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Argentina is a land of extremes, its hectic urban centres contrasting with a staggeringly remote hinterland, and can be simultaneously hot in one region and cold in another. The one common thread is that the people possess a curiosity, passion, and fervour for life, most visible when it comes to football, the national obsession. Evita, the Tango, gauchos and estancias are the country's clichéd attractions, but what strikes visitors most is that life here is for living -the fast pace only letting up for the afternoon siesta-.

Referred to as a grimy Paris, Buenos Aires is a sophisticated capital brimming with character and an excellent spot for shopping and watching the world go by -whether it's pedestrians strolling or motorists driving at break-neck speed. Nightlife is second to none and the restaurants are a food-lover's delight.

Argentina's national parks teem with wildlife and incredible mountainous vistas, while the colossal Perito Moreno Glacier and Iguazú Falls are natural wonders. Endless hiking opportunities abound in the south, where Patagonia is stunningly barren and mystifying and the Tierra del Fuego feels like the end of the world. The Andes offer excellent skiing -the ski-resort of Bariloche being the country's most established. Horseriding, adventure sports and birdwatching are just a few of the other activities on offer throughout the country.

Argentina, vastly unexplored and undiscovered by most tourists, is an adventure waiting to happen.

General Information

Area: 2,780,400 sq km (1,073,518 sq miles).

37,031,802 (official estimate 2000).

Buenos Aires. Population: 3,046,663 (official estimate 2000).

Geography: Argentina is situated in South America, east of the Andes, and is bordered by Chile to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the east and Uruguay, Bolivia, Paraguay and Brazil to the north and northeast. There are four main geographical areas: the Andes, the North and Mesopotamia, the Pampas and Patagonia. The climate and geography of Argentina vary considerably, ranging from the great heat of the Chaco (El Chaco), through the pleasant climate of the central Pampas to the sub-Antarctic cold of the Patagonian Sea. Mount Aconcagua soars almost 7000m (23,000ft) and waterfalls at Iguazś stretch around a massive semi-circle, thundering 70m (230ft) to the bed of the Paranį River. In the southwest is a small 'Switzerland' with a string of beautiful icy lakes framed by mountains.

Government: Federal and Democratic Republic. Gained independence from Spain in 1816. Head of State and Government: President Eduardo Duhalde since 2002.

Language: Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken with some French and German.

Religion: More than 90 per cent Roman Catholic, two per cent Protestant with small Muslim and Jewish communities.

Time: GMT - 3 (GMT - 4 summer).

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Lamp fittings are of the screw-type. Plug fittings in older buildings are of the two-pin round type, but some new buildings use the three-pin flat type.

Telephone: IDD is available (but not generally in use). Country code: 54. Outgoing international code: 00. The system is often overburdened and international calls are expensive. Local calls can be made from public call-boxes, which are located in shops and restaurants and are identifiable by a blue sign outside. Public phones take one peso or 50 and 25 centavos coins or cards. Reduced tariffs apply from 2200-0800.


Peso (P) = 100 centavos. Peso notes are in denominations of P100, 50, 20, 10, 5 and 2. Coins are in denominations of P5, 2 and 1 and 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1 centavos.

Currency exchange: While the US Dollar is generally accepted as legal tender, foreign currencies can be exchanged in banks and authorised cambios (bureaux de change), which are available in all the major cities.

Credit & debit cards: Diners Club, American Express, Visa and MasterCard are accepted. Check with your credit or debit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services that may be available.

Travellers cheques: It is often difficult to exchange these in the smaller towns. To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take travellers cheques in US Dollars.

Banking hours: Mon-Fri 1000-1500.


The north is subtropical with rain throughout the year, while the Tierra del Fuego in the south has a sub-arctic climate. The main central area is temperate, but can be hot and humid during summer (December to February) and cool in winter.

Social Profile

Food & Drink:
North American, Continental and Middle Eastern cuisine is generally available, whilst local food is largely a mixture of Basque, Spanish and Italian. Beef is of a particularly high quality and meat-eaters should not miss out on the chance to dine at a parillada, or grill room, where a large variety of barbecue-style dishes can be sampled. Popular local dishes include empanadas (minced meat and other ingredients covered with puff pastry) and locro (pork and maize stew). In general, restaurants are good value. They are classified by a fork sign with three forks implying a good evening out. Hotel residents are usually asked to sign a charge slip. Argentine wines are very good and inexpensive. Local distilleries produce their own brands of most well-known spirits. Whiskies and gins are excellent, as are classic and local wines. Caribbean and South American rum adds flavour to cocktails. There are no licensing laws.

Nightlife: Buenos Aires' nightlife is vibrant. There are many theatres and concert halls featuring foreign artists. Nightclubs featuring jazz and tango are plentiful. Tango lessons and dancing can be enjoyed at lively milongas (tango parties), throughout Buenos Aires. There are also many intimate boītes (clubs) and many stage shows. There are casinos throughout Argentina.

Shopping: Buenos Aires has traditionally enjoyed a reputation as a shopper's paradise; possibly of even being the best shopping city in Latin America. Leather goods are a good buy, as are native crafts and souvenirs.
Shopping hours:
Mon-Fri 0900-1900 and Sat 0900-1300.