If you’re going to Argentina for a week, a month, or several years, you might be wondering what to pick up along the way. We certainly were! Here’s what we’ve come up with as either good deals and/or quintessentially Argentinian items:
Don’t know what these are? I actually bet you do. Known in the US as Toms, these canvas slip on shoes with rubber soles are incredibly common footwear in Argentina. You can find them in every store (even the grocery store), and they are significantly cheaper than their $60 per pair US cousins. Stock up on the fun patterns and colors.
Is there anything more Argentinian than mate? I think not. Take away an Argentinian’s mate cup, and it’s like you took away his left arm. Needless to say, with mate being so ubiquitous, there are thousands of mate designs and materials. Mates can be gourds, wooden, ceramic–the ingenuity given to this simple item boggles the mind. I’ve even seen some extremely high end ones made of sterling silver. Just be careful about bringing yerba mate back to the US–it looks suspiciously like marijuana to US customs. You can buy yerba mate Stateside in more hippie-dippie grocery stores like Whole Foods, and it’s also available on Amazon (as all things are…). Even if you don’t like the taste of mate, having the actual mate kit is a fun souvenir that really is the most Argentinian thing ever.
Gems and Other Stones
At all of the tourist traps and in all the airport shops, you’ll see all sorts of little statues, beads, and jewelry made of precious stones. Argentina is full of beautiful gems (see: Wanda Mines near Iguazu). A lot of it can get touristy very quickly–but some of the pieces are beautiful! Generally reasonable prices, particularly outside of the heavily touristy areas.
Argentina is the land of Malbec. Beautiful, delicious malbec. It’s easy to grab a great bottle of wine at the grocery store for less than $10USD–so save some room in your luggage or home goods shipment for some bottles. Just be ready to pack them up nicely–I like these wine bags.
From purses to belts to shoes to jackets–leather is king, and it is good quality and cheap. There are some really inventive and high quality leather goods to be found in Argentina. I’ve found it best to not just frequent the stores on Avenida Florida, but instead to branch out to more of the boutique places to find some really good deals on really interesting pieces. If you’re looking for a good brand name, try Prune. They’re based in almost every city in Argentina, and make very good quality. Also, their stores make you feel incredibly fancy–they’re set up like very high end boutiques in the US, and often their associated speak at least a bit of English to help the confused tourist.
ALL THE MEAT
This one only applies if you’ll be here for a while, but if you’re going full on expat and you have a kitchen, take advantage of the incredibly low meat prices (especially high quality, grass-fed beef). That random braising method you were nervous to try with pricey US meat? Do it here!
Home Accents and Hardware from the 1890s to 1940s
Do you have a home in that age range? Get thee to San Telmo! We found lots of neat hardware (doorknobs, drawer pulls, fixtures) from this time frame–and for reasonably cheap. Those years were Argentina’s hey-day, when the world saw Buenos Aires as one of the richest and most luxurious cities in the world. (Harrod’s even had their ONLY other store in Buenos Aires! It’s now shut down since the 2001 economic crisis, but the building still stands with the original sign on Avenida Florida.) Stock up on some of these awesome little items–not just souvenirs, but really practical as well!
The other item in large supply at San Telmo are the old glass seltzer water bottles. In beautiful green and blue glass, these are virtually never seen in the US–but are incredibly common in flea markets in Argentina! Even today, you can get a seltzer man to come to your house and fill up your bottles. (Apparently this is now a hipster thing in the US. )
I’m sure we’ll think of other good things to pick up in Argentina and I’ll have to do a part two! The country is full of exciting street fairs and flea markets–with lots of inventive craftspeople showing their wares.