In order to help you enjoy Argentina in a way which is sensitive to the people and surrounding environment, we suggest you think about the following during your visit:
Be sensitive to local customs
- Many people visiting Argentina comment on how European the country looks and feels. Arguably Argentina has the most European characteristics of any country in Latin America, especially the capital Buenos Aires. However, there are differences between different regions of the country.
- The people in Buenos Aires can sometimes be quite direct and seemingly lacking in courtesy which can be surprising for some. Most people are very friendly but like many big cities across the world, the people are perhaps a little less friendly than elsewhere in the country. Most aspects of life in the capital are very similar to those in European countries, however, there is significant societal inequality and you will encounter situations which reflect these problems.
- The regions in the far north are generally poorer (especially Jujuy and Misiones, although large zones within the capital and throughout the country are very poor as well) and you'll almost certainly be asked to hand out money at some stage. Try to avoid giving money to people begging in the streets or in restaurants, as it not only encourages this behaviour but may place you in a vulnerable position at the same time. If you want to help you could think about donating some money or giving your time to a local charity working within Argentine communities.
- Be aware that in more remote regions certain customs/behaviour acceptable in 'western' communities might be frowned upon (e.g. excessive alcohol consumption, rowdy behaviour late at night). The most important thing is to be aware of your surroundings and to be sensitive as well as willing to adapt your behaviour.
- Churches are often viewed as tourist attractions and are very attractive in many Argentine cities; however, their primary purpose is to offer local communities a place for worship or quiet reflection, so visitors should be respectful.
- Be aware of people's sensitivity to having photographs taken - always ask first.
- Act as an example to other travellers who are less informed than you.
Be flexible in your expectations
Sometimes people visiting Argentina have similar expectations to those they might have when travelling in Europe, given that some aspects of life are similar. However, Argentina is a developing country facing a mountain of societal challenges and it's important to adapt your expectations accordingly. You may have to be patient with administrative tasks in particular (e.g. dealings with the police or visa applications). Above all, consider the socio-economic plight of the nation before being outwardly critical of the ways in which things work (or don't work!) in the country.
Bridging the cultural gaps
The majority of people in Argentina are extremely friendly and inquisitive towards foreigners. Look for situations of cultural exchange whereby learning about each other's lives is mutual. These encounters provide fantastic opportunities to practice your Spanish language skills. Getting to know the person sitting next to you on a local bus or the person serving you in a shop or restaurant is so often a rewarding experience.
Practice environmental minimum impact (especially important in more remote regions of Argentina)
- Follow the international "Leave No Trace" rules (available at: http://www.lnt.org/ Pack up everything that you bring, including toilet paper (if there is no toilet) or plastic water bottles. Relieve yourself at least 70 meters from any water source. Remove litter that others leave behind.
- When hiking, stay on the trail. Don't trample delicate vegetation or remove any form of plant or animal life.
- Don't approach, surround or chase animals you may observe in order to get a photograph.