with undeclared jobs because that’s the way it works there.

What was your level of Spanish when you arrived in Argentina? And after 6 months?
As I said previously, I barely spoke Spanish when I arrived. I was just able to say: « Vamos a la playa », but this is not really useful in Buenos Aires!
6 months later, after few lessons and many hours speaking with locals, my Spanish is good enough to hold a conversation.  At times, I get compliments on my progress which is a good sign, but I still have a lot of work before being fluent.

Buenos-Aires

Do you have some tips to learn Spanish?
No secret: practice is the key.
You can learn by listening radio or watching TV but the best way to progress is to meet people.
In Buenos Aires, you can attend MundoLingo events. They are organized in different bars in the city many times a week. You can meet foreigners and locals in a friendly atmosphere and it’s the perfect place to improve your language skills.
If you’re looking for a Spanish tutor, I’ve studied with Xeni and I highly recommend her.
For more information, have a look to her blog: http://spanishnowbuenosaires.blogspot.com.ar

Did you feel culture shock?
Not really as Buenos Aires looks like every European capital.
Of course, I was surprised by few things like when the whole city was screaming during a football game! Or when I discovered their crazy way of driving!

Buenos Aires in…
1 word:
Buena Honda which literally means « good vibes»
1 dish: Choripan, a traditional Argentinian street food.
1 memory: I remember one of my first days in Buenos Aires. I barely spoke Spanish and an old man started talking to me. I tried to explain to him that I couldn’t understand but he kept talking to me. I’ve only understood it was about a secret, but he can sleep quietly, I’m not going to repeat it!
1 place: San Telmo. A market takes place there every Sunday. The atmosphere is really special and friendly.

What’s next?
Never stop traveling! Now that I’ve explored a part of Latin America, I can’t wait to discover all the places I haven’t been yet!
And after, maybe another continent?

Any advice for those who want to travel in Buenos Aires?
Buenos Aires is an international city with many expats and locals who will be happy to help you, speak with you whatever the language… There is no way you feel lonely there! This is a fulfilling experience, so don’t hesitate and go for it!

Buenos-Aires

A special thanks to my brother, who accepted to share with us his experience.
If you have any question, comment below. He will answer asap!