1. You cannot flush loo paper. Almost ever. A lot of the time there is a sign saying “Por favor, el papel en el cesto” or “No tirar el papel en el inodoro”, but if there isn’t, and there is a bin next to the loo, then you can guarantee you’re not supposed to flush the paper.
2. Returnable beer bottles. Going to the supermarket to buy beer, you spy a great deal – 35 pesos for a litre bottle, “I’ll get two” you think. Ah, but this could go either way. The first time we purchased beer in Argentina, a nice lady who spoke some English helped to translate the cashiers repeated demands – “You should bring the bottles back so you get the cost of the bottle back” which is around 9-12 pesos depending on where you are shopping. Ok, so the next day we took the bottles back – no refund. Strange, but whatever. These types of scenarios continued, mostly we had to pay for the bottle, and never bothered taking them back. However upon trying to purchase beer in Salta, we were simply denied. Being told that we must have bottles to swap. Others from our hostel had the same issue, and were equally as confused. A mystery we’ll never solve!
3. You can buy empanadas anywhere. From fancy restaurant, to person wheeling a poly-bin through a market, they are everywhere. The ones we have had were mostly good, some even better than the humble Kiwi mince pie!
4. Mate. A tea, a religion (or so it would appear). Almost everyone has a cup in hand, and it’s a necessity to carry around a flask of hot water for top ups. We’ve seen it being drunk everywhere from hostels and streets, to busses and even by tour guides while they’re walking around the city.
5. Bread, bread, and more pan. In our 3 weeks in Argentina, we had bread almost every single day. If you go to a cafe or restaurant, you get free bread. For breakfast, there’s a choice of bread, bread, sweet bread (ok, cakes or the likes) or cornflakes covered in sugar.
6. Dulce de leche – for the above mentioned bread, sometimes the only option at breakfast time. Mmmmm caramel for breakfast you say? Give it 3 weeks and you’ll be googling recipes for peanut butter!
7. Bus travel is better than flying. Yes Argentinean busses are expensive, but their seats are 10x more comfortable than any airline seat we’ve ever sat in. We haven’t yet come across a bus that serves wine (they apparently do exist) and the one meal we had was only just edible, but pack a picnic and snuggle into your giant leather armchair – remembering to bring extra clothes or a blanket as it probably will get cold.
8. Weigh your fruit and vege, before you get to the supermarket. We discovered this when the cashier started speaking very quickly, looking annoyed, and repeating “pesar” – to weigh. In most supermarkets, the fruit and vege section has a weigh station – and it’s for the customer! Go figure…
9. White lines on the road? Looks like a pedestrian crossing, but don’t be fooled into thinking anyone is going to stop for you! The way to cross the road – a well timed, semi sprint between lights. Cars have the right of way, always.
10. Argentina is expensive! We were surprised to find groceries were almost the same price as back home, accommodation was going to cost us between NZ$50-60 per night (double room) and bus travel cost us around NZ$10 per hour. We still managed to stick mostly to our NZ$100 per day budget (for 2 people) but for the most part, we cooked at the hostels, and sought out the “menu del dia” if we did go out.