You don’t need to have a fat budget to enjoy Mendoza, and if you change your dollars at the unofficial rate, your visit can still be quite plush. Here’s 24 hours for shoestring Mendoza on the cheap:
10am: Still want to try some of Mendoza’s special juice? No problem. You just need to be prepared to bus and bike it to Maipu. The early bird slurps the Malbec worm, so get up early and catch the bus (171, 172 or 173 from Catamarca and Rioja) to Maipu and from there you can hire a bike for around $5US to peddle your way to a couple wineries. Tempus Alba has a free tour and Di Tommasso and Carinae have very affordable tasting options.
1pm: A classic cheap and filling lunch is the beloved Jamon Crudo sandwich – sold at almost every petrol station (where they also serve cheap beer) and from some street peddlers along the main roads, you’ll find long slices of homemade bread filled with Argentina’s version of Parma ham and drizzled with olive oil.
3pm: The best things in life are free and you should make the most of Mendoza’s beautiful plazas and park. Start out with a walk around San Martin Park where you can enjoy the gorgeous green spaces, a large lake and a steep walk up to Cerro de Gloria monument. You can refresh yourself with the (free) water fountains dotted all over the place.
Head back into the city centre for a mosey around the five main plazas: Italia, España, Chile, San Martin and the big one, Plaza Independencia. Plaza Independencia also has an artisan market during the afternoon and early evening and you might be able to wrangle yourself a bargain for some souvenir shopping.
7pm: Another cheap sandwich must is the lomito (steak sandwich). The best place to get a lomito is in Las Heras neighbourhood at Barloa (San Martin 300, Las Heras) but if you are on a shoestring, taxis aren’t going to be on the agenda (although they are relatively cheap) and it is not recommended to walk there. Try a good lomito closer to the centre at one of the more cafeteria-style restaurants on Belgrano street. An even more pocket friendly option is a pancho (hot dog) which you can sometimes still get change from a $10peso bill with and you can spice it up with hundreds of different toppings and lluvia de papas (‘potato rain’, or crisps). This isn’t a very gourmand recommendation, but it ticks the cheap box…
10pm: Take a stroll down Aristides street as the bars get packed and indulge in a bit of people watching. As you wander down the street, barmen will be touting their best promo drinks offers to you and you might be able to get a good shoestring Mendoza deal sometimes with dinner in the mix, and occasionally all-you-can-eat cheap (admittedly rubbish) pizza. Pick your poison, or just keep going till you reach Por Aca (Aristides 557) which is the backpacker’s bar and nightclub of choice. Order yourself a liter of cheap beer and get those hips wiggling to lure someone into buying your second one… (a top tip for both sexes.)