EP004: Buenos Aires – Buying Argentine Peso on Black Market (Dólar Blue)

On this episode, we are going to take you to Argentina and show you safe way to exchange U.S. Dollars and Euros for Argentine Peso on the black market.  Please welcome Heather Neary as the co-host.

  • C0-Host/Producer: Charles Huang
  • Co-Host/Script Editor: Heather Neary
  • Editor: Kai Mathias / Charles Huang
  • Camera: Stan Trac
  • Music: Bob Barnes and Mandragora Tango “Palomita blanca”, “La Payanca – Nueva Guardia”

For those of you who being to Argentina, you know the headache of exchanging U.S. Dollars for Argentine Peso at a good rate.  It’s obvious why when there two rates, the official rate $1 USD = $8.970 (May 22, 2015) which you’ll received if you convert the easy way, such as exchanging money at the airport, use your credit card or withdrawal from ATM.

Right: Official Argentine Exchange Rate / Left: Unofficial Dolar Blue Black Market Rate
Right: Official Argentine Exchange Rate / Left: Unofficial Dolar Blue Black Market Rate

While in the other hand, the “Dolar blue” or black market rate of $1.00 USD to $12.650 if you exchange your money on the unofficial market.

Even though, exchanging your U.S. Dollars on the unofficial market is technically illegal, everyone do it!  The authorities can do little about it and normally just turn a blind eyes to this types of transactions, but occasionally you may be fined if you bumped into a cops having a bad day.  Personally, there is no way I willing to sacrifice 40% differences, approximately $3.68 ARS differences for each $1.00 USD .  So, this episode will show you how you can get the best rates possible on the black market safely and easily.

Argentine Economic Crisis:

The current Argentine Peso situations started back with the Economic Crisis of 1998 to 2002 with economic stagnation and high unemployment.  Argentina was also harmed by the devaluation of the Brazilian real against the dollar, making it more attractive and cheaper to buy Brazilian exports.  Faced with few options, by end of 2001 the fixed exchange rate system was abandoned and by January of 2002 the U.S. Dollars to Peso exchange rate fluctuated, up to a peak of four pesos to one dollar, a 75% devaluations.  This resulted lost of confidence in the Argentine Peso and many of its citizens to sell their Pesos for US in order to protect the value of their savings, creating further devaluations of the currency and inflation.

US Dollars vs. Argentine Peso
US Dollars vs. Argentine Peso

The “Dólar Blue” Rate:

To prevent further devaluations and a drain on its currency reserves, the government made it extremely difficult for ordinary Argentine to exchange or buy foreign currency.  Although Argentina to ease foreign exchange controls since 2014 to allow tax-free purchases in foreign currency to two a year, additional purchases are subject to a 20% tax.  This created a black market for unofficial exchange with its own rate, which somethings could be up to 50% higher than official rate.

Warnings:

Faked Argentine Currency Notes
Faked Argentine Currency Notes
Real and Faked Notes Comparison
Real and Faked Notes Comparison

Before showing you how to exchange money safely in the more favorable black market, we must warned you:

  • It is still a illegal activity, most of the time authorities turn a blind eyes, occasionally people do get fined.
  • There is small chance you may encounter faked or counterfeited notes, but this is risk is very small
  • There is greater chance you can get robbed with people running off with your foreign currency if you are exchanging it on the street (we’ll cover that later).

Quick Advices:

  • Do not use ATM or exchange at a bank or airport, you will end up getting the unfavorable official rate
  • $100 and $50 US Dollar and large Euros notes will get you better exchange rate than $10 and $20’s, after exchange houses don’t tons of notes lying around.
  • Compared rates between different “Cambio” meaning money exchange, there are lots of them on Florida and Lavalle Street
  • Avoid people standing on a street corner and always exchange on a physical location, so no one can run away with your hard earned currency.  The most popular places to exchange currencies are the red newsstands.
  • Only exchange amount of Argentine Pesos you think you need, you can exchange more at later time.  Remember, once you got pesos, its almost impossible to exchange it back at favorable rate.

Steps:

Calle Florida and Lavalle in Buenos Aires
Calle Florida and Lavalle in Buenos Aires

Step 1

You do need to get to Calle Florida and Lavalle, the most concentration of “cambio” are located.  Don’t worry if you don’t have any pesos for the airport shuttle.  There are many hostels provides free shuttles for their guests and if you don’t stay in one of them, you can per-arranged one for about $10 US Dollars.  There is lots of those services available online, let us know if you find a lower price so we can add their link to it.

Step 2

Newsstands on Florida Street "Calle" in Buenos Aires
Newsstands on Florida Street “Calle” in Buenos Aires

Once you get to Lavalle and Florida, ignore people calling “cambio” and rather ask between different red newsstands for their rates.  I would say at least 75% of those newsstands exist for the purpose of exchanging U.S. for local businesses.  Once again, to be safe, bring a company.  If you have internet access, check out the latest rate first here and Twitter tweets

Step 3

Select the newsstands with the lowest rate and continue to bargain, bargain and bargain for the rate.

Step 4

Charles with lots of new hostel friends in Buenos Aires
Charles with lots of new hostel friends in Buenos Aires

Enjoy your stay in Argentina, its one of my favorite cities on earth… I am sure you’ll be like me, meeting lots of great friends that you’ll keep in touch for rest of your life (in my case) and bring home lots of great memories.  By the way, like many other places, including hostels, restaurants, shops, they accept U.S. dollars at a very good rate. Our entire for the table as seen in the photo above cost only $13 U.S. Dollars, talk about indulging on a budget!

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