Sonntag, 1. März 2015

[Updated] The 'dolar blue' - How to save 40% and more on your next trip to Argentina

Argentina is fighting with a big financial crises. It is forbidden for Argentine citizens to exchange their Pesos (AR$) in Dollars (USD) or other convertible currencies. This is only possible on the black market. This black market is also accessible for foreigners and tourists and with the right strategy you can get there 40-50% more for your Dollar than the official rate that you'll get if withdrawing money from the next ATM in Buenos Aires.

[Up to date information can be found at the end of the article]

The rigid system of Argentinas National Bank fixes the AR$:USD rate at around 8.5:1. Whenever a foreigner changes money, withdraws cash at an ATM, pays with his credit card or cashes a traveller cheque, this rate will be applied. However on the black market, the rate you get for your bucks is much better. You find a comparison of the daily official and black market rates on this web page It makes sense to check the rate before going out on the street and change money.

Here is an example of what difference it makes (conversion rates from 16.01.2015):

If you change 100 USD at the official rate in a bank, you get 805.10 AR$.
If you change the same amount on the black market, you get 1.252 AR$, >400 AR$ or 55% more.

So when travelling to Argentina, be sure to bring enough cash with you. Euro are equally accepted as USD. Best is to bring large bills - 100s for USD and 50s for Euro. Larger bills get you a better rate, than smaller bills. However, some smaller bills are good as well. Many restaurants and hotels will accept payment in USD and often they even offer better rates. As they are no money changers (cambios) they prefer if the foreign currency matches the amount of the bill as closely as possible.

And where do I find the black market?

That is easy - the black market will find you! For example in Calle Florida, the major shopping street in Buenos Aires. You will meet a lot of people there calling "Cambio, Cambio - Euro, Dolar, Real". These are the so called 'arbolitos' (which means little tree, because these people are standing in the street like trees). They will give you a rate when you asked them. The higher the amount you change and the larger the USD/EUR notes are, the better will be your rate. It is normally always a bit lower than the rate you find on But don't accept the first offer. Check out some of them and see what rates they offer and bargain a bit.

If you agreed on the rate, the arbolito will bring you to the 'office', in spanish also called 'cueva' (cave), where you and the money changer can do the business in private. Needless to mention, that you should count the money twice and check for false bills. Also make sure you count your money in front of the money changer, before you hand it to him.

When the transaction is completed, put your big bunch of AR$ (the biggest bill is 100 AR$) in your money belt and consider taking a taxi back to your hotel.

How save is it to change on the black market?

It is quite save and usually people will be honest and don't try to cheat on you. However, there are reports of trying to hand out false AR$ or try to cheat with the money you give them (you hand them three US$100 bills and the money changer will claim that one of them was only a US$10 or so). Also there is a risk of getting mugged after the transaction - not in Calle Florida, but bad guys may try to follow you.

It is officially illegal to change money on the black market; we have, however, never heard or read that the police is interfering in any way.

What if I haven't got enough Dollars/Euros/GPD/CAN$?

We had the same problem. Travelling through Peru and Ecuador before we crossed into Argentina, we didn't want to carry around big amounts of cash. Especially as in all other South American countries, it is fine taking cash out of the ATM. In Ecuador the USD is the official currency, but the highest note is a USD20. One way of getting notes of higher denomination is to go to the Central Bank of Ecuador and change your small USD bills into 100s. But officially that is limited to USD200 per person per month.

Remember: On the streets only USD, Euro and Brazilian Real are traded. Other currencies, like Yen, Pound, AUD, CAD, etc. are not welcome and need to be exchanged in USD or Euro before entering the Argentina.

Another option is to travel via Uruguay or go from Buenos Aires to Montevideo and get some USD out of the ATMs there.

Coming from Chile or Paraguay, you can change local currency into AR$ in exchange offices at favourable rates.

The legal way to get a good rate and transfer USD into Argentina

But there is also another way, other than to change cash on the street, to get AR$ at a good rate. Transfer money with a transfer service into Argentina. Most services, like WesternUnion or MoneyGram, however will calculate using the official (bad) rate and will also charge high fees (up to US$30 per transaction). A better way therefore is to use  AZIMO. Azimo is a new company in the business, working completely online. It is easy to send money, just register with your Facebook or Googe+ ID (or from scratch), create a recipient (you), select where the money should be sent to (they are working with ARGENPEN in Argentina, which has offices in the bigger, northern cities) and transfer the amount you want to send from your credit card or bank account. Done. One or two days later your money is waiting for you in Argentina and the rate will be around 5%-10% less than you get on the street (you can check the rate you get on their website as well as the fees). And the best - it is totally legal and you don't have to walk around finding the best rate on Calle Florida.

Tipp: When using AZIMO be careful with large amounts (>US$1.000). The smaller Argenpen offices may not have enough cash. Better go directly to the central office in BA (Av. Corrientes 2451)

Update: The more south you travel in Argentina, the worse will be the black market rate. Especially in Patagonia and Ushuaia, you will hardly find anybody that changes your USD at a good rate. In Ushuaia you will most likely only get the official rate. So better change in BA before going south or - when travelling via Chila, change here.

Update (Jan. 2015): If you travelling from Chile into Argentina, you often find money exchange / Cambio offices that will change CLP in AR$ at a good rate in Chile.

Update 2 (Jan. 2015): In Ushuaia it is difficult to change money at a good rate, but the Irish Pub will accept Euro's and Dollars at a good rate and in the Casino you also get a very good rate and they exchange also larger sums of Dollars & Euros.

Update 3 (Feb. 2015): In Mendoza you find the blackmarket in Av. San Martin and Lavalle. There is also the local AZIMO Office (ARGENPEN)

Update 4 (March 2015): Due to the strong USD and weak €, the Euro is not very welcome anymore. Better bring USD. Sometimes you will get a lower rate for Euros than for USD.

Update 5 (March 2015): In Salta you find the blackmarket around Plaza 9 de Julio. Rates are similar to those in Buenos Aires.

blogged by Phoney

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