A Useful Guide To Renting A Car In Argentina

Renting a car in Argentina isn’t particularly straightforward, but I have done it and I am about to share everything you need to know about it.

Argentina is a great place to take a vacation. Its vibrant cities are home to some of the best nightlife venues in South America and the sprawling rural areas have some of the most stunning landscapes on earth. That’s why I keep going for more!

This is a land of diverse cultures, intriguing history and culinary delights. By day, you can explore amazing natural wonders such as Iguazu Falls, the Valdes Peninsula, Tierra del Fuego National Park, Nahuel Huapi National Park and the wonders of Patagonia. After the sun goes down, head out for a night on the town in Buenos Aires, Cordoba, Rosario, Mendoza, or one of the country’s other fabulous cities.

Argentina is such an immense country that unless you have an abundance of time on your hands and plan to stay in the country for a month or so, you won’t be driving from one end of the country to the other. Distances from one city or region to another are such that it’s best to only rent a car when you’re planning to go to a specific destination. I did that when I was in Salta, so that I could take my time and travel at my own speed when visiting the Quebradas.

If renting a car in Argentina is something you are considering, you should go in prepared. In this post, I share a bunch of useful tips on renting a car and driving in this incredible country.

Not sure where to go in Argentina? Head over to my posts A Great Argentina Itinerary and The Best Things To Do In Argentina.

Reasons For Renting A Car In Argentina

As the second biggest country in South America, Argentina spans 2,780,400 square kilometres. That’s a lot of open road to explore! Although the country’s public transit system works well with long distance buses covering most areas around the country (and which are actually way more comfortable than the average bus in Europe), you just won’t get the same freedom that you get when you drive yourself around. That’s why renting a car in Argentina is an adventurous traveler’s best choice.

Let me be clear though. I don’t actually recommend a road trip around Argentina. The country is simply too big for that. Just to give you some perspective: it takes more than 3 hours to fly from Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, and 15 hours to drive from Mendoza to Buenos Aires.

You also won’t need a car while in the cities because walking and taking buses is a cheaper and more efficient way of getting around and it’s the best way to really get to know a city. Also, parking can be a nightmare that’s best avoided.

However, renting a car in Argentina is definitely a good idea if you wish to explore areas outside of the cities.

Having a car car means you’ll be able to get to the places you want to go much quicker because you won’t have to wait for buses or stick to the fixed schedule of guided tours. You’ll be able to come and go as you please and go where you want on your time.

Many of the most spectacular regions of the country are harder to get to by public transport, and the country is also known for its amazing scenic routes that make for epic road trips. The Route of the Seven Lakes, the Circuito Chico Drive, La Cuarenta – Route 40, the Quebradas and Cuesta de Lipan are a few of the routes that’ll take you through some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes.

Finally, let’s see what you need to know before renting a car in Argentina.

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Argentina here.

national parks in Argentina

How Much Does Renting A Car In Argentina Cost?

Renting a car in Argentina tends to be more expensive than in many other countries. You can expect to pay between $35 and $45 USD per day for a sedan with manual transmission. However, there are ways to ensure you get the cheapest rate. Just remember that rates are dependent on demand so it’ll cost more to rent a car during peak times.

Make sure to check more than one place to compare prices. I recommend Discover Cars as it allows you to compare the prices of car rental and the conditions across various companies. They also have excellent customer service.

When choosing your car, go smaller and avoid imported brands as for some reason they tend to be more expensive. Automatic vehicles also tend to be more expensive than stick shifts.

Bargaining for a discount often works when you rent a car in person, and you’ll be even more likely to have success securing a good deal if you mention that another company quoted a cheaper price. If possible, consider booking online as this will yield the lowest prices.

While one way drop-offs are a thing in many countries, I don’t actually recommend it in Argentina. As I have said before, you should only rent a car to explore locally, so it makes sense to return it to the same place where you picked it up. Besides, this will help you keep the costs down.

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Argentina here.

The cost of gasoline in Argentina

Finally, some good news. Gas is quite cheap in Argentina – at least, must cheaper than it is in Europe. At the time of writing, a liter of gas costs around $0.97 USD – around $3.672 per gallon (source Global Petrol Prices).

What You Must Know Before Renting A Car In Argentina

Book ahead of time

If you’re traveling during peak tourist season, it’s best to rent your car online to ensure there’s one available for you when you arrive. This is particularly important if you only drive automatic because these tend to be rented quicker.

When booking a rental online, you can go directly through local rental companies or use a third-party booking site – I actually recommend that as it gives you a way of comparing the prices of the various rental companies. Some local car rental companies include Sunnycars, Budget Cars, Europcar, Hertz, Avis Localiza, Alamo and Winterfell Rent a Car.

If you wish to book after you arrive in the country, you can do so at the airport or at one of the many car rental offices that are located in every city.

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Argentina here.

Ushuaia Patagonia

What documents do you need for renting a car in Argentina?

As long as your driver’s license is written in the Latin alphabet, it’s valid to use in the country. If it’s not, you’re required to obtain an international driver’s license. Other documents needed to rent a car include a valid passport and proof of insurance. You’ll also be required to have a credit card – it has to be in the name of the actual person renting the car. You can’t pay for a car rental in cash.

How old do you need to be to rent a car in Argentina?

You need to be 21 years old to book a rental car in Argentina but if you’re over 75, you won’t be able to rent. There is an additional surcharge to pay for drivers younger than 25 years old.

Insurance is required to drive in Argentina

Insurance is mandatory in Argentina and full coverage is your best option in the event you’re involved in a collision or other driving mishap. When you book your car rental, the agent will likely try to sell you insurance. This should never be your first choice if you want to save money!

Call your credit card company first and see if you’re covered for car rentals. Alternatively, if you drive a car at home, you might be covered by your policy. A quick call to your agent will determine this and if you’re not covered, they may be able to add some extra coverage to drive internationally.

No matter where you get your insurance, make sure to read all the fine print to make sure you are covered for the things you expect to be covered for.

Want to have an idea of prices? Check out the prices of car rental in Argentina here.

What is Driving Like in Argentina?

“Challenging” is one word that can be used to describe driving in Argentina’s cities. Even if you don’t rent a car to explore a city, you’ll likely face city driving at some point during your journey and you should be prepared for rudeness from local drivers. I am from Italy, and quite used to it – not to mention, most Argentines are actually of Italian origins!

In Argentina, driving is done on the right-hand side so if you’re accustomed to driving on the left, this will present an extra challenge. However, once you are out of the city, driving is much easier and slower-paced.

Argentines are known the world over for being some of the most aggressive drivers around. Expect to see a lot of cars tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic at high speeds, overtaking on blind turns (I have even seen bus do that!) and running stop signs. It’s common for local drivers to drive at speeds that are double the posted limits. If you remain vigilant and practice defensive driving, you’ll be fine.

Keep in mind that most of the main highways are privately-owned toll roads. Most of the roads and highways around the country are well-maintained.

If you plan to do any driving on remote gravel roads, make sure to rent a vehicle with 4×4 capabilities because some of these roads are in bad shape and potholes are common.

Most road signs are in Spanish and although you’ll likely understand what most of them mean, it’s still a good idea to study them before you head out on your own.

Finally, make sure to keep your doors locked and windows up especially when stopped at traffic lights in urban areas because robberies do happen.

Scams

Although uncommon, some drivers end up being victims of traffic scams. This is most common in the northeast region of the country and involves a police officer demanding that a fine be paid on the spot. Be aware that it’s illegal for a police officer to do this.

Even if the officer becomes aggressive and threatens to have your car towed, stand your ground and demand that they write a formal ticket. Doing this usually results in the officer giving up and not writing a ticket at all.

Driving in Patagonia

If you plan on doing some road-tripping in Argentina, you likely have your eyes on Patagonia and you should. Many people think that driving in this region of the country is dangerous because it’s a remote mountainous region with adverse weather conditions. However, it’s no more dangerous than any other area of the country.

For the most part, driving through Patagonia is more relaxed with less traffic and very low crime rates. Just keep in mind that not all roads are paved with visible markings and you won’t see as many service stations here as you do elsewhere in the country. Make sure to get a full tank of gas before arriving and consider carrying some extra gas in case of emergencies. You will also want to download an offline map (or keep a physical road map handy) because many places have zero cell-phone coverage.

Driving in Patagonia at night can be hazardous because there are no street lights when you leave the villages. It’s also hazardous to drive during and immediately after heavy rains because the roads become muddy and unstable. Another constant hazard you’ll need to watch for is animals. Llamas, deer, coyotes and foxes are often spotted on the roads.

Make sure to read my post What You Must Know Before Visiting Patagonia.

Argentina Salta

Rules of the road in Argentina

Before heading out onto the open road, it’s important to know the rules. Most of the rules are pretty standard. Wear your seatbelt at all times, don’t drink and drive and only use a cell phone with a hands-free device. You also must have your driver’s license, proof of insurance and passport on hand while driving.

An important thing you need to know about driving in Argentina is that you have to drive with headlights on in all areas, at all times. By law, all vehicles must be equipped with two safety triangles, a first aid kit, a reflective vest and a fire extinguisher.

things to do in Buenos Aires

Parking in Argentina

Parking can be tricky in the cities for two main reasons: crime and availability.

The safest place to park is in one of the parking garages that are marked with a big “E” sign. The “E” is for Estacionamiento, which means parking garage in Spanish. These garages are safer than parking on the street but you’ll have to pay a set fee.

If you must park on the street, remember that it’s illegal to park on sidewalks or to park the opposite way on a one-way street. Park in a well-lit, high-traffic area. Be aware of your surroundings when you exit your vehicle and don’t leave any valuables behind.

If the street you park on has free parking, watch out for the Trapitos or guards who expect to be paid to “watch” your car in your absence. Some people have claimed that their cars were keyed or damaged in some way after refusing to pay for this illegal service. The best way to handle this situation is to just hand them a small sum of cash and they’ll back off.

Useful apps to use when driving in Argentina

There are a number of apps available to help you get around Argentina safely and effectively.

Como Llego, which means “How to Arrive” in English, is a great app when navigating the city of Buenos Aires. It’s a government-affiliated public transit app that is available in both Spanish and English.

BA Turismo is another great government-affiliated app to have when exploring any area of the country as it provides information about many tours, museums and other attractions that you might want to check out along the way. The app is available in English.

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