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7 Things to Know Before Traveling To Argentina

With world-class steak, wine, and a capital city that’s sometimes compared to Paris--it’s easy to understand why Argentina is such a popular destination. (And don’t forget the Argentinian football team, the Andes, and the tango.)

 

There’s much to see and do in this lush, culturally-rich country. Here are a few tips to make the most of your trip:

1. Take your time. It’s part of the culture.

 

You know the saying, “time is money?” That’s an American idiom--and it’s definitely not true in Argentina. It’s a place to sit back, prop up your feet, and get a feel for your surroundings. Don’t feel pressured to hop from landmark to landmark. Argentina is meant to be savored slowly, like a good steak.

2. Meat-lovers, prepare to meet your match.

 

Speaking of steak, Argentina is known for it. Really, you’ve never eaten steak until you’ve eaten it in Argentina, where it’s called “Bife de chorizo.” In case that isn’t binge-worthy enough, the country is also known for “asado,” which is amazing Argentine barbecue.

 

That being said, Argentina has a lot to offer in other areas of cuisine. Many Argentines are descended from Italian, British, German, and Jewish immigrants--so pizza, sauerkraut, and even scones can be found at certain restaurants. (These are often made with a local, Argentinian twist, though, so prepared to be amazed.)

3. Welcome to the Deep South.

 

Not that Deep South. The real one.

 

Though...if you think about it, there are similarities. Argentina boasts cowboys (gauchos) and banjos. Fried chicken is a bit of a local comfort food (milanesas de pollo). And if you think the Louisiana bayou is something, you should see Argentina’s Iberá Wetlands.

 

But in many important ways, the two places are not the same.

 

As you can see in our Argentina map, the country is located deep in the Southern Hemisphere, which means that the seasons are flipped. When it’s winter above the equator, it’s high summer in South America.

 

So, the next time you’re freezing, remember that South Americans are probably enjoying a toasty, sun-bathed day. You’re welcome.

4. Learn Argentine pronunciation.

 

If you’re going to Argentina, be prepared to throw out some of your typical Spanish pronunciation. Argentina is known for a distinctive brand of Spanish--called “Castellano” (caste-zha-no).

 

Now, if you accidentally forget to use the Castellano pronunciation, rest assured that people will be able to understand your Spanish anyway. But, here are some differences you can expect to hear:

 

  • In Castellano, the double “ll” is pronounced as a “zh.” (Does “zh” sound hard to say? It’s not. Just think of the “s” in the English pronunciation of “vision.” It’s a very soft sound, almost a “sh.”) An example word: llamo (zh-ah-mo)

 

  • When there’s an “S” at the end of a word in Castellano (such as “querés”), it’s often dropped. So, “querés” would be pronounced more like “queréh.”

 

Want to learn some other slang? Just for fun:

 

  • Gomía” is slang for “friend.” (It’s an inversion of “amigo.”)

 

  • “Mira vos!” It’s a lot like saying “wow.” The word, “vos” is used often in Castellano, often replacing the word “.”.

 

  • “Todo bien che?” That’s a common way to ask “how are you?” in Argentina. (Notice the “che” part? That’s another extremely common word. It’s similar to saying “dude” or “pal.”)

 

  • “Bajá un cambio” is usually translated to “slow down,” but the meaning is more on-par with “chill out.”

 

  • “Mala leche” means “bad luck.” (Literally, it’s “bad milk,” but if you’ve tasted bad milk, you know it’s nasty and you’ve had some bad luck to drink it.)

 

  • “Feca” is slang for “coffee.”

 

If this all sounds overwhelming, just keep in mind this tip from our friend and fellow-polyglot, Ofir:

 

“The moment you hear a word you don’t understand, you’ll have the tendency to stop and try to understand it--and you’ll lose the rest of the sentence.” So don’t sweat the small stuff. If you hear a word that sounds strange, just keep going. Let context help you comprehend the meaning.


5. Wine? ¡Sí!

 

Where there are incredible mountains, there are also incredible valleys--which means wine country. Mendoza Province lies in the shadow of the Andes mountains, and it’s famous for producing one-of-a-kind Malbec wine.

 

Of course, you don’t need to travel to Mendoza to drink the wine. You’ll find it served in restaurants throughout Cordoba, Buenos Aires, and other cities.

 

Find a vintage red that pairs with a plate of empanadas, and all you’ll do is win.

6. Treat your money nicely.

 

Paper money in Argentina is famous for being worn out, so prepare to handle the bills carefully lest they crumble in your hands. Know that if you run out of the paper stuff, you can access more at ATMs (cajeros automáticos), but they’re not always easy to find. It’s best to ask a local where the ATMs are located near your hotel or hostel.

 

Of course, this is easier if you’ve considered tip #7...

7. Speak Spanish.

 

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We’re not saying you should be fluent before you travel--but your travels will be richer if you can communicate.

Language Zen teaches you the most important words first--the stuff you’ll need to know as soon as you touch down in Argentina. (We’re not selling it to you. You can use Language Zen every day for free.) Since Language Zen personalizes the learning experience to fit you, you won’t waste any time. Click to start learning Spanish. 

Why Guatemala is the Best Place to Learn Spanish

Most people like to go to big cities like Buenos Aires or Barcelona to learn Spanish; Guatemala tends to fall through the cracks. However, it’s is one of the greatest places in the world to learn Spanish, and here’s why:

 

1. It’s the easiest Spanish in the world.

Guatemalans do something that not all Spanish speakers do: they pronounce their words very, very clearly. As compared to somewhere like Mexico where they speak super fast, or Argentina where their dialect is tough to pick up, Guatemalan spanish is known to be the easiest in the world.

 

It’s the perfect place to be a beginner speaker, but don’t get too spoiled! The true test of your spanish skills will be when you move onto another country and have to pick up the pace.

 

2. Spanish classes here are cheap, cheap, cheap!

Antigua and Lake Atitlan are two of the best and most popular places to take Spanish classes in all of Central America. Many of the language schools offer group classes or one-on-one tutoring for as cheap as 3-4 bucks per hour. Yes, you heard that correctly: four dollars. Makes you want to rethink that $5.00 Starbucks, doesn’t it?

 

San Pedro Spanish School is a favorite amongst many travelers in Guatemala, located in San Pedro de Lago de Atitlan. San Pedro is also a quaint and charming town on the lake, so when you’re not studying, you’ll have plenty to do!

 

3. Simple living is an experience of a lifetime.

The saying do as the Romans do, can certainly apply here too. When you’re in Guatemala, do as the Guatemalans do. This means that you can pay cheap rent, eat delicious local food, and take a step back from the luxuries that you’re used to back home.

 

Minimalist living teaches us a lot, and seeing how other people live makes us appreciate the luxuries from back home.

 

4. They offer many different packages of classes.

Unlike some other countries where you are required to commit to a minimum number of months for Spanish classes, lots of Guatemalan schools are flexible in this department. Whether you’re interested in homestays with classes, or just a few hours per week, you can find anything you want in Guatemala.

 

There are even some places that do “backpacker crash courses” where you can take a quick 4 hour class just one day - if you’re passing through, and want a quick crash course on just a few of the most important things.

 

5. Guatemalans are some of the happiest people in the world.

Guatemala’s economy is constantly suffering: an immense percentage of the population is living below the poverty line, while a very small percentage is considered elite.

 

Despite this, Guatemalans are extremely warm and open. They are resourceful, family-oriented, and very welcoming to outsiders visiting or living in their country.

 

6. It’s quick and easy to link this Spanish with Language Zen.

Language Zen is a great complement to Spanish classes (in Guatemala or elsewhere). We create personalized courses for every learner that integrate with what you already know. Whether you’re learning from a classroom or from a street vendor, we’ll fill in the gaps so you can spend more time hanging out with your new Guatemalan friends.  

Click to start learning Spanish.

6 Spanish Phrases You Might Not Know You Need

 

Before traveling to any foreign country, lots of people get nervous about not knowing the language. Sure, you know how to say por favor and gracias, but knowing a little bit more of the language could help you out:

 

1. Numbers

The first thing to do before landing in Latin America - actually, in any foreign country - is to learn your numbers. You can even learn them on the plane ride there. Knowing numbers will help you with more things than you realize: currency exchange, prices, directions, time, just to name a few. Plus, knowing your numbers will totally make you seem like you know what you’re talking about.

 

 

2. “¿Cuánto cuesta?”

This phrase means how much does it cost? Instead of just handing your money over to pay for something, asking how much something is will create a great dialogue between you and the seller - and you’ll be able to use your number skills just to show off a little bit too! It’ll also encourage the act of bargaining - which is so much more fun than just paying, isn’t it?

 

 

 

3. “Todo bien.

Latin American culture is far more laid back than American culture. “Todo bien,” literally meaning everything good, is a huge phrase to know while traveling in these countries. It can be used as a question and also as an answer. You can ask someone, todo bien? And their response will either be si, yes, or todo bien, confirming that, yes in fact, it’s all good.

 

4. “Permiso…”

Above all else, we all want to be polite and friendly in a foreign country. Saying por favor, and gracias, already helps you out, but knowing how to excuse yourself is definitely a plus. Don’t mistake this with pardon; permiso is used only when physically trying to pass someone, as it literally means: do I have permission to pass?

 

 

5. “Tengo una pregunta.”

This is a great way to approach someone to let them know that you need some help: I have a question. It’s polite, it’s not aggressive, and it shows that you’re putting in an effort to learn their language, in their country. Now let’s just hope that they speak some English too, otherwise they’ll start replying in Spanish and you’ll be left with 10 more questions.

 

 

 

6. “¿Donde esta la fiesta?”

Where is the party? Because, in Latin America, no one should ever be missing the party.

 

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Language Zen teaches you the most important words first--exactly what you need to begin mingling and making friends wherever you travel.

 

Since Language Zen personalizes the learning experience to fit you, you won’t waste any time on useless information. Click to start learning Spanish.

We’re not saying you should be fluent before you travel--but your travels will be richer if you can communicate.

Puerto Rico: 5 Things To Know Before You Go

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Spend five minutes reading this, and you’ll feel like you’re sipping an umbrella drink beneath the Caribbean sun.

Maybe. You might need to buy a plane ticket for that. But certainly--this is the next best thing. Here are a few reasons you’ll want to add “travel to Puerto Rico” and “learn Spanish” to your bucket list:

 

 

1. It’s beautiful.

 

 The first basic fact you should know about Puerto Rico is that it’s just plain dazzling. The other facts are these:

 

 

Map of Puerto Rico

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Puerto Rico is an American territory in the Caribbean--and might one day become America’s 51st state. The capital of Puerto Rico is San Juan. And while both Spanish and English are the commonwealth’s official languages, English is spoken by less than 10% of the population.

 

 

2. Puerto Rico is family of islands.

 

You might think of Puerto Rico as a single island, but it’s actually a commonwealth containing a group of islands. The largest of these islands (besides Puerto Rico’s main island) are…

 

 

Vieques:

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Culebra:

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Mona:

Mona_Island,_Puerto_Rico.JPG

 

3. What’s the weather like in Puerto Rico?

 

 

The average temperature is 80 degrees year-round. Yes, 80 degrees. They don’t call it “paradise” for nothing.

Winter is Puerto Rico’s most popular tourist season, because unlike much of the Northern Hemisphere, the weather in December is maravilloso.

 

 

If you’re planning a trip during the winter, be sure to see what festivals may be taking place during your visit. Puerto Rico’s winter calendar is dotted with notable festivals and holidays, including the Maricao Coffee Festival,Three Kings Day, and the incredible San Sebastián Street Festival.

 

 

4. What are the best beaches in Puerto Rico?

 

 

(Or, if you want to ask it in Spanish, ¿Dónde están las mejores playas de Puerto Rico?”)

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Pictured: Luquillo beach

 

 

While there are lots of beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico, popular vote puts beaches on Culebra (Flamenco Beach) and Vieques (Caracas Beach)in the top rankings. But if you’re looking for something off the beaten-path, try Cabo Rojo (Balneario de Boqueron) or Culebra’s Punta Soldado.

 

 

Looking for a beach on Puerto Rico’s mainland? Look no further than Playa Sucia.

 

 

5. So, it’s an island paradise. But are there things to do in Puerto Rico?

 

Por supuesto. There are the obvious tropical activities, like surfing, sun-bathing and snorkeling. But Puerto Rico boasts one-of-a-kind attractions, like...

 

Bioluminescent Bays

 

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PC: LeCityDeluxe

 

 

They may look like something from Avatar or the Life of Pi, but Puerto Rico’s bio luminescent bays are the real thing. The glow is caused by tiny marine creatures that absorb sunlight during the day, and glow dramatically after the sun goes down. You can enjoy the sight by visiting Mosquito Bay (Vieques) or Laguna Grande Bio Bay (Puerto Rico’s mainland).

 

 

For an even more surreal experience, you can rent a kayak and paddle through the glow.

 

 

Old San Juan

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Don’t miss the historic side of Puerto Rico’s capital city.Old San Juan is a scene straight out of another time. Take a walk down the blue cobblestone streets and peek inside San Juan Cathedral, the second oldest cathedral in the Americas. You can also see Castillo San Felipe del Morro, a 16th century Spanish castle.

 

 

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PC: TripAdvisor

 

 

La Cueva del Indio is a cave on the eastern side of the main island. At La Cueva del Indio, you’ll not only glimpse wildlife and secluded beaches, but you’ll get a close-up view of prehistoric petroglyphs.

 

 

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If your idea of a good vacation includes shopping, check out Santurce’s Plaza de Mercado. Heck, even if you don’t typically like shopping, do it anyway. The market at Santurce is an exciting, colorful cultural experience. Go after 6 PM and you’ll hear local salsa, get a chance to hang with locals, and try some serious Puerto Rican street food.

 

 

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We’re not saying you should be fluent before you travel--but your travels will be richer if you can communicate.

Language Zen teaches you the most important words first--exactly what you need to begin mingling and making friends in Puerto Rico. (We’re not selling it to you. Language Zen is free.)

 

Since Language Zen personalizes the learning experience to fit you, you won’t waste any time on useless information. Click to start learning Spanish.

We’re not saying you should be fluent before you travel--but your travels will be richer if you can communicate.