*Thanks for visiting BuenosTours! If you find this article useful and it will help save you money for your trip to Buenos Aires, then please consider splashing some of that cash on one of our award-winning private walking tours of Buenos Aires , to get even more great advice and start off your stay in BA in the best way possible!*
*JANUARY 2020 UPDATE – PLEASE NOTE: US Dollar exchange restrictions are back in Argentina, and as a result, so is the “dollar blue”. At the time of writing the official exchange rate is about 58 Argentine Pesos to the US Dollar, while the unofficial “dollar blue” rate is about 74 Argentine Pesos to the US Dollar. So most would say it’s worthwhile bringing USD cash to Argentina to change to pesos on the unofficial market, but like with everything, there is always the potential for this situation to change. If you have any questions in the meantime feel free to comment below or send us an email.*
Be Savvy with Foreign Money in Argentina
Imagine: your plane finally touches down after a ten hour, cross-continental journey, you wind your way through customs and immigration, and you finally step onto Argentine soil at Ezeiza International Airport . While your initial instinct may be to exchange all of your dollars or euros right then and there, your money may well go further if you don’t (although this being Argentina, the situation is always subject to change!)
What currency should I bring to Argentina?
When traveling to Argentina, bring cash, especially US dollars. It is most cost effective to bring all the money you think you will spend on your trip in US Dollars cash (if possible 100 dollar bills, and if not then 50s and 100s, as lower denominations often get a worse exchange rate in Argentina, as do some older series dollar bills, or ones in bad condition). That might sound a little different to the advice you get in general for traveling, but read this article and you could have a better (or at least, cheaper) trip.
In an attempt to inspire confidence in the Argentine peso and reduce inflation, the government has been known to put limits on the amount of US Dollars (and other foreign currency) that people in Argentina can officially purchase (this policy has changed, disappeared, and re-appeared again since we first wrote this post, but at the time of updating this article in January 2020 there are indeed currency controls in place here).
Since Argentines rely heavily on dollars , a parallel, unofficial dollar market exists with a separate rate called the “blue dollar”. To give you an idea of the difference, the official exchange rate at the time of the last edit this article was around 58 pesos to the dollar, while the blue rate was around 74 pesos to one dollar. That would mean you get almost 28% more pesos by changing on the unofficial market, and there is always the chance that the gap between the two will increase again (of course, it could also go down, but it’s more likely it will trend up).
Since the blue dollar rate is higher, your money will go further if you trade it wisely. You can compare current rates by checking the official and “blue” dollar and euro rates here .
How to get the best rate for your dollars in Argentina?
So now that you’ve made it from the airport into the city (hint: you can pay for your transfer in US Dollars or with a credit card, so you won’t need pesos at that stage), what should you do with those dollar bills? The following are a few ways that people in Argentina get pesos at a better rate than the official rate:
- Pay for hotels and restaurants in dollars: Hotels and restaurants often accept dollars, and will usually charge at a more favorable rate than the official rate. Many tourists keep some dollars on hand in case restaurants, services, and the like accept foreign currency. Bring along pesos, too, when eating out to avoid being stuck with a bill at a joint where dollars are not accepted.
- Trade with an Argentine: Since demand for foreign bills is so high, many people choose to trade dollars for pesos with an Argentine they trust, at a favorable rate to both parties. This is not to say that tourists trade with random citizens, but instead with friends or trusted acquaintances (you could ask around, or at your hotel).
- Visit a cueva: A cueva is basically a local slang term for an underground casa de cambio, or money exchange house. These are often close to streets with heavy foot traffic, like Calle Florida  in the City Center . As you walk down Florida, keep your ears open! You will hear lots of guys saying “cambio, cambio, cambio” (cam-bee-oh). This man is a blue-dollar-trader, and takes those interested in selling their currency to an unmarked office where he offers one of the best rates available. However, tourists should be very cautious if they choose this option, and should not be asked to exchange their cash on the street. If you choose to visit a cueva, you might want to ask around for the location of a reliable one, perhaps in your hotel or maybe to your tour guide .
(DISCLAIMER: BuenosTours does not suggest nor condone trading money on the unofficial market, but instead this writer is describing how many people in Argentina do currently obtain pesos at a more favorable exchange rate.)
- The Western Union money transfer service allows you to wire money to Argentina from the US and receive the money in pesos cash usually at a better rate than the official rate, although we can’t guarantee that will always be the case, so check their website before sending. This can be a good option if you find that you need more money once you are in the country and don’t have cash on hand, but want to avoid bank fees etc. They charge a fee depending on the amount transferred, but usually it’s still more advantageous than the official rate and bank fees. Find out more on the Western Union website . You may also find similarly advantageous rates when sending from other international Western Union websites/locations, such as the UK version . Whatever the case, you won’t want to be in a rush to get the money, as the online sign-up and authorization process can take at least a full day, sometimes more. Apparently the best Western Union office in Buenos Aires to pick the Argentine Pesos cash up at is the one on the corner of Av Cordoba and Montevideo, which is a very convenient, central location.
Banks, ATMs, and official money exchange houses are your other options for getting money while in Argentina, but all of these will give you the official exchange rate (and banks and official money exchange houses will also need to see your passport before they change money for you, and in fact many banks these days will only change money for their local clients). You may also be charged high fees every time you use an ATM in Argentina with your foreign card, and the amount of pesos you can take out in each transaction is not all that high, so to get a lot you will need to make several withdrawals, paying the fee each time. It is usually better to pay in places with your card, when you can/when they accept that. But perhaps better to avoid the problem entirely and bring enough US Dollars cash with you in the first place.
Don’t buy more pesos than you need
Be careful to only exchange or take out the amount of money that you definitely think you will spend in pesos, and keep some dollars on hand to use in restaurants and shops. It can be hard to change pesos back to dollars, and often at an unfavorable rate. And often impossible exchange pesos for any other currency once you leave Argentina. If you do have a receipt from exchanging money at the official rate, hold on to it as you may be able (emphasis on the maybe!) to exchange money back into your home currency with a valid receipt at the Banco de la Nacion in Ezeiza Airport. But probably better just to spend whatever pesos you have left on having a great time in Argentina while you’re still here!