Black market currency

Buenos_Aires-money-change-streetArgentina has been in a financial crisis in for years and the government has been on the brink of bankruptcy for several times. As a result, the local currency has seen very high inflation. The value of the Argentinian Peso drops by about 20-30 percent annually, which makes savings in Pesos worthless. Because of this, many locals have started to exchange their savings into US Dollars and keep those is safety deposit boxes at banks. The Argentina government was afraid this practice would hurt their currency and the economy even further and has made it illegal for locals to change their Pesos for foreign currencies.

This has led to a black market for US Dollars and Pesos, of which tourists can take advantage. The official exchange rate at banks, ATMs or money change agents is relatively unfavorable. However, what many tourists at first don’t know, is that exchanging their money at a black market “cambista” gives a much more favorable exchange rate, as high as 50% better than the official rate. And while at most other destinations you should avoid changing money with a stranger on the streets at all costs, in Argentina you really should exactly that if you want you holiday to be somewhat affordable.

Hard “greenbacks” and Euros are desperately wanted and needed by the locals to keep their pensions and savings from going up in smoke because of the inflation, so they’re willing to pay a premium for foreign currencies. So if you’re planning you vacation in Argentina, make sure you take as much Dollars or Euros (but preferably US Dollars) cash as you think you’ll be needing during your stay, (preferably clean, crisp banknotes) and stay far away from ATMs, banks and official money change agents, or from using your credit card.

Instead, either ask your hotel clerk where you can change your cash at the at the black market rate (they call it the blue market themselves). Another option is to simply walk down Florida Street and you will find many street vendors asking (or sometimes even whispering) “cambio” at you. Make it clear to them that you want to change money and they’ll take you to a “Cueva”, an illegal exchange office hidden inside a regular store, which is just a facade to cover the real business.

Don’t worry about the police, because they are in on the whole deal. In fact, because the police are paid off by the black market money traders, and are basically controlling that market, you won’t be given any counterfeit Peso banknotes at a Cueva, in contrast to some banks or ATMs. Still, it’s okay to check the notes you’re getting with the special marker described in the other article, they’re used to it there.

If you happen to have changed too much money and have a lot of Pesos left at the end of you holiday, then don’t change it on the streets with a stranger offering his services, especially if they’re offering an absurdly high rate. Remember: Dollars are very valuable to them, so they won’t exchange them back into Pesos easily. Fake US Dollar notes are also in circulation in Buenos Aires and the only way to make sure you’re not getting scammed is to change at an official money change agent or a bank.

So remember: always convert your home currency into Pesos on the black market, because the rates are much higher and you won’t get any counterfeit Peso banknotes, but always convert your Pesos back to your home currency at a bank or money change agent.


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