How to rent a car and drive in Argentina as a tourist
Argentina is a very large country, and does not have a significant rail network. While flying remains the most popular way for people to get around, outside of Buenos Aires, especially in the Mendoza wine country and Patagonia region, population density is low, things are spread out, and oftentimes driving is the best way to get around
Fortunately, renting a car in Argentina is a very simple process for tourists. There are many rental agencies, including may large international ones like Hertz, Avis, Budget, National, Enterprise, Sixt, and Europcar. However, driving here is a very different experience than other parts of the world due to somewhat different traffic rules and many aggressive drivers. Below are more details.
What you need to book a car:
Your driver's license: this is the most important document to bring with you. You do not need to have an international driving permit to rent a car here, just your regular driver's license from your home country is fine. However, if your driver's license is not written in roman alphabet (e.g. Russian, Chinese, Japanese, etc.), you will need to get an international driving permit (https://internationaldrivingpermit.org)
Credit card: car rental companies require credit cards to rent. You cannot rent with cash so make sure you have a working credit card with you issued by one of the major brands like Visa, Mastercard, or American Express. Also, the credit card must be yours, meaning you cannot use someone else's credit card to rent a car
Meet the minimum age requirement: you need to be 21 years or older to rent a car in Argentina. Many car companies also charge an additional fee for 21-25 year olds. You also cannot rent a car if you're older than 75 years old
How to book a car: it's advised that you book your car online ahead of time before you arrive. You can do so directly through the various car companies' websites (Hertz, Avis, Budget, National, Enterprise, Sixt, and Europcar), or go through a search engine like Expedia. You can book upon arrival at the airport as well, these companies all have booths at the EZE airport (the main international airport in Buenos Aires) and many of them also are present at AEP airport (the main domestic airport in BA). They also have rental locations in the city so if you don't want to pickup the car immediately upon arrival you can do so in the city later
Important road rules to be aware of in Argentina:
You are not allowed to turn right on a red light. I know this is allowed in North America but is not allowed here in Argentina. Red light means all traffic must stop in that direction
At traffic lights, you are not allowed to turn left unless you see a left pointing arrow. Most traffic intersections with lights disallow left turns. What you need to do is go one block over, then keep turning right until you eventually get to the direction you originally wanted to. This does not apply at unlighted intersections
On highways and country roads (basically anywhere outside of urban areas) you must have your headlight on at all times, regardless of time of day and weather conditions
All speed signs are expressed in kilometers, not miles. If you are visiting from USA, make sure to keep this in mind. Everything on your car dashboard is also expressed in kilometers.
Speed limit in the cities are usually less than 60km/h. On highways it's 120-130km per hour. The innermost lane on highways is for overtaking only. There are speed cameras on highways so be careful not to exceed the speed limit
Seatbelt must be worn at all times, and you cannot use your phone with your hands while driving
Overall, just be observant of how other cars are driving and mimic them, then you won't go wrong
Additional driving tips for Argentina:
Most cars are stick shift/manual transmission in Argentina. You will definitely be able to find automatic transmission cars, but they are in short supply so it's better to book them far in advance to ensure availability, especially if you're visiting during the busy tourist season in December-January
Car rental rates vary, can cost as low as USD$35-$45 per day for the basic manual transmission cars. Automatic transmission cars cost 50%-100% more expensive. Also, car rental rates to pickup in cities are cheaper than at airports
Most cars run on gasoline here, not diesel. At gas stations, you fill up your car first and then pay the attendant after
Highways have tolls here. Best way to pay them is to bring enough pesos with you. I actually don't know for sure if they accept credit cards or not since I don't drive outside of Buenos Aires much, but have cash on you to be safe
I do not recommend driving in Buenos Aires. Traffic here is not good, and drivers are very aggressive and many do not follow rules. In addition, there are many not-so-safe areas of Buenos Aires where you might get targeted for mugging if you stop at a red light. I only recommend renting a car in Argentina when you're out in the country and nature, especially around in Patagonia where it's sparsely populated and there are lots of natural attractions far away from human settlements.