These Argentina money exchange tips were written by my travel cohort and sister, Andrea Belgrade. Andrea has traveled extensively in Asia, Europe, South America, and the USA and is always pushing boundaries or finding herself in hilarious and unusual situations. This installment is part 3 of a guide series for Argentina. If you missed the other installments, see part 1: a Guide to Buenos Aires, and part 2: Getting Around Argentina.
Exchange More Pesos for Your Buck
Argentina is not cheap, but being intentional about how you exchange money can sometimes double your spending budget! It’s smart to do some research and know what your options are.
Money Exchange at Your Local Bank
Simple: Don’t do it. If you are really concerned about arriving without the local currency already in hand, just exchange the minimum that you need to feel comfortable. The rate will be awful. Guaranteed.
Money Exchange at the Airport
Again – Don’t do it. The exchange rates at the airport are LESS than the official exchange rate! In general, no matter where you go, you will get the worst exchange rate at an airport exchange counter.
The easiest and safest way to get cash in the local currency is to withdraw using a debit card at an ATM in Argentina. You’ll be charged a small fee, which usually amounts to a few dollars/euros but you will get the official rate and won’t have to deal with looking up current rates to see if you’re getting ripped off or not.
Plan in Advance – A local was telling me that on the weekends they don’t refill the ATMs so in case it runs out of money, be sure you have enough to make it till at least the next Monday!
Carry Dollars and Euros
Many establishments will accept, or even prefer, US Dollars or Euros. Stable, foreign currency is looked at as an investment. Inflation in Argentina makes it difficult for people to keep savings. By the time Argentinians retire, the money they have put away is almost worthless.
One hundred dollar bills are actually preferred by some exchange companies because it takes up less space for people to store savings in foreign cash. Until recently, the Argentina government limited the amount of foreign currency its citizens could exchange, meaning there was a huge market for foreign cash exchanged under the table. Even with the lifting of restrictions, stable foreign currency is valuable in Argentina.
Money Exchange at the Dólar Blue Rate
The unofficial money exchange rate is called the dólar blue and this link keeps you updated on the current rate. It used to get you around 50% more pesos per dollar, but recently it has been roughly the same as the official exchange rate due to the lifting of restrictions on foreign currency. It’s smart to keep an eye on current rates, as things can change quickly.
While I have heard that exchanging on the dólar blue has worked out for some people, I have also heard it can be pretty creepy. If you walked down Florida Street in Buenos Aires you were likely to be harassed by people who asked you to exchange money, and this was where you could get the dólar blue rate. One friend was led into the back of a store and the people doing the money exchange tried to change the rate once they were in the stock room. These exchanges happen in more legitimate settings besides Florida St., but be advised that even though it is so common and law enforcement typically doesn’t interfere, this is still technically illegal.
Hide those Benjamins
I don’t feel comfortable walking around with hundred dollar bills, so I do my best to distribute and hide it. While hiding things in your bra works well for single-day transport, it doesn’t solve the long-term storage issue. To serve that need, I came up with this:
Step 1: Roll up a single bill very tightly.
Step 2: Open the wrapper of a fresh tampon as little as possible to get the tampon out. Remove the tampon from the applicator and slide the bill inside where the tampon was. Push it all the way in and return the applicator into the tampon sleeve.
Now you can carry wads of cash by stashing your purse, pockets, and luggage with tampons!
While it may raise questions if you’re a single man traveling alone, it is the perfect solution for women. No one will question a giant bundle of tampons stashed in your bag! And given men’s general fear of the menstrual cycle, it keeps your dollars safe from most thieves.
While Argentina doesn’t have as much room for bargaining as other countries I have traveled to, there are still some opportunities to save. If you sign up for an excursion, you should definitely try to bargain! You can try offering to pay cash in US dollars or Euros to sweeten the deal. The bargaining opportunities are especially good if you book with multiple people for a group discount. Even if you get turned down, there is nothing wrong with giving it a shot!
You Are Not Starving Their Children
Do you really think vendors would sell their items at a loss for your sake? C’mon. We aren’t that stupid. I talked to a Nepali taxi driver who was shocked that we bargained as hard as we did. Then en route to our destination he spent the entire time joyfully recounting stories of when he charged tourists at the airport ten times the going rate.
If you accept sticker price, count it as a charitable donation this tax season.
Discover Your Bargaining Identity
Are you the angry bargainer? Cold and uninterested? Or do you turn on the charm? Try out all these different methods and discover your true bargaining identity! I once started a Bollywood dance party in a shop just to save a few rupees for a friend.
Extra Money-Saving Tips
If you’re looking for more ways to save money in Argentina, check out Nomadic Matt’s new post: 10 Ways to Save Money in Argentina. He’s got some great budget-friendly tips!
Now that you know how to find the best money exchange rates and have the confidence to bargain hard, you can maximize your pesos for your travels in Argentina!
Do you have any other money-saving tips? Share in the comments!
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