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Saturday, 01 July 2006

Buenos Aires

Written by Erica Rossetto
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streetAs a recent college graduate, I was young but broke and didn’t want to squander my meager savings. So when I decided on a solo trip to Argentina as my first post-college adventure, I was determined to make my budget stretch as far as possible.

When I arrived in Buenos Aires the hostel where I had planned to stay didn’t exist anymore, which a local English-speaking student standing nearby informed me was completely normal. She pointed me in the direction of another one up the street, saying that it was cheaper than the one I had planned on anyway. Cheaper than $8 (24 pesos) a night? Yes, it was one whole dollar (3 pesos) cheaper. At the time, it did not seem like much of a difference. Little did I know how far my measly little dollar could stretch in Argentina.

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The peso was about three to the American dollar, which basically meant that I was three times richer than I would be in the States. And so I began my trip by converting pesos into dollars silently in my head before every purchase. And every time I almost had to physically refrain myself from proclaiming my astonishment at the prices: "Only two dollars for a movie ticket?!?" I could really live a life of luxury here with the amount of money I had, with steak and wine every night, and staying in nice hotels and resorts. I had to remind myself that I didn’t come to Argentina for the luxury; I came for experience, which just so happens to be quite a bargain.

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Living on this so-called budget, cafeI was still able to enjoy luxuries like café con leche and medialunas every morning, nice dinners in decent restaurants, lots of fresh fruit, and a clean place to stay with free internet and hot water, all for well under $20 a day. Most other things like museums and public transportation cost only a few coins, and the activity I enjoyed the most, walking, was free.

 

The more I walked and explored Buenos Aires, the more came to realize where the real bargains were to be found, and how the things I had previously thought of as unimaginably cheap were, in fact, the inflated tourist prices.  I also came to appreciate the economic plight of many Argentines, and the inequities that made the exchange rate so convenient for me.

 

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Yet and as I began to discover the secret corners and treasures of the city, I slowly stopped converting every single price in pesos into its dollar equivalent, and stopped being surprised by its relative inexpensiveness.  I began to simply live each day to its fullest without unnecessary calculating, spending, or splurging. Living this way, I was able to stay in Buenos Aires for two months and still have enough pesos left over to bring back an entire large suitcase of gifts for friends and family.   Now, back in the United States, I gasp at the high price of a movie or a simple cup of coffee and wistfully recall my days in Buenos Aires.

 

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©Erica Rossetto

 

Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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