Please note that as of 2016, customs regarding the Argentine Peso and the Argentina Blue Dollar have changed dramatically. Please refer to this post for up to date information.
You may have heard about the different exchange rates for the Argentine peso while planning your trip to Argentina. The economic situation in Argentina may seem confusing or fluctuating, but it is important to familiarize yourself with the different exchange rates of Argentine currency. The way you handle your money exchange could be the difference between a fancy dinner out in Palermo or an empanada for the last night of your trip! With some of these simple explanations and savvy Argentina travel tips, you will be able to get the most out of your budget and enjoy everything that Argentina has to offer.
Historically, the Argentine peso has not always been considered a very stable currency, so it was common for Argentines to save their money in US dollars. In October of 2011, the Argentine government began to restrict the sale and purchase of foreign currency in order to strengthen the Argentine peso. These currency restrictions prohibit Argentines from exchanging their pesos into any foreign currency unless they are traveling internationally, which has prevented Argentines from accessing U.S. dollars for their savings. Many consequences arose from this decision, one of them being the creation of the black market for foreign currency. This means there are two types of exchange, the official government-controlled rate and the unofficial Argentina blue dollar rate, which fluctuates based on the public demand for foreign currency.
The most common foreign currency in Argentina is the US dollar, but there is high demand for Euros and Brazilian Reales, as well. In the year 2014, the official exchange rate ranged from 6 to 8 pesos for US$1, while the unofficial Argentina blue dollar rate fluctuated between 8 to 16 pesos for US$1. You can check the current official exchange rate on the Banco de la Nación Argentina’s website, which publishes the official dollar prices of the day.
The Argentina blue dollar exchange rate is very important for travelers arriving to Argentina with foreign currency. Since demand is high and supply is low, the exchange rate continually increases, making more bang for your buck, so to speak. Those with cash in US dollars can sell them on the unofficial market and get double their worth in pesos, making the country even more affordable.
Where can you get official exchange rates?
Official transactions like ATM withdrawals, payments with foreign credit cards, bank transfers, or trading money through official exchange companies all use the official exchange rate.
How can you receive the unofficial ‘Argentina blue dollar’ rate?
The most common way to take advantage of the Argentina blue dollar is to bring foreign currency in cash to Argentina–as much as you feel comfortable carrying on your journey! Once you have arrived to Argentina, you can exchange it for Argentine pesos using the blue dollar rate in a number of ways.
If you have a trusted Argentine friend whom you know personally, they may be willing to exchange your money with you. If not, you can exchange it yourself in a public place, such as a money house or exchange store front. It is normal to see sellers advertising their money exchange services by shouting “cambio, cambio, dólares, euros, cambio!” One of the most common places to find these casas de cambio is on the pedestrianized Florida Street, in downtown Buenos Aires. These Argentina blue dollar transactions take place in the street or in “cuevas”, which are actual storefronts with money counters and security measures. Always make sure that you count the exact money you are exchanging and receiving and that you do not take part in a transaction if you ever feel unsafe. Generally these places are secure, but it is always good to stay alert (for Buenos Aires Safety tips, click here).
If you do not bring foreign currency to Argentina, it will be very difficult to find it here. Bank ATMs do not give dollars or other types of foreign currency, for example, even if your account is from the US or another country. However, there are some international money wire exchanges that use a higher rate (somewhere between the official and the blue dollar rate). You won’t get the exact same as the Argentina blue dollar rate, but it is higher than the official. If you have a family member or friend visiting, they can bring you more dollars from outside of Argentina to exchange here, or you can make a quick day trip to Colonia, Uruguay to get dollars from an ATM there. (If you make the trip across the river to Uruguay to get dollars, you will undoubtedly see numerous Argentines doing the same thing!)
While this is just a quick summary of a complicated issue in the Argentine financial situation, hopefully you now feel more informed about the difference between the Argentina blue dollar rate and the official exchange rate and feel better prepared to exchange currency in Argentina.