When I moved to Argentina in 2002, the country was in the throes of the worst economic crisis in its history (which is really saying something). The value of the peso had plunged 500 per cent against the dollar, wiping out the life savings of those whose accounts were denominated in greenbacks. This created unemployment, misery, hunger and depression. It also created a tourist boom.
For several years, every hotel in Argentina seemed like a budget hotel. For a fistful of dollars a day, you could live like a king in Buenos Aires. Now, after several years of high inflation, the pendulum has swung back, and smart travelers are once again shopping around for bargain lodgings.
There are a few general tips to remember. First, don’t ignore areas outside Palermo and Recoleta. Those are premium neighborhoods, with corresponding room rates. If you’re here for more than a few nights, consider renting an apartment: Oasis Collections (upscale) and ByT Argentina (budget and mid range) operate a range of great properties. Finally, if you’re coming in the off season, drive a hard bargain. Until the next crisis, it’s a buyer’s market.
Gran Hotel Hispano
The beds are a wee bit creaky and the guestrooms a wee bit spartan, but many of this hotel’s 50 rooms overlook a lovely inner courtyard, and others have balconies with views down Avenida de Mayo. The location is another perk, on one the city’s most beautiful avenues and close to a number of famous landmarks. It’s perfect if you plan to hang out downtown.
Chic, minimalist guestrooms with flat-screen TVs, queen beds and balconies await in this couple-run B&B. It places you in Villa Crespo, an up-and-coming neighborhood that’s close to ultra-hip Palermo Viejo. There’s a sweet patio for summer beers, and a living room stocked with books. Plus you’re two blocks from 878, one of the best bars in the city.
Looking a little more like a Palo Alto startup than a hotel, Pop describes itself as the city’s first “budget boutique.” Whether this is true—or even a good thing—is open to question, but if you like psychedelic decor, and value room features such as iPod docks, one of Pop’s 44 rooms might be for you.
Mixing stripped-down wood with vibrant colors and funky artwork, this cool budget hotel occupies an excellent location. It places you at the quiet end of Palermo Viejo, within walking distance—but not earshot—of the city’s greatest concentration of restaurants and bars. Rooms are compact and attractive, and the garden is a lovely place to chill out or socialize.
Back in BA
If you want to stay in Palermo Viejo but don’t want to break the bank, book a private room or dorm bed here, the best hostel in the neighborhood. You can hang out in the central patio, or in the bar equipped with TV and computer terminals. Lovable British owner Matt and his bilingual staff seem to know everything about everything, and are always ready with useful tips.