Thursday, 6 November 2014

Travelling in Argentina: need to know

So I haven't blogged in ages - I guess the blog itself never really took off, life kept getting in the way.

Anyway I wanted to write a post on my recent travels in Argentina. With the crazy inflation (officially, something like 11%, unofficially more like 20%), lots of prices you find on the Internet or in guidebooks are way off current prices. These prices are correct for October 28th - November 6th). I'll continue to update add my trip continues. 

At the time of my trip, the official exchsnge rate was ~ AR$8.4 to US$1. The blue rate was AR$13.5-14.0, which we managed to get in our hotels. On the street, you can get slightly higher rates (14.2-14.5) but you have to beware of fake pesos.

(All prices in pesos)

Buenos Aires
Taxi from Ezeiza airport to Palermo Soho (~30-40mins) $380
Public transport $3-4 per journey (with a subte card, works like an oyster card)

El Calafate
Taxi from airport to town centre $300 (but only $200 the other way)
Entrance to national park $215
Bus to El Chalten (one way) $275
Mini ice trekking with Heilo y Aventura $1100

Taxi from airport to city centre $90
Tastings at wineries $40-$100
Bike hire $150 (daily at Baccus bikes)

Taxi from airport to city centre $90
Note: the blue exchange rate is harder to get in Salta. We got 12.8 from a guy who drove to our hotel to exchange the money. However, this rate was only for US$50 and US$100 bills - smaller bills only got 12.0

Taxi from the airport to town $220 (this price is fixed)
Bus to Brazil $40 (each way with Rio Uruguay, see below)
Bus to Argentinian falls, $40 (each way)

Getting to Brazil
The bus will stop twice on the way there: 1. Get an exit stamp from Argentina immigration (you must get off the bus); 2. The bus driver will collect all passports and get an entry stamp from Brazil immigration (stay on the bus)
There are buses to Brazil around every hour on the half hour, run by two different companies, Rio Uruguay and Crucero del Norte. CdN buses look nicer but I don't know if they are more expensive.
Return buses run every hour on the hour, the last one at 5pm, which is the time the park closes on the Brazilian side anyway. You get very wet at the falls, even if it's good weather so bring a waterproof, or you can buy one there for $60. Also bring a towel to dry down afterwards, and maybe even a change of clothing.
Entry to the park is c.50 brazilian Reals, or $348. If possible pay in reals or on card, as the official exchange rate is much better than the cash rate.
Bottle of wine in a restaurant
- cheap $65 (usually only one or two bottles at this price)
- mid $100-$200 (usually loads at this price)
- expensive: all the way up to $000s of pesos, but usually less than $1000

Anything from $400 (empanadas to start, one bottle of wine, two mains around $100 each) to $900 (eg very good steak, nicer wine, water, starters, sides)
Bottle of water $25 (1l ish I think, in a restaurant)
Ice cream $40 (small)

Luggage Allowance
Most internal flights have a luggage allowance of 15kg (Aerolineas, LAN, Austral). However this isn't very strictly enforced - we had bags weighing up to 19kg and it was never a problem. In addition you can take several items of hand luggage. Be aware however that the rules for what you can carry in it seem to be different than for the UK - e.g. no    tweezers, nail files, and liquids (including cosmetics). Despite this, I often had suncream (<100ml) in my luggage and it was never a problem. So risk it at your peril!

All the airports we visited (except EZE, the main international one in Buenos Aires) were very efficient - think 15 minutes from landing to getting your bags and finding a taxi, so any transfers shouldn't need too much time. There is also no passport control or ID checks when flying internally which speeds the process up significantly!

English is not widely spoken. I would suggest learning some numbers before you go (they are pretty easy to understand if you know 1-20 and 100) and a few foods as most menus don't have translations.
If you order water, you will often be asked "sin or con gas?". This means without (sin) or with (con) bubbles - i.e. still or sparkling.
If you order tea or coffee you will hear "sin or con leche?" - leche is milk.
I don't speak spanish myself so I won't go into any more detail on translations! I would advise having written addresses for all your hotels to make navigating taxis easier.

Hopefully this is helpful to someone! Definitely bring dollars as you can only withdraw pesos from ATMs and then you get the official rate, which add explained above is much less favourable.  Your hotel / hostel should be able to exocrine where to exchange if they won't do it themself.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Progress so far, what I've been eating

My healthy eating and dieting regime is going quite well, but it's been difficult, and there's still a way to go! Quick check in though: I've lost 2.3kg!

I'm doing the 5:2, as I previously said, but trying to generally eat low calorie foods. Some examples:

0% fat greek yoghurt*
Scrambled eggs
Rye bread with almond butter

Miso soup (lots of this, as so low calorie)
Salad - typically tomatoes, cucumber, mini peppers, sometimes with tuna or salmon

Fish (cod, salmon, haddock...)
Green vegetables (broccoli, mange tout, asparagus, courgette...)

*there's been a lot of hype about sugar replacing fat in low fat versions of some products. I checked, and the 0% fat version of the yoghurt I buy has less sugar than both the full fat and low fat versions 

I've also been trying to cook without fat, using spices, seasoning and things like chilli, garlic and ginger to add flavour. 

I think I might need to start thinking up  alternatives though as getting a little fed up of fish and vegetables.

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Another year, another attempt at blogging

So I was pretty rubbish at blogging last year, giving up in March, which coincided with starting a new job and being sent off to Turkey nearly every week until December. Not the greatest excuse, as other people manage to blog with busy jobs, although I suppose it's my blog so I can write on it as often as I like!

Sadly my resolutions for this year are the same as they always are - eat less, drink less, spend less (and thus save more). For this year however, I'm also going to include write a blog post at least once a week (and maybe even get Harry to contribute!), and play my piano and saxophone at least twice a month (if I can still remember how to play). The creative side of my brain needs exercising!

I'm off on the 5:2 diet again this year, it worked really well last year but then after working away, it got hard to control my calorie intake (well to limit it to 500/day) as I was living off plane food and hotel food. And let's face it, I was never going to fast on the weekends when I was back in London. I've had a rather indulgent festive season and so looking to lose about 1 stone, before I go to New York in Feb (20th).

So far today I've had:

1 pint of hot water with lemon juice (a good shake of the bottled stuff, not cordial) with cayenne pepper (also a good shake)
1 miso soup (from a sachet)
1 1/2 carrots
5 cherry tomatoes

And yes I am hungry... waiting to go home and have some vegetables and maybe some dahl (lentils are only about 100 cal for 100g!).

I've also joined the work gym with a class-only membership, so next week I am planning on doing three classes during my lunchtimes - let's see if I actually stick to that.

I'm hoping to share some more recipes on the blog this year,  not just 5:2 recipes as I really do enjoy cooking and now I have an ipad, the quality of my photos should hopefully be a bit better than those I used to take on my phone.