REMINDER: Exchange Cash Locally In Argentina & Save 33% (DON’T USE CREDIT CARDS!)

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A friend of mine filed a report back in January how to exchange money locally in Argentina and I published it here on LoyaltyLobby (read more here).

Argentina Dolar Blu

When I was on my way to Argentina couple of weeks ago, I decided that I really have to take cash with me and exchange locally to reap the savings.

Why separate exchange rates?

Argentina Dolar Blu ARS To USD XE.com

The official exchange rate of ARS to USD is set at an artificially high level and the qualified Argentinean can exchange maximum of 20% of their monthly salary or $2,000 whichever is lower. Effectively, there are currency controls in place.

The inflation currently is rampant and it is better to hold some other currency such as US Dollars or Euros that holds their value.

Where to find the Dolar Blue USD/EUR to ARS rates?

Argentina Dolar Blu ARS To USD

There are several websites in Spanish that publish various USD to ARS exchange rates. I have found that the DolarBlue.net (access here) is the most comprehensive one.

How to exchange in Buenos Aires?

Argentina Dolar Blu Window

I was staying at the InterContinental and the concierge didn’t want to have anything to do with the Dolar Blue when I asked him where I should do the exchange. Luckily, I knew that I would only need to walk to Calle Florida where there are numerous “bouncers” yelling “CAMBIO CAMBIO” and you then just need to negotiate with them.

Once you have agreed to an exchange rate (I got 12 ARS per USD the other week), the actual exchange of money happens in an office. We walked to a nearby office building, where the security issued me a pass to enter the building and we took an elevator few floors up.

Then we just walked to an unnamed “office” that had been modified to have small waiting room with an exchange window. I decided to exchange $1,000 and heard the cash counting machine on the background and soon the guy came back with 12,000 ARS.

How to exchange in Mendoza?

Argentina Dolar Blu Mendoza

I thought that I had enough ARS, but ended up needing to buy a same day MDZ-SCL ticket on LA (ridiculously priced) and needed to exchange some more USD to ARS.

In Mendoza the location seems to be where the Western Union and Starbucks are next to each other. Again, there were bouncers outside yelling “CAMBIO CAMBIO”.

Argentina Dolar Blu Mendoza Shop

This time the exchange was in plain sight and got the 6,000 ARS that I needed in exchange for $500.

How to spot fake money?

I was first worried that I might get some fake notes from these unofficial exchanges, but all the notes turned out to be 100% legit. As long as you use these “official” ones, I would say that based on my limited experience you should be fine.

Why not to use credit cards?

If you are using credit cards in Argentina, the exchange from ARS to your billing currency happens using the official exchange rate that is terrible. You can use cards to guarantee your hotel stays etc. but remember always pay in ARS at the time of checking out.

Should I use Xoom.com instead?

Argentina Dolar Blu ARS To USD Xoom.com

The rates that Xoom.com is currently offering are not competitive at all. Seems that they take at least half of the spread for the convenience of handling this over the internet for you. Xoom.com is only offering around 10 ARS per USD and there are other fees involved as well.

Conclusion

You should take enough $100 bills with you to Argentina to cover all your expenses. You save 33% off of all the prices that are first quoted in USD but then converted to pesos using the official rate.

I have to say that I first felt a bit uncomfortable going to the unmarked office and exchanging the money there, as I had no way of knowing what I would be getting in. I am glad that it all worked out well.

If you have some leftover pesos at the time of leaving Argentina, remember to burn them at the tax free at the airport. The prices even there are in USD but they take ARS at the official USD to ARS rate (you save even one third of the inflated tax free prices).

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11 Comments

  1. Absolutely true. I must add that if you come from Europe, don’t take €€€ or £££, because the spread for those currencies (and any other as a matter of fact is too big and you end up losing money). USD is the king in Argentina, so change your currency to USD before leaving.

    PD: BTW, is “cambio”, not “gambio” 🙂

  2. I like the intercon BA, did you stay the one downtown as they have one just outside BA too I think? Nice place! Will keep in mind but most of time my business partners cover the costs and arrange the exchanges at good rates too.

  3. This has been true for years in Argentina. They will devalue their currency again. It’s just a matter of time.

  4. It’s a mess down there. Ironically I also stayed at the IC BA downtown last April and it was great (on consecutive BRG free nights no less!!!). People LOVE being paid in dollars down there so if you know have the black market (blue market, whatever you want to call it) rate in your mind and can do the math, just negotiate. Works several times around town,

  5. In 2001 Argentina had three currencies in use, Federal-Provincia de Buenos Aires – LeCoop. Be very careful, even in downtown, since you may be followed. Even days after, they will know where you’re staying. Exchange small amounts; false bill will surface soon. I was almost a victim of a pick pocket at 9AM on 9 de Julio with police
    in the area.

  6. Calle Florida has many store fronts but tis crowded for exchanges. You come out and a young ‘kid’ picks your pocket and disappears in a crowded pedestrian walk/ not a good scene. Better if you trust a travel agent or acquaintance in Bs. As.

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