Tips for Living in Bariloche Argentina

I’ve been living in Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina for almost three months (Feb-Apr 2016). This part of the world is very much not on the internet, which made it hard for me to find any information about buses, how to find an apartment, where I should eat, or anything else. So, to do my part, I’ve amassed here a lot of the info I’ve collected over the last few months to make it easier for anyone else wanting to move to Bariloche. 

Before I mention any specifics, if you’re going to be in Bariloche for any amount of time, it’s worth going to the Tourism Office, which is right off the courtyard of the Centro Cívico in the center of town. Ask for a Bariloche bus schedule and map there, be sure to ask them to point out any specific routes or bus stops if you have specific plans. Also, ask them where to buy a Sube (see bus section below).

Orientation: Bariloche is made up of the center, plus “the Kilometers” which stretch out from the west end of the center along Lake Nauhel Huapi. The bus from town goes as far as Km 25 to Hotel Llao Llao and Puerto Panuelo. The “Circuito Chico” is the loop that starts at Km 18 and includes Colonia Suiza, Llao Llao, and Bahia Lopez.

Also, if you’re interested, this is why I decided to move here.

Bariloche Argentina
Looking out over Lake Nahuel Huapi from Cerro Campanario

Cost of living in Bariloche

Groceries – $30-40 per week
Rent – $650-700/month for 1-bdr “tourist” apartment in the center (see where to stay)
Meals – $10-15 for dinner with beer
Transportation – buses are super cheap, $2 to the airport, $1 to the end of the Kilometers, etc.
Beer – $3-5 per pint (Happy Hours are everywhere and they’re usually 2×1)
Related: Reciprocity Fees for US Citizens Traveling to South America

How to get money in Bariloche

Getting money in Argentina is not easy with foreign debit cards. Bring one with a chip and one without if you can, because certain banks just don’t accept one or the other. On top of that, most ATMs will only allow you to take out 1,000 pesos at a time, which is equivalent to about $60 US. Add ATM fees on top of that, banks at home often charge $5 per transaction, and ATMs here usually charge $6-7, which means over $10 US every time you take out $60. OUCH.

There is one bank in Bariloche that charges 87 pesos ($6 US) and you can take out 2,400 pesos ($165 US at time of publishing). This is the best option in town. It is Banco Patagonia and you can find it right in the center at 127 Moreno. Last time I went, only the middle ATM worked for me (there are three). If you use any other bank in town, expect to only be able to take out 1,000 at a time.

There are two ATMs in the airport, one on each level. Only the HSBC one worked for me the first time, and it only let me take out 1,500 pesos.

Related: Tips for Visiting Perito Moreno Glacier and El Calafate, Argentina

How to use the buses in Bariloche

Bus schedules are available at the Tourism Office in Centro Civico. Buses in Bariloche do not use cash. You will need a Sube, which is a blue card that you can top up with money and use on any buses in Argentina. They are only available at certain kiosks, which are little convenience stores on every block. Ask in a kiosk or at the tourist office where to get a Sube in Bariloche. They cost about $3 US. One trip to the airport costs about 20 pesos, and one trip to the end of the Kilometers costs about 16 pesos, so if you’re only going to be in town for a few days, putting 50-100 pesos on your Sube could be enough.

There are a few main bus stops in town: “Centro Civico” stop refers to the main stop on Calle Moreno on the edge of the park just above the Centro Civico. This is where you can catch the 20, which goes out to Hotel Llao Llao along the Kilometers, 10, which goes to Colonia Suiza (this one has special timetable in the off season), 55, which goes up to Cerro Catedral (the ski area and trailhead to Refugio Frey). “Centro” stop refers to the main stop on Calle Moreno between Calle Beschtedt and Calle Palacios. The main terminal is way out on the eastern edge of town.

The 20 is the bus I ride the most. The most popular stops are Km 8 – Bahia Serena (a beach), Km 12 – beaches and big residential area, Km 17 – Cerro Campanario (see hikes), Km 18 (to switch to the 10 and go to Colonia Suiza), and Km 25 – Puerto Panuelo which is just beneath Hotel Llao Llao at the end of the road, close to many trailheads on the Circuito Chico (see hikes).

The bus to the airport from the center is number 72 and it stops at the “Centro” and also at the corner of Calle Mitre and Quaglia. The bus to the center from the aiport leaves every couple of hours from directly out the front doors of the airport. If you don’t want to wait, you can take a taxi or a remis (collective taxis, if they are running) for about $20 US.

When you get on the bus, tell the driver your final destination (if you’re on the 20, tell him which Km) then pass your Sube by the magnetic card reader.

If you do not have a Sube, ask someone on the bus to spot you and give them cash directly, the bus drivers will rarely accept cash, although I have seen it.

Airport bus schedule to and from Bariloche center

Bariloche airport bus schedule

Bariloche bus numbers and routes

Bariloche bus schedule

How to find apartments in Bariloche

If you are moving to town, check out the below websites for apartment searches. Keep in mind, cost of apartments may be cheap for locals, but they require two-year leases and they make you get all your own utilities. Many companies won’t even consider speaking with you if they consider you a “tourist.” A good grasp of Spanish will help you in your search. You may have to only look at tourist apartment offerings, which means short-term and everything included.

ABC Sur Bulletin which is updated every Friday
InterPatagonia
Bariloche OLX

I found my apartment through Airbnb, though I negotiated directly with the owner. We did not have a contract, and I had everything included, paying just under $700/mo for a bright, spacious one bedroom apartment with a lake view in the center.

Click here to save $55 on your first Airbnb stay.

If you’re looking for a hostel, I recommend Hostel Inn on Calle Salta, which has a great ambiance and an even better rooftop lake view.

Also, there is a very active Couchsurfing community in Bariloche, offering weekly meetups and activities as well as couches to sleep on.

Related: Couchsurfing: A Worldwide Community of New Friends and Experiences

Where to shop for groceries in Bariloche

There is a big grocery store in the center called La Anonima on Calle Quaglia between Moreno and Elflein. Bring your ID when paying with a credit card. Bring your liter beer bottles here to turn in for your deposit back.

How to receive mail in Bariloche

When you find a place to live, be sure to ask your landlord to write down your address for you so you can get it exactly right when passing it on to your favorite people who are going to send you mail. Postcards and letters can be delivered to your residence, but packages from foreign countries cannot. They must go through customs. The mailman will arrive to your door with a slip that needs to be signed for. The slip then needs to be taken to the custom offices inside the local post office, which is next to Banco Patagonia on Calle Moreno, number 175. The customs office is only open Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 8:30am – 12:30pm.

Before heading to the customs office, make a copy of the ID page of your passport as well as the page that contains your latest stamp into Argentina, because they will ask for this at customs. There is a print shop one block east of the post office.

Take your slip and the copy of your passport to the customs office during opening hours, sometimes there is a line so give yourself plenty of time. First they will give you your package in exchange for a random amount of money determined by the customs officers. Sometimes it can depend on the value of the contents of the package, sometimes it’s just a standard fee, it should be written on your slip so you know how much money to bring (cash only). I only paid about 50 pesos ($3.50 US) to collect my package. Then you’ll have to fill out quite a bit of paperwork, you might feel like you are buying a house. Finally, the customs officers will open your package and review its contents, making sure it’s acceptable, and then you will be free to go. Phew!

Where to eat in Bariloche

El Boliche de Alberto, Calle Elflein 158 – Typical Argentinian (i.e. steaks with sides) – the best meat I’ve tried in Bariloche. Its beer selection was disappointing, but the food was worth it in itself. Refer to this article for help with Argentinian steak terms in Spanish.

El Galpon de Salo, at the very eastern end of Calle Mitre -Typical Argentinian – great steaks, pitchers of craft beer, big enough to accommodate large groups.

Il Gabbiano at Km 24 on the lake side – Italian – amazing ambiance, brilliantly crafted true Italian menu, great service, and best pasta al salmone I’ve had, possibly ever.

Rapa Nui on the corner of Villegas and Mitre – Ice cream and chocolate – At any ice cream shop, you must first pay at the cashier (Italian style) and then use your receipt to get served.

While your out dining in Bariloche, try some Yerba Mate! It’s a caffeinated beverage similar to tea but has a distinct flavor and preparation style. It’s popular in several South American countries including Argentina, and is traditionally shared amongst friends from a gourd (or a cup called a mate, or “mah-tay”) using a metal straw with a strainer.

where to eat in bariloche
An incredible selection of meats at Boliche de Alberto – filet, ribeye, lamb

Best beer in Bariloche

If you like craft beer, you are in luck. Breweries abound in the Bariloche area, there are two on every corner downtown it seems. If you are a dark beer fan like I am, I highly recommend the Porter from Antares and the Black IPA from Manush, both of which are a block apart on Calle Elflein in the center.

Beer in Bariloche, when not a specific brew from a brewery menu, is often sold under one of three labels: Negra (black), Roja (red), and Rubia (blond). Here’s the tricky part: Negra can be porter, stout, or anything dark. Roja can be either a true red ale or any kind of pale ale or IPA. Rubia can be a blond, golden, lager or ale. It’s more about which genre you prefer than specific style.

Other popular bars and breweries in town are Konna, which sometimes has live street music, Berlina next door to Manush, Lowther, which has an outdoor patio, and Bachman on Elflein, just to name a few. There are many more to explore out in the Kilometers, like Kunstmann, Blest, Gilbert, Berlina (yes, another one), and more.

Beer in Bariloche
Rubia, Roja, Negra

Hikes in Bariloche

There are so many options, which is a major factor of why I moved here. Here are my favorites:
Easy day hikes:

Cerro Campanario – take the 20 bus to Km 17, cross the street and take the trail that goes up to the right out of the small parking lot. It is a short, steep hike, but the view at the top is an incredible 360 degree view of the entire area. Not to be missed. Plus, there is a cafe where you can sit and have a beer with cake or a sandwich, the cafe closes at 6pm.

Cerro Llao Llao – take the 20 bus to Puerto Panuelo at the end of the Kilometers, then continue walking for about half a mile or so to the trail head, which is on the right. Follow signs to Cerro Llao Llao, which will take you through an incredible Coihue forest, and the up a steep incline to the top, with more breathtaking views.

Longer day hike:

Refugio Frey – take the 55 bus up to Cerro Catedral (the ski area), then take the trail that goes out of the parking lot to the left (if you’re looking up the mountain at the ski area, the trailhead is on the left). This is a full day’s hike, because you’ll want to spend a couple hours at the refugio once you get there. They have food and beer and a mountain paradise. Open year round.

Click here for a great resource of Bariloche hikes.

Hikes in Bariloche
View from top of Cerro Llao Llao
Refugio Frey Bariloche
View of Lago Toncek at Refugio Frey

Where to get a haircut in Bariloche

Peinados Norma, in the strip mall area next to San Marin 127 (the tallest, ugliest building in Bariloche) is where I went and it blew my mind. I had my hair cut by Norma herself and she did a great job. I actually don’t think anyone has ever known how to cut my hair so well, but I suppose I have Latin-esque hair, so I suppose it makes sense. When you enter the building from San Martin, go downstairs and all the way to the back corner to find her place. It was buzzing with customers but they were still able to fit me in on the spot. Less than $20 US for an amazing haircut = success.

Feel free to ask questions about anything I’ve missed in the comments, I’ll try to help the best I can!