Citizens of neighboring countries—Bolivians, Brazilians, Uruguayans, and Paraguayans—need only national identity cards, but most other nationalities needs passports to enter Argentina. U.S. and Canadian citizens, along with those of the European Community and Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and other Latin American countries, need passports but not advance visas. Citizens of nearly every African and Asian country, with the exceptions of South Africa and Japan, need advance visas.
Regulations change, however, and it may be helpful to check the visa page of Argentina’s Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores (Foreign Relations Ministry, www.mrecic.gov.ar ). See the accompanying sidebar for contact information for the most important Argentine embassies and consulates overseas.
Argentina routinely grants 90-day entry permits to foreign visitors in the form of a tourist card. . For some nationalities, however, it has also instituted a “reciprocity fee” that corresponds to the value of the visa application fee that their countries impose on Argentine visa applicants. Collected only at Buenos Aires’s international airport at Ezeiza, at least for the moment, the fee is US$131 for United States citizens (valid for 10 years), US$100 for Australians (single entry), and US$70 for Canadians (single entry).
Theoretically, the tourist card must be surrendered on departure; in practice, it’s the passport stamp that counts. For US$80, the entry is renewable for 90 days at the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (Avenida Argentina 1355, Retiro, Buenos Aires, tel. 011/4317-0237, 8 a.m.–2 p.m. weekdays).
In the provinces, renewal can be done at any office of the Policía Federal (Federal Police), but in smaller towns they may not be accustomed to doing so. Buenos Aires  visitors may find it cheaper and simpler to take a ferry trip to Colonia, Uruguay.
Formally, arriving visitors must have a return or onward ticket, but enforcement is inconsistent—if you have a Latin American, North American, or Western European passport, for instance, it’s unlikely you’ll be asked to show the return ticket (in the western hemisphere, only Cubans need a visa to enter Argentina).
Always carry identification, since either the federal or provincial police can request it at any moment, though they rarely do so arbitrarily. Passports are also necessary for routine transactions like checking into hotels, cashing travelers checks, or even payment by credit card.
Dependent children under age 14 traveling without both parents presumably need notarized parental consent, but the author’s daughter visited Argentina many times with only one parent and was never asked for such a document.
Visitors who suffer a lost or stolen passport must obtain a replacement at their own embassy or consulate. After obtaining a replacement passport, it’s necessary to visit the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones to replace the tourist card.
Traditionally notorious for truly flagrant corruption, Argentine customs has improved from the days of the so-called aduana paralela (parallel customs) and normally presents no obstacle to tourists. Short-term visitors may import personal effects including clothing, jewelry, medicine, sporting gear, camping equipment and accessories, photographic and video equipment, personal computers, and the like, as well as 400 cigarettes, two liters of wine or alcoholic beverages (adults over age 18 only), and up to US$300 of new merchandise.
Customs inspections are usually routine, but at Buenos Aires ’s international airports, river ports, and some land borders, incoming checked baggage may have to pass through X-ray; do not put photographic film in checked baggage. Fresh food will be confiscated at any port of entry.
At some remote border posts, the Gendarmería Nacional (Border Guards) handles all formalities, including immigration, customs, and agricultural inspections. Visitors arriving from drug-producing countries like Colombia, Perú, and Bolivia may get special attention, as may those from Paraguay, with its notorious contraband economy.
Argentina is notorious for police corruption. For this reason, Argentines scornfully call both federal and provincial police la cana—an insult that should never be used to their faces.
The Policía Federal (Federal Police) are more professional than provincial forces like that of Buenos Aires Province; the latter is almost universally detested for harassing motorists for minor equipment violations and, even worse, for their gatillo fácil (hair-trigger) response to minor criminal offenses. In fairness, many police officers have died at the hands of well-armed criminals (who are sometimes police officers themselves).
Nevertheless, officers often solicit coimas (bribes) at routine traffic stops. To avoid paying a bribe, either state your intention to contact your consulate, or use broken Spanish even if you understand the language well. Either one may frustrate a corrupt official sufficiently to give up the effort.
Since the end of the 1976–1983 military dictatorship, the military has lost prestige and appears to have acknowledged its inability to run the country, despite occasional clamor for a coup by fringe figures. Still, security is heavy around military bases and photography is taboo—though mostly a thing of the past, signs proclaiming that “the sentry will shoot” are sometimes posted.