Thursday, 12 May 2016

Review - Tangueros' top ten travel necessities for Buenos Aire

In my last blog I listed items that will protect or enhance your trip to Argentina.

I should add that I have no connection with any manufacturer, and no financial interest in any of the products.  Clearly, I cannot guarantee any one of them. I review them simply because as a seasoned traveller they make sense to me.

Travelling anywhere in the world poses risks. The art of travel is to limit them in a proportionate way. Argentina poses no more unmanageable risk than parts of Europe - in Barcelona many travellers are victims of crime. When examining risk, we look at simple steps that will lower the chance of you being a target, and give added peace of mind.

1.  Travel Blue Sliding Wallet
For me, this travel wallet is a recent discovery. I am yet to use it in Argentina, but - having used many alternatives - consider this to be the best so far.

The travel wallet is not intended to double as a handbag. Its very design limits content, for example it will not house your passport. Yet it is just at the right side of economy when walking on the street, where my advice is to carry the bare minimum. Europeans are not as conspicuous as elsewhere in South America, but frankly we do tend to stand out as foreigners.

Street robbery is rare. More likely is simple, unnoticed theft. This may be accompanied by distraction (having your clothes sprayed with a grey-green substance, followed by offers to help clean it off), or opportunist theft (pick pocketing). Pick pockets habitually seek easy targets, and these are male tourists who carry their wallet in trouser jacket pocket; or female tourists carrying a handbag.

The Travel Blue sliding wallet is a perfect answer. Attached securely to your belt by a thick security strap, the travel wallet slips fairly easily below your clothing, either inside your trousers or up inside your shirt. 25 cms in length, it folds in half with a firm velcro fastening. Opened out, it is evidently very light, but tough and secure, coming with a two year guarantee. To the left are three vertical pockets for credit cards, held by internal velcro strap. This makes for easy removal by its owner when the wallet is open. For bank notes there is a lengthwise slide compartment, beneath which is a further zip compartment. Coins can be contained in a mesh section to the right, although I question why one would add the weight and bulk of coins to the wallet. Additionally, there are two small slide pockets -one for a photocopy of your passport.

I like this wallet because the fabric is robust, but soft and pliable when concealed under clothing. It is particularly comfortable against the skin, allowing you to place it under a shirt, or better, slip it below the belt inside trousers or a skirt.

I rate the travel wallet with 9* out of 10.

2.  Protector III Personal Alarm
Do you really need a personal alarm when travelling? No, perhaps you do not. But this particular personal alarm doubles as a property alarm, or to secure an hotel/hostel door, and this is why I always carry one.

The alarm with a back-clip, 8 x 5.5 cms, is light weight - you will scarcely notice it - and very robust. Mine is 10 years old and still going strong. Battery life (3 x AAA) is excellent, lasting well between annual trips.

The alarm is activated by the pulling of a pin attached to the strap. This means that you can secure the alarm inside luggage to any fixed item - such as a table leg, and know that if someone attempts to remove your bag, the pin will detach, alarm activate, and continue until the pin is relocated. The alarm is a high piercing note that nobody could fail to hear. The light also flashes on activation.

On the street, I use the alarm inside my shoulder bag, with the strap attached to my clothing. At open air milongas, the strap can be easily attached to a fixture leaving you safe in the knowledge that if someone takes your bag, they certainly will not hang onto it once the pin is pulled.

I rate the Protector Personal Alarm gets 10* out of 10.

3.  Super 48 Key-Bak
House and room security is taken seriously in Buenos Aires, and you will find that you pass through several locking doors before you gain access to your apartment or hotel/hostel room (unless digital or 24 hour attended). So keeping your keys safe and easily to hand is really important.

The Key-Bak system involves a 4 foot robust tensioned retractable cord which locks into a belt-mounted high density plastic case 5 x 7 cms. Yes, this is big, but fits surprisingly lightly (100g) and conveniently onto a man's belt with either thread-through or clip-over mechanism. Once attached, it will not be removed until you unclip your belt. The huge advantage of the Key-Bak is that with correct positioning, your keys will align with a trouser pocket for aesthetics and security, whilst the weight remains on your belt. Swivel the ring to unclip the cord, then the reel will free and extend all the way to the door lock.

I rate the Super 48 Key-Bak gets 9* out of 10

4.  Ledlenser K1 Key ring torch
There are times in Buenos Aires when you really need a light. Returning home from a milonga at 3 am and negotiating a dark passage - arriving at a venue and looking for the door bell - facing a power cut and searching for a candle - getting to your door and locating the key hole. Need I go on?

The advantage of the Ledlenser K1 is that it is utterly tiny and almost weightless. Just 4 x 1 cms (smaller than a little finger) powered by 4xAG3 micro batteries, it gives all the light you will need from a key ring torch, and saves pulling out your  smartphone in a darkend place.

The Ledlenser is however not sufficiently robust to be placed on your keyring where (like the one I bought) it will be damaged. But as a handbag accessory, it is ideal.

I rate the Ledlenser K1 gets 7* out of 10

5.  Transparent back pack
Men may take one look and reject this item - but most women immediately realise its worth.

Bag snatches are not uncommon. Thieves are looking for high value items, such as cameras, computers, tablets, iphones, wallets/purses and travel documents - and tourists often carry them in back packs. So, what better than to advertise the contents of your bag to the world? A pair of dance shoes, a pack of tissues and a lipstick are hardly worth stealing - and the mere fact that you carry a transparent bag signals that you have nothing to hide.

The bag has almost zero weight, and will pack flat in the bottom of your suitcase. Once in Buenos Aires, this can be your dance bag for milongas. The transparent vinyl  is surprisingly robust, it has a fabric base and strong adjustable straps, with additional carry handles and side pockets.

You may need to order this item via the USA, but in our view it is worth the wait and cost.

The transparent back pack gets 10* out of 10

6.  Casio Unisex Watch

The last thing you want on your travels in Argentina is your Rolex. When out and about you simply want  a water resistant watch to tell the time. This watch is almost ideal, and at a great throw-away price.

The Casio watch says 'I am not worth stealing' and sends a further security message about the wearer. With clear numbers and second hand, it fits lightly and snugly to the wrist. Battery life is good, although you may wish to change the plastic strap for a light leather one. It lacks an alarm, but compensates in neatness. And who expects to meet a deadline in Buenos Aires? This is truly a 'unisex' watch. At 6'2" I have two.

The Casio Unisex watch gets 8* out of 10


7.  Zendure A3 Portable charger
If you are the type of traveller that leaves technology behind, this is not for you. But most of us these days carry an array of electronic items, each requiring their own individual wall charger plug. And so we end up with a bag of plugs and wires, together with an array of adapters needed for charging in England before we leave, and in Argentina after we have arrived.

The Zendure portable charger eliminates this problem, allowing you to charge each of your electronic devices by USB from a 204g hand-held device either at your hotel/hostel/apartment - or on the move. This way, you need never have a flat phone or failed ipad.

The Zendure A3 portable charger gets 9* out of 10

8.  Bose SoundLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II
Am I weighing you down with unnecessary electronics? In relation to the Bose SoundLink I sense not.

This blog is written principally for the travelling tanguero, for whom tango music is essential. It is not the same simply listening through a pair of headphones - there are times when you want quality sound through a speaker in your hotel/hostel room, a dance studio or in your apartment.

Most hired dance studios have an ipod/mp3 compatible connecting sound system, but unusually in your hotel or hostel - and in the apartment you will need cables to connect through the TV sound system.

Numerous trips to Buenos Aires have compelled me to take a portable sound system with me. This has been a pair of computer speakers, with the limitation that they cannot be used remotely and need to be powered. With the Bose SoundLink you say farewell to all of that. This device, which works independently of mains power, will connect by bluetooth or cable to your device, making it utterly convenient in every setting. Weighing in at 1.2kg - but with excellent sound quality, order this with the travel case, adding a further 159g.

The Bose SounLink Mini Bluetooth Speaker II gets 9* out of 10

9.  UK extension lead with USB
When travelling to Argentina, I always take an extension lead with me. It means that I can operate every electrical item from the mains with only one universal travel adapter, and charge up items immediately following a 14 hour flight.

The link above is for a combination lead giving two UK power points and two USB. Alternatively, consider a multi extension lead for Argentina.

A power lead gets 10* out of 10

10. Universal Basin plug
Neither hand basins nor kitchen sinks have plugs in Argentina - only the English seem to wash in standing water! Is this a luxury item, or a necessity? Either way, consider buying an inexpensive plug and pop it in your case.

A basin plug gets 7* out of 10

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