Free Walking Tours in Buenos Aires are not only Affordable, they are Very Fun!
We took several awesome “free” walking tours in Buenos Aires during our week-long visit. I put “free” in quotes because although the tour guides don’t charge a fee they do work for tips and you really should tip them for their services. We’ve been on free walking tours in many cities around the world but one of the best was in B.A., and the other two we took were also quite good. I’m going to add another free tour into this post–The Pink House Tour–because it’s something you can only do in B.A.
Multiple Walking Tours in One City
When I was researching sightseeing options in B.A., I came across more free walking tours than any other city we’ve visited. There are literally about a dozen tours offered by at least 6 tour companies–maybe more. You may wonder if they overlap but the three we took were completely different and went to completely different areas of the city. Taking just one wouldn’t have given us as great a look into B.A.
If you are wondering how much to tip, I guess it depends on your budget and how much you liked the tour. In Buenos Aires we generally tipped US$20-25 as a couple. I did feel a bit more pressure to tip more in a smaller group to make it more worth the guide’s time, regardless of whether or not the tour was actually worth more.
BAFREETOUR was our favorite tour operation! This is the one we feel is the best walking tour we have ever been on…anywhere! It’s actually just one guy despite a website that makes him look like a bigger operation. He is hilarious and he’s a B.A. native unlike many tour guides who are expats. Because he was born and raised in B.A. he is able to really add his own personal experience to gain insight into the culture, politics and history of the city. We went on his Plaza Del Congreso tour and it was a great overview and we covered a large section of the downtown area. I highly recommend this tour, especially if you only have time for one tour. He offers another tour but unfortunately we ran out of time during our stay.
BuenosAiresLocalTours operates a little differently than most free tours because you need to make a reservation in advance. They believe a smaller group of people is better and they use public transportation to take the group to neighborhoods outside the downtown area. It’s much more intimate than most walking tours. We met at a café and sat down for an espresso and chatted with the handful of tourists joining us and our guide, Richard, an expat from New York City who has lived in B.A. for more than 10 years. We lingered in the café for about 30 minutes and set out on the streets for the tour. He is a history buff and the tour focused on that aspect of B.A. After about an hour we got on a city bus for about 20 minutes and walked through some more outlying areas. This tour seemed a bit more flexible and free flowing than most, almost like walking through the city with a friend than a tour guide.
The famous Recoleta Cemetery allows you to wander around for free but it also offers a free one-hour English tour Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11:00 a.m. The tours are not advertised and I don’t know if they happen rain or shine but I highly recommend taking a chance and visiting at those times. Our docent was excellent and gave so much information about dozens of monuments of famous Argentinians. Most of us were there to see Eva Peron’s tomb, but that was actually just a small part of the tour. The docents are volunteers and do not get a salary so they are very appreciative of tips. Since it was only an hour tour, we tipped about US$10 as a couple.
Free Tour of The Pink House (The Presidential Office)
Every Saturday, Sunday and most public holidays the President of Argentina opens her offices and allows everyone inside for a free tour of The Pink House. The building opens at 10:00 a.m. and closes at 6:00 p.m. and has a steady stream of tourists throughout the day for the hour-long tour (no tip necessary). We were told it’s best to go early but I don’t think it really matters as we ended up having to wait about 45 minutes for enough English-speakers to form a group. I think the key is to be flexible with your time unless you are willing to join a Spanish-speaking group. The tour was moderately interesting but what was most amazing to me was the building itself is not in very good repair and the fact that we are allowed in without any security screening except a metal detector. It was fascinating to see the actual office and desk of the President and of course, walk on and look out from the famous balcony where Eva Peron spoke to the people. It’s worth the time if you have it, and if it happens to be Sunday, after the tour you can walk out the door and stroll down Defensa street to the San Telmo market.
If not for the bad weather during our stay, we would have done a few more free walking tours in Buenos Aires. It’s a very walkable city and these tours are a very budget-friendly way to learn a lot about the city. As long as you are willing to walk a few miles, there are more than a dozen free walking tours to fill up your visit.