“And don’t let the feeble excuse of work keep you back. Remember the Haitian proverb: if work is such a good thing, how come the rich haven’t grabbed it all for themselves?”
Did you know that Argentina has a parallel black market for their peso, a market you really must take advantage of unless you want everything to be astronomically expensive? Nope? Well neither did we until we arrived. We pulled out money from the ATM once we arrived in Argentina only to discover that after a hefty fee it would only allow us to take out 120$ at a time, a dilemma which turned out to be a blessing in disguise since, as it turns out, we lost fifty percent of that transaction (that’s 60$!) as it was. This is because there are two exchange rates in Argentina, the “official one” – which our ATM withdrawal gave us – and the “unofficial one,” the one you need to bring in U.S. dollars to take advantage of.
In an attempt to inspire confidence in the local Argentinean currency (the peso), the government has barred anyone within the country from officially purchasing the dollar. But as Argentinians rely upon the dollar (as their currency is not stable and could plummet overnight leaving the locals with nothing in their savings), un unofficial market called “the blue dollar” has become common practice. While the official exchange rate is at 8.5 pesos to the dollar, the unofficial one is currently at 13.5 (and was much higher a few months ago), meaning that had we continued to pull money out with the official rate, we would have been loosing fifty percent of our money every single time. Though this “Blue Dolàr” may be illegal, it’s not exactly a secret as at least two of the leading newspapers publish the parallel black market rates along with the official ones in their daily newspapers. It’s become a way of life, something many Argentinians are resigned to as their economy has been all over the place for decades.
But here is the problem, we didn’t come to Argentina anticipating this issue so we didn’t stock up on dollars, especially not fifty or a hundred dollar bills like the unofficial exchangers want. Thankfully we did come prepared with 400$ each in visa money (though in twenties which gets a worst rate) which will now be put towards our living here in Argentina. After a bit of research we found that the smartest plan of action is to:
1) Pay in dollars at restaurants and hotel: This is something that we won’t have to deal with as we won’t be eating out or staying in hotels.
2) Visit a cueva: Basically these are underground exchange houses, sometimes just people on the street, and sometimes in jewelry or other cover shops, which will sell you pesos for the black market price. Unfortunately since we only had twenty dollar bills, we were sure to get a worst price than if we had brought 100$ bills with us.
3) Trade with an Argentinian: Since locals really want to save their money in dollars which is sure to be worth something in the coming years, it’s a great idea to trade with a local friend you trust as you both can benefit from this option. This is the option we picked!
It was an interesting learning experience, especially since we have always taken for granted that the money that comes out of the ATM is the “correct” amount, the best exchange rate there is, whereas that certainly isn’t the case over here. We are just thankful to have had this brought to our attention after one withdrawal, and only sixty dollars lost, instead of months down the road when we would have lost hundreds.
This is our last preset post for a bit until we get wifi and can catch up (as we are currently on a rural road crossing a boarder by porting our bikes and bags across a river without a bridge, and hopefully sleeping with penguins somewhere along the way as well, so stay tuned sometime next week for some fun stories! Until then, check out a photo of the day and other updates – follow me on facebook here – and for some awkwardly cropped photos from our journey, follow us on Instagram @awanderingphoto!