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 Yarará pit viper or catch a pouncing Puma to the side of the face near Iguazú 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.
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 Iguazú 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!