Best buys

Shopping in Argentina is relatively cheap for visitors from Western Europe and the USA since the devaluation of the peso in 2002. Argentine fashion and leather goods are particularly good value; shoes, sunglasses and outdoor gear too, are very reasonably priced, and if you have a free afternoon in Buenos Aires, it might be worth considering buying your holiday clothes here when you arrive: head straight for Palermo Viejo.

Tax free shopping
is relatively easy and it's worth following this simple procedure to get the IVA (shopping tax) returned to you at the airport as you leave the country; shop at places displaying the Global Refund TAX FREE sign. Before you pay, ask for the TAX FREE refund form. The shop must fill this out for you as you pay. Keep this form, in the envelope they'll give you, together with your receipt. At the airport, once you've passed through security, and before going through passport control, look out for the TAX FREE kiosk. Hand them all your TAX FREE envelopes, with the receipts, and they will give them the customs stamp. Then once you've gone through passport control, look for the TAX FREE Refund Desk, also called Assist Card, where your stamped forms will be taken, and the tax will be refunded either in cash or to your credit card. See, for more information, or in Argentina call T011-43422413.

Argentine specialities

In Buenos Aires, leather is the best buy, with many shops selling fine leather jackets, coats and trousers, as well as beautifully made bags and shoes. With a mixture of Italian influenced design, and a flavour of the old gaucho leather-working traditions, there's a strong emerging Argentine style.

, are available all over the country, and are distinctly region to region. Traditional gaucho handicrafts, available across most of the
country, include woven or plaited leather belts of excellent quality, as well as key rings and other pieces made of silver. These are small and distinctive and make excellent gifts. Look out, too, for the traditional baggy gaucho trousers,
, comfortable for days in the saddle, and ranging from cheap sturdy cotton to smart versions with elaborate tucks.

Take home a
, the hollowed gourd, often decorated, and the silver
that goes with it, for drinking the national drink. In the northwest there are beautifully made woven items: brightly coloured rugs, or saddle mats, and the country's best ponchos. Look out for the hand-dyed and woven ponchos, instead of the mass-produced variety, available in smaller rural areas, or in the fine handicrafts market at Salta or Catamarca. There are the deep red Güemes versions or soft fine ponchos made of
(a local cousin of the llama), usually in natural colours. In markets all over the northwest, you'll find llama wool jumpers, hats and socks, and brightly coloured woven bags, Bolivian influenced, but typical of the
region. There are also fine carved wooden pieces. In the Lake District too, there's lots of woodwork, and weavings of a different kind, from the Mapuche peoples, with distinctive black and white patterns. Smoked fish and meat, and delicious home-made jams from
(elderberry) or
(raspberry) are among the local delicacies. In the northeast, there are Guaraní handicrafts such as bows and arrows. Argentina's national stone, the fleshy pink and marbled rhodochrosite, is mined in the northwest, but available all over Buenos Aires too, worked into fine jewellery, and less subtle paperweights and ashtrays.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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