Friday, 17 November 2017

Packing for tango - Buenos Aires

This blog is a collaboration between Stephanie and me - to assemble a nearly definitive guide for those travelling to Buenos Aires to dance tango. We have approached it on the basis of longer-term stays in CABA thoughout the year, with additional advice for trips to estancias or travelling in Patagonia.

Weather is an important consideration for what you pack for your trip to Buenos Aires where temperatures vary from mid 30’s in December/January, to bitter cold wintery days in July. Between May and September it is wise to take a coat, hat, scarf and gloves, together with robust shoes. From September to the end of April simply consider something to protect the shoulders from sun, and a light jacket or a wrap for the evenings when travelling home from the milonga.

Travelling to the north, be ready for a hotter, wetter climate; and to the south - depending on distance, you may need an entirely different wardrobe. Here we have information for Buenos Aires:

Tango needs
In Buenos Aires you are coming to the centre of the tango universe where tango clothes and shoes abound, so why bring them with you? Part of the fun of staying in the city is browsing rails of tango clothes at milongas and shoe shopping. Our advice here is to pack one versatile outfit that is suitable for day or evening milongas, together with a pair of light tango trainers for classes, then treat yourself at Comme il Faut or the DNI shop. Remember, whilst tangueros dress to the nines in the USA, Europe and UK, a modest tango wardrobe is all that is required in Buenos Aires. 

For longer stays Stephanie packs some pretty, wash-and-drip-dry dresses or tango skirts, open toe tights, plus couple of pairs of tango pants, a cheap throw-away fan for milongas, and her duty-free perfume. She includes one pair of trusty worn-in tango shoes in her hand luggage should she be ‘Stranded at the Airport’.

I pack a lightweight jacket to wear at and from the milonga, teamed with a pair of loose but smart tango trousers and a cool white shirt. Like Stephanie, I slip my old tango shoes into my flight bag just in case. Once in Buenos Aires I head for my favourite shop, Aux Charpentiers to collect a couple of collarless cotton shirts and some casual pants.

Street needs
Whatever the season, Buenos Aires weather can change quickly from hot and fine to cool (or cold) and wet. Importantly, streets are busy and congested - not a place for heels, jewellery or showy clothes that announce you as a tourist target. 

We recommend that you pack for the street, for it is here that you will spend most of your time walking, exploring, meeting friends and drinking coffee at street corner cafes. The art is to combine comfort with a pinch of style. Street shoes should be robust enough to withstand heavy drenching downpours and broken pavements - but light enough to keep your feet cool on hot summer days. This means packing two pairs and checking the forecast. Team with a shirt or t-shirt and loose casual trousers for men, and lightweight wash-and-wear pants with a t- shirt or top for women. Accessorise with a little colour, or pack a change of top for the evening.

Dining out
Don’t dress up for dinner, for none of the Portenos do, and you will feel totally overdressed. What you wear during the day is sufficient for evenings out, although I recommend a jacket for men and a dress for women in the posher restaurants. Wearing shorts in the evening is not advised, instantly identifying you as a tourist. For cooler evenings or sitting under air conditioners, bring a versatile wrap for the shoulders.

The latest technology is expensive here in Argentina, so smart phones are at a premium for street thieves. If you are to pack your iphone and ipad, ensure that they remain discrete and safe.

I pack a UK extension cable with 4 x 240v and 4 x USB outlets, attached to an Argentine adapter or plug. This will give instant connectivity for charging multiple devices, toothbrushes, operating hairdryers etc., reducing the need for a fistful of adapters and searching for additional power sockets. 

Additionally I take a Zendure powerpack for remote charging,  
and a Hootoo TripMate Titan to create a safe wifi hotspot or act as a wifi repeater. If your kit uses AA or AAA batteries, pop in a lightweight charger and handful of rechargeable batteries

Those readers who have read earlier my blogs here will know that we also pack a bluetooth speaker, giving instant smartphone connectivity and great music wherever you may stay.

Once in Buenos Aires, we recommend buying a cheap mobile phone and sim card when you arrive. For just a handful of pesos, this gives you local texting and contact without the worry of a smart phone snatch. 

Travelling further afield
If you are heading for an estancia, or trekking, you must consider weight. A suitcase, ideal for Buenos Aires, becomes a liability on longer journeys. You should only pack what you know you can carry (and what you are prepared to lose), and this means compromise.
 For this we recommend a good size rucksack with separate compartments and the emphasis on layers for clothing. Ensure that you set off with strong footwear and a cool light-but-strong jacket. Remember, if you are to travel by coach, space is limited and you will get minimal help with luggage. More important, the loss of a total wardrobe will wreck your trip, so split your clothes between your pack and day sack.

Whilst in transit - or should you be staying in hostels, security may be an issue. Our advice is to be attentive and to pack accordingly. I bring a Lucky-Line keyback, Packsafe security travel net, digital padlock, remote snatch alarm, body wallet, Travel Blue wallet, false wallet, and small LED torch, providing a near-perfect lightweight kit for most eventualities. Of several day sacks, I carry a day-glow sack for outdoor milongas, enabling me to quickly identify my street shoes in the grey bag pile. 

Day selection of shirts, tee shirts, underwear, socks, trousers, shorts & street shoes
Jacket for milonga
Lightweight tango trousers
Wash and wear white shirts for milonga
Shoe horn, sweat towel, fan, wipes & hand gel, plus spray cologne for milongas 
Old trusted tango shoes
Hat and sunglasses for hot days
Hat, gloves and scarf for cold day
Folding mac and umbrella
Under-arm sling bag
Small rucksack
Day bag
Cheap waterproof watch

Day selection of street pants, underwear, light tops, street shoes and warm wrap
Two wash-and-drip-dry dresses
Two pairs of tango pants
Two tango skirts and teamed tops
Toeless tights
Old trusted tango shoes
Fan, wipes & hand gel, perfume for milongas
Hat and sunglasses for hot days
Hat, gloves and scarf for cold days
Folding mac and umbrella
Tiny front carrying shoulder-strap bag
Transparent rucksack for milongas
Waterproof watch
Favourite cosmetics and toiletries

Small first aid kit, including antiseptic cream, eye bath, paracetamol and indigestion tablets
Sewing kit and travel scissors
Incognito mosquito repellant spray and sticks
Extension cable and adapters
Battery pack for remote charging, battery charger and rechargeables
Travel binoculars and camera  (optional)
Keyback, security travel net, digital padlock, remote snatch alarm, body wallet, security purse, false wallet, key fob and small torch

For the FLIGHT BAG include:
Emergency clothes (should your suitcase be delayed)
Pesos and emergency currency
Flight socks, neck support, eye covers, ear plugs
Warm wrap
Facial mist spray
Nasal anti-cold spray
Toothbrush and paste
Zip bag with facecloth
Travel sweets
Earphones, bluetooth speaker and MP3 player or iPhone
Kindle and backup battery pack
Water flask
Passports (plus card with passport numbers and issue date)
Note with hotel/hostel/apartment address
Biro for completing landing card
Tango shoes for ‘Stranded at the Airport’

(Note: extract from Flight bag to underseat travel bag - those items needed in-filght)

Monday, 6 November 2017

Return to San Telmo

Readers will recall that in December 2016, Stephanie and returned to Buenos Aires, staying for four months. This year sees yet another trip to escape a British winter - this time not to manage the tango hotel Casa Luna - but to live in our favourite bario, San Telmo.

We shall of course be dancing Argentine tango, eating pizza and steak, drinking Malbec, attending milongas, and describing day-to-day living in this fascinating city. Be ready to follow the blog, and to top up with visits to our Facebook group page 'San Telmo with a Twist'. We would of course be delighted if you choose to join that group.

For those who may be tempted to visit Buenos Aires, click right to follow this blog. That way you will receive a brief email notification for each new blog entry. And let me know if there is a particular topic on which you would welcome a blog - after all, you are the reader!