Mendoza is known for it’s great meat and wine but can you retire cheap here?
The short answer is no you cannot retire cheap here.
If you retire cheap it won’t be in Mendoza, Argentina.
You will however think you’ve died and gone to heaven if you like beef, wine and bicycles.
Getting here from Valparaíso, Chile is easy.
You just have to get a comfy bus from CATA. They sell the tickets online, and at Terminal Sol.
TIP: The CATA bus you can buy the CAMA levels, which is a 160 degree reclining seat. They don’t have a full recline bed seat, but it’s pretty comfy.
On the bus you’ll get a meal box, so you don’t have to bring food …. maybe a few snacks
Then the dreaded border crossing occurs.
Not too bad, more of a boredom crossing.
You’ll wait about 5 hours, behind all the other busses as you exit the Chile crossing. Then you’ll drive a bit, and get to the Argentina entry point.
They’ll unload the bus, and check random passenger bags.
TIP: The people who are unloading all the bags will expect some small change as a tip. Have some pesos readily available.
Then after a few more hours you’ll be in Mendoza!
Mendoza has one of the most beautiful bus terminals I’ve ever seen.
I cannot think of a better one. Unlike most of the bus terminals I’ve seen, this one is super safe and clean with lots of stores. (Unlike the one in Arequipa, Peru which looks like you’ll be murdered getting in.) It looks like a modern airport terminal, rather than a decrepit bus terminal from the 80’s.
TIP: Get a phone card here. There’s a kiosk that will sell you a prepaid phone card. About $12 should do it.
TIP: Change money here. Argentina even though it’s super developed is oddly not that credit card friendly. Chile is much more so. In Chile we could use credit cards 50% of the time. Here it’s 20% of the time. You can change money at the Turbus kiosk. You’ll have people asking to change your money inside the terminal, go with one you trust, with the best interest rate.
TIP: They offered the same rate as the real cambio downtown, it was 43:1 USD:Peso if you gave them big bills.
If you are giving them small bills 20’s and under they give you 40:1. Obviously don’t do that.
You’re going to want to change money because the ATMS are brutal. Huge fee’s and low withdrawal limits.
The banks are even worse.
We tried twice to get money exchanged. It’s awful. Long lines, and all in bad. They close at 1pm, and don’t do money exchange.
(We tried HSBC and Bank of Argentina.)
Eventually we found a Cambio house to exchange our cash.
FOOD IN MENDOZA:
The food here is wonderful, but it’s not cheap. The price of a cheese pizza is $8 (all prices in Canadian).
The cost of this meal was $30 for 2 ribeyes and a bottle of wine. (Don’t forget the tip here is expected at 10%.)
I know this is super cheap compared to Canada.
And the beef and wine are really really good.
I’m from Alberta and know my beef. The Argentinian beef is great. And if you love wine? The $7 bottle was the equivalent of $20 bottle back home.
Saying that though, my budget for daily living is $15 a day, so I can’t afford steak and wine every day.
(Here’s how to order your doneness level in Spanish)
I found a brand of cheap wine I loved, that I bought at VEA (like a Walmart), it was under $3 for a 1.2 liter bottle.
Cooking meat at home also was much cheaper.
You can see that it averages out at about $5 for one of these packages.
Vegetables are pricier, almost the same price as back home.
There are lots of vegetarian restaurants and gluten friendly choices in Mendoza.
There aren’t cheap menu del Dias meals though, unlike in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.
On average I’d say the food here is 50% more expensive than those countries.
TOTAL COST? (THE PRICES BELOW ARE IN ARGENTINIAN PESOS)
These were the itemized costs. One thing to note, taxis, I used Cabify, versus the normal taxis. Also all meals and things should be divided by 2 because I was traveling with my travel buddy.
Mendoza is super safe. I don’t see any problems here. Obviously, take common sense precautions, but it’s just like back home.
Non existent, just like the rest of South America. They also speak a strange dialect of Spanish, so even though I can speak a basic travel Spanish, it was really difficult here.
This is another area where Mendoza stands out. I signed up for the Mendoza tennis club. It allows access to a great gym and tennis for $40 a month.
As I’ve travelled the world looking for the best countries to retire cheap, I’ve noticed that I’ve been in 3rd world countries a lot.
(I know it’s not really politically correct to use that term anymore, vs developing nations.)
Mendoza is a 2nd world vs 1st world or 3rd world. And is priced accordingly.
I’d say it would be a great transition city versus Medellin, Colombia if you are coming to South America for the first time.
WHO SHOULD RETIRE HERE?
- You love BBQ
- You love safety
- You love bicycles (lots of bike lanes here), and lots of parks.
- You love wine
- Great bus system
- Cabify exists here
- Great gyms
- Red clay tennis courts
- You can order food delivery
WHY YOU SHOULD NOT RETIRE HERE
- Cost of living is more that $1000 a month. $1500 is a better budget
- You don’t want to learn Argentinian Spanish. It’s annoying.
- Not that walkable, the city is big. If you’re in one area, near the center, it will still be about 10 000 steps a day to get around.
I loved Mendoza, and will 100% recommend staying here for a visit, but it’s too expensive for this budget traveler. (Also, if you come to Mendoza, stay far away from Casa del Park Hostel, worst place I’ve stayed in the world.)
All in all I hope you enjoyed this summary and if you want to read more