Living In Argentina As An Expat – The Ultimate Relocation Guide

A detailed manual for expats on how to move and settle down in Argentina - paperwork, the pros and cons and practical tips.

At the southern tip of South America is the country of Argentina. With its long coastlines, endless prairies, and towering Andes Mountains, it’s an exciting destination that should be on everyone’s radar.

It produces world-class wine, has a thriving nightlife, and is home to the national treasure known as Tango.

Every year, millions of people visit Argentina to experience its rich culture and fun activities. As incredible as it is to visit, living in Argentina is an even better way to enjoy the rich culture and beautiful surroundings of this one-of-a-kind country. 

In this guide, we will talk about all aspects of moving and settling down in Argentina. We will discuss the pros and cons of living here, the costs, the areas and the important things you need to know to make your relocation successful.

Is Argentina a good place to live?

Argentina is a great place to live. The country has a lot to offer its residents. It is one of the safest countries on the continent, with a developed infrastructure, nice weather, and kind people.

What’s more, is that the country prides itself on its history of immigration. Many Argentines descended from European immigrants, mainly from Spain and Italy. Because of this, locals have a favorable attitude towards foreigners who move here. 

Living in Argentina: the pros and cons

Like anywhere in the world, life in Argentina has its pros and cons. Below is an honest list of the positives and negatives of living in Argentina. 

The pros of living to Argentina

1. Excellent healthcare

Argentina has one of the best healthcare systems in South America. You’ll have access to top-rated health care professionals at a low cost. 

2. Kind and hospitable people

People in Argentina are nice. Once you’ve made friends with a local, you’ll often be invited over for a traditional BBQ known as a parrilla, pronounced pa-ree-sha

3. Rich culture

Argentina has a culture that owes itself to Spanish and Italian immigrants. Late-night BBQs, cafe culture, and a love for dancing well into the night are all Argentine qualities.

What’s more, the country’s cities, especially its capital, pride themselves on their world-class museums, famous restaurants, and architecture that rivals Europe.  

4. A love for the arts

Whether it’s tango, literature, or fine arts, Argentines love art and make it accessible to all. 

5. Nice climate

Most of Argentina’s cities enjoy a temperate climate with mild winters and hot summers. Snow is rare in the capital and heavy rainstorms are infrequent. 

6. Hub for travel

Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, has a large international airport with direct service to many locations around the world. 

7. Inexpensive

Argentina is one of the most affordable countries to live in. Food, property, and rent are affordable. That being said, imports like clothing and electronics are sometimes double the cost of what you’d pay in Europe and North America. 

8. Safe

Buenos Aires, Rosario, and other large cities have neighborhoods that foreigners and locals should avoid.

That being said, most of Argentina is as safe as anywhere else in the world. Crime, especially violent crime, is low in many parts of the country. Aside from cities near the Andes, earthquakes are rare. 

The cons of living in Argentina

1. Unstable economy

Argentina has suffered from corruption and is one of the world’s most unstable economies. Most people are confident that the country will once again become a global economic powerhouse but know that this may take a long time. 

2. Bureaucracy 

Very few things run as smoothly in Argentina as they do in Europe and the United States. Expect a lot of paperwork and rules that don’t make sense. 

Dangerous roads

In Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires, pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way. Looking both ways and staying aware of drivers is one of the most important habits to have in the country. 

Can foreigners live in Argentina? 

Foreigners can easily live in Argentina. In fact, Argentina is one of the most friendly countries for expats.

People from dozens of countries can enjoy visa-free stays for up to 90 days. For people wanting to call this South American wonderland home, there are plenty of visa options. 

Visa and residency options

There are several easy-to-understand visa options for expats who want to live in Argentina.

Although there is often a lot of red tape and requirements as far as background checks, proof of insurance, and proof of income, finding a visa that’s right for you is not difficult. 

Argentina offers visitors a chance to extend their tourist visa by 90 days. To do this, visitors must go to the Buenos Aires Immigration Office and complete a few forms and pay a small fee.

Many people choose to skip this process and travel to nearby Brazil, Uruguay, Chile, or Paraguay to renew their 90-day visas. This is not a viable long-term option and will inevitably make the Argentine authorities suspicious. 

Rentista visa

Remote workers who make over $30,000 Argentine pesos a month can apply for a Rentista visa. This type of visa is good for up to a year and is renewable up to three times. After that, the Argentinian government expects you to apply for a permanent residency or the more lengthy process of citizenship. 

Pensioner visa

For foreigners wanting to retire in Argentina, there is the Pensioner visa. This allows you to live in Argentina if you earn 30,000 pesos a month or more from your retirement fund. 

Medical visa

Foreigners needing a major medical procedure and want to get it done in Argentina can get a one-year visa from the Argentinian Embassy in their home country. 

Each member of your family has to apply for their own visa, which can be challenging if you’re not married. Paperwork is also very time-consuming and requires a lot of patience. In addition,  you must have every document translated into Spanish and pass a criminal background check.

Can a US citizen live in Argentina?

Citizens from the US and Canada can live in Argentina.

There is no special visa for Americans or Canadians. As long as you can pass a background check, have the correct forms translated into Spanish, and meet the requirements, you can get the appropriate visa.

Argentina recognizes dual citizenship for both countries. 

Is Argentina safe? 

Argentina enjoys far lower crime levels than many of its neighbors. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Argentina ranks number 126 in intentional homicides. This is just behind its neighbor, Chile (119) and ahead of the United States (137). 

Most crime falls into the petty crime category. Generally, crimes against foreigners involve purse or bag snatching and property crime.

Football (soccer) matches can turn violent. It’s best to avoid some stadiums unless you’re going with a group of locals you trust or with a tour operator. After major tournaments, you should avoid city centers, as these become filled with riotous supporters of both teams who are looking for conflict. 

In Buenos Aires, neighborhoods to avoid are Barracas, N. Pompeya, Flores, and many of the Southern suburbs. La Boca, parts of downtown, and the eastern end of Retiro should be avoided after dark. Even during the day, expensive cameras, jewelry, and phones should be kept hidden. 

Another plus for safety is rare weather extremes and earthquakes. Although natural disasters ‌occur, they are less frequent and less severe than in neighboring countries. Unless you’re in the Andes, the risk for earthquakes is also low. 

 Is Argentina safer than Mexico?

Argentina is safer than many parts of Mexico. Unfortunately, some parts of Mexico suffer from high crime rates and violence due to organized crime. Even in Argentina’s largest cities, violent crime is much lower than in Mexico.

Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis are also safety risks that people living in Mexico have to consider. In Argentina, not so much. 

Real estate in Argentina

There are many options for real estate in Argentina. The country’s affordable housing and excellent architecture make it easy for foreigners to find the perfect place to live for a fraction of the cost back home. 

The typical 1000 square foot apartment in Buenos Aires fluctuates just under $500USD a month. Purchasing or renting property in Argentina is straightforward.

When purchasing property in Argentina besides a lawyer, it’s advisable to hire a public notary known as an Escribano to handle the paperwork and bureaucracy. If you’re well versed in Spanish and confident, you can follow all the ‌steps, you can purchase property alone in Argentina. 

The sizes of older apartments in Buenos Aires are quite large. It’s not unheard of to find affordable spaces over 2000 square feet.

In the countryside or suburbs, you can find large modern homes and older estates for substantially less than in the United States, Canada, and Europe.

For example, in the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires, you can easily find a 1500 square foot, three-bedroom home for $200,000 USD or less. A 1000 square foot condo in the heart of the trendy Palermo neighborhood can cost $200,000 or less. 

One of the many problems with renting in Buenos Aires is that, because of the instabilities of the economy, landlords often raise their rent every six months. Negotiating new contracts based on the changing economic climate is a common practice. 

The cost of living in Argentina

On average, the cost of living in Argentina is much lower than in the US, Canada, the UK, and Northern Europe. In fact, Argentina is among the cheapest countries to retire to in the world.

The lower cost of living gives you more bang for your buck and allows you to enjoy a high standard of living cheaply. 

One of the best perks of living in Argentina is the low food cost. Fine dining for two at a popular parrilla (Argentine BBQ) with a bottle of nice Malbec from Mendoza will rarely set you back more than $100. Although most restaurants take credit cards, there are sometimes discounts for those who pay with cash.

Public transportation is cheaper than in most places in the world. In Buenos Aires, each trip on the subway (SUBTE), bus, or local train costs around a quarter, USD. 

Because of several factors, imported goods like electronics and clothing are significantly higher in Argentina. Finding shoes, jackets, iPhones, etc. for as much as you pay back home will be impossible, so it’s best to purchase these items back home. 

Is Argentina cheaper than Mexico?

Argentina is on average cheaper than Mexico. When you factor in rent, food costs, and transportation, Argentina is often over 10% cheaper than Mexico.

On the other hand, Mexico enjoys cheaper electronics, clothing, and vegetables than Argentina. 

How much money does a couple need to live comfortably in Argentina?

The average cost of living in Argentina is roughly half that of the US, well under $20,000 USD a year. Therefore, if you earn over this number, you can live comfortably in Argentina.

Rent, food, and public transportation are so low that expats can save a lot of money living in Argentina, especially while keeping their foreign incomes. 

Where to live in Argentina 

Within Argentina, there are large cosmopolitan cities, beautiful countryside villages, and coastal communities that rival those from anywhere on earth. Generally, expats prefer the cities of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Mar del Plata.

What is the cheapest place to live in Argentina?

Argentina’s smaller cities and countryside are much cheaper than the capital of Buenos Aires.

The city of Mendoza, famous for its wine and access to the Andes Mountains, is on average cheaper than Buenos Aires. The exceptions are imported goods and clothes, which can be significantly more expensive outside of the capital. 

Infrastructure and connectivity

Argentina enjoys a world-class train, bus, and road system. Major highways and railways connect the major cities.

International flights serve several cities, including Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and Cordoba.

Other smaller cities like Ushuaia in Patagonia have domestic airports that receive flights from all over the country. 

Healthcare and health insurance

Argentina has excellent healthcare, divided into private and public sectors.

The basic private sector provides good coverage with little to no charge. Even for expats, dental, medical, palliative, and emergency care are free. As inviting as this may seem, long waits and lengthy paperwork drive many expats and locals to seek private insurance instead. 

Private healthcare is a better option for finding an English-speaking specialist and avoiding those sometimes gruelling wait times.

In addition, Argentina’s private healthcare system is some of the best in the world. Many plans cost under $50 a month, making private insurance an excellent option. 

Some expats for international health insurance. To make sure you get the best value for money, compare international health insurance options from various providers to find the best deal. 

Taxes in Argentina for expats

Non-residents living less than six months in Argentina who earn money overseas or are living off their pensions do not have to pay taxes in Argentina.

However, once you have lived in the country for over 12 months in a row or received your permanent residence status, you are expected to pay a Foreign Beneficiary Tax of 24.5%.

Argentina’s corporate tax stands at 25%. 

The country uses a VAT (Value Added Tax) or IVA (Impuesto al Valor Agregado) in Spanish. This is generally 21% for many items. Medicine, rent, hospital care, and even books are free from this tax.

Alcohol, tobacco, and sodas have their own added tax at 20% for alcohol, 60% for tobacco, and 8% for sodas.    

How to open a bank account

To open a bank account in Argentina, you must provide your proof of residency, permanent address, passport, personal tax code (CUIL), and business tax code (CUIT).

Your personal tax code and business tax codes can be obtained online after you’ve become a permanent resident. 

Most banks have two primary accounts: checking and savings. ATM withdrawals and many other transactions are done with the savings account while checking is used for making payments by check. 

Because of the unpredictability of Argentina’s economy, many expats choose to keep their money in foreign banks and wire their funds instead of opening accounts.

The primary perk of opening a bank account in Argentina is to save money on ATM withdrawal fees. If you’re working for an Argentinian company, you will have to open an account. 

The best banks to use are: HSBC, Banco Nación, and Banco Santander Río. These are not only located throughout the country but have excellent online services as well. 

Things to know before you move

Life in Argentina moves at a slower pace.

There are more bookstores and cafes per capita than anywhere on earth and people rarely eat dinner until well past 8 or 9 pm.

The most common foods include bottomless BBQs known as parrillas, flaky cookies filled with caramel known as alfajores, and the delicious meat, cheese, and vegetable filled empanadas

Expats should get used to restaurants and businesses opening later than in their home countries unless you’re from Italy or Spain. Adjusting your sleep schedule for the late nights is a must. 

Argentines are very social, and there are a few norms to look out for.

The first one is kissing on the cheek. Getting close to each other and kissing each cheek is a common greeting here.

The next cultural norm is yerba mate. Every day, you will see Argentines working, driving, walking, and picnicking with their mate gourds and large thermoses of hot water.

Yerba Mate is a native South American plant with high amounts of nutrients and caffeine. Like green tea in Japan, drinking mate in Argentina is a social custom that you should enjoy. 

Final thoughts on living in Argentina

What most expats love about the country is its people. Exciting, friendly, and passionate, they will take you in and make you feel welcomed. Don’t be surprised when you get invited to a parrilla or a mate circle. These social customs, along with watching heated football (soccer) matches, will win you over. 

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Matthew Dursum

Matthew Dursum is a writer, journalist and surfer from Michigan who currently lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is an avid traveller, loves exploring cultures and communities, and sharing his experiences with the world on his website at wayfarersoliloquy.com

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