When my partner and I decided to take a trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina I immediately began planning things to do. The typical websites suggested the typical things: Explore Recoleta Cemetery, Stroll Through Jardín Botánico, Dance the Tango. I was dutifully taking notes as I noticed a naughty suggestion – “Frolic in a Love Hotel” – hmmm, this was definitely worth looking into. I added it to my list with a question mark beside it.
As I began researching I quickly learned that “Love Hotel’s” are pay-by-the-hour sex hotels and are more commonly known as Telo’s. For me, this type of establishment conjures up thoughts of red, blinking neon signs ; women in tight dresses walking the nearby streets and dirty needles strewn about. Not a place I’d be too keen on visiting.
However, in Argentina Telo’s are something quite different. The common patron includes young couples looking for a place to be alone. People here tend to live with their parents until they marry, going straight from their parents house to their spouses house. For most, that means until wedding vows are exchanged there isn’t a great place to be intimate.
Enter the Telo, a safe and affordable place for people to go for some much needed alone time before saying “I do”.
I’m sure not everyone who frequents this type of establishment is a fresh-faced guy or gal looking for some cuddle time. Just like anywhere else in the world there are adulterers looking for a private place to rendezvous, strangers in search of hook-ups and married travel writers whose curiosity got the best of them.
I pitched the idea to my friend and wasn’t too surprised by how readily he agreed to frolic with me. All of a sudden the question mark was gone and our run-of-the-mill vacation became a little more exciting. Before long, that unexpected suggestion was the thing I looked forward to the most.
Yes, the idea of standing in the Plaza de Mayo and gazing at the very balcony where first lady, Evita Perrón famously addressed the citizens of the country gave me goosebumps but there was something about visiting a Telo that just got my blood rushing.
We decided on a place called Rampa Car in the swanky Palermo neighborhood. The website boasted a variety of themed rooms where you could play out your fantasies in a spaceship, Roman temple or Egyptian pyramid. You don’t make reservations, just show up.
We hailed a cab and gave our driver the address. I blushed assuming he knew exactly where we were headed. He dropped us off at the end of the street and we walked a block to the entrance.
I had read that the building would be inconspicuous and it was. Only a simple, sleek sign that read “Rampa Car” confirmed that we were at the right place.
As we approached, I thought maybe it was closed. No one was outside and there was no obvious entry. It looked like we were standing in front of an abandoned garage. All of a sudden, a black tinted window opened slightly and a room key slipped through the tiny crack. We took the key and a gate opened. We walked through and took the elevator to the number that was printed on the card.
The halls were dimly lit and completely empty. We didn’t exchange words with anyone so there was no opportunity to request the type of room we wanted.
When we entered my first thought was, “This room is not made for sleeping.” Everything screamed sex. My money-conscious male companion immediately set his phone for one hour so I promptly got to exploring.
A round bed lay in the center of the room and one wall was completely covered in mirrors. On the bed were two packages; each containing a condom, toothbrush and toothpaste. On the wall there was a panel of buttons that controlled the lighting and music.
A fireplace mantel held several menus; one contained food and beverages while the other offered a variety of adult toys, lotions and potions. Colorful vibrators and flavored lubricants could be delivered to your room for a fee. I giggled at the thought of placing an order, “Yes, I’d like the chicken ceasar salad and neon pink dildo, please.”
After a little extra sleuthing I discovered a box outside of our room with a buzzer nearby. Apparently, once you placed an order someone would deliver it to the box and ring the buzzer. You give them a minute to leave and you can retrieve your goodies without ever having to encounter another soul. How clever.
On the television, porn was mingled in with the regularly scheduled programming. Once you make your way to the bed you quickly realize that it spins and sits below a ceiling of tiled mirrors. To sleep in this room would be a shame.
When you leave simply pass your card back to the kind stranger behind the glass. He calculates your total and once you’ve paid you are buzzed out back into the world. For one hour we paid $30.
As I walked down the empty street to hail a cab I thought about how cool it is that people here recognize this particular need and have found a way to offer clean, safe way to meet that need. Simple supply and demand, no shame. Sure Telo’s are discreet but there’s a difference between that and turning something into a taboo because it makes us feel uncomfortable.
I’m glad I stepped out of the box to discover this naughty side of Buenos Aires and myself. In doing so, I learned that naughty doesn’t necessarily mean wrong. Sometimes it simply means naughty and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Note: This piece was originally published in the Fall 2013 issue of Eidé Magazine.