Istanbul or Buenos Aires in December?
August 12, 2011 11:24 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are kicking around the idea of going to Turkey (mainly Istanbul) OR Argentina (mainly Buenos Aires) in December. Have you been? What are these cities like in the winter? How expensive are they?

My SO and I want to use our holiday time off to spend 1-2 weeks in either Istanbul or Buenos Aires. My guy likes to bask in the sun, and will be happy to escape the depressing Mid-Atlantic winter. I assume Buenos Aires will be a better choice in this regard. Will the weather in the coastal areas of Turkey be warm enough to walk on the sand and eat seafood outside?

I like walking around cities, eating a lot of new foods, making new friends, and taking pictures. I assume both cities are good for this sort of thing. I am not an avid museum-goer, more of a city wanderer.

Neither of us speaks Spanish or Turkish. How is the language barrier in either of these cities?

What are the out-of-city excursions like? How easy is it to travel around Turkey and/or Argentina?

Lastly, how expensive are these cities if we opt for moderately priced hotels instead of pricey resorts during the (American) winter holidays?
posted by Hwaet to Travel & Transportation around Buenos Aires, Argentina (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
One thing to note is that it will be Argentina's summer, not winter.
posted by JauntyFedora at 11:25 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

I've been to Turkey's coast in the winter and, while lovely, it's definitely not swimming/basking weather.

I've also been to BA in the winter (er, summer) and enjoyed myself. it was very expensive at the time (when the peso was pegged to the dollar) but I understand it's more affordable now. I didn't travel outside of the city, except for a hydrofoil ride across to Colonia, Uruguay, a charming little historic city. The hydrofoil itself made me hurl and hurl, but YMMV.
posted by JoanArkham at 11:33 AM on August 12, 2011

Having never been, I could be wrong about this, but I'm fairly certain that Istanbul has actual winter. It may be a bit warmer than the Mid-Atlantic, but if you're looking to escape the cold, BA is probably a better bet.
posted by breakin' the law at 11:43 AM on August 12, 2011

Istanbul has winter. It's cold, very hilly, and it snows. Not all cars (and you will need a taxi occasionally) have all-wheel drive in Istanbul.
posted by dfriedman at 12:18 PM on August 12, 2011

I visited BsAs last year in late November \ early December, and found it pretty affordable (though haven't been to Turkey so can't compare to Istanbul). It was fairly easy to find moderately priced (ie. $90 - $120 / night) b&b's in various neighborhoods of the city, and food and wine is super cheap (you can go out for a fantastic Argentine steak dinner with wine and dessert for less than $30 US). There are certainly some expensive neighborhoods (ie. Puerto Madero) where you can shell out a lot more money for food and lodging, but it's very easy to do well on little in Buenos Aires.

As far as language barrier -- it will definitely help to know Spanish. A lot people in the service industry (tour guides\museum docents, hotel staff, waiters, etc.) may speak English, but this isn't guaranteed for taxi drivers, shopkeepers, etc. Still, my girlfriend at the time didn't know much Spanish and could muddle through.

As far as excursions outside of the city ... keep in mind that Buenos Aires doesn't really have any kind of beachfront ... the closest is the ecologico promenade in Puerto Madero, but even this is more like a riverside park than it is a place for basking and/or sunbathing.
posted by bl1nk at 12:24 PM on August 12, 2011

Istanbul won't be hot, but I think it's a better city to travel in. There is lots to see by walking, the street food is great, and it's cheap. There is quite a bit of english spoken there by hotel staff, restaurant staff, etc. Our lack of turkish wasn't a problem.

Street crime is a much bigger problem in Buenos Aires.
posted by thenormshow at 12:46 PM on August 12, 2011

Istanbul is delightful but it will be a winter trip; it will be cold; you could lose much of the vacation to rainy days.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:29 PM on August 12, 2011

Istanbul was surprisingly expensive when I was there last summer; not what I had expected at all. My female travel companion felt very uncomfortable around the men, many of whom leered (especially when she wore shorts), groped, and/or didn't take no for an answer. I, on the other hand, loved the city and had a fabulous time. I celebrated my birthday with some German travelers on a stoop in an alley with beers, cigarettes, countless stray cats and kittens, vagrants who sat down with us and called my friend the "c word", and rowdy youngsters who took us to a discotheque where men outnumbered women 10 to 1. That ratio applied to a great many of the bars.

We got along just fine not speaking a lick of Turkish, but it would have been helpful. Young people were personable and the older ones mostly kept to themselves. Travel by light rail was rather expensive, yet efficient, but the bus system is shit. You'll be doing a lot of walking, so if you go, buy some cheap sausages and feed them to the cats as you meander.
posted by HotPatatta at 2:36 PM on August 12, 2011

Buenos Aires is warm in December with an average high temperature in the mid 80s. All of your interests are covered - it's very photogenic and a great city to walk around, especially that time of year.

As bl1nk says $100 a night can get you a reasonable hotel in a nice area and there are some new "boutique hostels" which offer double rooms for less, and would be a great place to meet people.

Travelling in Argentina is very simple, the whole country is covered by a system of very comfortable buses which can take you all over. A trip up to Iguazu Falls is a great experience, and takes about 4 days if done by bus.

As for Spanish, you'll be fine for a couple of weeks with only English. It would be better if you did speak it, but you'll be able to communicate. There is at least one language school here that offer a crash course of 2 hours a day for a week (or less) in the absolute basics - might be worth your time.

I've been here nearly 3 years and I run a daily tour, so if you do make it here or have any other questions - let me know!
posted by jontyjago at 4:30 PM on August 12, 2011

I stayed in Istanbul for about a week the winter before last. Temperatures hovered around freezing and it rained a few times, but there wasn't much snow. While I still loved it, it's not exactly the type of weather that compels you to "walk on the sand and eat seafood." We were bundled up and still felt cold most of the times. It seems like the buildings we found ourselves in were built for warm weather, and the winter took them by surprise. So, unlike a trip to Buenos Aires, you'd have to pack a lot of bulky clothes.

Still, the winter-related things were nice: spending time in the coffee houses, hovering near the stove with middle-aged Turks, going to Turkish baths, thawing out with bowls of yayla or red lentil soup, and ordering a lot of hot tea to warm our hands on the ferry across Bosphorus. And there were still plenty of people walking around outside--though we did spend a lot of time in touristy areas, so it was expected.

I wouldn't say Istanbul is cheap though, especially since all the little expenses add up. We saved money by choosing to stay at a vacation apartment. Even though the rental price is comparable to the lower-priced hotel rooms, the savings came by eating in for about half our meals (or packing lunches).

As for language, a lot of people we met spoke English. I did try to learn a little Turkish before I went, and my husband speaks some Turkish, but we hardly used it. (We used it more in Izmir and Cappadocia.)
posted by zerbinetta at 5:51 PM on August 12, 2011

I've never done Istanbul, but had a tremendous time in Buenos Aires. In the twenties, Argentina was something like the sixth richest country in the world, and Buenos Aires has that feel--of a city that was rich. If you've ever been to Lisbon, it's a bit like that. Or imagine Barcelona rubbed with sandpaper.

What every says above is true. Food is cheap and very good, especially the steaks and the pasta, thanks to a large Italian immigrant population. If you're on a budget, you can absolutely find decent accommodation for less than $75. I went when I was a student and paid $40 for a pleasant room in an art deco hotel.

What else? Everyone speaks a bit of English, and you can learn the necessary Spanish on the plane. Really, it's a marvelous city with a unique culture, unlike any place in the world.
posted by vecchio at 8:52 PM on August 12, 2011

BA will be disgustingly hot and humid. Think a DC summer. I cannot even imagine the non-AC Subte in December there. Must be torture.

The food in BA is monotonous- often delicious but horribly monotonous. Best ice cream in the world though.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 8:47 PM on August 13, 2011

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