Getting a Driver's License in Argentina

Sample Argentine Driver's License [photo courtesy of Agencia Nacional de Seguridad Vial]When I moved to Argentina six years ago, what initially kept me from driving was the chaotic mix of stray animals, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians coupled with a flagrant disregard for basic traffic laws on the part of many (most?) drivers. Eventually that chaos became the new norm, yet something else even greater was holding me back. I didn't know how to drive stick shift. My husband gave me lessons, dutifully taking me out to practice on the dusty back roads bordering the fields of sunflowers and soy, but I never quite got the hang of it. So even though I'd been driving since the age of 17, I reluctantly gave up my independence, settling—albeit temporarily—for the passenger seat. Finally, after years of being chauffeured around Necochea by my family and friends, I saved up the money to buy a car with automatic transmission (no easy feat in Argentina, where the overwhelming majority of cars for sale have a manual transmission).

With the keys to my new ride in hand, I set my sights on completing another expat rite of passage: applying for a driver's license. As a tourist, foreign drivers are free to roam the mean streets of Argentina with an international driving permit and a valid foreign license; however, residents must obtain an Argentine driver's license. (Note: Foreigners cannot apply for a driver's license without a DNI.)

The information provided here is valid for those applying for a driver's license in the province of Buenos Aires. Please note that my experience in Necochea may be different from yours. The requirements for residents of the city of Buenos Aires and other provinces vary. If you're looking to obtain your license in Capital Federal, the blog Discover Buenos Aires has a very informative post.

Process for Obtaining an Argentine Driver's License (Province of Buenos Aires)

1. Schedule an appointment. Although some municipalities have an online system for appointments, here in Necochea, you have to do it the old-fashioned way by going in person. I went to the Oficina de Licencias de Conducir, Dirección de Seguridad Pública, and I was given an appointment for almost three weeks later. I was also handed a list of the required items that I would need to present at the time of my appointment.

Requirements for Argentine Driver's License (Province of Buenos Aires)

  • DNI booklet (not card) plus two photocopies of pages 2, 3, and 8
  • Proof of blood type (I used my American Red Cross blood donor card)
  • Two completed medical forms (Declaración Jurada de Salud), available for purchase at a nearby kiosk
  • Municipal fee ($120 in Necochea, price varies by municipality), pay in advance of appointment and bring proof of payment
  • Valid foreign driver's license plus a photocopy of your license

Also, in anticipation of your appointment, take some time to prepare for the written driver's exam (you can purchase a hard copy of the practice questions for a small fee or take a practice test online for free).

2. Check in. On the day of my appointment, I returned to the Oficina de Licencias de Conducir where I waited for my name to be called. I was led back to a desk and asked to present my paperwork, DNI, etc., (all of the items listed above). Next, my photo and fingerprints were taken, and I was asked to provide a digital signature. After reviewing and signing a print-out with my information, I was directed to wait until called for the vision test. I was given my paperwork to take with me.

3. Take vision test. I was asked to identify three letters on an eye chart, and I was given two pieces of paper to add to my collection of forms. The end.

4. Pay provincial fee. Payment of the provincial fee ($173) must be made at Banco Provincia or, in Necochea, at the Cámara de Comercio. I added these receipts to the pile of paperwork and forged ahead.

5. Take written exam. In Necochea, the written exam is given at the Departamento de Tránsito, across town from where my adventure began. Here I was asked to present all of my paperwork and my foreign driver's license. In some municipalities the test is computerized, but not in Necochea. The exam consisted of 56 multiple-choice questions in Spanish about the rules of the road, plus 16 questions, also multiple choice, about street signs. I passed with flying colors and was given a date to pick up my license. I was not required to take a road test, presumably because I was already a licensed driver in another country.

6. Pick up license. My license was available for pick-up at the Oficina de Licencias de Conducir about one week later.

So, now I've officially joined the ranks of the crazies, striking fear in the hearts of pedestrians and stray dogs all over Necochea, and I’ve rediscovered the joy of driving…Argentine style.

[Image credit: Agencia Nacional de Seguridad Vial]

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Foreign Tourists Permitted to Marry in Buenos Aires

Foreign Tourists Permitted to Marry in Argentina [photo by Genaro |, used under Creative Commons license]Foreign tourists are now allowed to marry in the City of Buenos Aires, thanks to a resolution [full text, in Spanish] passed in May 2012. Both straight and same-sex couples visiting the capital city can get hitched with just a few days' notice. Gay marriage was legalized for Argentine citizens in 2010, and now the right has been extended to tourists as well.

I know this news isn't exactly hot off the presses, but I've received a number of emails from readers seeking information about the possibility of getting married in Argentina as a visitor. The change in the law no doubt makes Buenos Aires a more attractive location for those considering destination weddings, since partners can now be joined in a ceremony that is more than purely symbolic.

Tourists wishing to get married must request an appointment at the Civil Registry Office, which, under the law, must be granted in no more than five days. Couples must present a certified photocopy of their passports with a valid tourist stamp and provide an address, albeit temporary (this can be a hotel or friend or family member's home in Buenos Aires), and the length of their stay. Couples will be married at the Civil Registry Office that corresponds to the temporary address they provided.

In addition to Capital Federal, two tourists can tie the knot in the provinces of Santa Fe, Tierra del Fuego and Buenos Aires.

For information about marriage between a foreigner and an Argentine citizen, please see my post "Getting Married in Argentina."

Have you gotten married in Argentina while on vacation? Tell us about your experience in the comments.

[Photo credit: Genaro |]

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Worshipping at "The Church of Tango"

The Church of Tango: a Memoir by Cherie MagnusDuring my first two years or so in Argentina, the opportunity to read an English-language book was something of a luxury; however, all that changed in 2012 thanks to my Kindle. I read a number of interesting and engaging stories last year, and I'd like to share my thoughts about one of them, The Church of Tango: a Memoir by Cherie Magnus.

I first met Cherie, a retired librarian and former belly dancer, a few years back when she traveled to Mar del Plata on a visit with her partner Rubén. We had initially connected through our blogs and thought it would be great to meet in real life. Cherie struck me as a joyful person, someone with a true zest for living, an impression that was further strengthened through subsequent meetings. She spoke about her old life in the U.S. in a wistful sort of way, but I chalked that up to standard-issue expat behavior, that is, until I read her book.

I never would have guessed that the vivacious, smiling Cherie I'd come to know had experienced so much loss in her life and, well, just plain bad luck. But there is life after loss. Cherie's story proves that.

Katie & Cherie in Mar del Plata by katiemetz, on Flickr

Although the title may indicate otherwise, the main focus of this memoir isn't really on the tango. It tells the story of a woman who had built a beautiful life for herself and then watched it all crumble as fate cruelly dealt her one blow after another. Yet, in spite of the death of loved ones, battles with illness, and betrayal, Cherie shows us that even in our most broken moments, we must keep moving forward. By literally putting one foot in front of the other, dance, and more specifically, the tango, gave her the strength to put one foot in front of the other in a metaphorical sense, too. In the hopes of regaining some of what she'd lost, Cherie's journey takes her from Los Angeles to France, then Mexico, and lastly, Buenos Aires. Here she finds solace in the Argentine capital's many milongas (tango dance halls), and she begins to build a new life for herself through the tango.

It's clear to me that Cherie possesses an indomitable spirit, but much like the haunting strains of the tango, I also see in her a touch of melancholy and nostalgia for the past. Perhaps that's why she finally found her home in Buenos Aires.

If 2012 was a difficult year for you, pick up The Church of Tango and be inspired.

Disclosure: While the author did provide a complimentary review copy of this book, the opinions expressed here are strictly my own. This post also contains an affiliate link that helps support this blog.

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Toast the New Year with Lemon Champ

Happy 2013! by evalottchen, on Flickr [used under Creative Commons license]

With New Year's Eve only a day away, I've been working to finalize our special dinner menu. We typically ring in the holidays here with a glass of sidra (a sweet sparkling alcoholic apple cider) or champagne; however, it's nice to switch things up a bit now and again. So, this New Year's we're going to toast with a delicious and refreshing champagne cocktail known as Lemon Champ

The first time I ever tried this tasty beverage was at a restaurant here in Necochea called the Taberna Española, where it was listed on the menu as Limonchamp; however, Mr. Google says the more popular spelling is Lemon Champ. Regardless of how you spell it, this drink is a simple, elegant and festive way to ring in the New Year (or any other special occasion).

Along with the typical menu and drinks prepared by Argentines for Christmas and New Year's, a few other traditions are observed as the year draws to an end. In Buenos Aires, some individuals and businesses shred old calendars, magazines and documents from the past year and toss them out the window like confetti. Out with the old and in with the new, I suppose.

Also, many Argentine women uphold the tradition of wearing a brand new pair of pink panties (or red, according to some) on New Year's Eve to bring luck, money, or a boyfriend, in the case of single ladies. These undies must be received as a gift on Christmas, preferably from a female friend or family member, in order to function as a good luck charm.

So, put on your pink knickers, grab a glass of Lemon Champ, and toast to a New Year filled with love, health, happiness and success. ¡Feliz Año Nuevo!

Lemon Champ | Champagne Cocktail with Lemon Sorbet by katiemetz, on Flickr

Lemon Champ | Champagne Cocktail with Lemon Sorbet
Serves 6


1 pint lemon sorbet
750 mL bottle brut champagne, chilled
twists of lemon zest or fresh strawberries, for garnish [optional]


Remove sorbet from freezer and let soften for about 10 minutes. Scoop sorbet into a large pitcher. Pour half the bottle of champagne over the sorbet, and stir briskly to blend. Pour into champagne flutes, filling each glass halfway. Top off each flute with champagne from the bottle. Garnish each glass with a twist of lemon zest or a strawberry, if desired. Serve immediately.

[Image credit: evalottchen]

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Pionono de Pollo y Palmitos | Chicken Salad Roll with Hearts of Palm

Pionono de Pollo y Palmitos | Chicken Salad Roll with Hearts of Palm by katiemetz, on Flickr

The pionono, a thin sponge cake filled with either sweet or savory ingredients and rolled up jelly roll-style, constitutes an Argentine classic. Piononos (also called arrollados) frequently appear with a healthy dose of dulce de leche inside, but savory jelly rolls or roulades have their place here too, particularly around the holidays when scorching summer temperatures beg for cold items to be served at dinner. In fact, with a high temperature of 86ºF here on the coast on Christmas Eve (and no air conditioning to cut through the heat and humidity), I was reminded of the idiocy of preparing roasted meats in summertime as my turkey sizzled and browned in the oven. Score one point for a northern-hemisphere Navidad.

Here in Argentina, piononos are so popular year-round that the pre-made sponge cakes can be easily found at any supermarket, ready to be filled and rolled. If you can get your hands on a store-bought pionono, you'll save yourself a few extra steps, but honestly, the sponge cake isn't that difficult to make and the taste of homemade is vastly superior.

I served a chicken salad pionono with hearts of palm for my Argentine family on Nochebuena, and it was a big hit. The hearts of palm and celery provide textural contrast and the chives and pimentos offer up a bit of color and extra flavor. With the light sweetness of the sponge cake and the chicken salad, I think this pionono would make an excellent brunch item as well.

Pionono de pollo y palmitos | Chicken Salad Roll with Hearts of Palm
Serves 8 to 10 as appetizer


For the pionono:

4 large eggs
4 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour, sifted
butter, to grease the pan
powdered sugar, for dusting

equipment: 15" x 11" x 1" jelly roll pan

For the chicken salad filling:

3 split chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
poaching liquid: 1 stalk celery, 1 carrot, ½ onion, 1 sprig of tarragon, a few sprigs of parsley, 1 bay leaf, ¼ teaspoon whole peppercorns, and 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

1 cup (most of a 14-oz. can) chopped hearts of palm
½ cup chopped celery
1 (4-0z.) jar pimento peppers, drained and chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
mayonnaise, as needed
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

optional garnish: sliced hearts of palm, chopped pimento peppers, parsley leaves and mayonnaise


For the pionono:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease the jelly roll pan with butter. Line with parchment paper; grease the parchment with butter.

Using a mixer, beat the eggs, sugar, honey and salt on high speed until you obtain a thick, pale yellow mixture, about 8 to 10 minutes. Carefully fold in the flour until just incorporated. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, and spread gently and evenly with a spatula. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until golden brown and springy to the touch.

Run a knife around the sides of the cake. Invert onto a dish towel dusted with powdered sugar, and slowly remove the parchment. Roll the cake up in the towel, starting at a short side. Let cool for 1 hour, seam side down, on a wire rack.

For the chicken salad filling:

Add water, celery, carrot, onion, tarragon, parsley, bay leaf, peppercorns, and salt to a large pot, and bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, and lower heat to a bare simmer. Skim off any foam that rises. Simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (cut a breast in half to check for doneness.) Once cool, discard the skin and bones, and finely shred the chicken with two forks or using your hands.

In a large bowl, add the shredded chicken, hearts of palm, celery, pimentos, chives and enough mayonnaise to bind the ingredients together. Add salt and pepper to taste.


Unroll the cooled pionono, and spread with filling, leaving about a ½-inch border on the sides. Beginning on a short side, carefully roll up the pionono and place it seam side down on a platter. Slice off the end pieces with a serrated knife to neaten up the appearance. Garnish as desired and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Savory Jelly Roll Cake from Argentina: The Pionono by katiemetz, on Flickr

Are you looking for more Argentine recipes? Click here to browse the entire Recipe File, or try out the visual recipe index

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