How to tango like a pro in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Which shoes to wear? Which direction to dance in? Tango in Buenos Aires is more complicated than you might think – so here’s how to put your best foot forward

Chris Moss
17 December 2017

1: Know the etiquette

Group tango class (Chris Moss)

Always dance in an anti-clockwise direction at a milonga (group class).

2: Bring the right shoes

Tango-worthy footwear (Dreamstime)

Men: Wear shoes that can move smoothly across the floor (ie not trainers).

Women: It’s best if you wear small heels, as this facilitates the necessary inward ‘lean’ for the embrace. You can also get tango shoes with bendy soles, which helps a lot.

3: Use your feet for walking, too

San Telmo neighbourhood (Dreamstime)

Palermo, Recoleta and San Telmo are all rather well-heeled barrios (neighbourhoods) and full of sights, but Buenos Aires is a very walkable city: take in Almagro, Barracas, Villa Crespo and Chacarita to see its more authentic areas.

4: Take the right money

Money exchange: bring dollars, not sterling (Dreamstime)

Argentinian banks only change money for account holders these days. Take US dollars, as UK pounds are pretty much almost impossible to change, even in a casa de cambio.

5: Brush up on some tango lingo

Learn some basics to make dance classes easier (Dreamstime)

Such as… ‘el ocho‘ (figure of eight step), ‘al suelo‘ (keeping the soles of the feet close to the floor) and ‘quebrada‘ (the angled posture of both dancers, which was considered indecent in the early days).

6: Check out what’s happening at venues

Tango show in Bueno Aires (Chris Moss)

You might catch a live tango or folk show at Torquato Tasso ( or La Trastienda (

7: Fancy restaurants are getting pricey

Mmmmm, Argentinian beef steak… (Dreamstime)

Look for social clubs (clubes sociales) often attached to local sports teams – or eat where you see taxis parked. Club Eros is a great cheap eatery in Palermo.

8: ‘Motel’ has a different meaning

It’s not what you think (Dreamstime)

‘Motel’ here usually means by-the-hour rooms for lovers who can’t do it at home; they’re often quite nice, but 8 hours will set you back, even if it impresses the hotel employees.

9: Forget Strictly

Dancing in the streets of Buenos Aires (Dreamstime)

Forget Strictly: that’s not Argentine tango but ‘show’ tango, and if you did it at a milonga you’d get a black eye before your flying elbows gave someone else one.

10: Learn some moves before you go

Tango class (Dreamstime)

Take a few classes at home before your trip, so you can relax and enjoy the dance in its natural home.

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