The Argentines are an amorous bunch. No one flinches at lovers, of all ages, engaging in a bit of plaza-side nooky, but when things get a little heated, even for the liberally-minded porteños, couples are often spied sneaking through a garishly lit doorway marked only ‘albergue transitorio’.
These transit hotels, known in the lunfardo backslang as telos, are sex hotels. Frequented by horny teenagers and illicit lovers with no shag shack of their own, telos offer rooms to rent by the hour or turno (around AR$50 for two hours).
Every neighbourhood will have several, but as anonymity is the name of the game, they can be tricky-ish to spot. Give away signs are random bushes outside doorways, neon lights guiding cars to a hidden garage and not so subtle hotel names (Eros, Kiss Me, and the wonderful Pussu-Cats). Once inside there is often a choice between a bewildering menu of rooms types, often with worryingly biological sounding prefixes like ‘hidro’. After selecting whatever takes your fancy, a studiedly disinterested bloke behind smoked glass window throws some keys and off you head through the dimly lit corridors.
Even the most basic rooms will have mirrored ceilings, a see through shower, porn on the telly (many also advertise live cable football) and room service for drinks, condoms and sex toys that are served through a sliding hole in the wall. More exotic options will include water beds, medieval looking ‘sex chairs’, jacuzzis and saunas.
If it all sounds a little seedy, it is, and that’s all part of the fun. It’s all unashamedly kitsch and garish. Telos are to Argentina what motels are to North America. Nevertheless an Argentine who claims never to have visited one is either a man of the cloth or lying through his teeth, or possibly both. The telo is an indispensable part of a culture where people often live at home until the day they marry. Certainly beats a Ford Fiesta in McDonalds car park.
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