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.
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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, although tourism has waxed and waned this century.
The country’s economic situation stabilized somewhat for citizens the decade after the crisis, as employment increased and poverty rates fell, but Argentina is on a constant roller coaster ride and the future is always uncertain.
As with many places around the world, stagnant wages, rampant inflation and the resulting austerity efforts mean poverty is on the rise again.
Argentina is considered an affordable destination for travelers, but the 2002-2007 years of eight dollar steak and Malbec dinners, once faded into the background, are on the horizon again.
* this post is updated to reflect the return of currency controls put in place beginning in September, 2019 and ramping up in 2020.
Blue Dollar Back Again! — Current Exchange Rates
For several years, under the government of Cristina Kirchner from 2011 until January 2016, 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 2016 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 back to about a 40% spread. 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%.
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