5 Easy Ways to Die in Argentina

by Keith Savage · 86 comments


Death by street-crossing

Argentina is not out to get you.

Sure, it’s possible to freeze to death on a glaciated ice plain in Tierra del Fuego or die of thirst wandering the blistering Puna highlands. Of course there’s the chance you’ll startle a napping Yararรก pit viper or catch a pouncing Puma to the side of the face near Iguazรบ Falls. As a whole, though, Argentina’s a pretty hospitable place for people. There are plentiful farmlands filled with walking barbecues (i.e., cattle), gorgeous mountain communities, and pleasant coastline.

Lest you think the forest animals serenade you awake each morning, however, you should know there are some very real dangers to the visitor. After spending a month in the streets of Buenos Aires and Salta, I’ve faced several deadly challenges on numerous occasions and lived to share my survival secrets. Don’t place yourself in unnecessary peril – read on!

1. Death by Crosswalk

Know what’s really cool about walking the streets of Salta? You’re invisible! That always seemed like a cool superpower…that is until I realized it’s basically a death sentence wherever there are cars. I think the urban developers and city planners of Argentina would be chagrined to find out things like crosswalks and stoplights exist; tourists at their final destinations, locals at peace with their decisions, and honking cars are the closest thing to traffic infrastructure you’ll see at intersections. So what does this mean for you, intrepid ambler of the streets? Accept that you do not exist, you have no rights, and streets are for vehicles. Fail to comply and I guarantee you will be mercilessly ground up beneath the fender of a Ford Falcon. I suggest you wait until you can’t see any cars in any direction before you cross. God be with you.

2. Death by Taxi

Apparently there are cars that look like taxis in Buenos Aires but which are actually sinister death traps that cart you off to some dark and unpopulated place where you’re robbed/tortured/murdered. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Look, I won’t pretend to know what kind of certification or license taxi drivers in Argentina need, but I’m pretty sure it involves destroying a certain number of cars in Burnout. On my second night in Buenos Aires, my buddy Tim and I got a taxi from San Telmo to Palermo Soho and within seconds we were recording our journey through hyperspace and tearfully spewing goodbye messages to our loved ones. You’re in a bad situation when you feel compelled to record your taxi ride. Maybe he had just watched Herbie Goes Bananas? It might be worth it to let the driver know there won’t be a tip for “race-car driving,” as our driver requested.

Life flashing before my eyes

3. Death by ATM

Throughout Argentina ATMs are locked in glass vestibules or bank lobbies that require a valid bank card for entry. Stories of ATM machines attacking those who seek money from them are really rare, but stories of gunmen waiting to perforate you once you exit the vestibule aren’t. While I was in Salta many people told me there were several attacks per day at banks and ATMs as people were robbed, shot, or kidnapped for their pesos. Needless to say I tried to withdraw money as infrequently as possible and always kept an eye on my back. One day in Salta I withdrew 2,000 pesos to pay for my apartment rental, and as I walked away from the Citibank I noticed a dour-looking man several yards back. He followed me through Plaza 9 de Julio and north toward Belgrano. Just as I was starting to have a minor freak-out, I looked back and saw him happily munching on a super pancho. Yet another crisis averted by extra-long hot dogs.

4. Death by Beef

Bife de lomo, bife de chorizo, matambre, costillas – the list goes on and on. So delicious, but these are the real killers, not some long-horn cattle you’ve managed to piss off with your Pentax. Urban legends abound of overly-enthusiastic visitors to Argentina gorging themselves on steak for three meals a day. A month of hardcore beef consumption can send cholesterol levels skyrocketing and lead to the onset of atherosclerosis. Hardened arteries, high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes follow – ask yourself if it’s all worth it before you hit week three of shoveling beef into your steakhole. Gluttony ain’t pretty. I enjoyed asados and parrillas during my time in Argentina, but I was in more danger from overdosing on empanadas.

5. Death by Bus Ride

Distances are vast in Argentina. Before you book that bus ride to Iguazรบ Falls, Salta, or Bariloche, make sure you’ve drafted your will and packed your cane. Time is different on the Flechabus. Though “only” twenty hours had passed by the time I reached Salta, as I stumbled off the bus I could have sworn I looked like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. I half expected to turn around and see the seats behind me loaded with dressed skeletons. By contrast, the flight back to Buenos Aires was landing before I had chance to purchase the Slanket Siamese from Skymall.

Have you been to Argentina and narrowly dodged death? Slap it in the comments!


Daniel McBane - Funny Travel StoriesNo Gravatar September 16, 2012 at 6:46 AM

I noticed that three of the five involved some form of transportation or another–coincidence? I highly doubt it. As for the beef, I think the beauty of so many Argentinian women is a direct rebuke to the vegetarian lifestyle. That and the taste.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 16, 2012 at 5:30 PM

Beauty as a function of meat consumption? Interesting hypothesis. Heart disease? Yes. Beauty? Hmm.

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VioletaNo Gravatar August 11, 2012 at 11:40 AM

I’ve never been to Argentina, but I’ll remember your post when I go there. I survived some of these deaths in other countries, so I hope I’ll be back safe to tell my story ๐Ÿ™‚

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar September 16, 2012 at 5:31 PM

Safe travels!

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BrandonNo Gravatar February 29, 2012 at 2:38 AM

Love this post! Thank you very much for the headsup. I’m supposed to go to Argentina at the end of the yea and after reading this my pesos are definitely staying under my mattress. Though if I were to die from eating too much beef, at least I’ll be dying happy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 29, 2012 at 8:41 AM

Just remember this post was written in jest. At least most of it was.

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Meg KNo Gravatar November 3, 2011 at 11:23 AM

Death by futbol. People can die either in the raucous that is the “popular” sections of stadiums or in the clashing of rival fans after a bitter loss. But sprinting from a stadium amidst screaming fans, team flags waving, smoke bombs and police in riot gear can be invigorating.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 3, 2011 at 11:49 AM

Yes, “invigorating” is a nice way to sum up that feeling of survival ๐Ÿ™‚

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DerekNo Gravatar November 2, 2011 at 4:11 PM

Keith,

Came across your blog, great job by the way! I travel quite a bit to South America but this weekend I am headed out to BA and Neuquen, for a week of work, but still looking foward to it. Any advice for a newcomer to Argentina? How different is it than other South American countries?

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ReaseNo Gravatar November 2, 2011 at 4:21 PM

Hey Derek,

I agree with everything Keith mentioned in this article! ร am sure anything Keith tells you will be helpful but just so you know, I have lived in Buenos Aires for almost a year and a half and I am still here, so if you need any tips or anything, feel free to send me an email.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar November 2, 2011 at 7:29 PM

Hey Derek. Acquaint yourself with the accent differences – Argentines play with the Spanish we’re taught in school. I spent time in BA and Salta, and I found both places to be very friendly and lively. You should take some care in BA at night and especially at cash machines.

I haven’t been to any other South American countries, so I can’t compare, but it looks like Rease might be able to answer your questions. Best of luck and have a good time!

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TimNo Gravatar July 30, 2011 at 12:14 PM

This sounds similar to China,particularly the crosswalk one. If you listen to the media Argentina and Chile are as safe as it gets in South America. Did you travel to other countries in South America?

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar July 30, 2011 at 6:00 PM

Not on this trip. I was only in Argentina.

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Steven PonecNo Gravatar February 26, 2011 at 4:20 AM

Sweet! A post from a blog (any blog in general) that’s just for the sake of humor. Loved it!

Oh and this post got 189298234 BONUS POINTS for referencing Burnout. Hell yeah!
Keep up the good work Keith.
Your newest reader
-Steven

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 26, 2011 at 10:00 AM

I knew the Burnout reference was unlikely to resonate with most readers, but those with whom it did would find it funny. Glad you enjoyed this, Steven.

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ReaseNo Gravatar February 5, 2011 at 9:34 AM

I live in Buenos Aires and face death every day. Those crosswalks are like death traps! Also, I endured a 22 hour bus ride from Puerto Iguazu to Buenos Aires. Complete with drug dogs and really loud teenagers. I considered kissing the floor of the bus terminal but, alas, that would yet another death threat.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 5, 2011 at 6:03 PM

22 hours is extreme – have you been on any long-distance buses since? Oh, wise decision to think twice before kissing the terminal floor. Kinda brings new meaning to “terminal.”

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ReaseNo Gravatar February 5, 2011 at 6:29 PM

Sadly, I only had a 9 hour break between the 22 hour ride and my next 17 hour one! Luckily, I was able to take a cab to a restaurant and park to get some fresh air and non-terminal food (something else that could kill you!) for a bit.

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AyngelinaNo Gravatar February 1, 2011 at 8:49 PM

Hmm I think there are now two Ayngelinas out there.

But the one with the Y is now petrified of yet another way to die here – yikes!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 1, 2011 at 11:07 PM

You’ve been traveling for how long now in South America? I think you’ll be fine ๐Ÿ™‚

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connect@novacationrequired.comNo Gravatar February 1, 2011 at 8:04 AM

I would second death by ice cream. Dulce de Leche helado delivered to your home… That is like assisted suicide.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 1, 2011 at 9:48 AM

That’s a personal choice. Me? I’m not much of a sweets guy, so death by ice cream would be impossible. For my wife, however, that would be the most likely mode.

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FedericoNo Gravatar February 1, 2011 at 1:16 AM

I’d choose death by beef. And some chocolate alfajores for desert please ๐Ÿ™‚

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar February 1, 2011 at 9:50 AM

I could kill for some Argentine steak right now. Would that be considered death by beef?

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PeteNo Gravatar January 28, 2011 at 5:14 PM

Awesome post Keith. When we were in Argentina we experienced every single one of those things on your list, and actually got quite used to them (especially the crazy taxi rides). Now I’m craving asado. Thanks!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 28, 2011 at 10:35 PM

Yeah, I could use an asado right now, too.

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JeanNo Gravatar January 24, 2011 at 1:31 PM

I *love* the title of this post! I saw it and immediately clicked on the link. Excellent attention-grabber, Savage!

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PatNo Gravatar January 17, 2011 at 4:09 PM

Jenny and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this post today. We laughed at your descriptions and loved the photo! We had some wild taxi rides in Philadelphia recently, but nothing compared to what we read in the comments! Ours were a mere screeching to a halting stop at a red light, and driving over the curb to turn around. Our sudden wide-eyed looks to each other make us laugh now–because we survived unscathed. Great post!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 17, 2011 at 5:59 PM

Thanks Pat! ๐Ÿ™‚ Surviving near-death experiences in cars in foreign cities is a true bonding experience.

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DinaNo Gravatar January 15, 2011 at 8:02 PM

Funny post! I can relate with the number 1. I haven’t been in Argentina so I don’t know how it is compared, but crossing the road in Indonesia could be bad too. Crossing in intersection could be a really bad bad idea. Between 2 intersections is the best bet. Calculate how fast you can run, and run when you think you can make it before the cars reach your spot. Once my calculation said don’t run yet, but my friend’s calculation said it’s the good time. So he grabbed my hand and started running across. I was so panic I just closed my eyes while running. The good news is, we reached the other side of the road. Phew..

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 17, 2011 at 5:55 PM

Haha, nice story Dina. Sounds scarily similar to some of my experiences in Argentina. Maybe the USA is more anal-retentive when it comes to driving than most countries. What’s funny is that I heard some of my Argentine friends reminiscing about the bad driving in Italy!

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AnaNo Gravatar January 7, 2011 at 1:35 PM

Keith, it’s distance, not time, that they charge for (unless you get stuck in a traffic jam, then the time-based fare kicks in)
And no, beef and DDL don’t mix! ๐Ÿ™‚

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 8, 2011 at 12:14 AM

Yeah, that makes sense. Don’t know what I was thinking – thanks for setting me straight Ana!

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AnaNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 11:38 PM

Great post! As a native Argentinean, I have to say you hit the nail in the head. I’ve told taxi drivers in Buenos Aires to slow down. They didn’t appreciate the comment, but who cares??
I’m torn between death by beef and death by DDL. A really tough decision, che!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 7, 2011 at 8:54 AM

Why not mix the two together? Has it been done yet?

You’d think taxi drivers would want to drive more slowly simply to ratchet up their rate. I’m at a loss.

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PNR EnquiryNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 6:36 AM

A horror post. I would put on your list: death by visiting la boca. i was violently attacked in the street by two guys in broad daylight, and no one in the street would help me.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 6, 2011 at 9:12 AM

That is horrifying – I hope you came out okay. I visited La Boca with a friend within hours of arriving in Buenos Aires. He said we needed to see it in the daylight because everyone leaves when the sun sets. Sounds like daylight isn’t sufficient protection.

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DanielNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 4:21 AM

Gosh, so many ways to go! *evil laughs*
Born and raised in SE Asia, I guess I’m pretty used to some of these risks, but ‘death by beef’? That is totally new. Gotta go to Argentina and see this for myself. (or no, maybe I should stay clear).

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar January 4, 2011 at 2:33 PM

Definitely go! Even if you try, it’s unlikely you’ll succeed at death by beef (and you’ll have a good time in the process). ๐Ÿ™‚

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Chuck ClaytonNo Gravatar December 31, 2010 at 10:50 AM

Engaging, entertaining funny but serious at time. When in any foreign place, it pays to pay attention!

For example, crossing the streets is an interesting adventure, especially if you don’t pay full attention… and whatever you do don’t text while walking!

Best,

Chuck

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 31, 2010 at 4:24 PM

All of your mental faculties need to be directed to the task at hand – crossing the street. I’m sure folks who live in Salta probably don’t have the same point of view since they’re used to it. Fish out of water stories will always be entertaining.

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AngelinaNo Gravatar December 30, 2010 at 11:04 AM

Thanks for the info ! I enjoyed your post !

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Catherine MorganNo Gravatar December 29, 2010 at 6:50 PM

I had a cab ride in BsAs back to our hotel at 3:00 AM from a milonga that scared me so badly I screamed like someone was trying to kill me and covered my eyes the rest of the way home. We were all four tires in the air at one time like in a chase movie. Frightening. And the little Fiats or whatever they were seemed to be made out of beer cans and about as safe. Unreal.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 30, 2010 at 1:12 PM

Hilarious story (only because you survived, of course) and I can totally relate.

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chayNo Gravatar December 26, 2010 at 12:30 AM

I definitely agree with death by crosswalk but can i just say death by crossing the street in general? i was studying in cรณrdoba and my god, talk about no consideration for pedestrians whatsoever!

I do not agree with death by bus. Those cama-coches are amazing!

For sure I would put on your list: death by visiting la boca. i was violently attacked in the street by two guys in broad daylight, and no one in the street would help me.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 26, 2010 at 9:07 AM

I don’t know Chay, I rode in the top of the line cama-suite and it was a ride I’d call “sub-optimal.” To be fair, I have heard from others that their experiences were vastly different – much better. My advice is to carefully read about the various bus lines and pick the one that has the best reviews.

That La Boca story is disturbing. I went their during the day because I heard once evening sets in everyone gets the hell out of Dodge, so to speak.

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roniNo Gravatar December 24, 2010 at 8:18 PM

you forgot my favorite – death by tango! one could easily dance themselves to death in the all night tango and milonga salons!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 26, 2010 at 9:04 AM

Good one! I’m in no personal danger of death by tango, but there are certainly folks who would be.

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joshywashingtonNo Gravatar December 23, 2010 at 3:57 PM

Dude you crack me up! I am traveling to Argentina soon ( will you still be there? ) and need all the death-avoiding advice I can get!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 26, 2010 at 8:57 AM

Hey Josh, I’ve already left Argentina and I’m back in the states (bummer!). Let me know if you need any tips on how to survive down there and I’d be happy to help.

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JayneNo Gravatar December 23, 2010 at 4:27 AM

Love this post! Have come close to death many times in Argentina – mainly by a noxious mix of beef and red wine – not the worst way to die though ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 23, 2010 at 6:52 AM

Hey Jayne, there are definitely worse ways to go than fading out in a meat- and wine-induced coma. Like, for instance, death by bus.

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AndreaNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 11:03 PM

Both practical and funny! I was only really apprehensive about the kidnappings, but I guess I can add some more things to my worry list. We’ll be travelling from Patagonia north, with Salta as our last stop before heading into Bolivia…I’m really looking forward to watching the landscapes change and observing how things are different from city to city

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 23, 2010 at 6:54 AM

More funny than practical – I’d hate for people to be apprehensive about going to Argentina as a result of this post. I didn’t travel the Boliva-Argentina route, but the landscape around Salta is pretty wild. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

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SpencerNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 10:17 PM

Argentina is a place I am becoming increasingly intrigued by. You blog has only served to intensify the desire to go there!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 10:35 PM

Glad to hear it, Spencer. Let me know if I can help answer any questions.

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santafetravelerNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 12:44 PM

How funny! How about death by water- drinking or drowning.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 1:23 PM

I met a couple people who would agree with death by water – gaining new bacteria can be a trying process. ๐Ÿ™‚

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NicoleNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 10:31 AM

Haha! Glad you survived! I was surprised in Nicaragua when I entered a bank to find the man in front of us checking his gun with a security guard. And he seemed like such a kind , grandfatherly guy too.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 10:32 AM

Wow, did that seem like standard operating procedure at the bank? Crazy.

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LeighNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 9:23 AM

I’m checking my will this morning – as death by bus (with 3 big bus rides in Argentina coming up) seems like a distinct possibility.

One of the bus rides is the 12 hour San Pedro de Atacama to Salta bus – and providing I survive I should have good fodder for blog posts.

Loved this post and will relay it to friends & husband traveling with me.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 9:42 AM

Good luck on the bus, I’m sure your ride will be fine. Not sure what happened with mine – everyone I spoke to was shocked to hear my interpretation of the ride. It’s possible – quite possible – my expectations were a tad too high.

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BudleighSNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 10:56 AM

Those planning on traveling at high altitude (such as the San Pedro de Atacama to Salta route, Cusco, Machu Pichu, etc.) should fortify themselves with a supply of coca leaf, widely available throughout the Andean region south of Ecuador and completely legal. Increases stamina, reduces headaches and nausea and has been used and even worshiped by the locals since time immemorial. Inquire about proper use. It really does help. And it is not a psychologically or physically addictive drug like cocaine!

Also a great boost after a long night out on the town!

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Jools StoneNo Gravatar December 21, 2010 at 11:28 PM

I enjoyed this a lot, thanks! Esp the Burnout reference! Miss that game!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 22, 2010 at 9:40 AM

Yay, someone got the Burnout reference! Those games are so fun, and I still break out Burnout 3 on occasion.

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Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_No Gravatar December 21, 2010 at 11:09 AM

HAHHAHA… this is amazing!
I think I would end up going by taxi if I was to die in Argentina

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 21, 2010 at 3:51 PM

That was probably my closest call. You just don’t know what you’re going to get when you set foot inside the vehicle.

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BudleighSNo Gravatar December 21, 2010 at 9:02 AM

Great writing! I’m a North American living in Salta now after deciding it was one of the best places in South America. (SHHH, don’t tell anyone!)

Another possible death scenario in Argentina: walking down the street with a bottle of Torrontes in hand, chewing on an empanada, watching one of the many pretty young ladies walking by, tripping on the cobblestone sidewalk and then falling off the curb in front of a speeding taxi or bus. These ladies are definitely a visual hazard!! And my girlfriend says “so are the men!”

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 21, 2010 at 3:50 PM

Hah, nice. There was so much roadwork (and hence, sidewalk-work) when I was there it was a full-time endeavor merely walking the streets without injury.

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CailinNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 8:29 PM

I’m somewhat afraid to go there now!!! haha

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 10:36 PM

All in good fun ๐Ÿ™‚ I survived.

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Michael HodsonNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 8:12 PM

Death by beef. And you forgot the red wine. Sign me up for some of that!

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 10:35 PM

It’s a fairly easy death, no question. Though I had more Argentine beer than wine.

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PoiNo Gravatar December 21, 2010 at 9:27 AM

Sign me up for death by beef and beer!

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AndiNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 5:14 PM

Haha, so basically you’re screwed by any mode of transportation you take! ๐Ÿ˜‰

And I guess it’s a good thing I’m a veggie??? Though I think you could add #6 Death by Dulce de Leche.

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 6:36 PM

Hah, guess so. I predict many deaths by DDL in Argentina… ๐Ÿ™‚

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CamNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 1:47 PM

I think if I were to choose my death, death by beef is a pretty good way to go! Especially Argenitian beef! ;-0

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 3:24 PM

True, but death by taxi would be kind of like dying in an extreme sport.

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KrisNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 12:59 PM

Love it. Agree with the lot! You could add imminent death by Dulce de leche Keith, sugar overload abounds in these parts. You never know when one more spoonful could be your pleasurable last! ๐Ÿ˜€

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 3:22 PM

Yes, good one! Or death by dulce de leche withdrawal. You have wonder what kind of hell that would be, going off dulce.

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ErinNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 12:59 PM

Very funny post Keith! Crossing the street can be tricky in Salta – we liked walking around at siesta time when the streets were deadly quiet (tip: also the best time to shop at the supermarket). When we hired a car we were happy to get out of Salta as quickly as possible!

I’d add death by ice cream too. Those half kilo tubs are addictive, and you can even get free home delivery! We miss it…

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Keith SavageNo Gravatar December 20, 2010 at 2:08 PM

Seriously, during Siesta there were times when the streets were completely empty, especially on Sundays. Half-kilo tubs! Wow, I never purchased one but I can see how they might deadly ๐Ÿ™‚

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