Tango Argentino > Your first trip to Buenos Aires: The good, the bad, the ugly.

Discussion in 'Tango Argentino' started by FernandoBA, Feb 28, 2015.

  1. FernandoBA

    FernandoBA New Member

    Hello everyone. My name is Fernando, I live in Buenos Aires and usually meet lot of foreigners in milongas. Many of them come here regularly, almost every year, other people tell me that it's the second or third visit to Buenos Aires. Foreigners are usually looking for advice (milongas, tango shops, what places to avoid for being insecure, etc.). I'd like to know your tango experience in Buenos Aires. What things are really great in Buenos Aires and what can be improved in order to have a better tango experience:

    What is the most valuable advice for new people visiting BA?
    Is it easy to know where going dancing or take a class?
    Are you worried for your personal security?
    Transport services are good for moving around the city?

    I'll really appreciate any feedback here and feel free to contact me if you're planning a BA trip and need some tips and hints.

  2. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    I am one of those who visits regularly, and over the years I noticed a sad trend: the milongas are less and less about tango, and more and more about business. I know, the economic situation is difficult, a lot of people are struggling to make the ends meet, and it is not their fault, but... People in the milongas get jealous and territorial, fighting over (prospective) customers; there is a lot of drama of that kind going on nowadays. It gets harder and harder to tune it out, and just relax, dance, make friends...
    That commercial marketing cutthroat attitude has nothing to do with the beautiful thing the tango is! Tango is supposed to connect and unite people, not make them fight. Looking for Tango amidst all that gets tiring. And at least some know where and what to look for, others do not.
    Mladenac and FernandoBA like this.
  3. FernandoBA

    FernandoBA New Member

    Hola Lilly! Many thanks for your comments.
    The trend you've noticed is unfortunately true. There are a lot of milongas in Buenos Aires
    and organizers compete for attracting people, specially in the low tango season when foreigners
    return to their countries. I usually go dancing to the no-commercial tango circuit, so I didn't notice
    the problem, it's good to know it, many thanks to bring this to my attention.
  4. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    Which milongas do you consider to be in the
    Also, who knows about a milonga at a Polish club in Recoleta, and what can you tell me about it?
    A friend of mine from the Country Western place got into AT here in Portland and stayed in Recoleta when he traveled to Buenos Aires with a lady friend to dance. I thought for sure they would do polka there, but no, he said, only "AT" at the milonga.
  5. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    The problem is, the process has reached "noncommercial" milongas too, albeit not in the same proportions. Probably only Lo de Celia is still immune for now.
    jantango likes this.
  6. FernandoBA

    FernandoBA New Member

    Hello Steve. There are traditional milongas (Parakultural in Salon Canning, El Beso, La Ideal, Club Gricel) that are well known for everybody. These milongas are usually located in the city center and appear in every tango guide, I call them the "commercial circuit". But there are other milongas like, for example, "La Tierrita" in the Flores neighborhood. This milonga opens every Saturday since 1929, but few people know about it. There are a lot of milongas and practices free (a la gorra) like La Glorieta in Barrancas de Belgrano, Practica Patricios, Bar Los Laureles, Zona Tango, Club Sin Rumbo, Floreal, Milonga del MorĂ¡n, etc. All these places are completely out of the commercial circuit and it's worth to know them.
    Mladenac likes this.
  7. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    It's been years (2003-2010) so it may be different now

    What is the most valuable advice for new people visiting BA?
    Where to buy shoes.

    Is it easy to know where going dancing or take a class?
    No. Too many times the ads in the media are posted on an annual basis and you go there and the announced class is cancelled. The available info is not reliable at all. And that includes famous places such as Canning.

    Are you worried for your personal security?
    Never. I walked all the way from San Telmo to Palermo between 1am-2am several times.

    Transport services are good for moving around the city?
    When half the cars you can see in the streets are taxis, you know that the transport services are not good.
    Mladenac and FernandoBA like this.
  8. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    What is the most valuable advice for new people visiting BA?

    -There is no "real" BA tango, and anybody who claims there is is probably trying to sell you something. Basically anything that can be even remotely called tango exist at some milonga somewhere, and gets taught be somebody. The vast majority of dancers moves in very well defined, non-overlapping sets of milongas, and the big challenge for a visitor is a) realize what these different sets are, and b) not allow oneself to be guided into one of these sets that might not be the best fit for one
    -visiting BA for less than 2 weeks is imo a waste of time. You have to go to the same milonga/the same set of linked milongas at least 3 or 4 times before enough people have seen you dance/ you have seen enough people dance to get to dance with people who are neither other tourists nor want to sell you something nor are bad dancers. In most other cities you can get there by the middle of an evening, but in most BA milongas the ratio of teachers, tourguides, other people with some sort of business interests and tourists to people who just like dancing is lopsided.
    -branch out from the standard menu of steaks and empanadas that gets pushed on visitors. I think the big neglected star of Argentinean cooking are stews of all kinds - both Spanish/Italian influenced seafood stews and the more vegetable/corn/lentil oriented inland stews. Also look into desserts other than ice cream: baked apples, cheese and fruit pastes. And have pizza with chickpea-pie - suddenly the BA style greasy pizza makes a lot more sense. Oh, and drink beer.
    -learn chacarera and samba from somebody shows you how it is about flirting/hooking up with the person you are dancing with. Once you realize that these dances are all about how to get away with the most outrageous stuff while still officially keeping all the rules and maintaining deniability you will understand both tango and BA much better.

    Is it easy to know where going dancing or take a class?

    No. Mainly because nobody admits what their actual technical framework and style is. If you know what set of milongas they dance at it helps, but a lot of people who teach don't dance socially (I don't consider taking a bunch of students to a milonga as actually going to a milonga).

    Are you worried for your personal security?

    No, but I am a man, and I live in a big city with some corners that I would not go to at night (or even during the day), and some of the ideas and skills transfer. I think BA can be a very sketchy place if one does not pay attention.

    Transport services are good for moving around the city?

    Once you figure out how the pocket guide works the bus system is quite good, the subway is excellent (but stops running early), and there are cabs everywhere, and if one prefers radio cabs for the added safety they are easy to get, too. I thought the most difficult part of moving around the city was getting a sube card - there are not many places that sell them, the opening hours are erratic, and they seem to run out of cards quite frequently. And for Argentineans it is linked to the passport number (which as a foreingner I of course did not have) - so that required some negotiation and stubbornness to convince the clerk that it was possible to give one out without that.
    Mladenac and FernandoBA like this.
  9. FernandoBA

    FernandoBA New Member

    @newbie @Gssh Thanks a lot for sharing your comments and experiences. It's really interesting "to see" the city with foreigner eyes.
  10. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    I can't help but observing that while you are talking about so-called non-commercial
    places for dancing the overt commercialism of Buenos Aires has now reached even
    this forum as you are blatantly advertising your own services and presumably using
    the comments of members for your own commercial research.

    Let's face it, every milonga is commercial in that each one has to pay its way
    or it closes, as many have done although others still eventually open. And to take
    your example, Los Laureles is a bar serving food and drink (actually good value)
    although there is no charge for entry. The dance floor is relatively small and oddly
    shaped. It hardly qualifies as a milonga in the traditional city centre sense - it has a very
    different and very informal atmosphere and an unpredictable music., live and recorded.
    Most visitors conclude there are easier places to go and certainly later at night
    you are at the mercy of the wiles of devious taxi drivers for your return to the centre.

    Open air "practicas" such as La Glorieta are nominally free but there can be a prominent
    collection box. El Indio as another example passes round "the hat". Money is never
    that far away in Buenos Aires especially where tourists abound.
    jantango and Lilly_of_the_valley like this.
  11. FernandoBA

    FernandoBA New Member

    OK John, got it.
    I'm not offering any service by the way.
    When I said "contact me for advice if you're coming to BA" is hospitality, not business.
  12. JohnEm

    JohnEm Well-Known Member

    That's true enough but not exclusively by any means. Sadly just as true
    is that almost no-one on here admits to what their own framework and style is
    when commenting.

    Economic conditions aren't good and the sleeping rough are even more
    obvious in places. Crime can be overt at times. Just take care, don't dawdle,
    look like an inhabitant by moving with purpose. Have no jewellery on show,
    nor flashy watches/bracelets. Neck chains have been ripped off in the Subte.

    I found Guia T (the pocket bus guide) a PITA even knowing how to use it.
    Better to use: www.omnilineas.com/argentina/buenos-aires/buenos-aires/city-bus/
    much less painful, much more useful.

    Sube cards can actually now be bought more widely from some locutorios
    and kioskos without formalities. I was agreeably surprised when I had to
    replace mine, lost when two of us in an informal party of four (one of whom
    an Argentine friend) suffered a very professional slick robbery when
    strolling (don't do it) on Corrientes. I even knew who had done it (although
    they had disappeared) and the police were utterly useless.

    So while everything is most definitely not rosy in BsAs you shouldn't be put off
    too much. I have suffered failed or foiled robbery attempts in Madrid,
    by The Trocadero in Paris, in London and a few in Buenos Aires.
    Most of them were in tourist areas, Buenos Aires is the exception
    where you have to keep up your guard everywhere. Just take care.
  13. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Let alone the level of dancing at those places is sketchy, codigos non existent, and the chances to dance with a decent dancer for an unknown visitor are nil. Plus, in many of those places you better show up in a group.
  14. newbie

    newbie Well-Known Member

    Yep, and then? Maybe the guy wants to create his own niche tango service and needs to know what is still not covered yet in the business of tango. And then according to the answers he will open a new milonga in a barrio where there aren't many, or a a new shop with tango shoes, or a ad-heavy webpage with hourly-updated schedules of classes and milongas, or a shuttle service to safely drive the tango tourists who don't wish to walk too much and find the taxis too hazardous.
    Mladenac likes this.
  15. Lilly_of_the_valley

    Lilly_of_the_valley Well-Known Member

    Well, all that has already been covered and is either fighting for tourists' attention in the milongas instead of dancing or dying a painful dead, because if there is no or little of something somewhere, there are reasons for that.
  16. Gssh

    Gssh Well-Known Member

    This is very true - I think I will start a thread about that.

    Yes, it is much less painful, but OTOH I loved that BA is basically the only city where I can pull out a street map and look up an address without looking (too much) like a tourist. My guide has little x's and cryptic scribbles everywhere, and I feel much, much safer looking up how to get to a milonga/restaurant using it than one of the tango-maps or tourist guides. (might be an illusion, but I feel that the safest thing almost everywhere is to look like as much like a local as possible)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 12, 2017
    FernandoBA likes this.
  17. Juliskamagyar

    Juliskamagyar New Member

    I was in BA in 2008. Not to do with dancing but a medical conference.

    It is a fascinating city with lots of character. Some of the architecture reminded me of where I grew up in Budapest. My only negative comment was that the city was so noisy. At 3 in the morning the streets were noisier than most large Canadian cities at 3 in the afternoon. In 5 days I did not get a good sleep.

    Anyways, 'quiet' accommodation can't be over emphasized. When I travel, 'quiet' and safety are the two things I research the most.
    FernandoBA likes this.
  18. Steve Pastor

    Steve Pastor Moderator Staff Member

    If anyone is looking for a quiet hotel in Buenos Aires, I can name one that, with the windows closed, blocked out the sound from the cafes,etc. on the pedestrian mall a few floors below, that were busy late into the night.
    One of my most remembered conversations was with a woman who was in BA for a medical conference. "Steve, we are all Italians here."

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