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Moving Abroad to Buenos Aires: Creating a New Life

La Caminita neighborhood.
La Caminita neighborhood in Buenos Aires.

Buenos Aires — sometimes referred to as the “Paris of South America” — is a city that offers its very own forms of architecture, vibrant street life, sensual tango, street art, world-class barbeque, fine wine, and so much more. The city, rocked in the past by economic and political turbulence, is enjoying yet another renaissance. A bustling metropolis on the coast of otherwise laid-back Argentina, it is equally attractive to expatriates, short- and long-term visitors, as well as students abroad. I created a new life in Buenos Aires for six very rewarding months.

Tango dancing in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Tango can break out in many places in the streets and dance studios of the city.
Photo by Sophie Mendel.

After graduating from college, I had no idea what to do with my life. I did know that I had an aversion to the pressures and competition of corporate America. I was not ready to move to a nearby city, nor was I ready to go back to my hometown only to begin would what I imagined be a mundane, predictable life in the “real world.” Having lived abroad several times in the past in Spain, Ecuador, and Israel, the only option that made sense at the time was to leave America behind and embark on a more exciting extended journey to faraway Buenos Aires.

I chose the city because it seemed like the perfect balance between a modern, westernized city and the alluring Latin flavor of South America. So I gained certification via an online TEFL program to become a teacher. Without a job, apartment, friends, family, or any connections whatsoever, I enthusiastically set off for Buenos Aires.

For those hoping to make a permanent move to Buenos Aires, here are some helpful tips to get you going:

Finding Accommodations in Buenos Aires

Caminita neighborhood of Buenos Aires.
Neighborhood apartments.

Buenos Aires is not a difficult city to find suitable accommodations. For example, if you are looking to move to the kind of place where you'll likely make friends and meet other travelers or international students, I would recommend renting a room in a shared house or flat. Such rooms are very common and easy to find and will instantly provide you contact with a social group, which is an important consideration if you are moving to the city without knowing anyone beforehand. If you are looking for more cultural immersion via a homestay with a local family, or if you want to rent a room by yourself or in someone else’s flat, you will likely pay a bit more. Craigslist Argentina is a resource for finding your choice of housing arrangements, but there are others listed below.

You will also need to select a neighborhood (or barrio) in the city when deciding where to live. Your choice will largely depend on where you're working or wish to spend most of your time. Buenos Aires has comprehensive metro and bus systems, but they are notoriously crowded and slow, extending your time to get around the city. If you work downtown, you may consider living in the Centro or San Telmo neighborhoods, which are nearby. If you are seeking something a bit more laid-back, consider barrio Palermo, which is full of appealing cafes, restaurants, bars, and street art. Another barrio to consider is Recoleta, a more upscale neighborhood steeped in Argentinean culture.

Bar in the Caminita.
Bar in the Caminita.

How to Find and Obtain a Job Teaching English

Teaching English is one of the easiest and most common ways to get a job in Argentina. I gained certification to teach English as a Second Language through International TEFL Academy’s online program. Upon completion of the program, they supplied me with a comprehensive country guide full of resources for living and teaching abroad in Argentina. They also added me to several useful country-specific Facebook groups, which connected me with program alumni, potential employers, and Buenos Aires expats. By reaching out to these online communities, I was able to get answers to any questions I had at the time. My employer in Buenos Aires found me and offered me a contract through an online community.

While it is useful to have a TEFL certification on your resume, it is not required to obtain a job as an English teacher in Buenos Aires. By the time I had established myself in the city, I was working for two English language institutes as well as offering private lessons on my own. I found students for private lessons by putting up ads on Mercado Libre and Craigslist Argentina in the employment section, as well as by posting flyers around the city.

As far as work visas go, unofficially you do not really need one, at least if you are working as an English teacher. Non-Argentine citizens may enter and stay in the country for 90 days at a time. It is common practice for those intending to stay in Argentina for an extended period to leave the country and return every 90 days. In Buenos Aires, it is quite popular to take the ferry over to Uruguay for a quick trip, even just for the day, and reenter the country. If you are working for an official language institute, they will typically handle the legality of your employment on their end so you will be fine concerning tourist visas.

Planning and Arranging Day-to-Day Life in Buenos Aires

Street scene in the city.
Typical street scene downtown.

When you decide to start life in a foreign country, such as Argentina, the details can seem overwhelming. Where do you start? Practical necessities such as health insurance, credit cards, and setting up your smartphone are some of the essentials you will need to work out either before you go or upon arrival.

Credit and Debit Cards

As to credit and debit cards, it is essential to set yourself up with companies that do not charge international transaction fees. Though a few dollars in fees here and there does not seem like much, they start to add up once such fees apply to every one of your card transactions. Chase, Capital One, and Bank of America all offer some great credit card options that will not charge you for usage abroad and often come with excellent travel rewards programs as well. With my Charles Schwab debit card, I can withdraw cash from any ATM worldwide without incurring any transaction fees, so the longer you travel or live abroad, the more you will end up saving.


Finally, as far as healthcare is concerned, Argentina does provide free healthcare to everyone in the country, including tourists and foreign workers. I always prefer to purchase my own international health insurance plan for peace of mind and to ensure that I will receive the best possible care if needed. My decision turned out to be an especially important precaution as a single woman in a foreign country without any local contacts initially. The insurance did prove valuable when I got sick after a trip to Iguazu Falls and needed an English-speaking doctor. I used and would highly recommend GeoBlue Health Insurance, which offers great coverage for expats and “global citizens.”

How to Meet People in Buenos Aires

People love to hang out in the many parks in the city.
People love to hang out in the many parks in the city.

Meeting people and developing a social life is crucial to establishing yourself and feeling at ease in any new city, and that applies to Buenos Aires. However, it can be confusing, frustrating, and alienating if you feel like you don't know how and where to find the resources to meet local people, travelers passing through, or expats.

Buenos Aires is unusually hospitable in that it lends itself rather easily to making new friends and meeting people through organized events, groups, and programs throughout the city. Some of these groups and programs you will have to actively seek out, while others you may stumble upon while sitting at a coffee shop or sipping on mate in the Bosques de Palermo. Often you will accidentally encounter a Spanish conversational group meeting, a free yoga class in the park, or see people running together in a large runners’ group. A great resource for finding social groups and clubs for like-minded individuals is the popular Meetup website, which allows you to join any number of public groups with scheduled meetups in the city. If you are looking to meet backpackers or study abroad students, look to groups such as Argentina For All and BAIS Argentina , which organize trips, pub-crawls, and social activities for young adults at low costs. Joining various Facebook groups for expats is another great way to meet people in Buenos Aires. 

Author enjoying a glass of Argentinian red wine.
Author enjoying a glass of Argentinian red wine.

Other ways to connect include signing up for tango lessons; taking food, bike, or city tours; befriending local tour guides; joining a local fútbol league, or getting a job working at a coffee or retail shop to meet more locals. However you decide to get out and about, the most important piece of advice I can offer is not to be shy! You have already made it this far outside your comfort zone by moving to a foreign country, so try not to be afraid to say hello and strike up a friendly conversation with a stranger. Porteños (Buenos Aires locals), while retaining a reputation for being a bit snooty or posh, are quite friendly in reality, and tend to be very welcoming to foreigners who are living in the city.

Adjustments to Living in Buenos Aires

Of course, it would be a disservice to minimize the social and psychological adjustments involved in moving to another country and creating a new life, and Argentina is no exception. Exchanging your home and culture for an entirely different practical reality is difficult, and figuring out how to build a life from the ground up is certainly trying. However, you will likely eventually feel rewarded for these periodic feeling of adversity due to an overwhelming sense of accomplishment and pride for having done so successfully. In my case, the sense of satisfactory emotional adjustment was realized in various episodes. First, the barista at my favorite Palermo coffee shop knew my name and coffee order. Then I stopped to chat with an acquaintance on a stroll through Plaza Armenia and naturally greeted him with a single-cheek kiss. Finally, strangers on the metro asked if I knew at which stop to get off for San Telmo and I knew the answer, understanding their thick, Italian-cadenced Argentine accents and responding effortlessly in Spanish. After these episodes, I began to feel at home and was proud of having made a place for myself in Buenos Aires, the city of my dreams.

I eventually came to feel well established in the city. I spent my Sundays having asado on rooftop terraces of Argentine friends. I gathered with a mix of locals and expats for evenings of improvised percussion concerts at La Bomba de Tiempo. I found my favorite booths at the weekly San Telmo open-air market.

At the same time, I could not help at times still feeling challenged by the cultural differences, language barrier, and overall unfamiliarity. For me, the greatest struggle I faced in Buenos Aires was how seemingly temporary my situation felt. I did have some Argentine friends. However, I mainly surrounded myself with transient expats and study abroad students who were largely from Europe and other South American countries, which made for a way of life involving ever-changing friends. The sense of impermanence and social alienation was one of the main contributing factors in my decision to leave Buenos Aires after six months. In retrospect, to counter such feelings, I really should have gone all-out to become more integrated into the local, more permanent society by forming stronger relationships with my porteño friends and become more involved in community activities.

For those hoping to become fully immersed in Buenos Aires society, I cannot stress enough the importance of taking chances. Say “yes” to opportunities that present themselves. Practice the language and learn how to use famed local slang such as boludo and che correctly. Keep an open mind. Be open and willing to learn and accept another culture, the great people, and events that can be found everywhere in Buenos Aires.


The Teatro Colón opera in Buenos Aires is extremely popular.
The Teatro Colón opera in Buenos Aires is extremely popular.

Buenos Aires is an extremely eclectic city brimming with culture, from the halls of the Casa Rosada to Evita Perón’s final resting place in the Recoleta Cemetery. On any given day, you would be hard-pressed not to find a local street fair, crowds flocking to the opera at Teatro Colón, and porteños sitting down to dinner well past 10 p.m. Moving to this marvelous city and creating a new life is sure to be one of the most rewarding, exciting, and challenging experiences you will ever have. It will test you, push you to your limits, and help you realize your great strength and capabilities. Though leaving everything behind and starting anew may seem difficult or unattainable, I assure you that it is both possible and rewarding. I encourage anyone hoping to make a move to Buenos Aires to take the plunge.

More Buenos Aires Resources

Teaching English

Breaking News English (Free English Lesson Plans)

LinguaHouse (Free English Lesson Plans)

Buenos Aires English Teachers Facebook Group



Useful Buenos Aires Guides

Longely Planet Online Guide to Buenos Aires

Ask a Local: What To Do In Buenos Aires, Argentina

Related Topics
Living in Argentina: Articles and Resources
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Living in Buenos Aires: Enjoy a Better Life in the Capital of Argentina
Expat Life in Buenos Aires: The Paris of South America
Living in Buenos Aires on a Budget is Now Possible
Teaching English in Buenos Aires: Despite the Poor Economy in Argentina, English Classes Are Popular
Teaching English as a Foreign Language in Argentina

Sophie Mendel Sophie Mendel is an American travel writer currently based in Chicago, Illinois. She created a full life in Buenos Aires during her six months in the city and returned to the States far richer for the experience. She has traveled to over 40 countries and has lived in five. She is fluent in English and Spanish and is always in the process of learning more languages. Read more about her adventures on her blog The Unbounded Traveler.

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