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Travel EssentialsFebruary 1, 2007 By: Stasha Mills Home-Based Travel Agent
Background info and contacts for at-a-glance trip planning
To call the numbers listed, first dial Argentina's country code (54) then Buenos Aires' city code (11).
Airlift: From the U.S., nonstop flights are available from Miami, New York and Washington, DC. LAN Airlines S.A. (866-435-9526, www.lan.com) flies nonstop from Miami, American Airlines (800-433-7300, www.americanair.com) from Miami and New York and United Airlines (800-241-6522, www.ual.com) from Washington, DC. They, as well as other carriers including Aerolineas Argentinas (800-333-0276, www.aerolineas.com.ar), have flights that connect in cities such as Santiago.
Transportation: A taxi from the airport (EZE) to the city center takes about 45 minutes and costs approximately 50 pesos ($17). Traveling around the city via taxi is recommended as distances are often long and cabs are plentiful and cheap.
Passports and Visas: Americans need passports but not visas to visit Argentina if staying fewer than 90 days.
Climate/Time Zone: Argentina is only two hours later than EST. And because it's in the southern hemisphere, seasons are opposite of ours. July is the coolest month (50 degree average) and it rains more in autumn and spring. High season is October-April. Hotels are often sold out during polo, November-December; book three to four months in advance.
Tour Operators: Buenos Aires is one of the largest destinations for Latour (800-825-0825, www.latour.com), a division of Isram World Travel. They create customized packages, with up to 15 percent commission. Sign in on their web site for info on fam trips and discounts on personal travel.
For your highest end clients, have Blue Parallel (800-256-5307, www.blueparallel.com,
[email protected]) arrange a personalized experience that could include VIP customs expedience and special access to art galleries. The phone rings in both their Potomac, MD, and Buenos Aires offices. The company provides a 10 percent commission on land arrangements. A direct contact is founder Emmanuel Burgio ([email protected]).
Hotels: The city's newest star is the Palacio Duhau—Park Hyatt Buenos Aires, which opened July 2006. A former residence, the 1934 building houses 23 guest rooms and 12 suites in the Palace building. The newer Posadas building has 142 rooms and 27 suites. Décor in the Palace building is fittingly older—with antique Persian rugs and crystal chandeliers—while the Posadas building has a more contemporary feel. The top accommodation is the 1,800-square-foot Duhau Suite, which has one bedroom, dining and sitting rooms, fireplace and 360-degree city views from a wraparound balcony. All rooms come with butler service. The hotel has extensive private gardens, numerous restaurants and the 8,100-square-foot Ahin Wellness & Spa.
Because the hotel is split into two buildings (they are connected underground via a long walkway) with separate entrances and staffs, things can get confusing. I found the concierge staff not up to the level expected at this price range (at press time rates ranged from $375 for a Park King to $975 for a Park Executive Suite). The general manager is Christophe Lorvo.
For a more Old World feel, book clients at the Alvear Palace Hotel, two blocks from the Park Hyatt in fashionable Recoleta. All 110 rooms and 100 suites in this 1932 property with a very high staff-to-guest ratio come with butler service, free Internet and fresh fruit and flowers. Floors 2,4,7 and 8 are nonsmoking. The top accommodation is the one Royal suite, which has two bedrooms, two bathrooms (one with a sauna) and a six-person dining area. There's a variety of restaurants here including the well-respected La Bourgogne. A new spa is in the works (now there's a small pool and fitness area) as is the conversion of a top-floor ballroom into suites and maybe an outdoor pool. Rack rates range from $550 for a Palace room to $4,500 for a Royal suite. Solange Detry (4808-2960, [email protected]), director of marketing and sales, is the travel agent liason. A Virtuoso property and a member of The Leading Hotels of the World, the hotel can be booked using the Leading Hotels code.
The Marriott Plaza Hotel Buenos Aires is a good choice for clients on a budget, although its proximity to Florida Street might bust their wallets instead. Recommend Park View rooms, which have bow windows overlooking historic Plaza San Martín with its majestic trees and grassy area. Junior suites and suites are spacious and good bets as well. If a special rate has been negotiated, commission is net; otherwise the hotel gives agents a 10 percent commission. Rates hover in the $200 range. The direct contact on property is Tony Peró, the senior sales manager for tour and travel.
Restaurants: Porteños (Buenos Aires natives) eat late—dinner is usually 10 or 11 p.m.—but most restaurants also serve closer to the hours Americans are used to. Literally around the corner from the Park Hyatt is the city's most famous restaurant, La Cabaña (4814-0001, www.orient-express.com). Opened in 1935, this bastion of beef, which has served everyone from Prince Philip to Keith Richards, has been in its more fashionable location since 2003. A beef upstart is the popular Cabaña Las Lilas (4313-1336, www.laslilas.com), on the water in Puerto Madero. For a dinner that doesn't have to be all about beef, cab over to Sucre (4782-9082, www.sucrerestaurant.com.ar), a trendy yet comfortable restaurant for all generations. There's an open kitchen with a wood-fire grill and menu options such as ceviche and lemon risotto.
Other: VAT is 21 percent; visitors can claim it back by filling out the proper forms at the point of purchase and getting a refund at the airport. At press time, the exchange rate was three pesos to a dollar. Take safety precautions as you would in any big city.
Education: Travel Agent University (www.tauniv.com) is scheduled to have an Argentina training program this spring. —AM
Ezeira International Airport www.aa2000.ar
Alvear Palace Hotel
Marriott Plaza Hotel
Palacio Duhau—Park Hyatt