How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires…

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One of the most common questions I’m asked is: what is your favorite place you’ve visited? While I love dozens of cities and just as many countries, I have four that immediately jump to mind: San Francisco, Tokyo, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. I’ve listed them in descending order of expense, and this is where I’ll tie it back to an oddly common question I get:

How do I become a tango expert?

I’m the first American to hold a Guinness World Record in tango, which was done on a lark while I was living in BsAs (that’s Buenos Aires) in 2005 and competed in the world championships. Fortunately for you, dear reader, becoming a tango expert and living like a rock star can go hand-in-hand if you hack BsAs properly.

First, why BsAs? Four reasons off the top of my head:

1. Created by immigrants from Spain, Italy, and Germany, you get the best food, architecture, and culture from all three. This mix of genetics also produces some incredible physical specimens. In fact, I rank Argentines right up there with Norwegians as the most beautiful people in the world.

2. In my experience, it’s the safest city in South America. It looks like Paris in many places, and I have never felt threatened on the street, even after 2am. Try that in SF or NYC.

3. Argentina is the New Zealand of the western hemisphere. From tropical rain forests in the north to world-class skiing in Patagonia, it has it all. Check out rare tropical birds or watch penguins get eaten by killer whales — it’s your choice. Argentina is the most beautifully diverse country I have ever visited.

4. It is possible to live like a millionaire on $30,000 a year. I’ve been there four times and can tell you this: dollars get you a quality of life that is all but impossible in the US. Even with the getting-there costs, I saved more than $10,000 on my last trip when compared to just sitting on my ass in Silicon Valley, and I was living like a rock star the whole time in BsAs: 5-star meals, VIP tables, you name it.

So, should you take the jump and move to Argentina? I have friends who have done it, but I recommend you take a 1-3-month “mini-retirement” first to take it for a test drive. Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

1. Timing:

Airfare will run between $500-850 roundtrip, so ensure that you’re staying for a while. Remember that it’s summer and hot as hell in BsAs in December-January. November or March-April are gorgeous, and summer time in the US is perfect for skiing in Bariloche or Las Lenas.

2. Flights:

I generally fly Continental/Copa through Panama, as I like to spend 1-4 weeks snorkeling in Coiba in Panama (why not get two trips for the price of one?). If not, Aerolineas Argentina often offers good prices, and you can sometimes get deals by flying into Rio or Sao Paulo, Brazil and then to BsAs on Gol or TAM. check airfares immediately after 1am on Saturday nights (Sunday mornings), when many airlines lower prices based on “flight load” (ratio of sold-to-empty seats).

3. Housing:

One negative to Argentina, especially BsAs — people will attempt to overcharge you. This will happen in any country with weak currency. I’ve rented rooms with families, used Argentine brokers to get shared apartments, rented posh penthouses from expats, and found hidden gems through Germans. My conclusion? It’s not worth the headache to deal with most Argentines and attempt to save a few hundred dollars. I had a huge pain in the ass with a dishonest Argentine landlord who refused to return my deposit — and I speak fluent Argentine Spanish — so now I deal exclusively with non-Argentines. There are some great Argies, to be sure, but they have the reputation among South Americans for being unreliable (!). Use http://www.craigslist.org or my favorite outfit: http://www.ba4uapartments.com.ar I’m not gay, but I do like how gay-friendly agencies keep their apartments: impeccably clean.

You’ll pay 3x more than an Argentine. A decent room in a good location can be found for $300 USD, a great single bedroom apartment can be found for $700-800 USD, but here’s one tip: if you can get a friend to come with you (or if you have a family), a two-bedroom or three-bedroom can be had for $1,200-1,300, and it will be 10x more luxurious than the one-bedroom. My favorite areas to live are, in descending order of preference: Recoleta (I like near Plaza Francia), Palermo, Barrio Norte, and San Telmo. Puerto Madero is the most expensive area and people fight for it, but it’s quite boring unless it’s a weekend evening.

4. Clubs, VIP treatment, and Food:

Spend an evening walking around one of the best hotels in BsAs, such as The Four Seasons, Sheraton, or Hotel Alvear, and make friends with one of the managers on call. They get VIP tables at all of the top clubs — Asia de Cuba, Opera Bay, Mint, Amerika, etc. — and can get you on the lists, so invite them for drinks and ask them for suggestions of where to meet. If not, just visit the clubs around 10pm on a Thursday or Friday and ask to meet the director of special events, or the manager (“gerente”). Tell him you’d like to bring some friends to the club and ask how to get on the list. Keep his card in your wallet to flash at bouncers. Worst case scenario, just spend $50 USD with a few friends and you can get a 6-person VIP table with unlimited champagne for the night ;)

For wining and dining, my faves are Gran Bar Danzon and La Bistecca, but more than both combined, I love all of the hole-in-the-wall parrillada (Argentine BBQ) restaurants. Just wander down Lavalle off of Avenida Florida and take your pick: the beef sandwiches for $3 USD (use plenty of chimichurri) will blow your mind.

5. Tango:

I had no interest in tango before visiting Argentina. I thought it was effeminate and ridiculous, something out of Shall We Dance? (the Japanese original is not to be missed) The truth is that social tango is completely improvised (much like my first love, breakdancing). Chest to chest, strangers will embrace and get to know each other more in three minutes than 10 dates would otherwise accomplish. Every night of the week, tango rules the night, only really getting started around 1am. Here are some of my favorite milongas (tango dance halls):

“New wave” (nueva onda) tango and 20-30-something crowd:
“La Viruta” at Armenia and Cordoba, inside the Armenian Cultural Center (odd, I know). 1am+ on Wed, Sat, and Sunday are awesome. I took a kiwi friend of mine there the day before he flew back to NZ, and he said to me: “Thanks for ruining my life.” He had been in BsAs for three months and had never seen such wildlife.

Traditional and older crowd: “Sunderland” or “La Baldosa” — find “El Tangauta” magazine in any tango shop, or at La Viruta, for addresses and all the tango info you can handle. Also use Ctrl-F to find any of the milongas I mention here.

If it is your first time in BsAs, I would recommend having an Argentine friend call the teachers and ask for pricing for an unnamed “friend,” not mentioning that you’re a foreigner. Otherwise, I promise that you will be overcharged. Smelling dollars, someone who should cost 50 pesos/hour will ask for 80 dollars. You should be able to get excellent private lessons for 50 pesos/hour. Good group lessons can be found at the Carlos Coppelo school in front of Shopping Abasto. My favorite private teacher is the young prodigy Gabriel Misse, but he’s going to be more expensive than most. He trained me for the world championships and is amazing. Here is a clip of Gabriel and his partner Alejandra Martinan. It starts off slow, but watch the amazing footwork as they progress. Most amazing? It is ALL improvised on the spot.

If you want to live like a king, it’s just a few thousand miles south. Viva la Argentina!

Related and Suggested:
Tim Ferriss – 3 Tips for Would-Be Dancers: From 1st Class to World-Class in 6 Months

Posted on: March 30, 2007.

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144 comments on “How to Live Like a Rock Star (or Tango Star) in Buenos Aires…

  1. Thanks for the great advice, Tim, I look forward to hearing your traveler’s advice for Tokyo, and to planning a trip myself, taking that leap of faith in going from blog-reading aspiring lifestyle designer to savorer of life’s many great opportunities and adventures. Keep up the great work.

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  2. Hi Ryan, “How to Live Like a Rockstar in Tokyo” is slated for the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open! I spend less in Tokyo — and live better — than in San Francisco. Lots of tools and tricks on the way. Two tips in advance: get a “Suica” prepaid travel card and dine in the small hipster restaurants above the fifth floor in downtown Shinjuku. More to come…

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  3. This information is priceless! I have visited over fifty countries and agree wholeheartedly with you Tim on Buenos Aires…. the quality of life you get plus the energy of the place make it nearly unbeatable for dynamic living… and its CHEAP!!! BsAs is in my top five places on the planet, in fact all that place needs is a clean surfable beach and for me it would probably go straight to number one. Having lived there I would list my two favourie spots to park up as Palermo (in summer) and Recoleta (in winter and for convenience). Tim, for the amount of headaches and time you are going to save people and the ideas you are providing I think you should be charging for this mate. Either that or Ferriss Tours to South America should be up and running. Count me in :)

    Chris Ashenden
    (writing from Sydney)

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  4. OK, so I’m sold on the 4 hour work week and on Buenos Aires, but when are you explain how generate income remotely? Not that I don’t believe, I just want to start figuring out how to escape a desk job.

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  5. Wow…i had wanted to go to BsAs before but now i am salivating, and the tips on getting a VIP night out are gold, wonder if that works in other cities too…loved the detail, down to the actual bars to go to..you ought to publish travel books, id buy one!
    Elisa (London)

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  6. Thanks, Elisa! John, regarding remote income generation, I’ll be posting more on that in the near future, but I’d encourage you to first determine your Target Monthly Income (TMI), which is calculated once you define your ideal lifestyle in terms of activities and belongings. Here is where you can get started: http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/ferriss-resources-lifestyle.htm

    The vehicle you choose for income generation, whether outsourcing your job to overseas assistants, licensing, creating a product or other, will depend on your TMI.

    Most to come soon — promise.

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  7. Wow, as an Argentine living in SF I have to tell you your review was not only spot on, but wonderfully researched and written. And your appreciation of us being cheap or trying to overprice is ABSOLUTELY TRUE!

    And also, we have a quirky, witty, dry sense of humor (similar to the English?) that people from other South American countries have a hard time to understand (it comes off as cocky and disrespectful). So, prepare your self-esteems and don’t get offended easily!

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  8. Jorge,

    Thanks for the comment, che! I completely agree with the wit of Argies being somewhat British. I would actually say that it’s similar to the humor of Kiwis in New Zealand. They love to give each other a hard time, but it’s all in fun. “Boludo, que haces?!” for example. I suspect that a lot of it is the Italian (emotional and sarcastic) and German (dry) humor influence from the immigrants who defined BsAs.

    Thanks for reading y mucho gusto conocerte!

    Tim

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  9. Sorry for the lack of response! Thanks for responding to my questions! I just wanted to let you know that I´ve settled into Buenos Aires quite well… I love it!
    Unlike you, I never took a class in Spanish before coming here, and so am spending some time doing that and really enjoying learning a new language. Am also in the process of getting into the Tango scene… Gabriel Misse has these group classes on Rodriguez Pena literally meters from my appt, starting this last week that are amazing. Tango classes are also an excellent way to learn spanish (teachers tend to speak more slowly…). I have an appt in the Recoletta area, not the bottom prices that you quoted but pretty reasonable (at least much less than what some agencies will quote you). Thanks for all the price quotes, really helped me to gauge things. And of course, the clubs and restaurants, and cafes are all amazing…

    Seems like every time I go to a Milonga, I meet someone from SF… quite funny actually.

    Thanks again for all the advice… I have one more question, how did you manage private Tango lessons for 50 pesos an hour? Quotes I get are 150, and if you do a lot of them then 70 pesos an hour.

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  10. Hi Tanja,

    Glad to hear you’re enjoying BsAs! Those damn Californians will start to disappear as the weather cools off ;)

    To get the best prices for anything, including tango lessons, you need to have an Argentine negotiate them via phone as if the product/service were for an Argentine, then introduce you in person when it’s too late for them to change the price. It’s a bit of passive-aggressive bait-and-switch, but it’s the only fail-proof way I’ve found to avoid getting fleeced.

    Tim

    Tim

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  11. without me reading the other comments I have to say that Tim explained he have been to Beunos 4 times but he never said for what length of time. I believe that if you stay their for 6 months then your point of view may be totally different. Sure you should visit, but, living in another country is a major decisiion. I suggest that you should stay in your prospective country renting for 6 months before you make the leap.

    Good luck

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  12. Tim,

    I bought your book yesterday. I love it. I am from Argentina, but living currently in Boston. I have a couple of friends living in BA who have been NR without even knowing it! They have been providing outsourced services to big firms in the US with amazing success. They travel a lot and feel a lot of freedom in their lives. Oh, by the way, they started their internet business with two 486 PCs and a 2400 modem…

    My wife and I plan to go back to South America and start a business of similar characteristics sometime in the future. She is from Uruguay, another wonderful country you should visit some day.

    We are looking for investment opportunities using our connections with the three countries (USA, Arg., Ur.). Your book has become an instant inspiration for that purpose. I look forward to go deeper in it and share ideas with people in this blog.

    Thanks!

    Ariel

    ps: a small typo that could be fixed in the second edition of the book: It is “La Rural” not “El Rural”. In any case, I am impressed by your tango skills, man. It takes a lot of courage to display your abilities in front of local crowds.

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  13. Tim,

    I love your book. I read it while on vacation last week and couldn’t put it down. I am ready to turn my vacations into mini-retirements

    You mention in your book that there is a full 90 day PPC marketing plan on your website. I didn’t see it. Can you direct me. I already have some products, I’d like to try this on

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  14. I have done some of the things you suggest. .. started in ’99, went to Madrid, Spain, then moved there permanently in 2000, been there ever since. Got to live your dreams, otherwise you will end up old and bitter. Now I need to get passive, massive (or at least sufficient) income, and maybe check out BsAs now that I speak fluent Castillan to get the best deal on living expenses. The big problem with Spain is that it is no longer inexpensive, expecially Madrid, which is something like 25th most expensive in the world now.

    Am waiting for delivery of my 4HWW with much anticipation and excitement. Also will start the body building and diet routine. . . can’t be living like a million and look like a slob.

    Thanks, Tim, for everything! You rule!

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  15. Tim…Heard about you from John Reese, and have been on your site for more than an hour. You’re providing valuable insights and I wish you much additional success. What you’ve accomplished at such a young age is truly remarkable.

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