Vicky Baker, The Guardian, April 25, 2012
Buenos Aires now has more boutique hotels than you can shake a polo whip at. Unfortunately, it also has surging rates of inflation that now puts them out of reach for more budget-conscious visitors. So where does this leave the traveller who wants a place with a comfy bed, a clean shower and plenty of character, but who could happily skip the in-house spa and room service?
If you hunt around (and not necessarily just in the usual hotspots), there are still some good deals to be had. San Telmo and Palermo remain the most popular areas to stay in, but you can easily save a substantial number of pesos by staying a few blocks down the road, while getting more of a barrio (neighbourhood) feel too.
Pop Hotel, Villa Crespo
As the name suggests, pop art is the theme here in Buenos Aires' "first budget boutique hotel". It opened late last year in the emerging Villa Crespo neighbourhood, which has a scattering of hip cafes and inventive restaurants but without the tourist saturation of nearby Palermo. Clean, fresh and urban, the 44-room property doesn't let you forget where you are: its "pop" logo branded on to everything from the hangers to the soaps. You also get plenty of modern extras too, including an iPod dock and a security safe that's "big enough for a laptop". Breakfast involves taking a voucher to a cafe down the road, which is unusual but no real inconvenience.
• +54 11 4776 6900, pophotelsbuenosaires.com. Doubles from around £57 per night (special offer of two nights for the price of three available)
Bed and Breakfast Ada & Valentyn, Monserrat, bordering San Telmo
Stepping inside this century-old apartment block and pulling the cage door across the old-fashioned lift takes you back to Buenos Aires of yesteryear. Another newcomer to the scene, this B&B is immaculately clean, with high ceilings, polished wooden floors and vintage furniture that has been hand restored by the owners. The building is also surprisingly quiet considering you are just a couple of blocks from Plaza de Mayo, the site of almost daily protests about one thing or another. Tango fanatics Ada and Valentyn (a multilingual couple from Argentina and Holland respectively) are full of enthusiasm about their new venture and go out of their way to help guests enjoy their stay. All visitors are invited to join them on their Friday evening trip to a milonga (tango dancehall).
• +54 11 4343 6251, bedandbreakfastbuenosaires.com. Doubles from £35, singles from £22
Lola House, Boedo
Painted a sunny shade of yellow, this colonial house is designed in the "chorizo" style, meaning it extends back from a central patio like a sausage. Situated in Boedo, an oft-forgotten barrio to the south, its single-storey frontage opens out to reveal 12 en suite rooms. Original decorations such as Spanish tiles and stained glass windows give it a personality that is characteristically porteño (of Buenos Aires). With a Subte (metro) stop just around the corner, you are a 10-minute ride from San Telmo. Currently, the huge terrace has no outdoor seating, which seems like a missed opportunity, but apparently some changes are afoot.
• +54 11 4932 2139, lolahouse.com.ar. Singles from £57, double £70, triples £86
If you want to stay in the heart of Palermo Soho (home to all the flashest boutiques, restaurants and bars), but don't fancy paying through nose, this down-to-earth, British-run B&B is your answer. Having the 50-square-metre "grand suite" here feels like having your own apartment. Breakfast is served on the upstairs terrace, which is surrounded by pot plants and is a suntrap even in winter. Hosts David and Zoe are renowned for their local knowledge and attentive service.
•+54 11 4774 3331, abodebuenosaires.com. Doubles from £57 per night B&B
Casa los Angelitos, Balvanera, one block from the Congress building
Chatty porteño owner Sergio runs this place with his retired parents, who live here and give this place a real family feel. It is best suited to stays of a month or more, but you may get lucky with some short-term availability, especially off season. The rooms come together at the central patio, which is surrounded by exposed-brick walls and plenty of greenery. Breakfast is not included, instead you get use of the kitchen, shared with other guests and the hosts. It's like a mature hostel, attracting guests of all ages, and is a great spot for those sticking around to learn Spanish or tango.
• +54 11 4954 4079, casalosangelitos.com. Double rooms from £13 per person per night
Petit Hotel El Vitraux, Constitución/Monserrat
Argentinian owner Elena is like a whirlwind of buena onda (friendliness). She opened this place with her Dutch partner, Mark, five months ago, and although it is still a bit of a work in progress, a warm welcome is guaranteed. The 90-year-old house has just three guest rooms – all painted lively shades – so there is no chance of feeling like just another anonymous guest. There's a small shady patio downstairs for taking breakfast or an early evening glass of Argentine wine, plus an additional roof terrace with giant ferns, hibiscus, lime trees and an occasional visiting hummingbird. Note that from here you'll want to walk towards Monserrat/San Telmo, rather than the rougher part of Constitución.
• +54 11 2064 9354, petithotelelvitraux.com.ar. Rooms from £25 per night
Livian Guesthouse, Palermo
If this stylish guesthouse were just a couple of blocks down the road, it would probably cost double the price. It's situated on the outer edges of Palermo, meaning you have to walk a little bit to be in the centre of the action, but there are advantages of being on a quiet residential street. This 1920s property is the converted childhood home of owner, Lucila, a former gymnast, who transformed it with her husband, Fernando, a former soap opera star. It's filled with arty touches and retro furniture, plus the large back garden provides a welcome oasis.
• +54 11 4862 8841, livianguesthouse.com.ar. Doubles from £44 (shared bathroom) or from £73 (en suite and little private garden)
Luba Tango House, Palermo
Many guests have said staying here feels like having your own Argentinian mother for a few days, and host Luba relishes this role. She started welcoming travellers into her home (and guests stay in the rooms of her grown-up children) to make ends meet after the 2001 economic crisis hit the country. Argentine homes tend to be filled with chunky furniture and hand-me-downs rather than Ikea-style home assembly kits and this is no exception. The sideboards are covered with family photos and personal knickknacks. Luba also has the low-down on the milongas within in walking distance.
• +54 11 4831 2654, lubatangohouse.com. Singles from £19, doubles from £35
Teresita B&B, Adrogué, Zona Sur
Around 9 million people live in greater Buenos Aires, yet very few tourists travel outside the city core. Adrogué is a middle-class suburb south of the centre, 30 minutes by train. There are just two little cottages at bottom of the garden, both en suite – so you really do get away from it all. The only time you realise that you are not the only tourist in Gran Buenos Aires is when host Teresa opens the door to cookery students. You can join in to learn how to make empanadas or a real Argentinian barbecue (from £35 per person).
• +54 11 4293 5992, gotraveltoargentina.com. Double from £40 per night B&B
San Telmo Loft, San Telmo
Minimalism rarely works in Buenos Aires. Such a vibrant, creative city is reflected better through bright colours and bold statements. Fortunately, San Telmo Loft knows to take the second route, opting for a modern but cosy design. It isn't a hotel; it's an apartment rental service, run by an Argentinian-American team. They started with one "loft" in central San Telmo, just off atmospheric Plaza Dorrego, and now have a small number of similarly stylish properties on their books. Instead of getting a key from an impersonal agent, you'll be met by one of the company owners, who'll have plenty of insider knowledge on the neighbourhood and beyond.
• santelmoloft.com. Approx £44 a night
Do you know any affordable places to stay in Buenos Aires? Add your recommendation in the comments below