Getting ready for your trip to South America

Photo: CC0 Public Domain

How to learn Spanish faster and be ready for your trip in Latin America

Clemens, from Germany, came to CASA Spanish in order to be able to travel around Latin America much more easily. This is why we think he had a successful Spanish experience during his trip.

In August of 2016, Clemens came to CASA Spanish through the recommendation of a friend to take one week of classes, but in the end ended up staying with us for 4 weeks. When he arrived he spoke very basic Spanish. Over his time in our Spanish School in Buenos Aires he formed his travel plans in Latin America. For three months he travelled through Peru, Chile and Bolivia and he told us he was able to travel around with ease and in each place he went he could speak to locals and make new friends.

But what’s Clemens’ secret to learning Spanish so quickly? Practice, practice and practice.

As well as living with a host family, what made his adaptation to the new sound of the language and the accent much easier was that Clemens from the first day asked us to speak in Spanish to him (slightly adjusted and speaking slowly of course) including when he still didn’t have sufficient vocabulary. At the beginning he spoke in English, but after a week he began to speak in Spanish, without worrying about small mistakes because ‘that’s why we’re all here at CASA’. His desire to learn the language and live in true immersion with his environment was incredible.

Today, 7 months after he returned to Germany he is back in Buenos Aires to work. He had various interviews which were all in Spanish and he soon found a job. His Spanish continues getting better day by day but he feels like it’s getting easier quicker than it did before. It’s for that reason that now he is taking part in out ‘resident program’ in CASA Spanish and we know that with time and spending time with Argentinians at work and in his day to day life he will soon be a true porteño. During the time that Clemens spent away from Argentina we stayed in contact with him (always in Spanish) and today we feel that a student hasn’t returned to Buenos Aires, but a friend.

The testimony of Clemens

Testimony of Clemens’ teacher, Rita

I met Clemens last year, he did three weeks at beginners level. Throughout his course he shared his classes with other students and he always got on with everyone. His performance with the language was excellent and his dedication was noted day in day out. It was a pleasure to have shared such fun and lovely moments with him.

Original Text: CASA Spanish – English Translate: Tom Trower


Glaciar Perito Moreno

When to go:

You should during the Argentinien spring/summer from November to April; in winter is too cold and the sun goes down very early, limiting their uptime.

My journey:

Patagonia is very large and there is much to visit. My track for almost 2 weeks was Calafate> Puerto Natales (Chile)> Ushuaia> Chaltén. Calafate is a mini tourist town. The city itself offers good food for all budgets, several tour packages for all ages. At Ushuaia is mandatory to visit the Canal del Beagle and Bahía Lapataia.

What to do

patagonia horse rider

In Calafate, I chose the hotel “La Loma” for its good location and price (2 blocks from downtown / 3 blocks from the bus station) .The most important activity is the visit to the Perito Moreno glacier, something that one has to visit for its stateliness. Hotels / hostels you prune request a transfer to park and a mini bus would be pick up to look at the scheduled time. The price is $ 50.-

The other tours I would recommend is the glacier horse rides, you’ll spend an amazing day on horseback with breakfast / roast, beautiful scenery behind the glacier. The price is $ 100 but booking through the website goes down 10%

The is also a tour “trekking the glacier”, which is a group tour that you walk on the glacier that also the cost is about $ 100.-

My next destination was Puerto Natales is a port city a few hours away by bus. I recommend buying bus tickets as soon as possible because they sell out quickly. The trip is like 4-5 hours for $ 30. Puerto Natales is a small city, about 100 years living from fishing and it’s a Pacific port. Today, it lives almost full tourism, as thousands of tourists from around the world goes to that city as a base to go to Torres del Paine National Park to make long trips from 3 days to 2 weeks. I choose to make a quick trip to the park by bus passing through the key places. In Chile to enter parks have to pay the entrance it is at least $ 35.-

I went to two places for dinner / lunch there that I found amazing. A delicious pizza called the “Guanaca pizzeria” and other more modern, this in fact is an empty container named Santolla on the street called Magallanes.

Patagonia Penguins
El Chaltén

Arriving at Ushuaia, very cold even in summer. In Ushuaia, I stayed at the hostel Yakush, I found one of the best of the whole trip. I decided to make the trekk to the emerald lagoon (Laguna Esmeralda) that is purely easy and nice way, you can see a lot of nature and dams made by beavers. The next day take the tour boat passing by the lighthouse Les Eclaireurs and marine wolves, penguins and marine birds, found it very good experience, it take many hours and the back around becomes very long. Ushuaia is important to test the spider crab (king crab) in a non-touristy restaurant called Chiko.

My journey ends in the Chalten that from the Calafate airport you could take a combi for $ 30 and the trip takes about 4 hours. The chalten is characteristic as the South American capital of trekking, “Pièce de résistance” is being fitz roy mountain (Laguna de los 3). The slope of the final straight is very tiring and are one hour walking up, but on arrival see something magical that is indescribable.

GETTING TO AND AROUND URUGUAY (Colonia and Montevideo)

Montevideo, Uruguay

So you might have released by now that a lot of Urguayian cities are closer to Buenos Aires than Cordoba, Mendoza or Bariloche. So with that in mind you might be thinking of a weekend trip to the home of Luis Suarez, Jorge Drexler and China Zorilla.

Below I will give you a brief explanation of the options for getting to Colonia and the other towns worth checking out when you’re there:

Colonia de Sacramento

Colonia Uruguay

Colonia de Sacramento is a top place to visit from Buenos Aires and can be done in a day trip if you are short on time. Colonia del Sacramento was the only Portuguese settlement along the Rio de la Plata when the Spanish were colonizing this area. It was founded in 1680 with the name Nova Colonia do Sacramento by Manuel de Lobo. Colonia’s founding kick-started a struggle between the Spanish and the Portuguese over control of this area. For years Colonia was a smuggling port, evading the strict trade measures imposed in the Americas by the Spanish. Due to this situation, the city changed hands many times between the Portuguese and the Spanish. Even Brazil controlled it for a short while, until the new country of Uruguay declared independence in 1825.

An interesting thing about Colonia is that its colonial center (Barrío Historico), offers an idea of what buildings in Buenos Aires might have looked like back in colonial times, before the city was successively modernized down the years. Colonia was recently made a UNESCO heritage site, so it should remain a time capsule of the Rio de la Plata’s colonial past for many years. Colonia has an old town where you can wander the streets and the waterfront taking in the tow main squares, Plaza Mayor 25 de Mayo and Plaza de Armas and a yacht harbour. It also has a 19th century lighthouse where you can watch the sun set and plenty of bars and restaurants. In terms of getting there, there are 3 main options for transport from Buenos Aires: Buquebus: this is the more comfortable option as the boat is very large but it is more expensive and slightly slower than the other options, taking around 3 hours to get to Colonia. Colonia Express: The boats are smaller and can therefore be affected by bad weather but the prices are very reasonable, starting at 98 pesos plus taxes. Seacat: this was previously called Ferrylineas and it is a company that belongs to Buquebus. The price is similar to theColonia Express, the trip takes an hour and leave from the same terminal as the Buquebus. The companies offer day tours and packages with hotels. From Colonia, you can get a bus to other parts of Uruguay such as:

Colonia de Sacramento


Carnaval Uruguay

The nations capital, Montevideo is often seen as Buenos Aires little brother, with a similar taste for street art, cafe’s and late night parties. However Montevideo is much smaller and has less busy than its Argentine neighbour. If Buenos Aires is the Paris of the south, then Montevideo may well claim to be the Nice. For this reason you may find it much easier to manage, and before you know it you will be sipping a mate, watching the waves come in, just like a local. Montevideo is 3-4 hours by bus. Perhaps the highlight of the year is and carnival, which brings countless activities all of February (as mentioned in another blog) – for more information, click here