While travelling to Buenos Aires, I had several experiences in mind. A mental checklist of what I wanted to see and do. A shared panoramic city tour was not one of them, but I took the tour, so you don’t have to. There are numerous reasons why I never recommend these, but this time around, I thought Small group tour in 2023, how bad can it be? Bad….really bad!
First, my tour was scheduled for 10:00 am. Generally, when you start a private tour, with a 10:00 am start, off you go to explore and maximize your time. For a shared panoramic city tour with a few stops along the way, we had to pick up multiple passengers from other hotels that were also scheduled on this bus. There were already some passengers on the bus, so I must have been at the 3rd or 4th stop. We had another 5 stops to go until the bus was nearly full. I was traveling alone, and I found myself a nice seat at the back where I had good views of the city. The guide, bless her, tried her best. She explained the city in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Genuinely she made a valiant effort. Sadly, by the time she would get to the last language, it was long gone, and the travelers would not know what she was referring to unless they were multilingual, which luckily I am.
We made our first stop in Recoleta, not at the cemetery, not at the palaces in the neighborhood, those we drove by. We stopped at Floralis Genérica, after a brief intro we were free to explore for 20 minutes. I told Siri to alert me at 15 and off I went to explore the park. It was pretty, it was a Saturday, during Carnival, so the city was quiet with many of the locals leaving the city for the long weekend, others enjoying the city’s greenspaces like this one, exercising, and walking their dogs. This was a nice stop, and the tour felt somewhat promising. I was naïve and hopeful at this point. As I returned to the bus, my lovely guide invited me to sit beside her at the front so I would have preferred seating…except, there was a curtain to the left of me on the window, and a curtain blocking the driver…so I left my lovely window seat at the back out of polite gratitude…Ok, it’s ok, I can cope with this.
But wait, at this point, our Guide revealed to us a special treat. A “photographer” boarded the bus, to take each of our pictures. We were all reluctant. The guide insisted it was a nice surprise that would be revealed later! I see …a tourist trap right on board the tourist bus! The complicit photographer snapped away and off we went to Plaza de Mayo, me peeking out through my curtains, and then I heard a phone ring…Odd, but ok it happens. Then I heard the driver speak because I was right behind the driver. Ok, maybe an urgent call, he’ll tell them he’s working and hang up. Meanwhile, the guide is explaining on her microphone, the importance of Plaza de Mayo, the streets and buildings, and important events, repeating this information in all her languages, and some other important details, that I can’t follow because I’m listening to the driver’s booming voice who is without a microphone, but louder than our guide, as he proceeds to take call after call, while driving, and speaking over top of the guide’s explanation. It was a totally macho thing to do, and my guide was so soft spoken she was not going to say anything.
When we got off at Plaza Mayo, I took the opportunity to pull our guide aside and remind her that the 20 people on the bus had paid to hear her speak, not the driver. That he had been speaking on the phone for the entire second portion of the tour unapologetically. We had 20 minutes to wander Plaza de Mayo, by that time I had no idea what I was seeing as I couldn’t hear our guide sitting next to me! When I returned to the bus, the driver was quiet and sullen, and our guide promptly told me his feelings had been hurt.
We continued to La Boca, where we could hear our guide explain, in all three languages, the importance of La Boca, show us the soccer stadium La Boca Junior. The driver didn’t say a word! We wandered La Boca for 30 minutes. This was our last physical stop. Some people opted to remain in La Boca, a smart decision.
I boarded the bus, and 5 minutes later the bus driver stopped so the photographer could return with her surprise gift. Our badly photoshopped faces onto tango dancers in risqué positions at 10.00 USD a pop (no photo evidence will be provided)! I had no desire to buy this kitschy evidence of my misadventures…but I also felt sorry for the guide and photographer as they were clearly complicit together on this side hustle and the smart passengers were not impressed, so sales were low. I’m a sucker, and I felt sorry for them as I sat in my privileged curtained seat behind a driver that despised me. So 10 USD poorer, I have this piece of “what not to do” memorabilia that no one but me will see!
Our guide explained that we would be driving by Madero, before either ending at the Obelisk, or returning to the multiple hotels for individual drop-offs. I couldn’t get off this bus fast enough, and as we were taking a scenic drive by Puerto Madero, I had the guide and driver drop me off at the Puente de las Mujeres, so I could once again regain my freedom!
Thank you, obrigado, and gracias for reading about my misadventures in Buenos Aires.
Perhaps next time I might write about the importance of wearing practical shoes for exploring Buenos Aires by foot!