My 2+ Months of COVID-19 Lockdown in Buenos Aires
Updated: Oct 12, 2020
"Where were you when COVID started?"
I have a feeling that this question will eventually become a common topic of conversation in the future amongst travelers, nomads, and expats, with the answers varying drastically depending on the country they were in. Already, I have heard some pretty wild covid traveling stories, many people were kicked out of AirBnBs or other accommodations for being foreigners, some weren't allowed to pass through regions in order to get to major airports to return home, and not to forget, there are still many, many travelers that are still stuck abroad as a result of not having a way to return home.
But for now, I'll do my best to recap my experience of being in Argentina when COVID-19 hit!
Let's start from the beginning before corona.. I was living in Buenos Aires while working remotely for what planned to be about 3 months, from the end of December to the end of March, with plans to take off to Europe afterwards. Having been in South America, the arrival and looming threat of corona came extremely late compared to Europe or Asia. In hindsight, as a result of their number of cases initially being so low, it didn't even seem as if there was a global pandemic going while walking around the streets of Buenos Aires in March until Argentina went into lockdown.
Right now, I should be sitting somewhere in Eastern Europe, as I had a flight from Buenos Aires to Amsterdam in late March, with rough plans to visit 20-30 European countries over a span of about 6/7 months. Instead? I'm sitting in the US thinking and writing about how I should be in Europe... Unfortunately, its not looking like I (or any Americans for that matter) will be visiting Europe or most other countries in 2020.
Thankfully, the only confirmed plans for Europe that I had made were the flight, which ended up being cancelled a week before it was scheduled to leave Buenos Aires. Then on March 20th, a few days before I originally planned to leave, the Argentinian government announced a strict nation-wide lockdown to get ahead of the spread of the virus. I found out about the lockdown, which went into effect at midnight that night, at 9pm from an Argentine friend. However, I was checking out of my AirBnB the next morning in order to check into a hostel with a friend while I figured out what I would do since my flight was cancelled. I had a quick decision to make: stay at the apartment for the night and potentially be stuck there for an indefinite amount of time, or pack up my stuff and go to the hostel to meet my friend who had just returned to Buenos Aires in order to avoid getting stuck in another part of Argentina. Not knowing how strict the government and police would enforce the lockdown the next day, or even how available transportation would be, I hastily threw all of my things into my backpack and headed to the hostel before midnight. Thinking back, it was definitely a good decision, as I 100% would have been stuck in the AirBnB for at least a week or two by myself, so at least I was locked down with other people.
To be honest, at the beginning I wasn't too worried about it all. The whole world thought that this was just a short-term problem that would go away in a few weeks, maybe, a month at the most. I figured I would just try to ride it out in Buenos Aires until the virus blew over, then move on to another country; I had already spent 4 months there, so what would another month be?
Buuut, as we have all learned by now, nothing has gone as expected in 2020. Instead, I ended up staying over 2 months locked down in a Buenos Aires hostel since Argentina closed it's borders by banning all commercial travel into and out of the country until September, effectively leaving me grounded in Argentina indefinitely.
It ended up being a long 2 months, with the strict government lockdown consisting of only being allowed outside for groceries and medicine, no unessential shopping, no exercise, no leisurely walks in the parks. The first week or two were actually pretty fun since I was in a hostel with 30+ other people from around the world, who were just as uncertain about the future of their travel plans as I was. So in an attempt to forget that the world was collapsing, we all tried to make the most of it together by playing games, drinking, watching movies, and having legendary Argentinian asados (barbecues).
But gradually, as the days went on and the cases continued to rise around the world, more and more people began to take embassy repatriation flights back to their home countries. And so in mid-May, after 2+ months locked-down inside, being one of only a few hostel guests remaining, and with the unpredictable Argentinian winter creeping in, I decided to get on a repatriation flight back to the States to ride the pandemic out.
Looking back, I certainly don't regret coming back to the states to ride this out, especially since Argentina is still in a nation-wide lockdown as cases continue to rise there. But, nonetheless, it was unquestionably a memorable experience to have been quarantined in a foreign country during a global pandemic, with plenty of good stories and good friends to remember, all while still coming out of it safe and healthy!
August 10, 2020