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A Practical Guide to the Way of Life in Argentina

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Life in Argentina

  • Although dangerous infections are fairly rare in Argentina, there have been confirmed cases of Dengue Fever in certain areas. The air pollution can also cause problems for those who have respiratory problems, so make sure you visit a doctor before moving.
  • Private insurance can be expensive, however, the majority of expats tend to think it’s worth the price. Waiting times in public hospitals can be very long so research you options thoroughly.
  • Argentina’s education system is of a fairly high quality but the main teaching language in the majority of public schools is Spanish. This means that the best option for older children especially may be one of the many international schools in Argentina.

Living in Argentina lets most expats lead a relatively comfortable life. Some of the most well-known indices, such as the Mercer Quality of Living Survey, routinely rank Argentina well above other Latin American nations. However, living in Argentina is not quite as carefree as in such first-rate places as, for example, Switzerland and New Zealand.

Nevertheless, only a few other cities in Central and South America – for example Montevideo in neighboring Uruguay – are ranked ahead of Buenos Aires by Mercer when it comes to the quality of life. In comparison to Brazil’s mega-cities, living in Argentina’s capital city is both safer and cheaper.

Across the country, however, strong inflation remains a central issue — the inflation rate in April 2016, for example, was recorded at 40.5%. As such, prices can be fairly volatile, which means that the average expenses of living in Argentina vary greatly.

Immunizations and Diseases: Planning in Advance

Your personal well-being is an essential part of an enjoyable and successful expat assignment. Most expats place a great emphasis on a clean environment, affordable health insurance options, and good medical care.

While living in Argentina, you can expect to be largely free of dangerous infections. Only in a few northern, forested areas does yellow fever pose any risk to residents so ask your doctor whether or not he thinks it is advisable to get vaccinated based on your travel plans. Similarly, Malaria is not all too prevalent. However, in 2009, 2011 and 2016 considerable dengue fever outbreaks were reported. Therefore, expats, as well as tourists, should protect themselves well against mosquito bites. Even the Buenos Aires area hasn’t entirely escaped such cases, so this is clearly something to watch out for.

In terms of immunization, travelers and expatriates are advised to at least refresh their routine vaccines (MMR, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, chickenpox, and influenza) in preparation for life in Argentina. Additionally, Hepatitis A and Typhoid vaccinations are often recommended as well.

If you are intent on living in Argentina for the long haul, it may also be a good idea to get immunized against Hepatitis B. In any case, you should talk to your doctor, who may also suggest vaccines against yellow fever, rabies, and malaria.

Pharmacies and Physicians

If you live in or around the Buenos Aires metropolitan region, you should be aware that the area can be badly burdened by air pollution on occasion. This may aggravate existing health conditions, which you need to take into consideration if you suffer from any kind of respiratory diseases.

In general, regardless of the illness you may suffer from, you should pack enough of your prescribed medication for a couple of months. In this way, you avoid having to hurry around looking for a decent doctor living in Argentina. In most cases, seeing a physician requires health insurance.

Public Healthcare

Argentina’s healthcare system is fairly well developed, and it consists of three sectors. The first part of the healthcare sector includes public healthcare provided by the government to all residents.

For example, Argentine public hospitals are funded by the state to offer basic care and emergency services to everyone who is not otherwise covered by a medical insurance plan. Due to the several economic crises that have hit the country in the last few decades, many people living in Argentina have recently relied on such services. Most expats, however, opt for better coverage.

Healthcare and Transport in Argentina

Obras Sociales

In addition to universal basic care, another important part of Argentina’s health insurance system are the semi-public obras sociales. They include a variety of healthcare plans, and there are about 300 funds in total. The government was involved in creating them and is responsible for overseeing their activities along with trade unions.

In 2007, about half of Argentina’s population were covered by some type of social insurance, be it the national or the provincial obras sociales. However, in 2015 the government widened the group of people eligible for health insurance and their hope is that, by 2017, over 50% of the eligible population will be covered. In most cases, plans cover more than half the costs on both consultations and medication. Due to recent government reforms, residents can more or less choose their healthcare plans freely among the different types of obras sociales. They all offer a basic package with minimum benefits.

Private Healthcare is Pricey…

Last but not least, there is the private insurance sector. It covers mostly a minority of wealthy upper middle-class and upper-class patients, and in total somewhere in the neighborhood of 10% of the population has some form of private insurance. For the average Argentine worker, out-of-pocket prices are often too high.

Expats living in Argentina, however, usually receive higher salaries, as many are in management or specialist positions. Therefore, a private health insurance plan might be a good idea for you.

…But It Pays to Go Private

In fact, it is highly advisable for expats to have access to private healthcare. A number of hospitals that cater to the foreign population do not accept patients with only public insurance policies. While general medical standards in Argentina are certainly decent, waiting times at public hospitals can be very long. You should also keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that the hospital staff speaks anything but Spanish.

Two Buenos Aires hospitals often recommended to expats in Argentina are the Hospitál Alemán and the British Hospital. Both cater to foreigners and accept a variety of international health insurance plans. Private hospitals like these may even provide their own health insurance options.

Emergency Care

In the city and province of Buenos Aires, you should phone 911 in case of emergencies. In other parts of the country, dialing 101 will connect you to the police department, and in case of a fire 107 is the number to call.

For medical emergencies outside Buenos Aires, you should dial 101. Of course, you can always use any ER of a public hospital in such cases, regardless of whether, where, or how you are insured.

Airports in Argentina

A country as vast as Argentina with a sprawling capital region like Buenos Aires obviously needs a solid infrastructure with a well-maintained road network and public transportation options. Fortunately, Argentina has both.

Unless you are traveling the South American continent by bus and will be crossing the border from neighboring states like Bolivia or Brazil, you are most likely to arrive in Argentina on an international flight. There are international airports in the cities of Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Mendoza. For flight data, airport facilities, up-to-date exchange rates, and customs taxes, refer to (English available in the top right).

Of course, the busiest airport is Airport Buenos Aires. Once you have landed, a transfer shuttle service can take you from the airport to the center of town for 45 ARS (12 USD). Buenos Aires is the only Argentine city with a subway system (el subte) in addition to local buses, taxis, and rail services to the suburbs.

Argentina’s Bus Networks

Most Argentine cities rely on local buses called colectivos. These complex systems of bus lines, fares, and pre-paid cards can be somewhat confusing for foreigners, though. It’s best to find a helpful local neighbor or co-worker to assist you in figuring out the most important connections at first.

Fortunately, the cross-country bus network of long-distance coaches is far less complicated. If you go by first-class bus or an overnight bus, you will be traveling in relative comfort. Major bus companies such as AndesmarNueva Chevallier(Spanish only), and El Rápido Internacional are present in most big cities.

Education in Argentina

Excellent Education

Expat parents will be interested in learning more about education in Argentina. Generally speaking, Argentina’s school system has a fairly good reputation internationally. At just under 98%, the country has one of the highest levels of literacy among all Latin American countries.

In Argentina, education starts at the pre-primary level with kindergarten for children aged two to five. Kindergarten is, however, not compulsory – save for the last year, which is called educación inicial. Primary schooling then begins at the age of six and is compulsory for everyone.

Compulsory Schooling: Reaching Your Full Potential

Nowadays, compulsory education for Argentine schoolchildren includes two options: Either six years of primary school followed by another six in secondary school, or seven years of primary school and five years of secondary school. Counting the final year of preschool, that makes thirteen years of free obligatory schooling.

Secondary education itself is sub-divided into two levels. Lower secondary provides general education while upper secondary encourages students to specialize. At the conclusion of secondary school, students can take an entrance exam for enrollment in one of Argentina’s state universities. Private universities in Argentina may have additional admission requirements.

Learn the Local Language or Keep It International

While English is very important as a foreign language, Spanish remains the predominant language in most classrooms. Younger kids may be able to pick up a foreign language within six months. For older students with little to no knowledge of Spanish, however, having to learn a new language can be a bit of a hindrance. Therefore, many expat families prefer to send their children to a private international school.

In Argentina, 57 schools offer the International Baccalaureate Diploma. There are also a few bilingual (Spanish-English) schools in the cities of Cordoba and Rosario, most notably the Colegio Mark Twain (Cordoba) and the Colegio San Bartolomé (Rosario). Naturally, however, Buenos Aires is home to many more.

The schools in Buenos Aires cater to many different expats, particularly the French, German, Italian, Japanese, and English-speaking communities:

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  • Paolo Greco

    My wife has found her job through InterNations. That is great as our fresh start in Buenos Aires was kind of tough for us both.

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    If you want to meet interesting international people in Buenos Aires, go to the InterNations events! I am doing that -- everyone is doing that.

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