BYT Buenos Aires City Tour Review
Description of BYT City Tour of Buenos Aires, Argentina

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I believe a three to four hour city tour is the best way to start a vacation in Buenos Aires.  A comfortable air-conditioned bus takes you around the city and stops at the main attractions.  Also, you learn a little bit about the history of Buenos Aires from a bilingual tour guide.  Unless you are on a tight budget and plan on walking the city yourself, guidebook in hand, I suggest you take a city tour by bus.  The tour takes you to all of the main neighborhoods and allows you to see which you would like to return to for a closer look.

BYT City Tour

Our city tour started on Avenida 9 de Julio, which is the widest Avenue in the world, and was led by a young girl who gave the tour in both English and Spanish.  Although you could understand every word of her English I was disappointed in her translation.  She gave a much more detailed explanation of the attractions in Spanish, so the English speakers were left in the dark.

The Route

We headed north up Avendia 9 de Julio to the neighborhood of Recoleta.  We were given very brief descriptions of the monuments and buildings as we drove through the main streets of Recoleta.  Basically the tour guide would say ‘to your right you will see Recoleta Cemetary, Evita Peron is buried there and it is the first public cemetery of Buenos Aires’.  Although I was disappointed in her descriptions, I was able to jot down things I wished to see again and which neighborhoods I wanted to avoid.

We drove past the Florairs Generica and made are way into Palermo.  She told us that Palermo Woods was a nice place to go for a stroll; there are many museums located in that area and you can take a paddle boat out in the lake.  We passed the monument to Evita, and she informed us that it was the only monument in the city dedicated to Eva Peron.  As there was no time for questions, I was left wondering why in a city with monument on every corner there was only one devoted to the woman who created shelter for the poor, housed orphans and gave women the right to vote.   Later, after I toured the Evita Peron Museum, I understood that Evita was worshiped by some and hated by others.  So, she was actually lucky to have any monument.

Plaza de Mayo

We circled back through Recoleta on Libertador and headed South on Avendia 9 de Julio.  We passed the obelisk, and then stopped at Plaza de Mayo.  Before exiting the bus she told us that the Presidential Palace was painted pink because the two parties of the time were represented by the colors red and white, the president decided to paint the house pink to represent a compromise between the two colors.  We were lucky enough to tour the plaza at the same time the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo were marching.  We took a quick picture before they scattered in different groups.  I wonder if they were offering each other words of encouragement and support.

La Boca

After the 15 minute stop at Plaza de Mayo we passed El Viejo Almacein, which the tour guide said was the oldest café in the city.  I would love to go back, but the neighborhood looked a little shady as this was on the way to La Boca.  As we entered La Boca we could see the soccer stadium, which is known as La Bombonera.  It is called this because of its small size and chocolate-box shape.  An interesting thing the tour guide pointed out was the black and white Coca-Cola advertisement on the side of the stadium.  Other stadiums have the traditional red and white logo plastered on the walls, but because the team colors of River Plate, a rival team, are red and white, Coca-Cola made their advertisement black and white so they didn’t appear to support an opposing team.

El Caminito Street

   
El Caminito Street, The figures on the balcony  waving are Jaun Peron, Eva Peron, and Diego Maradona.
     

We stopped at El Caminito in La Boca.  This is a small block and a half of vibrantly colored buildings, which interesting decor is often photographed and printed on the covers of Buenos Aires Guide Books.  Although La Boca was once a beautiful neighborhood full of streets with the splendor of El Caminito, it is now a run down ghetto with only a small section maintained for tourist.  I am thankful that we visited this area with a tour, because entering and exiting the little tourist trap was a nightmare.  People were living in shelters made of cardboard and sheets.  Families would sit along the road watching the tourist filled busses pass.  Seeing the poverty is heartbreaking and scary.  I wouldn’t want to be in that area without the protection of twenty other tourist and a big bus.

We spent about 30 minutes in El Caminito.  It was plenty of time to walk down the two streets, look in the interesting shops, watch a tango dance and tip the street performers.  Although I am not a fan of tourist nic-knacks, there are plenty of them available.  If you plan on buying a souvenir, do it here, so you can support the community.  I do have to say,  the art in La Boca is very good.

My Overall Opinion of the BYT City Tour

At the end of the tour you could choose to be dropped off at the Galerias Pacifico Mall or Recoleta Cemetery.  I thought it was a little strange they don’t drop you off in the same location they pick you up, but I guess they want you to spend money shopping and sightseeing in the city.

I know my description of the tour is less than flattering, but I still recommend it.  I don’t recommend BYT, and unfortunately I don’t have another company to compare the quality of the tour.  After a long flight to the country, I did enjoy sitting comfortably in a bus to see all of the main city attractions.  It was a nice way to see the city without exerting any effort.  I believe 99% of the city needs to be covered by foot to get a true appreciation of the architecture and history, but the only way to cover it all quickly is by bus.

Cost $35 USD per person through BYT - (54 11) 4821-6057 – look for buy one get one free coupons

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