Hacking Argentine Air Travel: Fly For Cheap

Gringo in Buenos AiresHacking Buenos Aires67 Comments

Anyone living in Buenos Aires is going to want to take at least a couple of trips inside Argentina during their stay and will want them to be cheap. The two big destinations are of course Iguazú Falls in the north of the country, and Patagonia in the south – towns like El Calafate, Bariloche, Ushuaia and Puerto Madryn. These places are absolutely unmissable.

Argentina is a big country though, so how are you going to get there? Bus? That might work if you have: a) a penchant for suffering; b) a healthy supply of Valium, and c) an entire day (or more) to waste, but otherwise it’s a terrible option. Puerto Iguazú is a 17 hour journey from Buenos Aires by bus, Bariloche is 19 hours, and Ushuaia? You’ll need to block out a lazy 50 hours in your diary for that one.

Let’s face it, you’re flying. In Argentina you have two choices for internal flights: Aerolíneas Argentinas and LanChile.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting: you probably already know that residents of Argentina flying domestically get discounted fares due to government subsidies. The differences are quite substantial, as the following breakdown of prices on LanChile flights from Buenos Aires to popular Argentine destinations in shows:

* Buenos Aires to Ushuaia, return, cheapest available fare, with taxes.

As a non-resident: US$ 355.95.

As a resident: US$ 197

Difference: $158.95

* Buenos Aires to Iguazú, return, cheapest available fare, with taxes.

As a non-resident: US$329.40.

As a resident: US$159

Difference: $170.40.

* Buenos Aires to El Calafate, return, cheapest available fare, with taxes.

As a non-resident: US$336.

As a resident: US$164.

Difference: $172.

As you can see, there’s almost a 50% difference in the prices. Not insignificant when you’re a poor, struggling expat trying to see more of this beautiful country for cheap.

However, at this point you’re probably thinking “so what? I don’t have a Documento Nacional de Identidad (DNI) that proves I’m a resident, so I don’t qualify for the cheaper fares.”

…And you’re right! If you don’t have a DNI you don’t qualify for the cheaper fares. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get them. In fact, if you take the following steps, you’ll be able to fly for cheap, guaranteed:

1. Book flights through LanChile (www.lan.com), not Aerolíneas Argentinas. With Aerolíneas you have to enter your DNI number during the online booking process, so that’s no good.

2. At the opening screen at www.lan.com, select Argentina as your country of residence. If you’ve used www.lan.com before then you might not see the opening page when you browse to that address. In that case make sure that the site says “Argentina > Versión” in the top-right corner of the page. If it doesn’t, click the word “Version” and select Argentina.

3. Go through and book your tickets as normal. You’ll get the cheaper price.

4. Pack ONLY HAND LUGGAGE for your trip. This is very important and non-negotiable. Guys, you really don’t need those gigantic hiking boots. Ladies, ditch the hairdryers.

5. Two days before you’re due to fly you’ll receive an email from LanChile telling you that web check-in for the flight is now open. You want to do this, so don’t put it off! You have until 3 hours before your departure time to check-in online and print your boarding passes.

6. If you forget to check-in online, you might be able to use the check-in terminals at Aeroparque Jorge Newbery instead (pray they’re working!). As you may have guessed, the idea is to avoid the check-in desks at all costs, as that’s where they check for your DNI.

7. Go through security flashing your self-printed boarding pass, go to your departure lounge, board the plane, and voilà! You’re in the air for half the price.

8. Don’t forget to do a web check-in for your return flight as well. To be honest this isn’t as important, as at the smaller airports (such as the one at Puerto Iguazú) the check-in staff don’t seem to be all that bothered with checking for DNIs.

Does this really work? Yes! My girlfriend and I, and my girlfriend and her Mom have both tried this and it works without a hitch. After the check-in process there’s no-one else at the airport who cares what sort of fare you paid, so as long as you can avoid the check-in counters you’re golden.

Once, when we were working this out, we bought the resident tickets but then checked in at the check-in counter (we had hold luggage) and were asked for our DNIs. We did the “dumb tourist” routine (not that I think it actually mattered) and all that happened was that we were sent over to the LanChile ticket counter (immediately opposite the check-in desks) to pay the difference between the resident and non-resident fares. In other words, we ended up paying only what we would’ve had to anyway. No big deal.

For completeness, here is the text that appears on the LanChile website in regard to the resident fares:

IMPORTANT: These fares are only available to RESIDENTS of Argentina, in accordance with article four of Resolution 35/2002 by the Ministry of Production’s Secretary of Transportation. In the event that a passenger is not a resident, he or she can purchase tickets at some of our international sites. When boarding, the passenger will be asked to provide documentation confirming his or her residency. A passenger with a ticket for this class will not be boarded if he or she fails to provide said documentation.

What this says is all true, but “will not be boarded” really just means “will have to pay to upgrade their ticket to the non-resident rate,” so don’t think you’ll get deported or anything.

Happy flying! or… Happy flying for cheap!

67 Comments on “Hacking Argentine Air Travel: Fly For Cheap”

  1. Amse


    I’m a galician guy living in Buenos Aires!

    I don’t have the DNI but there’s other way to be an official resident in Argentina, wich worked for me.

    You must get a Residencia Precaria which is an official document you can obtain in the Dirección Nacional de Migraciones (Retiro) near to the Correo Argentino post office. Then you must present your official identity documents of your country, your passport, and any document certificating what are you doing in Argentina (studies, work, etc)

    Doing it you’d have an official document proving you’re an official resident! 😀

    PD: Excuse my poor level of english! 🙁

  2. boris

    Interesting your tips. I made something similar. I bought tickets from bariloche to buenos aires for august in http://www.despegar.com and I did not notice that was only for RESIDENTS of Argentia, that I am not, I am from brazil. The tickets are issued. I was thiking about the web checkin to avoid showing IDs. But as I will go with luggage that I have to check in, In your experience when you had hold luggage and had to pay the difference to a non resident fare, did you chekin on line and went straight to the counter only to drop your luggage or you did a regular checkin?

    I intend to make an online checkin and go to web checkin line in the aerolineas counter, exclusive to online checkin, do you think they will still ask for an argentinean DNI???

  3. Angela

    I’m furious and thrilled. I’ve been here for three years and have never known about this awesome hack. Thanks so much for sharing it. Can’t wait to try it out.

  4. Fabiàn

    -Why dont you send the luggage via FedEx when returning from your trip ?

    Or via ENCOMIENDA (a delivery service via passenger turistic buses, a service very used in Uruguay, faster and more secure than the mail )

    I think it would be fast, and cheaper than paying the difference…if the luggage and the things you purchased are not very heavy or voluminous

  5. Brendon

    My GF & I are coming to Argentina in December. We have 5 internal flights with luggage and have booked our tickets through despagar. My GF is Argentinian and has a DNI number that we used to make the booking. We also used her CC to pay for the booking.

    But I am traveling on my SA passport, during checkin do you think I be required to pay the extra for the non-resident fare?

    Thanks in advance 😉

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  11. Binni

    Thanks for posting this info, gringoinbuenosaires! I just tried this for a similar domestic trip within Argentina going from Jorge Newberry to Bahia Blanca. Only Aerolineas flies there. The Aero Argentinas site is asking me for a DNI number. Should I just fudge it, go ahead with purchase and then do the carry-on bag, like you mentioned? Of course, I will do online checking both ways…. do you think this will work?


  12. Juan M.

    This article makes me vomit. Foreings taking advantage of argentinian government subsidies? What a shame!! don’t you know that, that discount comes from the taxes that argentinians pay? the people who are going to do this is clearly a thief!!

  13. JohanXCallao

    LOL…Juan M.

    When Argentinians visit the USA they get the same price as everyone else … and lord knows we subsidize our transportation systems with all kinds of corporate tax breaks and federally backed loans….so why is it you feel WE’RE taking advantage of your system?

    In fact, not only does the Airline charge me more …

    The produce guy charges me more because I’m foreign,
    The lavandaria lady charges me more because I’m foreign,
    The guy at the framing shop charges me more because I’m foreign,
    The people in the stores try to charge me more, even if I pay in cash, because I’m foreign.

    How do I know this? I tested it.

    I took the same clothes into the lavandaria one week and was charged one rate … then my porteno friend took them in the next week and was charged a much lower rate.

    I went to a frameshop that was recommended to me by a friend and while they were very nice … tried to charge me twice what they charged my porteno friend for the exact same frame.

    When I entertained the thought of having a little surgery done I was careful to get the price quotes and information up front … then take the back to show two friends … one a Porteno Dr. and one a Brazilian Dr… When they saw the prices they both just laughed their asses off.

    So don’t go hating on the guests. We’ve simply become accustomed to the game … and we’re here to play.

    I went to

  14. Der_Achtundwzanzig

    Thank you SO MUCH gringoinbuenosaires! I just came back from Bariloche, I’m Argentinean buy my partner is French and doesn’t have his residence yet. We did everything you mentioned and it worked PERFECTLY. If we hadn’t done this, he would’ve had to pay twice as much (that’s how much more they charge you at the French LAN website). Again, ¡¡¡MUCHÍSIMAS GRACIAS!!! 🙂

  15. Damian

    The argentinian government subsidies flights for the outer provincies only, and for residents of those provincies (and not to Buenos Aires residents). As you can read in the resolution quoted in LAN.com site.

    However, LAN and AA use this “resolution” to charge extra money to non residents in all internal flights (disregarding if they travel to a near province or to “the end of the world”), and give discounts to all residents, instead of giving them only to the poor outsiders to live far far away, as the resolution intended to be.

    So, go ahead and buy resident fee tickets, if you’re caught, don’t pay the difference! ask for the police and make noise. Lawyer up! That practice is illegal and unconstitutional. And the companies know it, but the only way to stop them is through bad publicity, because the law system in Argentina sucks!

  16. z

    i did this and it works only for newberry, eze passengers it will not work… also for usa residents using aerolinas if your passport # begins with 0 leave it off at the DNI screen… it worked for me twice, but going through EZE it did not and they attempted to overcharge me or not give a refund. I protested to my bank claiming they did not allow web check in which they were not at EZE and it was a term and condition for which i agreed to… I won my $ back 2 months later.

  17. Chris

    Do you have to be in Argentina to get these deals? I’m checking from the US and it’s pretty much the same price.

  18. LAURA

    I’ve been looking for this info for about 3 months now!!! Thanks so much for the tip!

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  21. Elizabeth

    will this work if i fly from Buenos Aires to Rio???
    –i am able to book the flight on lan.com withou the ID number, but i fear i may need to show my passport as it will be an international flight. please advise.

  22. James

    Has anyone tried this recently? I can’t believe the prices for internal flights. One single internal flight will cost me almost half the cost of my flight from Europe to Buenos Aires if I book the non-resident ticket.

  23. Didier

    I just want to confirm that this is still working. I also want to add some info.
    I bough the ticket on the argentine version of the LAN website. There was more than 50% price difference!
    – I decided to put my french passport number and all the correct information. I thought better have to pay the price difference if I get caught at the airport than being said I was cheating by giving false information. That does not change the price and you can proceed without problems with the “resident” price.
    – I checked in online. The boarding pass does not mention the price you paid and if you are resident or not.
    – I had the case for a return flight that I could not do the online checking for some technical reasons with the website. I then called the call center. They did check me in (without asking anything special) and I was able to reprint my boarding pass online without problems.
    – As LAN is suggesting, print 2 copies of your boarding pass. They keep one at the boarding gate. At not point in time I was asked to show an ID/passport.
    – In case you really want/need to check a luggage in (in case you are 2), then make 2 different reservations and pay resident price for both. One person will then “take the risk” to drop the luggage (one for 2). In case he get caught and have to pay the price difference, only one get caught. Always do your online checking and use the drop luggage line. This reduce highly the probability of getting caught.
    – Also LAN has the advantage of 10kg hand luggage (Aerolineas is 8 kg). In the case of dispatched luggages, LAN is 23kg, Aerolineas is 15 kg only!! for the same price
    – In case you are flying with an infant (< 2 years old). LAN is allowing them a 23 kg dispatched luggage. Since infant don't pay (or a very small fee), there is not a resident/non resident price difference

    I hope those comments are helpful as the original post was!

  24. Arne

    Can also confirm this works for Aerolineas, identical to what Didier described above. HOWEVER, you might currently be better off bringing dollars into the country and changing them here at a much better rate then the official one, than booking online using your credit card which will always get you the official rate. Not sure if there are agencies that accept cash payment AND are willing to book you an Argentine ticket. That would definitely be the cheapest option.

  25. Victor

    This is a very good article. JohanXCallao, I’ll like how you approach the “other guy”.

  26. Mark V

    Another option: If you have a student visa, you can get the resident fares. My daughter did it directly at one of Aerolineas’ BA ticket offices.

  27. Clemens

    Hello everyone…
    just read this article and I also wanne try it…so I let you guys know if its still working…

    JUST do add some addional Informations… You now able to pay for your Lan ticket in cash over the website… So you can use the blue dollar rate and the argentininen resident fare.
    How does it works? You can choose Pagofacil or Banelco as payment method.. with both companies you just have to find a shop doing there services and pay your bill there in cash… I would recommend pagofacil..cause you find them quite often in Buenos Aires..

  28. Shameem

    does this option for flying still work, has anyone done it in the last month?

  29. Bho

    Am also curious if this still works–planning on traveling beginning of December. Can anyone confirm that this still works?

  30. Robert

    Thanks Gringo,

    I followed your steps in November 2012 and it actually worked! Saved us a lot of money going to Calafate.

  31. Kitkat

    We did this last weekend from Aeroparque to Mendoza and it went off without a hitch. We also paid cash on LAN using the PagoFacil kiosks in the city and got the unofficial exchange rate this way!

    Muchissimas gracias!

  32. Seany

    Hi Guys

    i will be traveling to argentina in Jan/Feb 2014 and plan to take a few flights.

    – Has anyone done this in the past few weeks ?
    – Are you sure that price / DMI number is not on boarding pass ?

    I will be traveling with my wife and 4yr old daughter so using this method is the only way we would take a few internal flights as otherwise it would be horribly expensive.

    Tnx !

  33. Seany

    Hi there all

    1) has anyone tried to do the resident price and did not get away with it ? if so what exactly happened ?

    2) there is another site that you can book flights on ( ) which has no big warning message on the page like LAN – would it be best to go this way a lead stupid if caught ?

    3) under what exact circumstances can one get caught – if you have your printed boarding card and only hand luggage ??

    tnx for the answers and id love to try this but my woman is scared for her life : )


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  35. Tom Schell

    Wanted to confirm that I attempted this in January 2013 for roundtrip travel from AEP to Iguazu Falls. I traveled without a single problem. In addition, as mentioned previously from another responder, I paid via Pago Facil, so I was able to get the Blue Rate. Roundtrip was only $140 USD!

    If you do pay with Pago Facil, keep in mind that a lot of Argentinians pay their utility bills, cable bills, etc through these facilities so you may have a 20-30 minute wait to pay.

  36. Bob

    When booking the ticket on LAN it asks for my passport information.. Including the number and issuing country. The drop down defaults to an Argentinian passport.. Should I use my US number and leave Argentina as the issuing country or enter it in correct as a USA being the issuing country? It seems to keep the local rate, but wondering if this will prevent me from checking in online because it raises a red flag or something? Thanks!

  37. traveller

    This worked for me with Aerolineas Argentina (April 2014). PRinted out boarding pass beforehand (couldn’t get the return leg before…no idea why). In AEP (aeroparque)…there are no self check in kiosks for Aerolineas..neither in Iguazu.

  38. Olivia

    Still works like a charm! Last week we flew LAN from Buenos Aires (AEP) to Ushuaia, and then El Calafate to Buenos Aires (AEP). Checked-in beforehand with only hand luggage.

    Was a bit worried they would check at the tax collection point in El Calafate airport but it was all good. Thanks Tim for this great article which is still relevant 4 years later!

  39. Agustin

    Hey guys,

    Anyone tried this lately ? I noticed warnings on two airlines I tried to book with. I can’t see why it wouldn’t if you have a web check-in print out. Anyone pulled up for not being a resident ?

    Mainly concerned with it saying you won’t be able to board.

  40. Agustin

    Tried this and it won’t work without an Argentinian issued credit card. Anyone else had any luck?

    It doesn’t give a reason, just says it can’t process the payment.

  41. Agustin

    Tried this today and it won’t work on LAN chile without an Argentinian issued credit card.

    Anyone have any luck?

  42. Mike

    The same boring question from me! 😉 Is this hit still valid? I’m going to Argentina on 25 October and would be happy to use it. However, Augustin, aroused some doubts. We already know that you cannot use a credit card issued outside Argentina (can anyone confirm?), but it’s also been said here that you can use Pago Facil to pay in cash which makes the whole deal even more economical if you are taking advantage of a blue rate.

    To sum up – has anyone tried this trick recently? Thank you very much in advance, Travel Mates! 🙂

  43. Mike

    Dear Travelmates,

    a surprising question – is this hint still valid? 😉 Has anyone tried this recently? Even if the problem described by Agustin exists maybe Pago Facil could be a solution?

    Thank you very much in advance!


  44. Ken

    I just flew to Ushuaia with my partner (September 2014) and this tactic worked a treat. Thanks for sharing it Gringo.

    We also paid in cash at a Pagofácil to take advantage of the current blue dollar exchange rate. On this be sure to only go to a large Pagofácil outlet as most others (within chemists, kiosks etc) have a limit on the amount of pesos they can accept per transaction and those within supermarkets and post offices also won’t process it. We learnt this the hard way and visited about 10 before someone would take our money (at Ecuador 1577). You can download their app for a handy map.

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