Currency. Argentina's currency is the Peso. Until late 2001, Argentina used a form of "dollarization" where the rate of exchange was set at 1:1. Today, the peso "floats" against other currencies. For the past several years, the rate of exchange has been maintained at about 3 pesos to one dollar. The favorable exchange rate has created a bargain travel destination for those with dollars in their hands...although the bargains are not as great nowadays since inflation has taken hold.
www.dolarhoy.com is a good source for determining the actual rate of exchange for toursists at various banks and exchange houses around the country.
Are dollars accepted? In some restaurants and shops that cater to tourists, yes. Is it best in these instances to use dollars or pesos? Check the exchange rate. Some businesses offer great rates for dollars, others offer below market rates. My advice is to be prepared to pay in the currency that offers the best rates. The Peso shares the same currency symbol ($) as the US dollar, so many tourists get confused by ticketed prices. Almost all prices displayed in Argentina are in Pesos. Those in USD are indicated by U$D, $US or US$.
Cash, Credit Cards TC's or ATMs? The answer is yes.
ATMS are plentiful, but it is unwise to rely on ATMS as your sole source of money. Machines can and do sometimes" eat" cards and withdrawals are frequently limited to $500 (pesos) per day. Cirrus and Plus systems are honored. Fees vary from bank to bank. Some branches of BankBoston have ATM's that dispense $USD.
- Dollars can be exchanged in some hotels, in exchange houses, or by banks. Several bits of advice: Don't get caught short on the weekends. Exchange rates are lower on weekends than during the week. Don't use the Global Exchange at the airport, where poor rates are offered every day of the week.I exchange dollars for pesos upon arrival at the international airport. The Banco de la Nacion offers as good a rate as you will find anywhere, and you don't need to search for currency once you arrive in the city. Banco de la Nacion has windows inside and outside of the customs area at EZE international airport, located to the far right as you exit the customs area. I usually exit customs and double back outside of the cordoned off area to the Banco office. You will need your passport to exchange money. There is an ATM available as well.
- Credit Cards. Reserve Credit Card purchases for your hotel and airlines. Use cash for virtually everything else and as for a discount for using cash. Many businesses will offer substantial discounts for cash, beginning at 10% which the processing fee charged by the Credit Card companies in Argentina. Others, notably travel agencies will tack on an additional fee, ranging from about 3% to 9% to cover these fees. An exception to this is supermarkets. Coto, Norte, Disco, Carrefour, Jumbo, Dia, Leader-Price as well as many independents do readily accept MasterCard, Visa and/or American Express with no surcharge at all.
- Traveler's Checks. I do bring Traveler's Checks, but only because I am very cautious and do not want to be caught short in the event of a theft. American Express will exchange its checks for no commission at its offices on Plaza San Martin. Do not expect businesses to accept TC's. A few will take them, but will charge a commission.
- Tipping - We were able to use VISA at most places (a discount was offered just about everywhere for using cash so that the establishment could avoid fees) but unlike the U.S., we could not put tips on the credit card. Think about this when withdrawing cash, as you might have to spend a few pesos extra for tipping your waiter.