How to exchange your money in Argentina is one of the most confusing things for foreigners visiting or living in the country.
The Argentine currency, the Argentine peso, is very unstable. Its value compared to the American dollar changes a lot – and mostly its value is going down!
When the Argentine peso is depreciating (i.e. decreasing its price compared to other currencies), it means that you can buy the same amount of Argentine pesos for a smaller amount of your own currency.
To complicate things, even more, currently, there is a dual exchange rate on the Argentine peso. There are two operating exchange rates; the official and the black market rate (also called the blue rate).
In this post, I will try to cover all you need to know about how to exchange your money in Argentina:
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An introduction to money exchange in Argentina
Currency exchange is an everyday topic in Argentina. And there is a lot of information about the exchange rate that you should keep in mind before visiting Argentina.
The depreciation of the Argentine peso means that your money in foreign currency (USD, EUR, etc.) will be worth more. Hence, you will be able to buy more Argentine pesos for a smaller amount of your own currency.
Therefore, it first thing you need to know is to only exchange a small amount of pesos at a time!
If you are interested in knowing more about the history of currency exchange in Argentina, check out my previous post about exchange rates in Argentina.
Office versus blue rate
In 2019, Argentina changed government and the new administration installed a restriction on the amount of USD that Argentine residents (local and foreign alike) could exchange per month. The restrictions on the dollar sparkled the creation of a parallel unofficial currency exchange market.
Since Argentines tend to save in US dollars, the restrictions drove the demand for US dollars from the official market to the black market. This increase in demand in the black market sparked an increase in the black market or blue exchange rate. In the official market, the government kept the exchange rate artificially down.
When you have foreign currency that you want to exchange, you should always try to get the highest exchange rate possible. Since this will give you more pesos for the same amount of foreign currency. Currently, you get the highest exchange rate on the black market.
While if you have Argentine pesos that you want to exchange, you would like to have the lowest exchange rate possible. Since this will give you more foreign currency (normally USD) for the same amount of pesos. Currently, the lowest rate is on the official market. Few Argentines actually have access to the official exchange market since the government imposed a lot more restrictions during the pandemic.
So, the second thing you need to know is: try to get your foreign currency exchanged that the black market exchange rate!
A similar black currency market existed between 2012 and 2015 because of similar restrictions. When the presidential power changed hands in 2015, the restrictions were lifted, making the official and unofficial currency exchange rates almost the same. Read more about the history of Argentina’s exchange rates.
ATMs and foreign credit cards
Should you use ATMs and your foreign credits cards in Argentina? The short answer is: No! Avoid using both ATMs and foreign credit or debit cards!
ATMs, or cajeros automáticos as they are called, use the official exchange rate. So, they will give you fewer pesos than if you exchange on the black market. Furthermore, most Argentine banks put heavy fees on withdrawing from foreign cards.
Using your credit or debit card to buy goods and services inside Argentina is the same: foreign cards use the official exchange rate.
So, just try to avoid using your cards or you will pay almost double what you could be paying – yes, currently the gap between the official and the blue rate is almost 50%!
Where to exchange money in Argentina?
So, if you shouldn’t use ATMs or your foreign cards, where should you exchange your money in Argentina?
Luckily, there are a couple of different options!
You can either use online currency exchange services like Western Union, Azimo, and Xoom or local exchange bureaus.
Online exchange services
At the moment, Western Union is a very popular online exchange option among expats and foreigners visiting Argentina.
Western Union offers an exchange change very close to the blue rate, which again means that you will get more pesos for your foreign currency than exchanging at the official rate.
The positive thing with Western Union is that you avoid any shady street dealers and the nerves of whether they give you fake notes or not. You simply go to the Western Union website, create a transfer and choose a pick-up place somewhere near you.
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They don’t have as good an exchange rate as Western Union and the black market exchange places, but it’s still better than taking money out through an ATM or using your card at the official rate.
Before the dual exchange rate became a reality in Argentina, I frequently used Azimo to bring money from Denmark to Argentina. Their service is a lot cheaper than traditional bank transfers.
Exchange locally when you arrive – bring US dollars!
If you prefer to exchange your money physically when you arrive in Argentina, then you are best off bringing US dollars.
American dollars are always in high demand in Argentina and you will get the best rate with USD.
So, if your country’s currency isn’t US dollars it’s an idea to exchange to USD before leaving for Argentina.
If possible, ask your local bank or exchange office in your home country to give you new 100 USD bills! Some exchange places in Argentina might give you a hard time if you don’t bring 100 USD bills.
Many local exchange places also exchange Euros. Some places might also exchange other currencies (especially, Brazilian reales or Chilean pesos). But your safe bet in Argentina is always to bring USD!
Local exchange services
Official exchange bureaus (Casas de Cambio)
If you prefer to exchange your money at an official place once you have arrived, then look for the official exchange bureaus either at the airport or in the city center.
These places are called Casas de Cambio, and they will offer you an exchange rate around the official rate (currently, the official rate is around 100 pesos per 1 USD). So, by using them you will not take advance of the black market rate!
In Buenos Aires, you can find many official exchange bureaus spread out all over the city. However, many of the official exchange bureaus are located around Sarmiento street in downtown Buenos Aires.
Florida street and black market exchange bureaus (cuevas)
If you want to exchange your money at the black market rate, when you arrive in Buenos Aires, then head to downtown Buenos Aires. The area around the Florida street (calle Florida) near Plaza de Mayo and Obelisco is a known hotspot for black market exchange places.
In Argentina, these black market exchange places are also referred to as Cuevas (e.g. caves). When you walk around the area of Florida street, you will hear people shouting “cambio, cambio” (e.g. exchange, exchange).
And that’s when you know you are in the right place!
Don’t be afraid to ask the cambio-people for their current rate. Some of them will be a bit upfront and try to convince you to close the deal with them. But don’t accept any offer right away before you have asked a couple of them. That way you can compare and find the best deal!
Some of them might even give you a better deal if you start negotiating a bit – if you feel comfortable doing so!
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When you accept an offer, the person on the street will most likely take you to a small office or to another person on the street where you will do the actual exchange.
Don’t bring more cash than you want to exchange and don’t exchange too much at the same time. Both to avoid losing too much if you end in a scam and as above since exchange rates change almost constantly in Argentina.
The price that the Cuevas offer might differ but it will always be around the unofficial blue rate.
Watch out for scams!
While these Cuevas are very common in Argentina, they are illegal businesses. There is very little control with them, and there are many many stories of these places trying to scram foreigners!
The most common scam seems to be giving people fake notes or mixing fake notes with real ones.
But of course, it is possible to find cuevas that just want to exchange your money and everything goes fine. But keep in mind that scams are common.
If you don’t want to run the risk, exchange via Western Union for an almost as good rate!
Sum-up: what have we learned about exchanging money in Argentina?
- Only exchange a small number of Argentine pesos at a time!
- There are two parallel exchange rates in Argentina: the official and the blue rate.
- Always try to exchange your foreign currency the closest to the black market exchange rate as possible!
- Avoid using ATMs and foreign credit or debit cards in Argentina!
- Use online exchange services such as Western Union, Azimo, and Xoom to get Argentine pesos in Argentina or exchange them at physical black market exchange bureaus
- Bring either US dollars or Euros if you are exchanging at the exchange bureaus – and bring 100 USD bills!
Looking for tips about Argentine Spanish? Check out these 10 phrases you should know before visiting Argentina!
What is your experience with exchanging money in Argentina? Or are you just heading there and have some additional doubts about exchanging your money? Share your questions and comments below!
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