Argentina’s Economy: A Brief History
With its wealth of natural resources and fertile land, Argentina enjoyed an abundant beginning to the 19th century and was one of the world’s richest countries only one hundred years ago.
The riches of yore are evident throughout Buenos Aires, with it’s parks and plazas, elegant public statues such as the the Nerieds Fountain, and it’s buildings decked out in marble and brass.
The wealth is most evident in one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, Recoleta Cemetery, where departed Argentines forever rest in the luxury of pricey mausoleums.
The French coined the phrase, ‘rich as an Argentine’ after seeing their lavish spending habits in Europe during the The Belle Époque.
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The dome of gallery Güemes, where writer, Julio Cortázar used to go look for prostitutes as a teen. ? https://wander-argentina.com/florida-st-—galeria-guemes-through-the-years/ #buenosaires #architecture #argentinaliterature #juliocortazar #floridastreet #calleflorida #buenosairesarchitecture #neoclassicalarchitecture #domearchitecture #Cúpula #historicbuilding #wanderargentina
Through the years, a chaotic political landscape, corruption, and free-for-all privatization in the 80s and 90s has wreaked havoc on the economy since the golden days (or in Argentina’s case, the silver days).
Since the 2001 economic crisis and resulting devaluation of the peso, visitors looking to get mileage for their moolah have been flocking to Argentina. Previous to the economic collapse, Argentina was a more expensive destination than Europe.
The country’s economic situation stabilized somewhat for citizens the decade after the turn-of-the-21st century crisis. Employment increased and poverty rates fell, but Argentina is on a constant roller coaster ride and the future is always uncertain.
As with a few other countries around the world, stagnant wages, rampant inflation and the current global health crisis mean poverty is on the rise again.
Once again, Argentina is an affordable destination for travelers, foreigner living here and so-called digital nomads.
During the years of 2007-2012 Argentina was popular with travelers who came to enjoy eight dollar steak and Malbec dinners. Prices inched upward until 2019, when the government reinstated strict currency controls. Now those traveling to Argentina with foreign currency will again find it very affordable.
* this post has been updated to reflect the return of currency controls put in place beginning in September, 2019 and ramping up in 2020.
¡Blue Dollar Back Again!
For several years, under the government of Cristina Kirchner, Argentina had strict currency restrictions in place, which created a huge black market for dollars.
One of Mauricio Macri’s first moves after winning the presidency in late 2015 was to regularize the flow of currency so that the black market for currency was largely diminished.
Things get confusing for those with old guidebooks because, while the currency situation was normalized for several years, now due to rampant capital flight and dwindling foreign exchange reserves currency controls were reinstated in September, 2019.
Then, the black market ramped up when even tighter currency controls were put in place December 2019, when the Peronist government took power again.
In Buenos Aires and around the country, the official bank exchange rate is once again significantly lower than the black market rate. Travelers will find they can get a more pesos per dollar by exchanging cash on the black market, or by using an electronic money transfer service.
Today, the black market (or so-called ‘blue dollar’) for foreign currency is once again so strong that by avoiding ATMS or using credit cards, travelers will double their money.
To give readers an idea of how fast the real value of pesos is falling on the international markets, in January 2020 the Blue Dollar spread was hovering around 25%. One year later, in January 2021 it had jumped to 50%. At the time of writing, one US dollar is worth about $86 officially and worth about $151 on the parallel currency market.
So with renewed ‘creative’ currency controls, the situation is that travelers can save lots of money if they come to Argentina with US dollars in cash.
Outside of Buenos Aires, travelers may find they can even get more pesos in exchange for their dollars.
Carrying USD or Euros is also a good way to avoid — not just a bad exchange rate — but also steep ATM fees, which run about US$10 per withdrawal in Argentina, for any amount.
For those who didn’t come with cash, another way to access money, avoid bank fees and get a better rate than at the bank is to utilize a money exchange service such as Western Union or XOOM.
Transferwise may be another option.
Travelers are legally permitted to enter Argentina with US$-10,000 without declaring it.
In Argentina, both the official and bank market rates fluctuate a lot, so check the currency converter below to see the official rate before planning your trip.
To see the black market rate, check a daily newspaper in Argentina — most have all the different exchange rates listed on the front page. The Blue or Black market dollar is listed as the ‘dólar informal‘ while the ‘dólar oficial‘ is the bank rate.
To confuse things further, there are a bunch of other exchange rates listed, but cash is king in Argentina, so visitors will want to concentrate on the ‘dolar informal‘ or blue dollar rate.
→ To read about exchanging money on Buenos Aires black market, read Black Market Money Exchange & Other Hustles on Florida Street
→ To read about transferring money from your home bank account if you don’t have cash, read Money Transfers to Argentina
The calculator below shows the official rate in Argentina. To see the ‘Blue Dollar’ rate and other categories of conversion, check the economic newspaper, Ambito.