Thursday, September 15, 2016

How to Ride a Bike in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is not too hard of a city to get around in, but all too often the public transit gets crowded, and you find yourself up close and personal with all 8 million of its inhabitants who are moving around the city at 5 in the afternoon. The best way to avoid all that traffic is with your own means of propulsion. Traveling by car will take forever because of the narrow streets with few lanes and all of the stoplights. A motorcycle is efficient, but not everyone has a moto license and the money to rent/buy one. The bicycle is the most economic and time-efficient way to get around the city. With several options for rent, lots of deals on used bikes in shops all around town, and government sponsored bike stations, Buenos Aires is slowly becoming a bike haven.

Many people talk trash about biking down town, saying it is dangerous, that all the drivers are out to kill pedestrians and bikers, and that it is a slow way to get around town. Biking can be dangerous if you do not know how to ride a bike, but it is by far faster than a car or subway, and the motorists are rather tame as long as you make yourself present and are willing to share the road.

If you do not know how to ride a bike or do not feel comfortable with riding in a high traffic area, do not worry, there are still some options for you! Plaza Holanda is a park located in Palermo that is a pedestrian paradise with a big circular path and road that is just under 2 kilometers. It features a pedestrians and bikes only side and a road with very little traffic just outside. They rent bikes here, so this could be a great place to try your skills out or get them tuned in to go hit the streets.

From Plaza Holanda, you can get on one of several bike paths (¨Bicisenda¨) that stretch out into all directions of the city. These bicisendas are a safe way to get just about anywhere in town without having to worry about getting hit by an oblivious taxi driver. Scattered along these bike baths are stations for renting bikes at no cost. For more information about how to get a bike and maps of all the bike lanes, check out this link from the city government.

If you do decide to get off the bike lanes and into the streets, here are a few pointers to stay safe and get around quicker.

1 Wear a helmet. Even if you stay on the bike lanes, you should definitely use a brain bucket. 

Keep your head on the swivel. Always know your surroundings and be aware that buses have huge blind spots and are most likely presuming that you are going to yield to them and not the other way around. Pedestrians and motorcycles crossing during stop and go traffic can come unexpectedly. If you are passing by all the cars stuck in stop and go traffic, don´t let your guard down, maybe it´s too good to be true.

3 Make yourself present and be confident. If you feel confidant and present, you will be more likely to be noticed and respected by other motorists. Here in Buenos Aires everyone is pretty good about respecting each other on the streets.... except for the taxi drivers, watch out for them. They are less likely to notice you and less likely to yield any space. Also, they cross the road much slower than other cars because they are looking for fairs.

4 Try to get on a one-way road, and go to the left. If you are on a bigger avenue, the left lane is generally for people on motorcycles and bicyclists. 9 de Julio is an exception. Try to stay on the right there. It can be more intimidating to stray away from the bike paths, but you can get around the town much faster. Corrientes goes from the Palermo area to the city center, and Córdoba goes the opposite direction from the center westward. 9 de Julio goes north/south in the downtown area, but it can be somewhat congested during peak traffic hours. Going to a street parallel to 9 de Julio during peak hours will be a small sacrifice in time for a big increase in safety.  

5 Have fun! Weaving in and out of traffic can be a blast. Going around the city on a bike is exhilarating and is the best way to cover a lot of ground in a day.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

5 parks in Buenos Aires you haven´t heard of

Buenos Aires is full of parks and plazas, and your hostel told you all about El Rosedal, Plaza San Martin, Los Bosques del Palermo and Plaza de Mayo, but here is a list of a few parks that are less talked about, but just as worth visiting.

Parque Las Heras

Located just a few blocks east of Plaza Italia on Avenida Las Heras lies this park with a big city vibe and lots of activity. There are several soccer courts, lots of paths, a children's play area, and even a school. This park is surrounded by 15-20 story buildings, and it is a great place for people watching.

It is close to ´Alta Shopping Palermo´ and can be most easily accessed by the ´Bulnes´ stop on the D line in the subway.

Plaza Rodríguez Peña

This is a great park to visit if you are in the city center, and want a place to have lunch in between activities. It is just a few blocks away from the famous library/bookstore ´El Ateneo´ and is right in between the medical school and the main avenue of the city, ´9 de Julio´. The park many taller trees and has a symmetric design with plenty of benches to enjoy the pleasant scenery.

It is right next to the Callao stop on the D line of the subway.

Plaza Güemes

If you want a plaza with a European feeling, look no further. Plaza Güemes is a small plaza overlooked by the ominous´Espiritu Santo´ cathedral. The plaza has some trees surrounding it, and feels like it was pulled out of somewhere in Western Europe. Right next to this plaza is a path with grass, fountains, and monuments that goes for a few blocks along Charcas street. This plaza is pretty close to the aforementioned Parque Las Heras, but on the other side of the Bulnes stop. There are several coffee shops on the Charcas street as well as some tasty parrillas.

Parque Centenario

If you are willing to go a little farther from the downtown ´microcentro´, Parque Centenario is a great place to see another, less metropolitan side of Buenos Aires in the Caballitos neighborhood. Made during the city´s 100th birthday and located directly in geographic center of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires you can find yourself in this sprawling park. It has a laguna in the middle and is basically a huge circle. The park is a one-stop location with multiple playgrounds, an amphitheatre, a museum of natural sciences, a decently sized skatepark and an astronomy center. Getting here can take a little longer from the center, but it is just a couple blocks away from the Ángel Gallardo stop on the B line.

Plaza Mitre

Right in the middle of all the chaos of the city, Plaza Mitre offers a tranquil spot to take a breather and regroup before you hit the next destination. One of the best features of this plaza is that it has a hill, so you can sometimes watch people longboarding, rollerblading, and skateboarding down. The whole park revolves around a towering statue of Bartolomé Mitre, an iconic figure in Argentine history.

This plaza is right next to the National Library (a building you cannot miss while you´re in Buenos Aires), the national law school, the recoleta cemetery, the museum of ´Bellas Artes´, and many other plazas and parks. Getting to this park is relatively easy from most places. The closest subway stop is Las Heras off of the H line.

During your stay, dont miss out on these great spots in the city. They are just as full of beauty and charm as the more commonly known parks!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Tips for traveling to Iguazu Falls

Resultado de imagen para iguazu falls
A popular destination in Argentina is Iguazu Falls, a scenic waterfall located in the Missiones province on the boarder between Argentina and Brazil.

If you want to see the falls, you have two options to see them, the Argentine side and the Brazilian side. To put it simply, Brazil has the panoramic view of the falls, and Argentina has the actual falls themselves. In the Argentine side, you can walk around the national park with miles of trails through the jungle bringing you to different viewpoints of the falls. The Brazilian side has a smaller amount of trails and can be thoroughly explored in less time.

Both sides offer boat excursions where you can go along the lower part of the river up until the falls, where you get an up-close perspective of the roaring thunder of the falls. Some excursions actually bring you into the falls to ´ducharse´ and get soaking wet. Whether you choose the tamer excursion or  choose to get wet, this should be the one thing that you do not miss out on at Iguazu. Seeing the falls up close and personal from the water is the best way to see them.

The Argentine park has 2 main trails that service viewpoints of the falls. The upper trail and the lower trail. The upper trail goes along the falls from above, so you can see the water falling down into abyss. It goes along the ridge of about half of the falls, and offers several unique viewpoints. There are a couple monkey clans that common this area, and almost the whole trail offers spectacular views. The lower trail goes below the falls, and offers a more complete view of all the action.

Aside from these two trails, there is the infamous Garganta del Diablo ´devil´s throat´. A train can take you from the park´s center past the upper trail and to the station for the Garganta del Diablo trail. From there, you walk on a path that goes over the river for about 500 meters right up to the tip of the falls.

The ´Sendero Mapuco´ is another popular trail with a more rustic path that goes through the jungle to a small waterfall (not Iguazu Falls) with a swimming area. This is a great option for the summertime to swim and cool off. At the writing of this article, the trail is currently closed due to a group of at least 5 pumas circling the area of the mapuco trail. Pumas are very dangerous, but they do not generally attack adults. Still, the park is taking all precautions to avoid any animal or human harm.

The brazilian side offers a much more relaxing way to enjoy the falls. Less hiking and wider viewpoints offer a quicker way to see the beauty of the park without straining yourself. You can still do some hiking and get wet at the ´Garganta del Diablo´, but the southern side of the falls is much farther from view. With less time walking that means more time drinking caiparinias!

For lodging, Foz do Iguazu, the Brazilian side, offers bigger, more developed hotels with better price for value options than the argentine side. However, this side is also more dangerous and has more robberies and gang problems. The Argentine side is less developed but is very safe. You can walk around pretty much anywhere at any time with no problems. There are some good food options here as well, and just about every corner has ´milanesa´, an classic Argentine dish. Long story short, Brazil has nicer hotels and caiparinias, and Argentina has safe streets and milanesa.

Ciudad del Este in Paraguay is also close, about a 30 min taxi ride. Here you can do some cheap shopping with knock-off products. If you are living in Argentina or Brazil, this can be an opportunity to get electronic goods at a more reasonable price, but be careful about the quality. Sometimes it is too good to be true, and that 100$ iphone isn´t really an iphone at all.

If you go to the falls, no matter what side you choose, you will definitely never forget the immensity of the falls. They are one of the 7 natural wonders of the world for a big reason. Don´t let this amazing place not find its way on your bucket list!