8 tips for responsible travel in Argentina

The home of tango, gauchos, iconic natural sights and some of the world’s best wine, Argentina is a special place. I’ve explored the country extensively over the course of several visits, from Patagonia to Iguazu Falls, and my fair share of wineries in between. Along the way, I’ve learned a few great ways to minimise your impact when you visit.

Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the world’s last remaining advancing glaciers © Sarah Reid

Learn some Spanish

At the very least, it’s good manners to learn a few Spanish words and phrases before visiting a Spanish-speaking country – buenos dias (good morning), gracias (thank you) and por favor (please) are a good start, but you’ll have more meaningful interactions with locals if you make the effort to sign up for tuition before you travel, take classes when you arrive, or practice at home with the help of a free app like Duolingo.

Brush up on social etiquette

Although Argentines may be very vocal about politics and religion, avoid adding your opinions to these discussions unless asked. Other controversial subjects best avoided are Las Malvinas (The Falklands) and the Perón years, which divided Argentina. Being on time for social events is considered rude (even though they tend to start so late!) and it’s good manners to try mate when this famous Argentinan drink is offered (bonus points for pretending to like this grassy-tasting tea). Whining about having to wait until after 8pm to find anywhere open for dinner will fall on deaf ears.

100 pesos says this horse in Salta Province is happier than Argentina’s rodeo ponies © Sarah Reid

Avoid rodeos

Gaucho rodeos are a draw for some visitors to Argentina, based on their role as a showcase of ‘traditional’ cowboy culture. But thanks to the hard work of animal welfare experts like the folks behind equine charity Brooke, which is dedicated to improving the lives of working horses, donkeys and mules, we now know that ‘traditional’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘good’. There is plenty of evidence that animals suffer greatly during many rodeo events, which doesn’t make it a very responsible activity to support as a tourist.

Get out of Buenos Aires

BA is a wonderful city, but Argentina is home to loads of other great cities that need your pesos. I recently attended an adventure tourism event in the northern city of Salta, and I had a fantastic time exploring this ultra authentic corner of the country with my various hosts, and on my own. Wherever you go, seek out operators that are committed to sustainability and responsible travel. I did some touring around Salta with Say Hueque, which gives back to the people, culture and environments it visits via its Say Solidario project.

Finca Valentina was the perfect place to end my recent visit © Sarah Reid

Choose eco-hotels

Argentina isn’t as well known as Peru or Chile for its sustainable hotel scene, but there are a few great options scattered across the country. I splurged on a few nights at Home Hotel in Buenos Aires when I arrived in the country on my most recent visit – it claims to be the first boutique hotel in the capital to incorporate a ‘green side’ to its business, and I was impressed by initiatives including pump-action toiletries, power-saving motion sensor lights and a solar-heated pool. I’ve heard rave reviews about eco-luxe Estancia Cristina in Patagonia, and when I was in Salta, I had a wonderful night at Finca Valentina, a restored heritage farmhouse that showcases home-grown produce in delicious meals, and eschews single-use plastics.

Can you tell how stoked I am to refill my water bottle from a glacier? © Sarah Reid

Pack out your trash (and take recyclables home if you can)

Argentina was a late adopter of recycling. In many parts of the country – including the Patagonian hiking hub of El Chalten – it still doesn’t exist. Limit your impact by avoiding single-use plastics and unnecessarily packaged consumables, take special care to pack out all your rubbish on hikes and walks, and bring recyclables home with you to ensure they are recycled properly if you are able to.

Keep your food secure at Iguazu Falls

Visitors to the world’s largest waterfall system will notice signs on the Argentinian side advising people not to feed the raccoon-like animals called coatis that live around the falls. Not only are coatis potential rabies carriers (travel health doctors recommend getting vaccinated if you get scratched), but feeding them disrupts their natural habits and makes them aggressive (they are not afraid to jump on you if they think you have snacks). When I visited in 2011, there were no warning signs (and even more coatis) on the Brazilian side of the falls. This doesn’t make it OK to entice them with food so you can get a good photo.

It’s a shame that hikers need to be told (in three languages) to clean up after themselves  © Sarah Reid

Think beyond steak

Argentina is famous for its steak, and tucking into a juicy bife de chorizo (top loin, one of the juiciest cuts) is a quintessential travel experience. But before you order one every night, consider the environmental impact. Agriculture is a significant driver of global warming, with cows belching up to 120kg of methane into the atmosphere – which causes more damage than carbon dioxide – per year. The popular red meat also requires 28 times more land to produce than pork or chicken, and 11 times more water. In a nutshell, it is not a particularly responsible daily choice.

Thanks to the Adventure Travel Trade Asociation, Say Hueque, Walk Patagonia and Kallpa for supporting my recent visit to Argentina.