During our trip to Buenos Aires, my daughter and I had the opportunity to take a bike tour. I booked it very last minute. There are several companies to choose from, and fortuitously the one I contacted first was willing to take us with barely 24-hours notice. This was just the start of great service from Biker Street Buenos Aires.
Booking a Biker Street Buenos Aires Tour
I found the Biker Street Buenos Aires website through TripAdvisor and then looked them up directly by Google search. Biker Street offers several different tours, ranging from a half-day partial city tour (North or South), to an all-day city tour, to a bike and kayak tour up in Tigre. Both the morning and afternoon tours are offered for either the north or south of the city. I settled on a south city tour, knowing that we would most likely take a walking tour of the northern part of Buenos Aieres the following day.
To book the tour, I submitted a message through the Biker Street website. Simple as that. This was afternoon of April 11th. They got back to me within the hour. Luckily, there was still availability, and we worked out the details from there.
A half-day bike tour costs $35 per person, which is their cheapest tour. Biker Street charges a portion (~20%) up front, and they sent a PayPal payment request.
I ended up asking them to accept more than that up front, since I wanted to pay by card and not dip too heavily into the cash I’d withdrawn for our time in BA. They were able to accommodate this as well. Biker street cannot take card payments on site, but they do accept euros and dollars in addition to pesos.
Meeting Location and Initial Impression
The meeting point for our tour was in a parking garage in the Centro neighborhood. Here we met Carlos, our guide for the day. The tour ended up just being myself and my daughter. Very glad they were still willing to take us last minute, plus it made it a private experience. Carlos speaks good English and we had very little difficulty understanding him. He gives tours primarily in English, but he can obviously provide Spanish as well.
After adjusting the bikes and running through Carlos’ hand signals to help navigate the streets of Buenos Aires, we took off on our bike tour!
Tour of South Buenos Aires
Our tour began in the heart of Buenos Aires, at the Plaza de Mayo. We’d been there the day before, but it was nice to have a local who was able to explain a bit more about the city to us. This is where we learned it takes three building to establish a Spanish city: a town hall (cabildo), a church, and a fort. There wasn’t much to the original Buenos Aires, but it had these three. The cabildo is the only original building on the plaza that remains.
From Centro we headed over to Puerto Madero, the neighborhood along the Rio de la Plata. We were staying at the Hilton Buenos Aires, so we were already familiar with the area. Carlos took us out along the ecological reserve. There are a several food carts along the avenue here, if you’re in the mood for a snack.
We headed south from here, past gleaming skyscrapers before crossing a bridge into La Boca. This neighborhood is a great one to explore by day, but make sure you move on before it gets dark. It’s seedy after dark. We spent some time at El Caminito, a touristy street where you can watch tango, before a stop by the Boca Juniors fútbol stadium: La Bombonera. Fútbol is the lifeblood of Argentina, and the Juniors are a popular team. From what Carlos mentioned, however, it can get rather violent. In 2013 Argentina banned fans of the away team from stadiums due to the violent fights.
The final portion of the tour took us northward through San Telmo, where we would return for the Sunday fair later that week. But before we explored this neighborhood, it was time for a break at Parque Lezama.
An Introduction to Mate
As part of the tour, Carlos introduced us to mate. This drink is an essential part of Argentinian and Uruguayan culture. People drink it all the time. I hadn’t really noticed, but many carry around a thermos of water and the special mate cup and straw to enjoy it on the go.
You won’t find an Argentinian selling mate in the store, at least the ready to drink beverage. Sure, you can buy the dried yerba mate leaves for brewing it yourself. Mate is generally a social beverage, to be enjoyed by a group. You use one mate cup and a single bombilla (filter straw). The host fills the cup with the dried mate leaves, adds hot water, and passes it to another in the group. Typically, each person drinks the entire cup (it’s not a liquid given the amount of mate used), and the cup is refilled for for the next person using the same mate.
I really appreciated that Carlos includes this in his Biker Street Bike Tour. It was a great introduction to something central to Argentinian culture. Do note that we shared it traditionally with one bombilla and cup. I only mention this for the germaphobes out there. I am definitely not one and had no qualms sharing.
We wrapped up our tour through San Telmo and then said goodbye to Carlos at the garage. His knowledge of the city and its history is excellent, and he was a great guide for our half day tour. I’d happily choose to tour with him and Biker Street Buenos Aires should we ever visit again.