Where we stayed – The Malverno Murana Hostel, Palermo
What it cost – £12 per person, per night
The cheapest option here, with hostels in Buenos Aires starting at £6 a night, mostly with breakfast included. You can choose a bed in a large dormitory, slightly smaller, or private room – the less people sharing your room, the pricier it will get. If you’re staying in a hostel longer than 3 days, I’d suggest finding one with a big kitchen as some meals you’ll want to cook yourself.
A hostel is the easiest way to make friends in a brand new city, you’re going to meet a lot of like minded people who are going to invite you all over the place. These new friends will be from all over the world (although the first one I made happened to be from a town about 40 miles away from where i grew up in Southampton, small world!).
You can go out and party, and your new friends will have recommendations of places they’ve been, where you can go and explore. Most hostels also offer evening activities such as barbecues (here called asados), tango lessons and bar crawls. I engaged in a lot of conversations with the cleaner, Rosalita, who didn’t speak a word of English, and learnt quite a few useful phrases from her.
Obviously, there are downsides to the hostel; the chronic snorer, your roommates on completely different time zones to you, shared bathrooms, creaky beds, the fear of your stuff being stolen… the list goes on. If you can take the bad with the good, hostels really are the best way to submerge yourself in the new culture, especially if you are travelling solo.
Pro’s – Cheap. Free breakfast. Social. Great locations.
Con’s – No sleep. Privacy issues.
Where we stayed – The Scala Hotel, Monserrat
What it cost – £101 per night
This was obviously a welcome change from our 5 nights in the hostel. I booked a luxurious suite on the 10th floor with breath taking city views, Jacuzzi tub, two bathrooms, dining room and ginormous bed. Situated on BA’s large main street – Avenue 9 de Julio – we used uber to get around, as the hotel was out of the way compared to the hostel. I could’ve easily stayed in my big, plush tenth floor bubble, sitting in my white robe, drinking fantastic local red wine – but luxury is luxury anywhere.
As there was no kitchen, we ordered room service, which turned out to be a little lackluster. The hotel was so relaxing, I stayed in the entire night soaking it in. Looking back on it now, the hotel room could’ve been in any city all over the world – staying in a hotel definitely did not give you the real Buenos Aires experience, more like a fake touristic one. The free breakfast in the morning was a larger variety on the hostel breakfast, but an improvement? Not so much. Great selection of fresh fruits, meat, pastries and local delicacies, even slices of pizza, but rather flavourless eggs and other hot breakfast cooked on mass. In my opinion, a hotel is great for a night or three for a retreat, but really prevents you from having the real Buenos Aires experience.
Pro’s – High quality comfort. Room attendants. Privacy. Large rooms. Late check out.
Con’s – Mediocre food. No cultural experiences. A bit faceless.
Where we stayed – Palermo, apartment with a host
What it cost – £20 per night
Airbnb’s can vastly range in price, the more luxury you want, or the better location, the more expensive it will be. However, sometimes you can get a choice place for extremely cheap – for example, our second apartment was amazingly luxurious and in the best location, but as it was a brand new Airbnb, it was on the site for half the price it should’ve been. Obviously location vastly depends on where you chose (I always use the map option on the app, to scope things out) but these places are less likely to be on the hotel strip or situated near tourist traps, and more likely to be where the real people live in the city.
Our first Airbnb was in Palermo with our amazing host Marcos, who had lived in BA the last 18 years so was full of great suggestions and tips. We had a private room to ourselves, and shared the kitchen, bathroom, living room, and his massive balcony equipped with a hammock. Our host was at work most of the day, giving us whole run of the place. The location couldn’t have been better, one block away from Don Julio and right in the centre of the restaurant district in Palermo. One of the nights on our stay we invited Marcos out for dinner, and he took us to a local Parrilla (where tourists don’t normally go) where we started with provaletta (which is a whole circle of cheese with a grilled top and bottom) and chori (Argentinian style of very tasty, large sausage), and then went on to eat cuts of matambre and diced pork with primavera sauce paired with a litre of delicious Argentinian red wine. The authentic experience money can’t buy.
Where we stayed – Belgrano, private apartment
What it cost – £14 per night
Our second Airbnb was an entire apartment to ourselves, equipped with pool (which no one else in the building went in because it was too cold… but it was hot enough for us Brits!). We were here for five nights, which gave us a chance to unpack properly and settle in. The flat was a large studio which came with a full kitchen, large smart tv, an even larger balcony. The area of Belgrano was perfect for everything we required, especially food! This apartment had enough privacy but by then I felt totally submerged in the Argentinian culture – perhaps as this was our last accommodation and we had already made a lot of local friends.
Pro’s – Can tailor to your preferences.
Con’s – Can become expensive. Administrative problems.
In the end, I largely preferred the Airbnb’s as forms of accommodations, as I could tailor the apartment to my tastes, price range and location. I’ve used Airbnb in England, Canada, Ireland, Portugal, now Argentina (and have one already booked for Chilé); and have always had the best experience with it. Interestingly, as we are travelling as a couple, the last Airbnb worked out as the cheapest option at £14 a night, as our hostel (for two people) cost me £24 a night, however there are hostels available that are £5/£6 a night. It pays to shop around. Even though the hotel was the most expensive, I think having a night or two of luxury whilst travelling is a must. I really enjoyed seeing the city from 4 different accommodation angles, and in the future won’t rule out any of the above options as they all have their own undeniable qualities.