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My experience buying pesos as a tourist

Madrid, Spain
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My experience buying pesos as a tourist

We all know how difficult buying dollars in BsAs has become, but I thought my experience buying pesos (in exchange for euros and dollars) might be of interest to tourists planning to do the same thing. Now keep in mind that as a foreigner with a valid tourist visa, this process was actually *easier* for me than it is for locals...

Got to Banco Piano around 10:15AM on Friday morning. It. Was. A. ZOO. No organized lines, just a crowd of cash-holding people milling around the lobby area, while employees and Mr. Piano himself yelled out "Quien sigue? Quien sigue?!" After pushing our way to the front of the first line, the first teller asked what I wanted to buy, made a photocopy of my passport, and then directed me to a second line. Next to me, I heard Mr. Piano telling an elderly Argentine woman that she wouldn't be able to buy dollars, nor Euros, nor anything else. After a 10-minute wait, I heard my last name called by the second teller. Into a computer, he typed my name, date of entrance into Argentina, local address, local phone number (if, as a tourist, you don't have one, they tell you to just "give a friend's, wink wink"), profession, marital status (!), nationality, and amount to be exchanged. After that was done, I was sent to a THIRD line, where I waited to be called into a little room in back. In the little room, I was seated at a desk, where I gave my photocopy and currency (Euros and dollars) to a guy who counted them, wrapped them up, and dropped them into a deposit-window in the wall. Was sent back into the waiting area in the little room. After about 20 minutes, my name was called again and I was led back to ANOTHER room. There, after signing about 4 receipts, I was finally, FINALLY given my pesos! The good news is that IF you hold onto the receipt you sign, you can buy back your foreign currency before leaving Argentina (for example, if you exchanged dollars for pesos but only spent half of those pesos during your trip, you can exchange the remainder for dollars instead of being stuck with local currency -- but you have to bring back that signed receipt.) And security at Piano is high -- there were about 4 vested, helmeted, heavily-armed policemen guarding the entrance and both street corners, so you can feel somewhat safe coming or going with a wad of cash. So obviously, ATMs are by far the easiest way to obtain pesos, but if you do choose to bring down cash and exchange it as needed, make sure you leave yourself enough time for this tramite.

Edited: 09 January 2012, 14:17
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1. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

People who post to this forum value the authentic. They routinely ask where they can find authentic tango,an authentic estancia day trip, authentic neighborhoods, or authentic, non-touristy parrillas. What could be a more more authentic cultural immersion experience than enduring a wait in multiple lines, answering countless nine questions and generally wasting half a day to complete a simple transaction ? Those in search of authenticity will want to hop into the fray at Piano bank. :)

Thanks for the first hand account, Starlucia.

Edited: 09 January 2012, 14:47
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2. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

Inane somehow became nine in the above post. Curse you auto correct.

Buenos Aires...
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3. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

Ahhh, starlucia ... I am glad we aren't buying pesos at Piano !

I find standing in line to pay bills at Santander Rio to be trying enough .. or Farmacity if you really want to test your sanity levels.

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4. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

We had the same problems trying to exchange Canadian dollars for pesos at a bank in Palermo. The final sequel to our tale was that even though our dollar was higher than the US dollar, they wouldn't complete the exchange for pesos. To make matters worse, our bank card wasn't being accepted at the bank machine, either. After a couple days, we finally, tried different banking company's bank machine in Relcoeta. We had no problems, there.

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Palermo
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5. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

As a tourist I just exchange as much cash as I think I will need for my vacation at Banco de la Nacion before I ever leave the airport. A short wait on the front end saves a lot of anxiety and time later on.

This approach doesn't work for those of you who live there, of course.

Edited: 09 January 2012, 17:01
Madrid, Spain
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6. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

Yeah, as a Schwab account holder (with its ATM rebates and no currency-exchange fees), I stick to ATMs for my own peso needs. I went to Piano at the request of a friend (who, after seeing what a lio it was, promptly offered to buy me dinner as a thank-you ;) I can't imagine going through that process on a regular basis... I'm like Scarlett when it comes to standing in lines; I can barely aguantar dealing with the Disco check-out lines once a week!

Edited: 09 January 2012, 17:23
San Diego...
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7. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

Yikes...what a mess. Yeah, it's no wonder you have an easier time than locals. Just out of curiosity what rate did you get? These places can turn around and sell your dollars for a much higher cost.

For example the official rate is around 4.30 to $1 US but I got $4.75 today from my source I always use. And the best part is I never have to wait in line....they deliver to my house! The best.... but admittedly for large dollar amounts.

Starlucia, it would have probably been just as fast to have swapped with someone in line that wanted to buy dollars/Euros..ha ha vs. exchange at the exchange house. I'd never have the patience to stand in line at those money exchange places.

That's one thing I don't miss about this place waiting in lines everywhere.

I agree ATMs and no free credit cards are the easiest. Or if you have to doing it at the airport is best as Doc says.

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8. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

We are thinking of getting our Peso's (and some US dollars) before leaving Australia (as this is our first trip to Argentina and to avoid stress)

Is US expected widely?

We are thinking of converting about 500AUS to peso's. Too much?

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9. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

We went through the same experience when we ran out of Pesos. Took us over an hour to change 100usd!

Realised rather belatedly that our apartment gave us much better rates without any of the hassle!

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10. Re: My experience buying pesos as a tourist

I'm so glad that someone else posted about their experience of buying pesos with foreign currency cash in BA because I couldn't face writing about mine from scratch. I'm grateful to Starlucia for covering all the bases in such detail. In November, I encountered or saw most everything she related in her post here.

If you’re buying $AR with foreign cash at EZE upon your arrival, note that Banco de la Nacion moved into smaller quarters last year. The new office was cramped. If you arrive alone with a large suitcase or two, they may not let you bring it into the tellers’ room. You may have to leave it just inside the bank’s front door which means that you won’t be able to keep an eye on it or even peek at it from the tellers’ room while you await your turn.

I say “may” because I wasn’t permitted to bring my luggage into the tellers’ room when there were 20 people in line but when my husband arrived 4 weeks later with duplicates of my luggage he was - there were only 2 people in his queue.

It took me 2 hours get pesos here. And the teller handed me back $CAD 900 of my cash saying I couldn’t exchange it. I didn’t know why. Before leaving home, I’d read about new regulations governing the purchase of non-Argentine currency with pesos but nothing regarding the purchase of pesos with foreign cash. Had I known something new would affect me this way, I’d have left my trip funds for 3 weeks of 6 weeks at home and used abm’s, instead. By bringing it, I’d lost my alternative option of withdrawing it from abm’s!

Given that a tourist visa is of 3 months’ duration, how could I have exceeded a currency exchange limit by bringing an amount of foreign cash sufficient for a much shorter period? That I had made no sense. All I’d done was add 25% to our last visit’s budget for daily expenses in BA and adjust it to cover one person rather than two. I had no such problem at “Nacion” last year. (It doesn’t cost much more for 2 people to enjoy BA than it does for one what with being able to share meals and taxis which are our major expense.)

Days later I spent another 1.5 hours queuing at the exchange house in Alto Palermo Shopping Centre to change that $900. The teller asked me if I was employed. I answered, ‘No’. She looked bothered by my answer, as though it were a problem. The process stalled. I got nervous. Then she asked me if I was married. This relaxed her. How kind of a currency place to allow me to survive in BA on my money for the reason that I’m a married woman!

Cynicism aside, that question is utterly demeaning of anyone with full legal capacity to enter civil contracts in Argentina. But it’s most intrusive and demeaning when it’s asked of a woman. If you’re a married one, it infers that you’re being kept and so have a valid reason for not working. If you’re single, it infers that you have no good reason for not working and so something could be wrong monetarily speaking.

Would a stay-at-home father also have to be married to exchange $900? How about adult students and ex-students who’ve not yet found work and live at home? What about long-term single cohabitees who are treated as married for many financial purposes? The question is offensive to our maintenance of and respect for gender equality, discriminatory of women if it’s only being asked of them and it fails to recognize the variety of ways in which we can organize family units now.

Separately, on what ground and for what purpose is this question being asked? If it’s being asked with a view to catch or inhibit money-laundering or tax evasion; or to satisfy currency restrictions, one’s marital status bears no relation to one’s honesty so that the question is immaterial and excessive as well as offensive and discriminatory.

Visitors shouldn’t have to forfeit their exercise of the civil right in democracies to gender equality nor the right of their unfettered consent to the release or withholding of their personal information, and the recording and storage of it just so that they can purchase the official currency of Argentina with foreign cash as temporary visitors and thereby feed and entertain themselves, and keep themselves safe until their flights home.

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