Dial “9” for a Dildo: Sex Hotels, Spanking and Perfecting Spanish in Argentina

Dial “9” for a Dildo: Sex Hotels, Spanking and Perfecting Spanish in Argentina

A Brit living in Buenos Aires uncovers the raunchy side of the Argentine capital, where dropping into a pay-by-the-hour sex hotel, or telo, is as common as grabbing a coffee – albeit a bit more steamy.

first time that someone asked me to go back to a sex hotel
with them, I was so affronted that I almost slapped them. Was this
because we had met on Tinder? Or did he simply assume that I was
loose just because I’m British?

“I’m sorry,” said Nico apologetically, following my tirade of
abuse in broken Spanish. He looked a little confused at the
outburst. “But you have a single bed so we never get any sleep and
Daniel had company again last night. LOTS of spanking.”

My housemate, Daniel’s hit rate was astounding. A seemingly
endless stream of gorgeous girls flowed in and out of our little
Recoleta apartment. His success was somewhat of a mystery to me.
Short and squat with bulbous eyes, he reminded me of Toad of Toad
Hall. He was also pretty eccentric. The last time Nico had stayed
over, we had been watching a film when Daniel had plonked himself
between us on the sofa wearing nothing but a pair of Y-fronts,
eating cold pig brains with a spoon straight from the skull.

“Left over from the family asado (barbeque) at the weekend,”
said Daniel happily, as I edged my bare knee away from the
congealed snout.

I had been in Argentina
for two months and this was the first time I had heard of a telo
(sex hotel), although I must have walked past several. The discrete
exterior means you have to know what you’re looking for, although a
lit-up sign reading “playa privada” (literally translating as
“private beach”) can be a giveaway.

Telos, otherwise known as albergues transitorios, are hotels
specifically for couples. They’re no recent phenomena; they’ve been
around for more than a century and were legally converted into
businesses, just like regular hotels, during the 60s – 20 years
after brothels were outlawed in the city. These days there are
close to 200 telos in Buenos Aires alone. Unlike regular hotels,
telos give guests the option to pay for a turno (turn) of between
one and four hours rather than paying for a whole night.

There is no set demographic for a telo frequenter. Owing to
Argentina’s precarious economic situation, they’re popular with
young people who often live with their parents into their late 20s.
They’re a boon for married couples who want a little time away from
the kids. Unsurprisingly they’re also a popular choice for people
having affairs – there’s no documentation required at check-in.

Young, old, gay, straight, single, married, it doesn’t matter.
The only rules are that you’re over the age of 18 and you don’t
outstay 24 hours. Oh, and you have to go as a couple. No turning up
alone hoping that you’ll get lucky, and no group sex (sorry folks).
They’re open 24/7 so you’re not limited to the end of a night, you
could even nip out for a quickie on your lunch break. There are
telos to match every budget and taste: an extensive in-room wine
list? Rowing boats to paddle to your room? (Yes, that really
exists.) A private dance floor? No problem.

Would you like to pay by the hour or by the night?

That night, Nico and I checked into my first telo. My face
burned with shame as we paid the attendant. I couldn’t have been
more embarrassed if I’d stood on the table of the restaurant we’d
been to for dinner, thrown my arms wide and screamed “we’re going
to bang!” to my fellow diners.

“Would you like to pay by the hour or by the night?” asked the

“By the night,” I said firmly, bristling a little at the latter
even being a consideration.

The hotel room was no different from your bog-standard Premier
Inn, except that instead of chicken arrabbiata, the room-service
menu listed vibrators, dildos, strap-ons, ties and handcuffs and
the lighting was neon blue. Dialling “9” from the room phone, you
could see your choice of cock ring (vibrating, stamina-boosting,
glow-in-the-dark) delivered through a grill in your door in

A few days later, sharing a mate (strong, green tea) on a
Palermo balcony overlooking the incessant bustle of Plaza Italia, I
broached the subject of telos with my friend Soley, an Argentine
porteña (local).

“Of course I’ve been to a telo,” replied Soley, helping herself
to a sticky medialuna (a type of croissant). “There’s one on
virtually every block. Yours sounds really boring. My favourite one
has themed rooms: you can bang in a pyramid with your own jacuzzi.
My ex-chongo and I used to go all the time.”

“What’s a chongo?”

“A friend with benefits. You guys don’t have a word for that?
And you don’t have telos in the UK? Brits are weird!”

No, not the room with the pole thanks, a regular room will suit us perfectly.

Six years later, I returned to
Buenos Aires
, this time as a tourist; a scruffy backpack filled
with camping supplies and quick-dry clothing in 50 shades of grey
and faded black. Nico and I met up in an understated bar in
Colegiales. A couple of hours later we walked through the doors of
an old, brick-fronted building, more akin to an English country
home than a city sex hotel. I was an old hand at this now.

“A turno of three hours will be fine,” I said to the woman at
the desk. “No, not the room with the pole thanks, a regular room
will suit us perfectly.” This time my Spanish was clear and

When we parted ways I filled my bumbag with the complimentary
toiletry sachets and sweets and waved goodbye to the receptionist
on my way out. Telo culture wasn’t so unusual to me any more.

Discover More
16 Destinations for Your Next Romantic Getaway