So what is a telo anyway?

You walk down, say, Tres Sargentos Street in the financial district of Buenos Aires and see a door with a discreet sign above that reads Hotel alojamiento. You see a suited-up man looking over his shoulder before going inside, followed by a woman sporting a secretarial look, who sneaks in; hopefully unseen. You wonder why there’s no doorman to carry their luggage and then realise they had no luggage. “What a strange hotel” you think to yourself.

Since you’re on a limited budget you decide to stay in a hostel. You look up the word in the dictionary and find the word albergue. A youth hostel is an albergue de la juventud. Then you remember seeing the sign for an albergue transitorio somewhere. Is it the same, you wonder?

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No, it is not the same. Hoteles alojamiento and albergues transitorios, popularly known as telos(TEH-lows), are hotels where you and your friend, partner, bit on the side, etc., can have some rumpy pumpy for a couple of hours.

These pay-by-the-hour establishments can be found everywhere and are not easy to miss, although some do try to be discreet. They range from the seedy and very basic to the utterly luxurious. Two top-notch telos have almost become household names: Los jardines de Babilonia (The Gardens of Babylon) and Magnus, both located in the northern suburbs of Buenos Aires.

Who patronises these fine establishments? Anyone and everyone from one-night stands or cheating spouses to couples who need a change from routine or twentysomethings who still live at home and need some privacy.

Some telos (use the word with caution) do brisk business during the lunch-time hours, like the one in the financial district, but most are busiest at weekends, especially if they’re located near bars and clubs.

A friend told me. Seriously.

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