Musings about early retirement with no fixed address

Mosquitoes Suck The Fun Out Of Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is filled with tree-line streets and European-style architecture. The large city has numerous parks and top notch museums. Prior to our visit, it seemed like a place that we would really mesh with. The timing of our visit could not have been worse however, as it coincided with unprecedented and relentless swarms of mosquitoes. These parasites made it basically impossible to enjoy any of the green spaces, and most of the time, it was hard just being outside at all. The indoor activities we found were not nearly enough to offset the otherwise miserable outdoor conditions.  

No Power Greeting

Upon arriving in Buenos Aires from Mendoza, we learned that a large storm had passed through the previous evening. Unfortunately for us, it knocked out power to our apartment building. It’s a little hard to get settled without power or internet, but we still had access to potable tap water and our gas stove worked, so we could function okay for the time being. We delayed our normal day 1 stocking up, went to bed early, and looked forward to everything being restored on day 2. 

We found the Floraris Generica mechanical flower destroyed by a recent storm as well (not the same one)

When we woke up the next morning, the power was still out, but that wasn’t the only issue. We now had no water. The building setup is with a large water tank on the roof which was supplying the water the night before. But that tank was now empty and it needed power to be refilled. This was an even bigger problem than no power, since we had a single flush left in the toilet. We didn’t even have the option to add bottled water to the tank, as the toilet design is possibly the worst I’ve ever encountered, with the tank inexplicably hidden inside of the wall. 

24 hours after arriving, our phones were dying and we were hungry, so we trudged off to the grocery store. Luckily, they had power (and a flushing toilet). In fact, pretty much the entirety of our neighborhood had power, minus our building for some unknown reason. At the grocery we found an empty out-of-the-way outlet and I plopped down on the floor next to our charging phones while Katie shopped for non-refrigerated food. Once she was done, we switched. Eventually our batteries were topped off and we had some options for light meals, so we headed back to read books and wait for power.

A couple of ribeyes for less than $4

We expected the power to be returned at any time, and kept hearing promises of soon, this afternoon, etc. But once it reached 8pm on night 2, we gave up and booked a room at nearby hotel. Luckily, the power was restored at some point overnight and when we returned on the morning of day 3, our apartment was fully functional. Finally! So Buenos Aires didn’t provide the best introduction, but shit happens and we were ready to get past it and enjoy our stay.

Mosquitoes Everywhere

We quickly learned that we weren’t going to be enjoying ourselves outside any time soon. The mosquito situation was out of control. The media headlines were calling it a mosquito invasion and touting it as the worst it’s been in decades. And it was really bad. We would have mosquitoes land on our face while walking down the sidewalk. If we had to stop for a crosswalk signal, it was constant swatting. Trying to whip out our phones to take a picture meant that we were ripe for the picking. And we could forget about going to a park or any green space, because it was a full on swarm that we would’ve needed mosquito netting in order to come away unscathed. 

But they weren’t just bothersome outside. They were everywhere. They were in the grocery stores. They were in the subway. And of course they were in our apartment. So you’d think that someplace with a lot of mosquitoes would have some level of protection available, right? Well, you would be wrong. There was not a single bottle of mosquito repellent for sale anywhere; no citronella oil, no semi-effective herbal concoctions, and definitely no DEET. We searched high and low and were willing to pay just about any price. There was absolutely nothing anywhere. Apparently it was all sold during the previous mosquito invasion that happened 6 weeks before our arrival and not a single company, budding entrepreneur, or anyone at all had been able to get any more in stock since then. It was unfathomable to me.

To make matters worse, some of these mosquitoes are known carriers of Dengue Fever. There were PSA billboards everywhere warning about Dengue and showing steps on how to prevent it. Guess what the very first step is? Use mosquito repellent! Wouldn’t that be nice? With no repellent and massive swarms everywhere, we did our best to minimize bites, even if we couldn’t avoid getting them completely. That mostly meant staying at home a lot, sticking to busy streets when out, and being constantly on the move. None of that was foolproof, but it at least helped.

Eventually the massive invasion subsided, but it took 4 weeks. These mosquitoes really put a major damper on our first month. By month two, we finally started being able to visit some of the many parks and green spaces in the city. And they were pretty great, until the mosquitoes returned for our last two weeks! At least by then it was a lot cooler out, so it wasn’t an imposition to be fully covered when leaving the house. But they chased us out of any parks for the remainder of our stay. In all we had about a 10 day window where we were comfortable going outside during our 61 day stay. What a bust.

Passport Renewal

Immediately upon arrival to Buenos Aires, we sent off our passports for renewal. They were expiring soon, and everything I’ve read says that renewal abroad is much faster than renewal in the US. The estimated processing time was 4-5 weeks, and we were staying for 8.5, so we figured it was a good time to get it done. We gathered up our paperwork, paid our fees, and mailed our passports off to the local embassy.

This was mostly uneventful, except for dealing with the DHL office. We needed to have a prepaid return label included with our renewal package, but we had a very difficult time communicating this with the clerk. All of the Google Translate in the world did not seem to get the message across. She kept assuring us that she had done this before and would get us a prepaid return label. And then she kept sealing the envelope before including said return label. But after a few wasted envelopes and a lot of broken Spanish, we finally got everything needed sent off. We hoped. That process didn’t instill a lot of confidence.

While we could see that the envelope got delivered the next day, the rest of the renewal process was entirely opaque. There was no confirmation email, nor any type of acknowledgement that our passports had been received and were in process. We basically just had to wait in the dark and hope that we actually included everything needed, that they would be done in time, and that the return label would actually work. It turns out that it’s slightly unnerving to be in a foreign country with no passport. We lost the safety net that we could just leave if it was ever necessary. This may have induced some flashbacks to Vietnam lockdowns that I didn’t expect.

In the end, everything was just fine. Our new passports were delivered to us in exactly 4 weeks and we now have our official documents for the next decade. The return package included our old passports, which we needed to “close the loop” upon leaving Argentina. The Argentina immigration agents only wanted to see our old invalidated passports, and then we just started with the new passports when entering Uruguay.

What We Did

We did actually manage to do a few things during our two months in the city. We were especially active during that 10 day window where the mosquitoes were not overwhelming, spending a lot of time in various parks. The city has a couple of very nice art museums as well. There is a famous opera house turned bookstore that lived up to the billing. And the Metropolitan Cathedral was well worth the time spent.  

Reserva Ecológica Costanera Sur

This large coastal park (South Coast Ecological Preserve) is good for bird watching and offers expansive ocean views and various hiking paths through the lowlands on the eastern edge of the city. It’s quite popular on sunny weekends, and locals take advantage of the picnic areas and a pitiful little beach that kids love nonetheless. We visited one and a half times during our stay. The first was great and we spent many hours hiking around and enjoying the nature. The second ended prematurely as those blood sucking parasites chased us out after about half an hour. 

A pair of Crested Caracaras foraging

Buenos Aires Ecoparque

Formerly a full fledged zoo, the Buenos Aires Eco Park now functions as a zoo hybrid. They still have elephants, bison, giraffes, tapirs, condors, and other animals that are used to a lot more range in way too small enclosures. But in addition there are free range animals like Patagonian maras, peacocks, and nutria that can be found throughout and seem to be quite happy living there. We really enjoyed hanging out with the plentiful Patagonian maras; a cute rodent that looks like a deer-rabbit hybrid that we hadn’t seen before our arrival in Argentina. 

The maras made friends with all the animals, including this bison

Museo Bellas Artes

The Buenos Aires Fine Arts Museum is the best museum we’ve been to in South America so far. It offers a broad collection with impressive displays covering a wide variety of styles and time periods. There are rooms for indigenous pottery, local painters, European impressionists, classical sculpture, antiquities, gargantuan tapestries, modern art, and more. There’s not a plethora of any one type, but the pieces they do have are all quality examples of their style. I’m not sure I’ve ever been in a museum with so much variety before. And it’s free!

Two Ballerinas Yellow and Pink – Edgar Degas
Woman with the Blue Collar – Moise Kisling
This giant tapestry from the 1600s – Scipio’s Banquet After The Triumph by Everaert Leyniers III

Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)

The Latin American Museum is much more focused than the Fine Arts Museum. The theme is top works from Latin American artists from the last 150 years. The display space is quite large and has an open layout. Here we found interesting art from both classic and modern Latin American artists. We enjoyed exhibits featuring Frida Kahlo, Antonio Berni, and others. 

Demonstration by Antonio Berni
Self Portrait with Monkey and Parrot – Frida Kahlo
The Woman in the Red Sweater – Antonio Berni

Metropolitan Cathedral

The Buenos Aires Metropolitan Cathedral is the home church of Pope Francis, the current leader of the Catholic faithful. The outside is somewhat understated, especially compared to the inside which is quite intricate. This is particularly true with the floor, as the entire cathedral is covered with mosaic. While all of the building was impressive, the flooring choice was definitely the best part to me.

Every bit of flooring in the entire cathedral was mosaic

Bookstore Opera house

One of the more popular tourist stops in Buenos Aires is the El Ateneo bookstore. The owners converted a formerly abandoned theater into a place of business. It now draws visitors from around the world just to see the bookshelves in a unique atmosphere. Our visit had us among a number of English-speaking tourists, but surprisingly I didn’t see a single English language book. Seemed like a missed opportunity to me, but we enjoyed the stop nonetheless. 

Where We Stayed

We rented an apartment in the Villa Crespo neighborhood, right next door to the popular Palermo neighborhood. We liked the place fine, but it basically turned out to be a studio since the bedroom had no door to it. That part wasn’t really clear when booking. We normally try to avoid studios as I tend to get up earlier than Katie so having an actual bedroom is important for her to be able to sleep. At least the bed was comfortable. And we had a nice cross breeze during the first month of our stay when it was warm enough to matter. 

What We Spent

Overall it was a pretty cheap couple of months in Buenos Aires. Inflation has been going a bit haywire, and during our two months we witnessed prices increase in many places. For example, our favorite empanadas increased by 20% during our 2 months, from 900 ARS to 1100 ARS each ($1.15). But most things were still starting from a pretty affordable spot, so the sharp increases didn’t make a ton of difference. The masses of mosquitoes had us involuntarily spending a lot of time at home, which of course is pretty cheap. Overall we spent $3900 during our 2 months in Buenos Aires. Adding in our recurring bills like MLB.TV and health insurance brings our grand total to $4420, or $72/day. 

As you can tell from the title of this post, we didn’t have the best time in Buenos Aires. I’m sure there are a lot of great things to see and do that we missed, but between the plentiful mosquitoes and the nonexistent repellent, we weren’t able to get to them. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. We enjoyed the cathedral and some of the museums, but it wasn’t enough to offset the other issues. Our previous month in Mendoza wasn’t our favorite either, so we are not sad to be putting Argentina in the rear view mirror. ¡Adios!


  1. Ryan

    Thank you for the post aaaaaaaaaaand likewise for the mosquito heightened awareness / rabbit hole I went down this morning…!

    We rely upon Weatherspark to coordinate our travel around prevailing weather patterns.. I am curious if there’s a parallel site or app for mosquitoes, too..!

    Also thanks for the reminder re passport renewal – at least that process went smoothly for you.

    Re Buenos Aires – was it a cash only or could you pay with credit card / tap n pay, too..?

    • Eric

      Hi Ryan,
      I don’t know of any site that predicts mosquitoes, especially these once in a generation type events. But I feel like most places would have repellent for sale and am still confused as to how/why Argentina couldn’t work that out.

      All of the larger businesses take credit card, while some of the smaller ones still only accept cash or debit. I will say that everywhere required ID to use the card, and it was quite strict in some places. Luckily we were able to use our US Drivers Licenses, since we didn’t have passports for much of the stay. But they asked every time, even for self checkout at the grocery.

  2. A Purple Life

    Oh no!! I’m so sorry to hear about your troubles in BA. That mosquito invasion sounds horrible. When I was there in November 2022 I was shocked that I basically never saw a mosquito, which made more sense to me after I noticed there were no screens on windows or doors. Everyone’s house was open to the elements. Ugh – I can’t even imagine. Anyway, I’m happy to hear y’all had a few days of relative peace and that you saw some lovely things!

    Great job with your spending too and thank you for the tip about renewing a passport abroad. I haven’t ever thought of that – though I might also be too freaked out about not having a passport in a foreign country to try it 🙂 . We’ll see. Thank you as always for the update!

    • Eric

      Hey Purple,
      Yeah, it was clear pretty early on that Buenos Aires had no experience in dealing with these mosquitoes. I think it helped that our apartment was on the 6th floor, so while it wasn’t too high for mosquitoes to get to, there were definitely fewer at that level. But it was pretty hard to escape them, even if we avoided the parks (which we really wanted to see).

  3. Noel

    Sucks about the mosquitos. I can’t sleep if there’s a mosquito buzzing around my bedroom, which has made for some terrible nights in tropical places. Hopefully you guys were able to keep them out of the apartment for the most part. Was Airbnb able to comp you for the hotel?

    Argentina is a place I really want to visit, now I know to check for the mosquito situation before hand. Did you get to go to any restaurants where they cook the steaks on a wood fired parilla? Or good pizza spots? The few Argentines I’ve met over the years never stop talking about the pizza in BA. Hope the next spot doesn’t have the same mosquito problem. Safe travels

    • Eric

      Hi Noel,
      It didn’t even occur to me to reach out to Airbnb, so we just paid for it since it was just one night. I’m not sure if they would’ve helped or not. Mostly we stuck with empanadas when it came to eating out. I have some dietary restrictions that make pizza a no go, so we didn’t try that, although we saw a number of spots that looked pretty popular.

  4. Glenda lehman

    Wow, that was a good read. Sorry about the mosquitoes. That would drive anyone nuts. You will certainly have a lasting memory of your travels to Buenos Aires. Good luck on your next destination.

    • Eric

      Hi Glenda,
      Hope you are doing well. I think we’re both okay if this memory fades. 🙂

  5. Jill Modert

    Thank you for sharing your adventures. I’m the instructor for Children’s Concerns (child sexual abuse prevention) and your mom has been involved with this organization for decades. I enjoy international travel so hearing from people that have actually been there versus a travel site selling vacations is fascinating to me. I hope that your next stop makes up for your less than stellar recent stops. I would have been nervous shipping off my passport too. I once dropped my passport on the tarmac in Iceland during a quick layover solo. I knew a lady at the Reykjavik airport and it was returned to me. As Rick Steves says, Travel is intensified living. Enjoy. Jill Modert, Sturgis

    • Eric

      Hi Jill,
      Thanks for your comment. I think regular travel is a bit less glamorous than those vacation sites make it out to be, as our time in Buenos Aires proved. I’m glad it’s still worth reading.

  6. Raina allegra

    Eric and Katie,
    I love hearing and reading about your adventures! The BA one didn’t sound the best with those pesky mosquitos!
    At least you had some time to venture out and enjoy things!
    Also so happy to finally get to see and meet you all in Michigan at mom and dad’s! Your dinners were amazing! Thanks so much! Looking forward to reading about your next place! Enjoy and sending lots of love from NC!

    • Eric

      Hi Raina,
      It was nice to finally meet you too. Glad you’re enjoying the blog.

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