Finances in Buenos Aires, Argentina

By: Josie Stephens

When visiting Buenos Aires, there are certain things you need to be aware of and certain steps you should take when it comes to obtaining and spending Argentine Pesos (ARS). 

At least as of when I went to Argentina in November to December of 2023, the inflation in Argentina was through the roof. Severe inflation uniquely affects a country in ways you might not expect.

First of all, your US dollars will take you extremely far. Things that would normally be a few dollars will be a few cents for us. For example, all of my Ubers were between 2 and 5 US dollars no matter how far of a drive it was. Additionally, I could go out to the fanciest restaurant, get a huge steak, a bottle of wine, and dessert, and pay between 15 and 20 US dollars (and that’s for the fanciest of fancy meals). 

Even though that is great for us as tourists, there is an unfortunate downside: everyone there is poor to some extent. Keep this in mind with your host family and with any Argentinian friends you may make during your time there. What is cheap to you will seem like a fortune to them, so be kind and considerate if they are unable to afford something, or if they turn down an offer to go somewhere with you.

Because of this, I try to leave a tip (propina) as often and as much as possible. It is customary to tip 10% at sit-down restaurants, but any time I saw a tip jar in a store, I tried to leave at least something. Because again, it’s a few cents to me but worth a few dollars for them, so it is a considerate thing to do.

Another thing is that they use physical cash (efectivo) a lot more than we do. A lot of stores or taxis will only take cash, but even if they do take card, they appreciate the usage of cash. Therefore, getting cash for yourself will be important. But how do you go about doing that? There are many ways in which you could, but this is what I recommend, and this is what most people do: There is a company called Western Union. Download the Western Union app. Then, send money from your bank account with yourself as the sender and yourself as the receiver (make sure to put your full name as it is seen on your passport). Keep in mind that after the first two times of withdrawals with Western Union, there is a $15 fee for each withdrawal, so try to withdraw a large amount at the beginning to avoid withdrawing more than twice. For one and a half months, I used about 300 US dollars of cash, but everyone will differ depending on how much they like or need to spend.

The reason it is recommended to use Western Union instead of a bank or something along those lines is because Western Union actually gives you a better conversion rate than the official rate. The better rate is known as the blue dollar, and the official rate is known as the red dollar. You won’t have to worry about those phrases, but it may be helpful to just be aware of those terms in case you hear them.

The financial situation of Argentina is ever-changing. First of all, the prices of things may change during your time there due to the fast-paced inflation rates. But in addition to that, they recently elected a new president whose main goal is to fix the economy (by possibly dollarizing their economy), so by the time you get there, the financial situation may have drastically changed.