Accommodation in Argentina runs the gamut from campsites and youth hostels to fabulously luxurious estancias (ranches) and opulent hotels offering every conceivable amenity. Between these two extremes you’ll find a whole variety of establishments, including charming old colonial houses with balconies and dark and seedy hotels that lack so much as a window. Informal room rental is also common in towns with seasonal influxes of tourists but too few hotels to cope.
Prices vary considerably depending on where you are in the country. Areas receiving large numbers of foreign visitors, particularly Buenos Aires and Patagonia, have seen prices rise sharply in recent years; less-visited areas offer less variety but also much better bargains. Even in the capital, however, you can expect to pay slightly less for comparable accommodation than you would in most European countries or North America. Single travellers on a budget and seeking more privacy than is available at a youth hostel will find things harder, although the number of places offering per-person prices appears to be on the rise, especially at resorts and estancias where meals or activities are included. Discounts can sometimes be negotiated, particularly if you are staying for a longer period. Bear in mind that taxes are often not included in quoted prices, while places aimed at foreigners may quote in US$ rather than pesos. If paying with cash dollars, you may be able to strike a deal on the exchange rate.
Most towns in Argentina will have at least one hotel, though in many places these are unimaginative, rather drab places. If you are on a budget, and the option is available, you might do better to head for a hostel, most of which provide good-value private rooms as well as dorms. Posadas and bed and breakfasts can be more attractive in the middle of the range, while small boutique or designer hotels – which have popped up in significant numbers in Argentina in the last few years – often have a lot more individuality than the standard plush but monotonous five-star places aimed at business travellers.
Posadas, hosterías and B&Bs
The use of the term posada usually denotes a fairly idiosyncratic place, often with a slightly rustic feel, but generally comfortable or even luxurious. In a similar vein, the term hostería is frequently used for smallish, upmarket hotels – oriented towards tourists rather than businessmen.
A similar type of accommodation, particularly common around Buenos Aires, is B&Bs (the English term is used), which tend to be chic, converted townhouses with an exclusive but cosy atmosphere – price-wise they tend to be mid- to top-range options, and generally offer far more attractive surroundings than standard hotels at the same price.
Youth hostels are known as albergues juveniles or albergues de la juventud in Argentina, though the term “(youth) hostel” is frequently used instead – albergue is normally taken to mean albergue transitorio (short-stay hotels where rooms are rented by the hour). There is an extensive chain of mostly reliable hostels in Argentina affiliated with Hostelling International (HI), as well as a good number of independent hostels, which vary more in quality, but when they are good – particularly in Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Salta – they are among the country’s best. Accommodation is generally in dormitories, though most places also have several double rooms, often en suite. Facilities vary, too, from next to nothing to swimming pools, internet access, washing machines, cable TV and patios with barbecue equipment.
Note you sometimes see the term “hostal” used as a seemingly general term for hotels – both youth hostels and high-rise modern hotels call themselves hostales.
Youth hostel associations
The local office of Hostelling International is in Buenos Aires, at Florida 835 (t011 4511 8723, w). Associated hostels give discounts – usually a few pesos a night – to holders of HI cards but they rarely require that you possess a card in order to stay there. Membership for non-Argentines is US$20 a year, and also gives you discounts with some bus companies and other businesses.
Residenciales and hospedajes
Basic hospedajes and residenciales have low prestige in Argentina and often are not recommended by tourist offices, but they can be far more welcoming, clean and secure than one-star hotels; a few of them stand out as some of Argentina’s best budget accommodation. Furnishings tend to be basic, with little more than a bed, perhaps a desk and chair and a fan in each room – though some are far less spartan than others and there is even the odd one with cable TV. Most places offer private bathrooms. There’s little difference between residenciales and hospedajes – indeed, the same establishment may be described in different accommodation lists as both, or even as a hotel or hostel. The only real difference is that hospedajes tend to be part of a family house.
A very different experience to staying in a hotel is provided by Argentina’s many estancias (ranches, or fincas as they are known in the North) that are open to visitors. Guests usually stay in the casco, or farmhouse, which can be anything from a simple family home to an extravagant castle-like residence. Estancias are nearly always family-run, the income from tourism tending to serve as a supplement to the declining profits earned from the land itself. Accommodation is generally luxurious, with bags of character, and a stay is a mini-vacation in itself; for about US$300–700 a day you are given four meals, invariably including a traditional asado, with activities such as horseriding and swimming also usually part of the price. Many places offer experiences that reflect the local area, from cattle herding and branding in the pampas to wine tasting at Mendoza to observing caymans in the Litoral.
You can book your estancia accommodation either by approaching them directly or through certain travel agencies; a comprehensive one in Buenos Aires is Estancias Argentinas, at Roque Sáenz Peña 616, 9th floor (t011 4343 2366, w).
Popular in resort towns, self-catering cabañas are small, chalet-style buildings that can vary from miniature suburban villas with cable TV and microwaves to pleasingly simple and rustic wooden constructions. If you have been staying in a lot of hotels or doing some hardcore camping, cabañas can be fun and relaxing places to take a break for a few days. They are often very good value for money for small groups, although a few of the simpler ones can also be surprisingly affordable options for couples or even single travellers. They are usually grouped together in outfits of between two and ten cabins; many campsites also offer basic ones as an alternative to tents.
There are plenty of places to camp throughout Argentina, with most towns and villages having their own municipal campsites (campings), but standards vary widely. At the major resorts, there are usually plenty of privately owned, well-organized sites, with facilities ranging from provisions stores to volleyball courts and TV rooms. Some are attractive, but mostly they seem to take the fun out of camping and you’re more likely to wake up to a view of next door’s 4WD than the surrounding countryside. They are, however, good places to meet other travellers and generally offer a high degree of security. There are also simpler campsites, though at nearly all of them showers, electric light and barbecue facilities are standard. A campsite with no, or very limited, facilities is referred to as a camping libre. Municipal sites can be rather desolate and sometimes not particularly safe: it’s usually a good idea to check with locals as to the security of the place before pitching a tent. The price and pricing system vary greatly from place to place but expect to pay around $30–70 per person.