Last Sunday, around midnight, I suddenly felt like eating some yogurt—arroz con leche, maybe—but I didn’t have any in the fridge. No worries, plenty of Carrefour Express supermarkets are open 24/7, including two just downstairs, on Avenida Corrientes.
The first one looked closed, the metal rolling gate was down.
I walked to the second one. Same thing rolling gate down but a queue had formed outside the door.
“Is it going to reopen soon?” I asked. These 24/7 supermarkets sometimes close for 30 minutes at one point to balance the cash drawer.
“No, it’s closed but it’s still open.”
Right. Totally makes sense.
Then I realized a small window was built into the metal gate. A Carrefour employee was taking orders, ringing up the purchase and handing it over, much like in a drive-through except it was a walk-through. I assumed it was for safety reasons past midnight.
I observed how it worked.
“I need some water,” the customer asked.
“How big of a bottle?”
“… 2 litres.”
The employee hurried to the drink aisle and brought back a few bottles.
“How much is this one?”
“Let me check… 33 pesos.”
“And this one?”
“Okay, so the 33 pesos one. Now I need some butter…”
The employee brought back a selection.
“This one but could you check the price?”
Considering I didn’t know exactly what I wanted, I skipped my turn. I just… can’t think of a less efficient way to shop!
“No, BIGGER!” I overheard a Boca fan guy shouting when I was taking pictures of the celebrations.
“Can’t be THAT big…” his group of friends said.
“Oh yeah, it’s big.”
“Bigger than the Obelisk?”
I waited for the answer and for a clue of what they were talking about. Don’t tell me that…
“Oh yeah, Boca is bigger than the Obelisk!”
Right, talking about Boca Juniors football club. Not about the other thing I had in mind.
I figured out a long time ago which bank (yes, singular) works best with foreign cards but it doesn’t mean going to the ATM is just a two-minute chore in Argentina.
On Friday afternoon, they were about 20 customers and six ATMs available.
“Is this one working?”
“Okay, I’m trying this one… out of money.”
“The one on the left?”
“Nope, someone just tried.”
ATMs in Buenos Aires—and I suspect in Argentina in general—are often empty…
And when you need an extra $20 and don’t feel like playing the ATM game, just exchange US dollars for pesos with pretty much anyone. Argentinians hoard US dollars.
In my case, the building doorman was quite happy to exchange a bunch of 100-peso banknotes for two 10-dollar banknotes. We checked the current exchange rate on Google, deal done.
You can also pay in US dollars pretty much anymore (but the change will be in pesos).
And since you’re in Buenos Aires, on top of the usual must-see places, enjoy…
- Heading to San Telmo on Sunday and walking up and down Calle Defensa to look for cheap leather goods, tacky souvenirs and handmade crafts.
- Eating a greasy slice of pizza topped with fainá (chickpea flour pancake). Other local favourites include classic jamón y queso and carne empanadas and pasta. If you’re vegetarian, lactose intolerant and if you love spicy food, just… pick another country.
- Taking old elevators and getting stuck between floors. On the plus side, you can finally get a definite answer to the “does my butt look big?” question because most elevators come with four mirrors and rides are uncomfortably slow.
- Exploring the posh Recoleta barrio and the eerie, classic cemetery.
- Ordering coffee. It will come with a tall glass of water and a tiny sweet treat (if you’re lucky, a mini alfajore!). Need more than a small treat? Go for a couple of sticky medialunas or some random facturas with dulce de leche, membrillo (quince paste) or cream.
- Going through the three stages of crossing Avenida 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world. First stage is “wow, awesome, let’s stop everywhere and take pictures!” Second stage is “it does get annoying to wait for the lights… I mean, 18 lanes, right?” Third stage is “the place I wanted to go to is on the other side of the avenue? Fuck it. Too lazy to cross it.”
- Hanging out in Puerto Madero, the one relaxing place during rush hour.
- Taking Avenida Santa Fe, Avenida Cordoba or Avenida Las Heras and walk to the end. Just kidding. Don’t. Buenos Aires is a city of endless streets, you’re gonna end up in Patagonia.
- Enjoying a merienda (a few sandwiches de miga, maybe?), the late-afternoon snack, and eating dinner at a decent hour like 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. like locals do.
- Watching people queuing for live theatre on Avenida Corrientes and admiring their fancy night-out outfits.