Let’s talk money!
The Argentinan government is trying to prop up the value of the peso and as a result a parallel market for US dollars has emerged called the “blue dollar” and gets anyone with greenbacks 30 to 40% more pesos compared to the official exchange rate. This means using bank machines and credit cards would be a mistake because the formal institutions are required to use the official exchange rate.
The official exchange rate is 8.8 pesos to the dollar. But by logging in to the right websites or even the blue dollar Twitter account (!!) that keeps people up to date on the fluctuations, you see that it is worth over 12 right now.
In an attempt to be savvy, we brought US dollars into Argentina and have changed money in 2 different cities now. Mostly, we’ve been heading to a downtown street where exchanges are known to happen and we wait to hear people on the street saying “Cambio” (Change money?) When you express interest, they lead you into an office in a pawn shop store to do the exchange.
Buenos Aires was the most interesting. We got a specific address from our hostel and went to what appeared to be a normal apartment building. Inside, the whole apartment had been turned into a money exchange office with 3 wickets behind glass installed in the main room. There we handed over our $50 and $100 US dollar bills (which were all carefully examined to check for fakes) and they gave us back Argentinian pesos at a rate of 12.20 to the dollar. Great for us!
The crazy part is how smooth and transparent it all is. Everyone knows about it and the transactions feel just as professional as dealing with a bank.