I travelled to Buenos Aires in December of 2016 for Tango. I stayed there for almost 3 months. It is peak season for Tango travellers. All the teachers are in BA at this time for holidays.
I had to do a lot of research, ping lot of friends and friends of friends to get all the information I needed. My stay there was super smooth. I got everything that I had hoped and more from the trip. All thanks to few teachers and friends in BA I knew from before and the friends I made later.
I am sharing here my experience. Hope this will help people going there to plan well and experience Tango in BA like I did.
Disclaimer: Long article. I am planning to cover everything that one needs to travel to BA for Tango.
I am going to start with some information about myself. As this article is going to be from my perspective. This will help you in using the information provided here in better manner.
I dance Tango in Bangalore, India. We have a very small but enthusiastic community here. It is growing at a good rate. Just to give you an idea, we have one regular practica/milonga a week. And some other milongas here and there (one or twice a month, started recently). If 25-30 people turn up, it is considered to be a very good milonga. Very important point to be noted is; here we have more leads than followers! The gap is getting smaller than when I started though.
I had been dancing for 4 years before I went to BA. I like and dance traditional salon style Tango. I love cabeceo. I do not understand or speak Spanish. I have learnt a few words from the trip. I am a pure vegetarian. I do not eat meat or egg. I do eat milk products. This is very important to know. You will come to know why in a while.
Let’s get started.
https://www.hoy-milonga.com/buenos-aires/en is best to get all the updated information on the milongas happening. Do check out this website to see what bands are playing. You should for sure not miss Color Tango, Sans Souci and Juan D´arienzo.
As stated earlier, I like traditional milongas. I tried a lot of milongas (even queer milongas) before figuring out milongas that I like to go.
Note: Different milongas are hosted at the same venue by different organisers on different days. Don’t get confused. You need to check milonga name, venue and day, to go to the right milonga.
Milongas in Bangalore end by 11-11:30PM. In BA most milongas start at that time! Our milongas here are of 2-3 hours. In BA they last till mornings! One milonga after another. You get home when the sun is almost up. This life style will take a bit of getting used to. Never the less it will be fun. Sandwiches, pizzas, empanadas will be served at the milongas. Coffee and tea along with wine and champagne for non-alcoholics. Keep eating and remember to stay hydrated. La Viruta even serves hot medialunas for breakfast on weekends!
Make sure to arrive before the start time given for the milonga to get good seats. Sometimes you may not even get seats. Especially if you have not made the reservation. Reservation is held only for 2 hours from the start time generally. Arriving early is good.
Entering the Milonga
Once you pay the entry fee, enter the hall and wait near the door. You will be seated by the host. He/She has the reservation list. Some tables/seats are reserved for regular crowd from Argentina and milongueros. If you keep going to the same milonga and the organiser recognises you, you will be given preference and get good seats. Do try and avoid sitting directly under AC. They keep it at really low temperature!
I was told time and again by many female travellers to BA that I should keep my expectations low. People in milongas are a bit clique and it would be difficult to break into it. Especially on my first visit. My experience was completely contradictory to this. They were very accepting of me. I being Indian helped a lot. They all were very enthusiastic to learn that there is Tango in India and a women from India is travelling alone to BA for Tango.
I also think there are some things we can do to get acquainted with the group.
First and foremost start with meeting people and dancing at practicas like DNI and cheek to cheek. These places are frequented by lot of fellow travellers and some really open and enthusiastic dancers from Argentina. This will help you break the initial ice and give you confidence. Also, you will meet these people in Milongas and end up having your first dances with them. This will put you on the floor.
It is very important to understand they are not being clique coz they are inconsiderate of you. Anybody will find it comfortable to ask people they know. It is human nature. They are no different. Also, the floor is generally super crowded. If they have not seen you dance, don’t know how you dance they may not feel confident to navigate with you through the floor. Make them feel comfortable with a smile. Sit straight, look confident. I found that it is better to go alone. It gives you more chance to mingle.
Dress elegant, dress unique. It definitely helps. Dress Indian. Remember that is your USP.
Big part of Milonga and getting dances is ‘Cabeceo’. It deserves a separate article. Find it here.
Few more things to point out are;
The floor gets super crowded. Kid you not. Even if you embrace big, with your elbows slightly out, you will bang into other couples. This makes it difficult for newbie leads to dance. I would recommend leads to practice a lot before entering these milongas. You need to be confident of your navigational skills.
And for followers, you have to absolutely stay in the embrace and trust your partner. Do not take huge strides. Steps need to be elongated with energy but not necessarily long. Get comfortable with milonguero turns. Most important tool that you will need. Also required are small crosses, both back and front.
Thing that I knew before but realized it even more is that, ‘It is all about the embrace’. You cannot be bothered about how your feet look or precision/perfection. Though these things matter, embrace is the priority. Your feet move but your embrace is calm. Milongueros notice this. I felt that people who had simple and comfortable embrace were asked more to dance and not necessarily who looked good with their technique and perfect feet.
Wear fitted cloths. Flowy dresses and skirts are a big risk. They can get entangled very easily in the crowded dance floor.
Yes this one really requires a separate paragraph. Considered one of the best traditional Milonga. Single men and women sit in opposite sides of the room facing each other. Can get a bit unnerving for people who like to sit in groups. I loved it!
It is notoriously known for its ‘rules’. Take a look.
Also I heard from an Argentinian friend that previously Hector, the organiser used to give out yellow and red cards to people who broke the rules 🙂 I did see him carrying those cards on few occasions but didn’t really see him handing one out. Looked more like a joke to encourage people to follow the rules. But he is very keen on people coming there to dance. If he sees you using your phone or not dancing and just talking to your friend, he will come to you and warn. Ask you to go out and talk!
This milonga is held in a really small space (El Beso). It gets unimaginably crowded. You will find some of the best dancers here. I definitely had few of my best tandas here. Felt like I was floating with my partner even in that crowd. Do not miss experiencing this milonga. Even if you have to go there just to sit and watch. My favourite milonga!
If you go to BA during tourist season like I did, you will have lot of options to take classes from your favourite teachers. Most of them give classes before the Milonga. Keep an eye on their FB page/group to know who is giving classes.
There will also be workshops given by teachers during peak season. Again FB is your best bet to get updated information. Two festivals took place during my visit. I got to take 5 hour workshop with Sebastian Arce and Mariana Montes. Also got to attend Tango Deluxe. (Technique workshop by 4 female teachers, Roxana Suarez, Noelia Barsi, Josefina Bermudez, María Inés Bogado)
Do watch out for classes before Milonga at Las Malevas. They invite different teachers every week to teach. I got to take classes with Javier, Achaval, Moira, Diego and many more.
Also to watch out are the classes before Viva La Pepa Milonga. Alejandra Martinan was giving series of classes while I was there. Some of the best classes I have attended.
You must take classes from some of the revered local teachers. Susana Miller @El Beso, Ana Maria @Salon Canning to name a few.
Classes are given in Spanish. Few teachers do explain important things in English, if there is a big English speaking crowed. Point is, even the English speaking crowd understood a bit of Spanish. I was really an exception in all the classes. I tried understanding from gestures and the exercises being shown in the class. Teachers were really kind. They took effort to explain the same thing in English, if I asked. Mariana Montes and Arce were exceptionally kind to me. I was the only English speaking person in the workshop. It was a small group. They alternatively came to me to personally explain the same thing in English throughout the class. Professionalism at its best. At DNI studios, classes are given in English.
Another important part of taking class is partner. I went alone to all the classes. Always got somebody to practice with. Be open and welcoming. It is good to go with the partner but not really a necessity according to me. This also gives you an opportunity to meet and know more people.
BA is a very expensive place. Inflation is skyrocketing. People make money during peak season by hosting travellers in their house. You will find plenty of options with varied price range. Choose one based on the area you want to stay in.
I booked such a house through Airbnb. Found a really nice place with a gracious host at a reasonable price. Somebody I know offered me to stay with them. The place was a bit on outskirts. Also, did not want to burden them as I was staying there for long. You will be lucky if you are hosted. You will save a lot of money.
Prices for a good stay range from 300USD to 900USD or even higher (Per month)
Good neighbourhood to stay are Almagro, Abasto shopping, Palermo.
This was the only point of concern for me and all the people who know me before I began my travel. As mentioned earlier, I am a pure vegetarian. I was travelling to a meat loving country! It was really an exercise to order food in the beginning. Remember? I do not speak Spanish. ‘Soy Carne, Soy Huevo’ (no meat, no egg. I am told that I used this one wrong now) was my go to phrase. I still got reply like, chicken ok? Chicken is a vegetable for Argentinians! Hahaha It was fun, none the less. I always had some kind stranger around me to help me order. I met even more people like this.
I had done a smart thing though. The stay that I had booked was a vegetarian place. Yes, I do not cook in a kitchen were meat is cooked. I had taken masalas, Raagi dosa packets, Puliogare powder, and tea powder with me. I found a small organic store near my house that sold things I needed for cooking. Basmati rice etc. I cooked most of my meals at home.
Food and groceries are very costly in BA. Packets do not even have prices printed on them. There is so much inflation. Prices keep fluctuating.
There are many Asian take away food joints. They sell food by weight. You can choose what you like. A very good spread. I found something similar to pulao, noodles, salads and fruits in safe vegetarian zone. Another option that is fairly available is mozzarella pizza.
If you ever crave for real Indian food. There are few options in Palermo, San Telmo and Abasto shopping. Do look for Krishna near Salon canning and La Reina Kunti near Abasto shopping.
BA has very good network of buses. Two things you will need as a traveller are a SUBE card and data connection to use Google maps (My trusted friend while travelling abroad). Remember to download offline maps. Each trip cost 6 to 6.50 pesos. You can pay only thru your SUBE card. SUBE card can be purchased/recharged at all the subway stations and lot of outlets (kioscos) throughout the city. Watch for ‘SUBE’ sign or ask.
In the night, buses ply every half hour and sometimes take way longer. I would suggest to take cab in the night. Cabs are very easily available in the city. Just wave hand to stop the cab. Again pricy. You can use UBER but again you need to have a credit card and know Spanish etc. I did not use it. It is cheaper than regular cabs.
Palermo has good connectivity of buses. If you stay here you may be able to get away with just using buses. Mostly direct buses to all the milongas. Other areas, you may need to use 2 connecting buses.
Do memorize address to your home.
GPS signal keeps jumping. Be smart while using it.
Keep your phone fully charged, extra phone or power bank is always a plus.
While typing the location in Google maps, remember to type Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires. Same avenue goes from the city to outskirts with same address (house number). I once landed up in outskirts of the city. Really deserted place. The police were very helpful. They saw me and came to say that area is not safe and came along with me to drop me till safe area. She did not even know English. She called her sister to speak to me! I am very impressed.
Some buses are shown only in como liego app (App for public transport in BA). Difficult to track your trip in this app and is in Spanish. You can use this app to find bus number and then use google maps to track.
There are lot of exchange places along with banks. Exchange places like travel agencies give better rate than banks. Just make sure they are authentic. You can ask your host/land lord to know good exchange place near your stay.
Do not exchange full amount. Rate keeps fluctuating. Check here http://www.lanacion.com.ar/dolar-hoy-t1369 for every day exchange rate. Rate outside is generally .5 pesos higher.
Best way is to carry dollars in cash. Very few places accept cards. Prepaid cards are difficult to use as they do not have your name on them. You will need to show your original passport to use card in some places. I could use my prepaid card at COTO supermarket. I had to show my passport to do the same. Another place I used prepaid card is to buy shoes. Exchange rate is bad and cross-currency charges apply.
Taking money from ATM is not a good idea. Along with bad exchange rate, you will be charged 97 pesos transaction fee. You can only withdraw 2000 pesos at a time. Thus really bad idea to use ATMs.
Public Wi-Fi is available in almost all the places. It is only available for 15mins per day once you login.
Buy a sim card. Easily available and very handy. Not very costly. (30 pesos. Company Claro). You get data @7 pesos per day. I would strongly recommend to take it. Very useful for commuting and also to stay connected. Can be recharged in small outlets available though out the city like SUBE card.
Remember to always carry cash. It is important to mention this as people like me are used to carrying cards and are not in a habit to carry lot of cash. In BA you need cash everywhere and everything is very costly.
Safety is an issue in BA. Nothing happened to me that was remotely unsafe. I felt safe taking bus even in the night. But I constantly heard this from local people. Everybody always advised me not to carry phone openly in my hand. Hold my bags tightly. Not to wear jewellery etc. Also during my stay Arce was attacked by a group of men. They were carrying guns. They robbed him and even beat him up. So be careful. Be smart.
I felt so much love in BA. They love India and Indians. It was amazing, everybody knew about India. Either they had been to India, or were about to travel or wanted to travel to India. Make local friends. I was really lucky to meet and befriend some amazing people. They picked/dropped me to milongas. Took me around BA for a tour, shopping etc. It was nice to explore some unique local places, hangout, have coffee with them.
Visa to Argentina is free for Indians. But you need to go to Delhi for an interview. You need get documents translated into Spanish from a professional and submit to the embassy. It is better to hire an agent. But talk about cost beforehand. Along with their fee they charge a huge amount for translation. Be careful. Also keep good time for visa. It takes time. Submission, interview and then to get VISA in hand.
My trip was the best case scenario from start to finish. I went to New York after Buenos Aires. I danced Tango there too. I may write another article on it. I stayed there only for a week though.
If you need more information or want to suggest some edits, do let me know. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Information suggested by others
Omnilineas APP – To get list of bus lines which drive by close to the selected points.