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Living in Buenos Aires
A comprehensive guide about living well in Buenos Aires
The “Paris of South America” enchants tourists and expats alike. Read our Relocation Guide to living in Buenos Aires for an introduction to the city’s infrastructure – transportation, healthcare, schools, and more! Life in Buenos Aires has more to offer than art and parties, after all.
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Life in Buenos Aires
Life in Argentina’s capital is a vibrant and urbane experience. Whether you’re a bookworm or a dance fanatic, the rich culture of the city is unavoidable and you won’t want to miss it.
Argentina’s education system is of a fairly high quality, however, children in public schools are normally taught in Spanish. Buenos Aires is home to many international schools so this is not a problem, however, they can be pricey.
You get what you pay for in terms of healthcare in Buenos Aires. Many expats choose to go private as not all public hospitals treat non-nationals without an extensive insurance policy.
Living in Buenos Aires can be a dream come true for worldly expatriates, who will appreciate the rich heritage and contemporary highlights of Argentina’s capital. The city’s numerous nicknames, such as the “Queen of El Plata” (la Reina del Plata) and the “Paris of South America,” indicate that Buenos Aires has always been a popular city among the sophisticated, the glamorous, and the daring.
Whether you love music and dance, literature and art, or bars and clubbing, living in Buenos Aires has much in store for you.
The City of Books
The porteños (port people), as the inhabitants of Buenos Aires are often called, did not only build a bustling hub for trade and commerce; their urbane, liberal attitudes have also transformed Buenos Aires into a cultural metropolis. Today, several dozens of theater stages are strewn across the city, especially along the Avenida Corrientes, otherwise known as the street that never sleeps. Here, expats living in Buenos Aires can find, for example, Teatro Broadway.
The annual Buenos Aires Book Fair is one of the world’smost popular for publishers and literary circles. Its popularity proves that Argentine literature indeed didn’t end with the late Jorge Luis Borges, the doyen of Latin America’s highbrow brand of fantastic literature. Even if you are not around for the Book Fair in April and May, however, make sure to still explore the many shops and libraries while you’re living in Buenos Aires — it is said that Buenos Aires has more bookshops per inhabitant than anywhere else in the world.
The Birthplace of Tango
If reading isn’t your cup of tea, perhaps tango can bring some excitement into your life in Buenos Aires. Once reserved for gangsters, brothels, and other parts of the city’s underworld, this elegant dance no longer provokes the shocked and appalled reactions it used to. Quite on the contrary, the art of tango was declared part of the world’s cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2009.
Of course, in some respects tango has become a commercialized tourist attraction. While living in Buenos Aires, you are bound to run into quite a few open-air tango shows put on for visitors throughout the city. Nevertheless, tango remains alive and well in contemporary Buenos Aires. Present-day musical arrangements and dancing styles, such as Electrotango or Tango Nuevo, try to adapt the national passion to the 21st century.
Even if you refuse to set foot into a milonga (tango school) during your stay, living in Buenos Aires will be anything but dull. The city has thousands of restaurants, with cuisines for every palate, and younger expats in particular enjoy the hip nightlife, especially in the northeastern Palermo neighborhood.
Education for Expat Kids
For expat families, it is important to find a school suitable for their children. Fortunately, there are a number of schools that foreign children living in Buenos Aires can attend. Many of them are bilingual institutions teaching in both Spanish and English; they also cater to affluent Argentines who’d like their children to receive a bicultural education.
Most international or bilingual schools in Buenos Aires include a kindergarten, an elementary school, and a secondary school.
Below is a list of some of the international and bilingual schools in Buenos Aires:
- Boston College
- Buenos Aires English High School
- Glasgow College
- Goethe Schule
- St. Catherine’s Moorlands School
- The American International School
- United High School
Which School Is Right for You?
There are many aspects that can go into deciding on a school. You could take into account its religious background, the kind of diplomas your kids will be able to obtain, where the school is located, and how much it costs. Quite a few international schools are pretty expensive, and many such private institutions have campuses in Buenos Aires itself or the northern suburbs.
As is the case anywhere, choosing the right school is extremely important for your kids’ well-being while living in Buenos Aires.
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Public Transport in Buenos Aires
On the Road
Gran Buenos Aires is a sprawling metropolitan region, and you may be worrying about the long distances you might have to cover when going from A to B. However, it really is not all too difficult to pick your children up from school, keep an appointment at the walk-in clinic, or go to downtown Buenos Aires. While driving in Buenos Aires isn’t particularly recommended, due to the at times chaotic traffic conditions, the city does have an extensive and comparatively safe public transport network.
After arriving at Ezeiza International Airport to the south of Buenos Aires, the easiest way to get to the city center is to pick up a pre-paid taxi service (remis). They are usually available at any time of day, though less so in the busy morning hours. They take up to 45 minutes for the ride downtown, and should cost around 400 ARS (around 23 USD). From there you can continue your journey in an ordinary taxi, by bus, by train, or on foot.
There are said to be more than 38,000 taxis in Buenos Aires, and they are quite popular among expats who aren’t that familiar with the city yet. You should make sure to only use the officially licensed cabs, which are black and yellow. You should be able to see if the cab is available, as a sign will read “libre” (“free”). Just beware of taxi scams. They are quite common in Buenos Aires but can be easily avoided. For example, pay attention to where you are going – some drivers will try to bump up your fair by taking you the long way round, If you’re not sure of where you’re going, act like you do. Keep an eye on street signs – confidence is key!
Suburban Trains, Subte and Complicated Buses
After living in Buenos Aires for a while, you might want to give the city’s rail network a try. Buenos Aires’ subway system, Metrovias (Spanish only) is the oldest in Latin America, and the subte counts among the most important means of transport for many porteños. With the SUBE card, it’s easy to pay for your trip, and the more you use it, the cheaper the fares get. Keep in mind that most subte trains only run from 5:00 to 22:00. Please refer to the official Buenos Aires website for more information on fares and other payment methods as well as schedules.
The subte only covers the city itself. To get to the suburbs, you need to take a local or regional train to the various other zones of Gran Buenos Aires. Several commuter rail lines operate in the Buenos Aires area:
The Mitre Line runs from Retiro Station in the northeast in several directions, including to Rosario, Santa Fe, and Tigre.
The Belgrano Norte Line also starts at Retiro and connects Buenos Aires to Villa Rosa to the north.
The Belgrano Sur Line extends to the western parts of Gran Buenos Aires, ending in González Catán.
The Roca Line, which departs from Plaza Constitución, covers the southern metropolitan area including, for instance, Haedo and Cañuelas.
The San Martin Line connects Retiro and the northwestern suburb of Pilar.
The Sarmiento Line covers the western suburbs, starting at Once and ending in Moreno.
The Urquiza Line runs from Federico Lacroze Station in the northwest to the partido of San Miguel.
You can find maps for each line with the Argentine Ministry of Transport.
As an alternative to the subte and the suburban trains, you might even venture onto one of the Buenos Aires buses. The local bus system is notoriously complex, and even with your trusty Guía T bus guide in hand, it may take you some time to figure out the colectivos. But when you do, you can proudly claim to finally have settled down properly in Buenos Aires.
Medical Services in Buenos Aires
Medical Care: You Get What You Pay For
Needless to say, good medical care abroad is essential for you and your family’s well-being and, in turn, for a successful expat assignment. Thus, you’ll be happy to hear that the majority of medical facilities in Buenos Aires have a positive reputation. In the late 1960s, Argentina made it into the annals of medical history when a cardiac surgeon from Córdoba, the country’s second most important university town, developed the world’s first artificial heart.
Nevertheless, as is the case just about anywhere, the quality of care you receive in Buenos Aires ultimately depends on your health insurance. You can learn about the basics of Argentina’s rather complicated healthcare system in our overview of living in Argentina. Private hospitals, such as the main clinics popular in the foreign community, only accept patients covered by select, usually private, insurance providers.
Two clinics that are particularly popular among foreigners living in Buenos Aires are the Hospital Británicoand the Hospitál Alemán. Both accept many non-Argentine patients, so the language barrier shouldn’t be a problem there, especially if you are an English or German native speaker. The staff offers general consultations as well as comprehensive specialist care.
Both are located quite centrally, in Recoleta, but both have several medical centers throughout the city and even in Gran Buenos Aires. If you are unsure whether the Hospital Británico or the Hospitál Alemán accepts your insurance plan as valid coverage (cobertura), you should contact their staff directly. Both hospitals offer medical coverage of their own, as well.
Obtaining medical coverage from a private hospital in Buenos Aires may even prove worthwhile in case of an accident or medical emergency. While the hotline for medical emergencies in Buenos Aires is 101, many private clinics have a 24/7 emergency center of their own. Make sure to notify them directly if you or your family requires medical help.
If you just need to see a doctor, ask your country’s embassy or consulate in Buenos Aires for further information. They should be able to provide you with a list of doctors in Argentina who speak your language, be it general practitioners or specialists.
For over-the-counter medicine, you do not even need a doctor. A trip to the nearest Farmacity, Argentina’s biggest chain of pharmacies/drugstores, will suffice. Keep an eye out for their characteristic blue-orange signs with the green shield.
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