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Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Toronto
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Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

I was in BA in February so this is a little late in sharing but someone may find it useful (esp. Canadians!).

I had read that US dollars were preferred in Argentina and was prepared, however, I wasn't comfortable carrying a lot of cash in person so decided on $800USD as a comfortable amount and would use credit cards and ATM as I went along. I wasn't afraid of pickpockets but was more afraid of actually getting robbed while exchanging money or being given counterfeit since I thought only specific places on the street would be able to exchange money and it sounded shady to me.

My research did not prepare me for the money problems I would face in BA. Essentially, the bed & breakfast owner in BA put it best when he stated that the only ones who rob you will be the banks in Argentina, not people on the street.

I wish I had brought more cash for my trip. The exchange rate is so much better with US cash in hand. And there is no need to go to any particular money exchange on the black market - it's pretty much everywhere. I was able to pay in USD at the travel agency, B&B, hotel, hostel, restaurants, shops - everywhere! And I got a much better exchange rate than I did at the ATM when withdrawing money.

Here is the kicker with the ATM machines, at least for me with a Canadian bank - the limit per withdrawal is about $200USD when I withdrew for pesos (I tried in different cities in Argentina and it was always $200) and my fee per transaction was $20! I wouldn't mind paying that much if I could get more per withdraw but it was ridiculous to pay $20 fee per $200 - and this doesn't even address the terrible exchange rate that the ATM gives me.

This isn't a limit set by my bank but apparently by banks in Argentina - this is what I was told my my B&B owner. Apparently there are all kinds of bank regulations and limits. Even as a tourist, you can't get a bank to exchange extra pesos back into foreign currency and impossible for locals to get foreign currency so it's very highly valued. Everyone is clamouring for USD so don't worry about going to a particular street to exchange it, as I have read on Tripadvisor. You can use US cash everywhere in Argentina and get a very favourable rate outside of banks and ATMs.

However, do take precautions and use a money belt if you decide to carry cash. We didn't get robbed but my friend was pickpocketed - lost wallet and camera from her purse during a night out in BA and we didn't even realize it because she had her purse swung on her back (we were together the whole time and I didn't notice anything suspicious either) - luckily, most of her money was in her money belt and not in her wallet. I had my money belt and carried my purse in the front at all times and had no problems. Especially in bars and restaurants, do NOT put your purse on chairs or table tops - always in front of your body or on lap.

In summary, carrying US cash is the best option (as not all places had creditcard options) but definitely use a money belt and don't keep it all in your wallet or purse. We had no problems with $20 & $50 US bills at shops and paying for accommodations at hostels and B&Bs. The merchants will give you change in pesos and always at a better rate than the banks. We like to eat and just used credit cards when we splurged on expensive meals.

Edited: 28 August 2013, 21:31
Argentina
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for Buenos Aires, Argentina
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1. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Thank you Canadiankiwi for taking the time to report on your experiences in Buenos Aires.

Very sorry to learn about the theft of your friend's wallet & camera = a good reminder for future travelers to excercise caution at all times.

I noticed that you say you had no problems at all paying in US cash everywhere, that does not seem to be always the case here, so at least you were lucky in that aspect, I believe.

Very glad that you had a good time, and hope you will be able to come back and enjoy some more of Argentina.

Toronto, Canada
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2. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

I appreciate the tips. I usually do not bring much cash and just use ATMs, but this will result in poor value in Argentina. Most places I booked quoted me in USD. Hopefully I can exchange US cash for pesos at better rates in Patagonia and Salta.

3. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

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Argentina
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for Buenos Aires, Argentina
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4. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Marrc,

Bringing US cash and exchanging here will mean huge savings for you.

All hotels, even if their prices are quoted in US dollars, can be paid in Pesos cash at the official echange rate, which is right now 60 - 70 % lower than the blue dollar rate.

You can either do that - pay in Pesos - or obtain very important discounts if you pay in US cash.

Toronto
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5. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Oh, I loved Argentina. I will definitely be back as two weeks is not nearly enough time to explore the country.

I loved the food, the people, and the beautiful landscape around the glaciers and Patagonia area.

I will definitely be back to Argentina, just with a lot more cash next time ;)

Btw, I also did a quick stop in Chile and US cash was also very welcomed in Santiago too. Can't go wrong with cash.

Central, South...
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6. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

when you paid USD , how much was you hotel per night?? and dinner???

what about bus fares???? do they want pesos??

how can someone bring 5000 USD with them?? will customs get weird about it??

Toronto
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7. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Joh b,

Hotel cost varied, I stayed at hostels and bed and breakfasts, and small hotels. They will all accept pesos if you pay in in pesos and they will accept USD if you choose to use it. I paid for the little things with pesos and it was fine (ie. taxis, buses, bars...). I was forced to use pesos once I ran out of US cash but I was cursing myself because it cost so much to withdraw from the ATM and the rate was so terrible - I was dinged twice and should have just brought more US cash (which I actually had sitting at home!). I also didn't want to withdraw too much of pesos because once I leave Argentina, I can't exchange it back.

I seem to remember the customs forms stating that you don't have to declare up to $10 000 USD. You should check with official Argentina sites though. Initially, I thought $5000 US is a lot but really, it's just 50 x $100 dollar bills - which really isn't much physically.

I feel for the people of Argentina but as tourists, this really works out in our favour.

I was there in Feb 2013 and the official rate was 1:4.5 but the "blue" rate was 1:6.5 when I exchanged with some merchants. I've just read on the other thread discussing this and it's now 1:9.

Johannesburg, South...
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8. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Just back from a wonderful holiday in Argentina - only regret: not taking enough US dollars in cash!

The exchange difference really makes a difference to the buying power of your money.

We found that most places in Buenos Aires and also in Bariloche accepted dollars at a good rate of 8 to 8.5

Otherwise easily exchanged with usual caution at cambio exchanges.

Argentina
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9. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

Every person entering Argentina can bring up to 10,000 US in cash .

Customs will not get weird about it. Argentina is one of the countries where more cash transactions are carried out in the whole world.

Nice, France
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for Buenos Aires, Nice
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10. Re: Sharing my experience regarding US dollars and getting money

When using a Canadian bank card in Argentine atms, after the first withdrawal (of 3 or 2 at once depending upon which Argentine bank's machine I'm using), the screen comes up asking you if you've finished banking or want to do more. I answer 'yes' to the latter. That means you do not keep removing and reinserting your card for each tiny, permitted withdrawal and, therefore, both the Argentine bank AND Canadian one treat all 3 or 2 consecutive withdrawals as a single transaction and charge you for just one.

Even so, the bank transaction fees at both ends are horrible. And Argentina's daily withdrawal limits are ridiculously low if your trip plans include doing a few expensive activities each week for more than 2 weeks.