The Argentine peso has been experiencing some radical movement lately, both with the official rate and the unofficial “blue rate”.
There are so many foreign currency exchange restrictions in Argentina right now. This, along with the general population having little faith in their currency, means it won’t be hard to find someone to buy your dollars.
As it stands the official $US – Arg Peso exchange rate is $8.06, whileon the unofficial “blue dollar market” it is as much as $11.6. Quite a difference!
There are so many places and people willing to help you with the exchange but the obvious first point of reference should be your hotel. It is almost guaranteed that they will know someone who can help. Although this money exchange is technically illegal, it is now so commonplace that people will not even blink an eye. In fact the daily Argentine newspaper, La Nacion, prints both the rates everyday.
You can just head down to the main tourist thoroughfares and listen out for the shouts of, “Cambio”, which means, “change” if all else fails.
Even with the official rate most Westerners will find Argentina reasonable but with the non-official rate it makes a very good value destination. This is not to say it will last forever and with the political instability in Argentina who knows what is going to happen to their currency. Many Argentines believe a repeat of the crisis of 2001 is not beyond the realms of possibility.
So why have the exchange rates become so distorted?
It is because of strict capital controls, insane inflation rates, policies aiming to reduce capital flight and an overall aggressive monetary policy. This year the peso has gone into freefall, at it’s height it plummeted just over 17% against the $US in just only 2 days. Which means things were noticeably cheaper for tourists who were even on a short visit to Argentina. It’s at it’s most obvious when you are ordering mouth watering steaks and Malbec wine in some of the capital’s best restaurants and pay less than $50!
So before any trip to Argentina make sure you have enough $US for your entire trip as you really don’t want to use the ATMs when there. Then as soon as you arrive head for the nearest unofficial exchange. But be careful as Argentina is notorious for fake bills - make sure you use an exchange which has been recommended from a reputable source, for example, from someone working in your hotel. The name in Spanish for the exchange place is “cueva” which is literally translated as cave.
You are also able to spend your $US dollars in many establishments and they will give you the unofficial rate when making the conversion – if not, don’t pay with dollars!
Visiting one of these “caves” (which in reality is unlikely to be anything other than a respectable looking office) might not be something you anticipate having to do on holiday but it will save you a lot of money. And besides it all adds to the charming chaos that is Buenos Aires! But spare a thought for the locals who are on the receiving end – they have so much red tape to deal with exchanging their pesos, they get taxed up to 20% on using their credit cards abroad, online shopping is nearly non-existent now and inflation is almost 30%.
Tourists are getting a good deal though which is why it makes sense to head to Argentina now and go and enjoy this amazing country. The people are so friendly and welcoming even though times are hard and potentially they are facing another financial crisis.
For some beautiful and enchanting places to stay look at www.historichaciendas.com for inspiration.
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