How To Get The Best Exchange Rate When Traveling To Argentina

Gringo in Buenos AiresHacking Buenos Aires60 Comments

AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko

Article updated on February 11, 2014.

After the Argentine peso was de-pegged from the dollar following the financial crisis of 2001/2002, people visiting Buenos Aires with dollars found that the country was incredibly inexpensive. As the years rolled on, Argentina experienced annual inflation around 25% to 30%, resulting in prices even in dollar terms to rise. The official exchange rate didn’t devalue in relation to the dollar fast enough for prices in dollar terms to absorb the rising consumer prices in pesos. So for many tourists and expats exchanging their dollars for pesos every month, things actually started to seem expensive in Argentina.

After the end of 2011 when the government imposed restrictions on the amount of dollars Argentine citizens could buy for savings or travel (basically banning the purchase of foreign currency), the black market for dollars picked up steam, creating a parallel exchange rate which at some moments was 60-70% more expensive (this alternative exchange rate is called the “blue rate”). This was not good news for Argentines, but for tourists or expats with dollars, this meant they could buy more pesos for the same amount of dollars, increasing their purchasing power dramatically and making Argentina seem cheap again.

How cheap or how expensive Argentina is depends on what rate you change your dollars at. Before Argentina officially devalued its peso in mid January 2014, if you were to exchange dollars on January 1st at the official rate of 6.5 pesos/dollar, prices would have been pretty expensive for you even compared to other countries. But if you would have exchanged dollars at the blue rate of 10.2 pesos/dollar, you would have received 57% more pesos. A cocktail that cost 50 pesos would have cost you around $4.90 dollars instead of around $7.60 dollars. Argentina then devalued its currency to 8 pesos/dollar at the official rate, sending the blue rate to over 13 pesos/dollar. Within just a month those changing their dollars at the blue rate saw around a 30% increase in their purchasing power (and those whose only option is to change at the official rate benefited as well). Granted, many places raised their prices in pesos as a result of the devaluation, especially those who sell imported goods like electronics, but this recent increase in purchasing power has benefited those with greenbacks.

The point of all this is that for those with dollars, Argentina varies monthly, weekly or even daily in terms of how cheap it seems. Sometimes the increases in the official or blue rate don’t make up for the inflation in pesos prices. Other times the blue rate sky rockets and the same dinner eaten the week before costs less. As of this writing on February 11, 2014, the official rate has cooled down from its high of over 8 pesos/dollar a couple weeks ago to 7.82 pesos/dollar. The blue rate is down from its high of over 13 to 11.7 pesos/dollar.

Regardless of these fluctuations, it very clear that we want to be exchanging our dollars at the blue rate or as close to it as we can. The following are some general guidelines to follow to get the best rate.

1. DO NOT Change your dollars at the airport!!
Do not under any circumstances change your dollars at the airport. The exchange houses here give rates that are less that the official rate! If you absolutely need pesos when you arrive to the airport, an ATM will give you the official exchange rate, minus whatever fees.

2. Bring physical dollars or euros to exchange.
Unlike travel to other countries, unless you want things to be a lot more expensive, don’t just rely on taking out money from an ATM to get the local currency. You will need to bring physical dollars or euros to exchange and it is not possible to withdraw physical dollars from ATMs in Argentina.

3. Underground exchange houses offer the best rate, but be careful.
In order to get the blue rate, you need to go to an underground “cueva” exchange house to change your dollars to pesos. These places operate in a legal grey area. Although technically illegal, they are allowed to operate. In the downtown of Buenos Aires along the walking streets of Lavalle and Florida, you will find literally hundreds of people shouting “cambio, cambio” (change, change). It should be no problem to exchange with one of these guys, but if you don’t speak Spanish and look like an easy tourist to take advantage of, they could try to scam you in some way. The point is to stay street smart. If something seems fishy, walk away.

4. Ask your hotel, school, or any friendly local for a trustworthy money changer.
To build on point #3, if you are uncomfortable going up to a random money changer, ask around to find a trustworthy one. Most hotels can probably point you in the right direction or even change the money for you. If you are studying Spanish or in school, ask around at your school.

5. See if a local you know wants to buy dollars.
If you are just arriving to Argentina for vacation you might not know anyone, but depending on your contacts in the country, see if anyone you know wants to buy dollars. Most would be interested in exchanging dollars with you at the blue rate.

6. Ask retail stores you shop at if they accept dollars.
Many retail stores will accept dollars as payment at around the blue rate. If you are looking to buy some clothes, gifts, jewelry, etc., ditch the credit card and ask to pay in cash. This is especially useful if you are just visiting on vacation for a week. If you pay with a credit card, you will be stuck paying with the official rate.

7. You can withdraw physical dollars from ATMs in Uruguay.
If you have been in Buenos Aires or Argentina for a while and want to refill on physical dollars without having to return to your home country, consider a trip to Uruguay. It is an easy ferry ride from Buenos Aires and you can be back the same day.

8. Use to transfer money from your USA bank account to Argentina at close to the blue rate.
Xoom is an online international money transfer service. Xoom partners with select money transfer services in countries around the world and allows you to send money from your bank account in the United States directly into an Argentine bank account or for cash pick up at More Argentina (Xoom’s money transfer service in Argentina) using only the internet.

You won’t get the blue rate, but you will be close and still way better off than exchanging at the official rate. As of February 11, 2014 the blue rate is 11.7 and the XOOM rate is 10.6.

For expats living in Buenos Aires who have bank accounts in Argentina and earn dollars overseas, using Xoom to convert their dollars to pesos is an easy way to do it.

For travelers coming to Buenos Aires who don’t have bank accounts in Argentina, it is still possible to use the Xoom money pick up feature. You can transfer the money online after you set up your xoom account and then pick up your pesos at the More Argentina branch located in Recoleta at Libertad 1057.

Unfortunately Xoom is only available to people with bank accounts in the USA.

9. Although you should bring physical dollars to Argentina, don’t forgot to bring an ATM card just in case.
It is always a good idea to make sure you bring an ATM card with you for emergencies. You may only be getting the official rate, but with the recent devaluation it is not that bad. The best ATM card to have in Buenos Aires is the Charles Schwab high yield investor checking account. It charges no international fees and refunds any ATM service charges. The maximum amount of pesos you can withdrawal in one ATM session is 1000, but it is possible to do multiple withdrawals of 1000 pesos in a single day by taking your card out and starting a new transaction.

10. If you are in Argentina or Buenos Aires taking dance classes, yoga, martial arts, private spanish classes, etc., ask if you can pay in dollars.
It obviously makes more sense to try and hold onto your dollars and spend your pesos. You will most likely be able to change your dollars in the future at a better rate for more pesos. But in certain cases it might make more sense to pay for things in dollars. For example, lets say you take yoga classes. In order to pay for those classes, you will at some point need to change your dollars into pesos. It can become a nuisance to have to go to a sketchy cueva to exchange your dollars every week or month. You could propose to your yoga teacher to accept a certain amount of dollars for each class or for a month’s worth of classes, possibly saving you more money than if you would convert those same dollars to pesos. It all depends on what deal you can work out with your teacher, but it is an idea worth exploring.

These are some great ideas that you can use to increase your purchasing power in Argentina if you have dollars. Does anyone else have any good advice about exchanging money in Argentina? Please let us know in the comments.

Disclaimer: This post is for educational purposes only. This post should not be mistaken for direct advice. Use anything you read at your own risk.

60 Comments on “How To Get The Best Exchange Rate When Traveling To Argentina”

  1. Rachel

    I was tired of changing dollars and getting so little money back, then one day I was walking around Florida and Lavalle (near the Obelisco) and to my surprise most of the exchange houses there change money at a ridiculously good rate: 1 US = 6 Pesos Argentinos. Hope this helps someone! Thanks for the article.

  2. Conor

    Just out of curiosity, is it common for people to use dollars in shops instead of pesos and get a good return close to the blue rate in the transaction? What I mean is, could I go in to a shop or restaurant and go “Hey, I have some dollars, wanna pay the bill in dollars?”

  3. James

    I am traveling in Argentina and we have been exchanging money in shops that buy gold (Compra Oro) and recently in a fancy shoe store. We have gotten between 6 and 6.15. They don’t advertise that they exchange money, but the guy in the gold shop said most places that buy gold are also dealing in the black market for dollars. When in Venezuela we had to deal with this same issue and found by asking around that common exchange places are any store that tends to cater to the upper classes (i.e. the people who can afford to stock up on dollars), thus the fancy shoe store. Places that sell jewelery and/or suits may work too. Often if you just ask around you will get directed to somewhere with a good rate.

  4. Ken

    Any idea what the exchange rate is from bank machines and credit card transactions?

  5. Milsters

    I was in Buenos Aires 5 years ago and was back a couple of times this year – and I couldn’t BELIEVE the cost of a basket of groceries in 2012 vs. 2007! Inflation here is just crazy. Thanks so much for these tips; they are really helpful.

    When I use my credit card, do you know what the banks charge when converting back? Do they use the 4.6 or the blue rate?



  6. Anthony

    In order to play the black market one needs a good supply of USD, which is a problem for the likes of me as being British I can’t use and the Argentine ATM’s won’t dispense USD (at least to non-US acct holders) as they seemingly promise to do. However, if you’re in BA you can pop across the river to Colonia where Uruguayan ATM’s will dispense dollars although (in my case) only $300 a day. However if you have more than one debit card (I have 4) and stay overnight you can do the transaction twice which makes the trip more worthwhile. I spend a couple of months per year in Posadas (Misiones) from where I can pop over the bridge to Encarnacion (Paraguay) and do the same thing.

  7. Max S.

    Great article. Thank you!
    I remember going to Argentina in 2005 vs. 2011 and inflation killed it for me. It was once a place for Americans to go and feel rich due to exchange rates but inflation has killed that. It costs as much there as it does here in the U.S. with very few exceptions.

    Anyway, I have to go there from time to time so your article helped!

  8. JD

    In answer to the questions about ATM/credit card transactions in the country: you will get the official exchange rate when you use them, no matter what currency you are converting from.

    US dollars can be difficult to spend with some vendors, and also keep in mind that quite a few businesses are cash only here.

  9. andrew

    hi i used to travel to argentina every two or three months because of my job, and i contact a web page that gives you great rate and send the money right to your hotel, if i’m not wrong the page is , i used it and its very safe, well i hope this helps

  10. Eduardo

    I was in Argentina on a business trip and got good rates for changing euros in Lavalle street. 1 EU = 9.1 Argentinian pesos. You can hear the guys saying cambio all the time.

  11. stewart

    Change your USD cash in Argentina on the black market.
    It is very safe if you have an Argentine contact to show you which hole in the wall exchange to use.

  12. Oso

    I have not been here until this trip but I would say that as of this moment in time (end of april13) it is very inexpensive as an American here. On Calle Florida we got nearly 1:9 dollars to pesos. My understanding is that inflation has been nearly 50% in the last 6 months. It’s nice as a tourist but I feel for the people here.

  13. Eduardo

    The rate is going up like crazy now. I changed about a 1000 euros at 10.3. This week it’s at 11.50. Bring cash, no cards!

  14. Amy

    Is it safe to go to Florida street to exchange dollars? I don’t speak much spanish and I hear it’s quite unsafe because of counterfeit bills, etc.

  15. Gina Santamaria

    Wow, I can’t believe how the value of the peso has gone down in a year! The blue rate is at about 9 now, but with, you can get 8.28 pesos for $1. That is fantastic. I discovered Xoom when I had all my cash stolen (in the US at the airport on my way here!) and had to access my bank account from here in Buenos Aires. I wanted a friend of a friend who was returning here from a trip to bring me cash so I didn’t have to pay the exchange rate with my ATM card and she suggested Xoom. It is the best way to get money if you didn’t bring dollars with you! I definitely swear by it. 🙂

  16. gerry

    hi everyone,

    i live here and i change your dollars ands euro’s in pesos !
    if you need pesos let me know.

  17. gerry

    hi guy’s,

    iff you need pesos let me know !!
    i will exchange euro’s and dollars!!

  18. Riz

    Does anyone know if there’s a maximum limit for bringing dollar cash in to Agentina as a tourist?

  19. derp

    Pretty sure Argentina has a $10k limit you can bring in like most countries. Just pay yourself through xoom and pick up the money if you run out. Use okpay account or another xfer service if you are from the uk.

  20. derp

    Forgot, another way to bring in money to Argentina is bitcoins. Go on bitcoin forums and look around for Agentina bitcoin groups. They will buy BTC off you for pesos so can bring in as much money as you want.

  21. John

    The economy is going DOWN, big time… in a few weeks from now it shouldn’t be so hard for everybody to exchange 1usd for 10ars.

    Go crazy first world countries people 😆 you’ll surely have a great time here

  22. Gavlar

    I’ve had no problems exchanging money around Florida / Lavelle and I’m as gringo as they come, barely speaking any Spanish.

    I’ve heard you can get counterfeit bills / counting tricks done on you but my advice would be to listen for the “cambio” shout, engage in a brief conversation about the rate (even in English, lots of them speak English so if they don’t and you’re not comfortable with it then move on, the guys are everywhere), then they should take you inside to a shop of some sort and pass you over to someone in there. It’s usually a travel agent or similar so feels completely safe and you can count the money and check it closely, as they will your dollars.

    If a “cambio” guy wants to do the transaction on the street I’d walk away, but that’s hasn’t happened to me.

    I got a steadily increasing rate of 9.5, 9.6 and 9.7 over a week period in mid-Nov. I then travelled to Uruguay for a bit and withdrew more dollars. Now I’m in Puerto Iguazu – The rates outside of BA are worse but I asked in a few places and got 8.5. I know this is extremely good cos everyone I’ve spoken to, including locals, have said anymore than 8.0 here is unheard of. I did have to negotiate quite hard though and walk away from two people not willing to go above 8.

    I think the main thing is to not hand money over unless you feel comfortable, but also not to think everyone is a crook, it’s beneficial for all parties.

    As a side note: As a Brit I can’t use Xoom, but I spoke to someone who lives in BA now but earns sterling wondering what he does and he said he uses Azimo (UK only). He wires money from his own account and picks it up from a selected location in pesos. You apparently get the top rate (I checked at the time and it was over 14 pesos = £1, or around 9 to the $US. There’s just a £5 charge per transaction, which swallowed up on large amounts is nothing. think the limit per month might be aroud £800, but check.

    I’ve not used Azimo myself yet but sounds like the best option rather than carrying large amounts of cash. I’m a long term backpacker so was worried about constantly having to find the best rate, but it’s nice to know there are options.

    Hope this helps.

  23. Pingback: Argentina: How to Save Money by Avoiding the Official Exchange Rate | Deeper Skies

  24. Julie

    We’re in Buenos Aires now staying at an air bnb. Our host has a safe connection to a currency exchanger. He exchanged at a rate of ARS 9.4 this morning. Wish we had known to bring higher denominations (not twenties). If we had, he could have gotten ARS 9.6 $

  25. Gonzales

    Where can I change blue dollar at night? We arrive at the airport at 8 pm and fly to Calafate at 7 am. I wanna change at Buenos Aires because the rates are better.

    @Julie: Can you perhaps tell me your safe connection?

  26. lina

    i use the western union on san juan in boedo. i got 9.9 to 1 there last august september 2013

  27. Pingback: Getting the best exchange rate for your dollars in Buenos Aires | Buenos Aires Tours

  28. Malin Teie

    Asking for some advices; We are in Brazil now, going to Iguazu falls and to Buenos Aires. Are from Norway, don’t have ant dollars now. What is the best thing for us to do to get best rates as possible? Try to get dollars from Brazil? Ant advice?
    Really appreciate some help 🙂


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  30. John

    Hello, does anyone know how late into the night these exchange places stay open? I won’t get into BA until about 11PM and am leaving for Ushuaia the next morning very early. Is it possible to exchange money that late at night?

  31. Marissa

    I’m traveling to Mendoza in a couple of weeks and was wondering where I can exhange USD to pesos. At the border with Chile? Somewhere in downtown Mendoza?

  32. paul ablett

    what is the availability of change establishments outside of Buenos Aires as I will be traveling over the whole country?

  33. Jim

    For the US residents: most currency exchanges, including in hub airports like Miami, do not buy or sell Argentine pesos at all. So, when you exchange dollars for pesos, consider how much you think you’re going to need. Then, before you leave Buenos Aires, make sure you exchange them for dollars, or spend them. Otherwise, you may be stuck with them until next time, when they are worth a lot less to you (assuming you remember to bring them with you).

  34. Collin

    What is the best place and/or way for me to get my Argentine pesos back to USD before I go home? I have heard Banco Piano at the Airport but at what rate do they exchange? Is it even close to the actual exchange rate?

    I’m in Chile right now and the rate is 44 CLP per ARS…the actual exchange rate is 67, that’s 34% worse…robbery.

  35. John

    Wondering if anyone knows where I can buy USD somewhere near the official rate. I’ve tried banks and casas de cambios. No luck.

  36. online banking

    Requesting a number of strategies; Were within Brazil right now, about to Iguazu drops and also to Buenos Aires. Usually are via Norwegian, don’t have got ish bucks right now. Precisely what is the best matter for us to try and do for getting greatest charges as you possibly can? Make an effort to receive bucks via Brazil? Ant suggestions?

  37. pedro werberg

    The article is very thorough.Today,August 4,2014 the rate is 12.2 and it will probably go up due to the high inflation rate.Yesterday my wife and I had dinner at a good chinese restaurant for just 30 dollars Enjoy inexpensive Buenos Aires

  38. Fei

    I just touched down to Buenos Aires yesterday (Aug. 5, 2014) and the blue rate is at around 10.5. The hotel was willing to give me a 9, but I just exchanged $50 USD so I can at least get some pizza. The average slice of pizza now is about 15 ARP. So I found out today that some of the convenience stores opened by Chinese folks will give you 10 ARP for 1 USD. Note that on July 31, Argentina went into bankruptcy again so the blue rate is only going to go up. It is unbelievable how Argentina used to be the richest country in the world and now it is virtually a failed state imploded by international bankers.

  39. Bill Thompson

    Wife and I were in Salta, Argentina last week. We got 12 pesos to US Dollar when swapping $100 bills. This was in a restaurant on the main plaza. No problems and it sure beat the 8 to 1 ratio official rate.

  40. Ailin

    Hello I’m traveling to Argentina October 7th, just heard that currency is at 14.5 pesos for $1 US dollar. Where could I exchange this at?

  41. Mark

    Ok… I am going to BA in a week or so, and I understand the blue vs. official rate issue. So, here is the question… (Using a blue rate of 12:1 and an official rate of 8.5:1) What is to stop me from taking $100USD to a cueva, turning it into $1200AP (1USD=12AP). Then I immediately go to the bank and exchange my $1200AP to $141USD (1AP=.12USD). What am I missing? Fees? Wear on my tennis shoes? This does not pass the ‘too good to be true’ standard.

  42. SL

    Mark, what you are missing is that it will be very difficult if not impossible to sell your pesos back for the exact reason you cite. If you do the exchange legally and keep the transaction receipt you might be able to exchange them back but lots of people are saying that even that is really hard to do. Nobody wants pesos so they have no incentive to buy them back.

  43. Veronica


    Does anyone have recent experience with The exchange rate is phenomenol right now at 11.45 ARS= 1 USD, but I was wondering if anyone could run me through how I could basically send money to myself before or while I’m in Buenos Aires. I will be with my boyfriend, so I could put another name for the recipient. But what do I need?

    Thanks in advance!


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