Picture this: You’re standing in line at customs in Ezeiza airport for the first time. You’ve just arrived from a long trip and you just want to take off your shoes and die in whatever hotel/Airbnb you’ve rented out. But you’re also sort of the proactive type and you prefer to take advantage of these (hopefully) short minutes that separate you from the city, and so you decide to start downloading some Apps to make your stay a smooth and uneventful one. But where, oh where, to begin?
Not to worry, The Bubble is here to lend you a hand.
1. BA CÓMO LLEGO
How the hell do you move around in this city? Between bus stops that consist of pieces of paper taped to tree trunks and Subtes that criss-cross the barrios you still haven’t even heard of, it can be intimidating. Have no fear, the City Government created this handy App some years back to help you get from any given point A to any other point B without losing your mind. BA Cómo Llego is very user-friendly and offers detailed routes on bus, trains, subway, car, and even on foot, as well as any combination of them. The nice people from BA Cómo Llego were also kind enough to arrange the results from the quickest to the slowest, so you can organize your trip in advance. Basically, if you’re still late then it’s on you, buddy.
2. Travel Buenos Aires
This one is also courtesy of the Buenos Aires government and has become an essential for those wanting to access information about the myriad tourist spots Buenos Aires has to offer. Travel Buenos Aires includes an interactive map, plenty of self-guided tours, and even a few nice little forays into augmented reality. The best thing? It can be used without WIFI so you needn’t worry about having to pass by the closest Starbucks to constantly load each page.
3. Ride-sharing Apps: Uber, Cabify, and BA Taxi
As has been the case in other cities around the world, the arrival of Uber in Argentina was filled with controversy because of its legality (or lack thereof). Taxi drivers, a not so peaceful bunch, have actually taken on the task of wrecking Uber cars and in some cases, even injuring the drivers, in retaliation. In the midst of this war between both sides, Spanish app Cabify also launched locally, placing itself in a sort of intermediate between Uber and regular taxis (bonus: it’s fully regulated as the drivers are registered as remises).
Nevertheless, ride-sharing services seem to be here to stay and are still fully operational and can be used without much of a problem*. Although it wouldn’t hurt to sit upfront with the driver to avoid any possible death by taxi driver lynchings (especially when coming or going from the airport or popular areas like Palermo).
As a side note, even the City Government has gotten a cue from Uber and Cabify and has launched BA Taxi, which essentially blends everything you hate about taxis (price discrepancy, bad service, etc.) with the tweak that you can request the service through the app, monitor the ride – and the driver – and have an estimate of how much it will cost (although many people complain that this last one doesn’t really work). It has plenty of negative reviews on Google Play so proceed at your own peril.
4. Delivery/Courier Apps
Until very recently, the undisputed king of the delivery app in Argentina was PedidosYa. But a couple new contenders have managed to make this one a pretty interesting competition. Rappi (from Colombia) and Glovo (from Spain) have forced PedidosYa to step up its game. What’s great is you can use them for more than just food delivery; whether it’s running a simple errand or dropping important papers off for work, these guys have got you covered.
The battle is now being fought on several different levels: from the windows of restaurants that proudly display stickers with their delivery company of choice, to the bikers and cyclists that travel around the city decorating their paths with their bright neon jackets and delivery bags (bright orange for Rappi, yellow for Glovo, and red for PedidosYa). It’s up to you to choose sides… Or just have them all if you have the space in your phone.
5. Mercado Libre/Mercado Pago
Digital wallets are something very common in places like Asia and the US, but down here in Argentina it’s just now becoming a thing thanks to Mercado Libre and its payment platform Mercado Pago. (By the way, if you’re not yet familiar with Mercado Libre, let’s just say it’s the biggest eCommerce platform in Latin America and was founded by an Argentine).
The platform now allows payments via QR code (!) in over 160,000 shops and businesses, including large chains like Burger King, Subway, Havanna, and even gas stations like Axion and YPF. As an added perk, since this feature has only recently been included, you can get all sorts of discounts using the app. Cash: bad, Mercado Pago App: good.
6. Porteño Spanish
Oh, to be called boludo for the very first time and not know what it means (sigh). Porteño slang has a pretty specific set of words, codes and phrases that take some time to get used to, not only for english speaking expats but for Spanish speaking ones as well. Thankfully, Pangea Learning has been developing apps for learning languages all over the world, including a specific one for Mexico called Güey Spanish and of course, the magnificent Porteño Spanish, that dives deep into Lunfardo slang which comes comes from a mixture of Italian immigration, neighboring Brazilian Portuguese, and underworld elements. Download this app and just avoid all quilombos.
7. Hoy Milonga
As you might expect, tango can be consumed in this city in all kinds of ways. From flashy shows along Avenida Corrientes to the more traditional milongas spread all over town in lesser-known barrios, it takes a real connoisseur to be updated with the daily tango scene in Buenos Aires and not get lost. Or does it? Hoy Milonga removes the guesswork from the equation, sharing information that is categorized by geographic location and schedules, as well as more specific tips like if it’s prudent to make reservations first and which days they teach classes.
8. Food & Dining
If you’re looking for the best places to eat in Buenos Aires, there is a name that has pretty much positioned itself in the minds of foodies for a while now: Restorando. Besides having one of the most complete restaurant guides around, the app offers everything from the possibility to make reservations to special discounts and promotions for its users. For those who prefer something a bit more universal, Yelp is also available in Argentina, and for those wishing to try something a little different, Cookapp is a nice option that offers chefs the opportunity to organize meals at home, also serving as a nice place to meet people while sharing a delicious meal.
9. Argentina WineApp
So, with food all covered, it’s time for some drinks, right? And what could be better than a good glass of Argentine wine. But, the thing is, which one to choose? The people from Approach Guides have developed the solution and it’s name is simply Argentina WineApp, which confidently markets itself as “the most comprehensive wine app on the market.”
The app allows you to choose from a wine list, highlighting the country’s wine regions, appellations, and grape varieties, describing elements such as overall consistency, quality, and price value so that you can make the decision that will please your palate the most… And allow you to brag to your friends about that “wine course” you took in Mendoza several years ago.
Like many big cities, Buenos Aires saves most of its greatest treats for when the lights go out. After all, the phrase “a las 12 la noche está en pañales” exists for a reason. Nightlife here is one of the most vibrant scenes in the world and offers plenty of options to choose from. There are actually a bunch of apps that supply a comprehensive guide to it all, but you only need a few to get started. Just remember things don’t get going until around 2 AM, so don’t disregard the much-needed disco nap.
Nightclubs are known as boliches (see Porteño Spanish app at #5!) and Bolicheando is the name to keep in mind for answering that age-old question: where the party at? The app lets you buy tickets, find reservations, and even chat with others going to the same event. If heavy partying is not your style, then you might want to check out Tap Map which helps you locate the best spots in the (over-saturated) craft beer scene. The app uses GPS to find the best beer bar around your current location, informs you about happy hours, and even has some special offers for its users. Salud, che.
Bonus Track: Arqi
Some people like to get to know cities through their museums. Others prefer to get lost in the streets and just see where that takes them. This app falls in the middle of the two, offering a comprehensive guide of Buenos Aires through one of its most appealing qualities: architecture.
Arqi is, essentially, an interactive map with 100 buildings (and counting) filled with history and beauty. Arqi offers detailed information tips for each landmark, including the architect behind it, dates, and curiosities. One additional perk is it has several pre-established routes categorized by neighborhoods so that you can organize a different walking tour each day. (The one from Teatro Colón to Congress is highly recommended.)