the Blue Dollar: How to Save big on your Vacation to Argentina
Argentina has the world’s seventh-highest inflation rate at 64%, and restrictions on their citizens exchanging Argentinian pesos for foreign currency have created a black market for dollars. On this black market, the dollar more than doubles in value. The blue market, as it’s called, is illegal but tolerated. If you don’t take part in the blue dollar exchange, you will find Argentina to be the most expensive country in South America. Plus, bringing your dollars does not hurt the local economy because it helps keep the blue market prices low for Argentinians.
Anytime you pay with a debit/credit card or withdraw from an ATM, you will be getting the official rate. This means you are essentially being charged twice what you should be. You can also exchange euros, British pounds, Chilean pesos, and Brazilian reals on the blue market. However, outside Buenos Aires, you may find it more difficult to exchange these currencies and/or get a worse exchange rate.
What Is the Blue Market Rate?
At the time of writing, the official rate is 1 USD = 131 pesos and on the blue market, the dollar is worth 304 pesos. If you bring $10 or $20 bills, you will get 5-10% less on the exchange compared to $50s and $100s. Any bill with a tear or writing on it will also be worth less. By the time you are reading this, the dollar will almost certainly be worth more in Argentina.
Where Do I Exchange My Money?
Ask your hotel or tour guide where to exchange dollars and look for people saying “cambio” on the street. Know what the rate is before exchanging because most changers will initially offer a bad rate. After agreeing on a price, always calculate how many pesos you should be receiving. The changers always show the total on a calculator, but sometimes it is a lower amount than you agreed to. Click on a link below to find out where the moneychangers are located in each destination and how the rates compare.
If you change money at an official store, you will be getting the bank rate, not the blue market rate. If you don’t want to carry lots of cash, you can send money using Western Union at the blue market rate. Be aware that Western Unions are only open on weekdays and it’s possible to wait 1-2 hours in line. Outside of the big cities, it’s not uncommon for Western Union to run out of money. You can also trade currency at Western Union, but their rates are not great for buying or selling pesos.
Should I Exchange All My Money at Once?
In Buenos Aires, I was advised to only exchange what I needed for the week because the dollar would likely be worth more the next week. I found this to be poor advice because Buenos Aires has better exchange rates than most cities in the country. Plus, the time you spend going to change money and the stress of having to find moneychangers every couple of days isn’t worth the extra 2% you might get by waiting.
Once I left Buenos Aires, I was changing money at a lower rate and thus didn’t want to change a lot. It became tiresome looking for a place to change money every 3-4 days, and I had to spend a weekend running very short on cash in Córdoba because the moneychangers only work weekdays there. My advice would be to change as much as you need for your trip, once you find a trustworthy changer with a good rate.
What If I Exchange Too Much Money?
The peso is not worth much outside of Argentina, so it’s best to change back to dollars before leaving. You can’t change pesos back to dollars at a bank, but you still have two options. The best option is to ask around your hostel to see if anyone is looking to change dollars. By eliminating the middleman, you will only take a small loss. The other option is to go back to the blue market and buy dollars, but you’ll take a 10% loss.
How Do I Buy Flights with Cash?
Aerolíneas Argentinas is the biggest domestic airline, but they don’t accept cash at their offices. You can pay in cash at travel agencies or the airport. Next to the check-in counters, there’s a desk to buy flights in cash. If it’s a small airport, check the departure times for the day because the counter will open 2 hours before a flight and close when everyone has checked in.
Do Many Businesses Accept Dollars?
I was surprised by how few businesses accepted dollars throughout Argentina. In Patagonia and Buenos Aires, more businesses accept dollars. But, this is mostly at souvenir shops and the occasional cafe. I always carried dollars but only used them a few times to make purchases.
What About Ride-hailing Apps?
Anytime you use your card, you are paying double. I recommend using Cabify because it has an option to pay with cash.
Hopefully, this cleared up any confusion you might have about the blue dollar in Argentina and will help you save big on your vacation. If you have any questions feel free to ask below!