Trip Coach: April 15, 2008

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Michael Luongo, author of "Frommer's Buenos Aires," answered your questions on Buenos Aires.

Michael Luongo: Hi, This is Michael Luongo, author of the Frommer's Buenos Aires guidebook and webmaster of misterbuenosaires.com. I'm really excited to talk with you today about Buenos Aires and answer your questions. So let's get started

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Bountiful, Utah: I have heard that it is better to skip the meal at most Tango shows and just see the show. Can you recommend a good show where you are not required to have a meal?

Michael Luongo: This is a good question, and perfectly in line with a Budget Travel traveler! Really virtually all of the shows have that option. I think some really high quality ones are El Querandi, in the Montserrat area, and I think for glamour and orchestral quality, you want Esquina Carlos Gardel. What these options give you are things like drinks instead of dinner. You may save about 30% of the price of the ticket. There is always heading to some of the milongas, or tango salons that mix shows with the dance time, like Bien Pulenta. It's a cheaper option, the shows mixed in are fantastic and it's really friendly of a place. That said, it is a very late night, say 1 in the morning to begin. Dinner is optional too since it is a restaurant anyway. Really no matter what you do you'll enjoy it.

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Orlando, Fla.: Hi. We will be visiting BA in late May and wondered how to best spend our 4 days there? Is a day trip to Uruguay a good idea, if the weather is good for a boat ride? I really don't care about the bars, but I am looking forward to some inexpensive, yet tasty, beef and wine. I will be staying at the Tryp Hotel, based on reviews I've seen and their prices. Another major worry, what is the best (not too expensive yet not too long) way to get from/to the airport to the area where I'm staying?

Thanks,
Lee

Michael Luongo: Hi Lee in Orlando. I would not worry about weather during the boat ride since it is enclosed. You're better off with Colonia instead of Montevideo since it is much closer and designed for day trips. That said, with 4 days, that is a tight schedule for taking a day trip anyway. Taxis are a bargain for getting to the hotel. For about 15 to 17 dollars, you'll get from the hotel to town, which I think is good and also, it doesn't matter how many people. Yes, cheaper options are things like Manuel Tienda Leon and other options, which break the trip up back to the hotel on busses, but for the difference, you're better off. The airport is roughly 30 minutes to 45 minutes away, depending of course on traffic, etc.

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Chicago, Ill.: What is the hippest, liveliest area to stay in? What hotel would you recommend in that area? —Tem

Michael Luongo: Of course everyone might say hip is what you make of it, but most people would agree the trendiest area is Palermo Viejo, broken into the areas of Palermo Sojo and Palermo Hollywood. These were once broken down industrial areas, but their little houses have been converted into chic boutiques, restaurants and mini hotels. Like all chic areas, it will be the victim of its own success, especially as it gets overdeveloped, but for now it is a fun area where there is always something to do!

Some hotels to recommend are Five Cool Rooms, you can find out more on the web at fivebuenosaires.com.

And there is Home, which is where the Bush twins stayed on their visit to Buenos Aires too. It's got a great bar, large rooms and this backyard area where you can relax, which is of course why they call it Home!

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Richardson, Tex.: How gay-friendly is Buenos Aires?

Michael Luongo: Buenos Aires is a very gay friendly city with a huge amount of gay infrastructure, government support for gay tourism, a few gay hotels, including the new Axel Hotel and many others, like the original gay hotel El Lugar Gay. The Gay pride parade is in November. That said, not all Argentines are comfortable being out, but you'll have tremendous fun as a tourist. There is a concentration of gay activity in San Telmo, in Barrio Norte, and really, throughout the city. It's not an issue, especially in the tourism sector.

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San Diego, Calif.: We (husband, daughter, & myself) are interested in traveling to BA in the last couple of weeks of June. What is the best approach as far as planning this trip? Do you recommend going through a travel agent, or do you think we can plan it on our own and still get a decent deal? Do you think we should try to find a package where we can also see another city/country (Santiago, Montevideo)? Thanks!

Michael Luongo: San Diego, this is a great question...are you ski buffs? it'll be winter down there so maybe you can plan some winter activities. I really think a travel agent will be very helpful, one who knows Buenos Aires and the surroundings. Some companies like Borello Travel or Limitless Argentina can be of help. If you are spending a few weeks, you do have time for more countries like Chile or Uruguay. You can even do things like fly via LAN to Santiago, hope to Buenos Aires, then do Uruguay by boat, fly home via Buenos Aires. You have a lot of options, and the luxury of time.

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Chicago, Ill.: Michael: After seeing the movie "Assasination Tango" with Robert Duval, I've been most interested in visiting one of the tango salons (or milongos) like the one I saw in the film. Do you have any suggestions for such places frequented more by the locals than tourists? Once there, are there any rules of etiquette or local custom I should be aware of?

Michael Luongo: Ah, well you know tango is what made Duvall fall in love with Argentina! This is a tricky question to ask an expert, and I will tell you why. Tango is a fragile thing, and if the world knew the best most secret tango places, they wouldn't be secret tango places anymore. What I can tell you is this—go to the more popular ones like El Nino Bien, or one I highly recommend, Bien Pulenta. Get to know the places, and acting like Duvall himself, stake them out, get the low down, ask people their recommendations. The suburbs surrounding Buenos Aires do have amazing tango places no tourist goes to...but you have to sleuth a bit and get to know some tango people...that's your mission!

Yes, there are rules—the specila way to look at the opposite sex (I don't know if you're a man or woman in the question). It's all in the eyes, the glances, the hand gestures and the nods. Remember when people talk about eyes meeting across a crowded dance floor, that's Buenos Aires...enjoy this!

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Midland, Tex.: We are taking our mother to Buenos Aires on May 18 through May 26. She is 86-years-old and has limited mobility. She loves horses and demonstrations of horsemanship. Can you recommend an estancia for a daytime visit where there are activities for persons of limited mobility?

Michael Luongo: Dear Midland...this is a tough one since by their nature, estancias are not really designed for those with limited mobility. You could try for a day trip Santa Susana and Fiesta Gaucha. it is touristy, but designed in such a way that you should have access to most of the shows, whether the gaucho games, or the dancing inside. You might have to arrange special transport rather than use of the usual busses that take people there however. Good luck and so nice to bring your mother to see Buenos Aires!

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Fort Worth, Tex.: I'm planning to stay in the Plaza San Martin area for a week next month with my aunt, who is a cancer survivor and doesn't get around quite so well. Is this a pedestrian-friendly area for eating, sightseeing, etc.?

Michael Luongo: Fort Worth...Oh yes, it sure is pedestrian friendly as it is just off Calle Florida. Portions of the access to Plaza San Martin itself are high steps, but certain areas will be easier for wheelchairs, you just have to go the long way. It is a beautiful park. Florida Street is pedestrianized. Not all the stores will have access, but major places like Galerias Pacifico will be accessible—it is a mall with shops and eateries. You can also do outdoor dining in Buenos Aires as well, and though it's heading to autumn, you should have good weather. Should you need medical attention, Buenos Aires has a great healthcare infrastructure. Hospital Britanico, the English hospital has a lot of English speaking doctors.

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Denver, Colo.: Michael, my wife and I will be in Argentina the month of June. Can you tell us what we should expect for weather in Buenos Aires and Mendoza?

Michael Luongo: June is the end of fall, beginning of winter in Argentina, so it will begin to be cold. That said it won't be as cold as in the temperate climates of the Northeast, but the weather will be changeable also. Mendoza will be in about the same range, maybe a little colder since you're near the mountains. Check ahead before your trip to make sure.

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Lake Forest, Calif.: Is the civil unrest among laborers, farmers and the government a negative factor to consider for current travel throughout Argentina, especially if basing travel excursions from Buenos Aires?

Michael Luongo: This is a really good question. It may or may not be an issue depending on where you go. I have not heard of any of the estancias for instance being harder to get to. The thing about civil unrest in Argentina is that it is just normal, happens all the time, with obviously larger flare-ups. People for the most part however get around it all. That said, once there, doublecheck roots etc. This can be a problem even in the capital too however as sometimes with a protest, parts of the city are blocked. But Argentines are used to these things.

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Palm Springs, Calif.: I escape the hottest part of the summer here in the California desert by spending the months of July and August in Buenos Aires. In planning for packing my clothing, what kind of weather should I be expecting?

Thank you,
John

Michael Luongo: John, I have been to Palm Springs in May and September and that is crazy hot, so must be awful in the summer! July and August in Buenos Aires can be cold and rainy. The best way to describe it is like British weather. Gray, cold, rainy, but never as cold as in say the Northeast US in winter (though Buenos Aires had its first snowstorm recently in something like 70 years.) So a jacket, coat, sweaters, umbrella for sure. You'll want to spend a lot of time indoors, so check out cafes, restaurants, and of course art galleries too.

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Minneapolis, Minn.: Michael, Buenos Aires always seems to have the young beautiful people in there ads. Would some young 60's gals enjoy themselves there? What would we find to do and where should we stay?

Michael Luongo: Minneapolis, I love your question! I find Buenos Aires is a great place for gals your age to enjoy themselves. Part of Argentina's European charm is the respect for women of a certain age, and in fact, you'll find plenty of North American gals your age living down there permanently. I don't know if you love to tango, or plan to, but I highly suggest some nights out—which are very late, I am talking busy time is like 2 in the morning. Some places to try are Bien Pulenta, which offers a great mix between milonga (tango hall) and show. You can also try afternoon places like La Glorietta which is an outdoors place. It does not matter if you tango and it is such a beautiful thing to watch.

There are galleries, restaurants, all kinds of things anyone would do no matter their age group. Of course ads have beautiful people all over the place in them, but doesn't all advertising have that?

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New Orleans, La.: I have always wanted to combine a trip to Buenos Aries with a ski trip in Argentina. Obviously this would happen between June and September. A week to 10 days would be the longest we could get away. Is it an impossible dream?

Michael Luongo: New Orleans, of course you can. You're gonna overnight flight anyway either end of the trip. A few days in Buenos Aires, and a few days in say Bariloche or San Martin de Los Andes can always be done. Look at travel companies like Borello Travel or Sayhueque. You're likely to get more convenient flights and choices with Bariloche, so with your time schedule that is what I recommend.

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Detroit, Mich.: We want to visit BA. He is loves architecture and I enjoy nature. Any suggestions on botanical gardens or nature reserves? What should I definitely bring back as a gift for my BFF?

Michael Luongo: Detroit, I'll tell you a stroll down Avenida Libertador in Palermo will make both of you happy. It's a linear park system on one side, and grand architecture on the other. There are gardens at Plaza Italia and all kinds of beautiful greenery and grand buildings. Off Puerto Madero is the Nature Reserve. You'll both be very happy, and it is romantic too. The thing for your friend is anything leather, bought on Calle Florida or Calle Murillo.

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Lynn, Mass.: We would like to travel to Argentina in November. When is the best time to purchase flight tickets so as to increase chance for the best rates?

Michael Luongo: I would say the earlier the better. Flights can go up quite high then as that is the busy season. Hotels also fill up during that time period as well. That said, you can always find last minute bargains on kayak.com, and priceline.com and other websites, or even through your travel agent which might give you more flexibility than what you can book on the web.

November is a really beautiful time too in Buenos Aires, especially early November when the jacaranda trees are in their purple bloom.

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San Diego, Calif.: What areas of Buenos Aires would you avoid?

Michael Luongo: This is a tricky question because it can depend on the time. I would say for sure, avoid La Boca at night. Monserrat can be a little dodgy, but is generally OK with spillover from busy San Telmo. In general, use good judgement, avoid abondoned streets as you would in any big city.

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Bloomfield Hills, Mich.: Can you recommend an estancia that is within an easy distance for a day trip?

Michael Luongo: Almost all estancias near Buenos Aires have day trip options. One for sure is Estancia Susana for Fiesta Gaucha. I would also recommend the small, family style El Cencerro, El Ombu and La Bamba, with its striking red color against the green Pampas is another great choice. Many of the estancias also have car service options making it easier to get to them.

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Michael Luongo: It has been so great chatting with you all about Buenos Aires and answering your questions...there were just so many great ones, and so many I could not get to them all. But it shows how well loved Buenos Aires is! Thanks for spending time with me and see you in Buenos Aires!

Take care,
Michael Luongo

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