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The joyful news via a Correo-delivered card that you have a package waiting for collection from overseas is likely to be dampened by the realization you have to go pick it up at the Centro Postal Internacional. Don’t despair – with a bit of luck you can be out of there clutching your parcel within three hours. (Only joking. A little.) Where is the Centro Postal Internacional? How does it work?

1. No matter where you’re coming from in Buenos Aires, the Centro Postal Internacional seems difficult to reach. From the west, it’s like a mini expedition. Take food supplies. It also doesn’t seem to exist on any map. The address on the card says Av Antártida Argentina and the place is actually near the end of the avenue, across several busy junctions from Retiro subway. Head towards the docks and look out for the Correo Argentina sign.

2. In the first room take a number, fill out the back of your card with your name, document number (most probably your passport or DNI) and address, and wait. And wait. It’s a tiny room so it’s bound to be packed with people. Keep alert because the guys behind the desk don’t hang around when they’re calling the numbers. Snooze and you’ll lose your turn.

3. Hand over your documentation/ passport and the form. You’ll be told to pay the holding fee at the cashier and you’re given a longer number to take with you into the second circle of hell…

4…. the collection room. Take a seat and wait for your long number to be called, bingo-style, by a guy or girl with a microphone in the back room. The order the packages appear, and the order in which the numbers are called, depends on when the packages are brought down from the store and is consequently random.

5. If your number is, for example, 433911 it could be called cuatro- treinta y tres -neuve-once or cuatrocientos treinta y tres- novecientos once, or cuatro- treinta y tres- novecientos once etc, however the mood takes this particular bingo caller. Also depending on the caller, you’ll hear a clearly pronounced number or a stream of mumbled babble. You’d better know your Spanish numbers pretty well; if not, take someone with you who does. Or just go inside every 15 minutes and hopefully proffer your card – you’ve gotta get it right sometime.

6. Once you hear/ guess your number, go through the turnstile into the back room and hand your card to the dispatcher. They’ll give you the number of desk to go to and you’ll fill out the necessary form, hand any money for customs to the cashier and escape with your package. Head back to the subway or, in our case, along the frankly terrifying “avenue with eight lanes of huge trucks” past Puerto Madero towards the open highway…

Parcel Collection Tips

~ Take something to read rather than an MP3 otherwise you really won’t hear those announced numbers.

~ Avoid midday. Jury is out whether it is better to go early in the day to beat the crowds, or just before the place closes at 4pm when they’re rushing to clear the hall of people and go home.

~ Hope your package doesn’t interest customs for some reason. If your package is labelled with a big red number and carted back upstairs, summon every reserve of patience and persevere – you could be there for days….

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