Our next three posts will cover some of the most common questions we’re asked by our guests who rent our apartments in Buenos Aires about handling money issues here in Argentina. We’ll start off with the facts, and tomorrow, we’ll put up a list of useful tips. Then on Thursday, we’ll teach some vocabulary (lots of slang here).
Here are the basic facts with some explanations about things that can be a little confusing when you first get here.
Currency: Argentine Peso (ARS)
Exchange Rate : Currently one dollar gets you 3.86 pesos. For the past year, the exchange rate has risen or fallen just slightly, staying at right around 3.8 pesos to the dollar.
Inflation Rate: Some sources say the inflation rate is at about 8%, others argue that’s way too low. They’re findings show the inflation rate to be as high as 18%. From a practical standpoint, when we moved to San Telmo a year ago, a kilo of ribeye cost 24 pesos and now, in April 2010, a kilo of ribeye costs 36 pesos at our local butcher. One of the major newspapers, La Nacion, drew this out very clearly in this article with the below graphic, which is interactive and shows prices from 2007 – 2010.
Currency Symbol: They use the same symbol as we use for dollars, $. So if you see prices with the dollar sign here, it’s actually pesos. When the price is in dollars, it will be shown with a US before or after the dollar sign, e.g. US$ or $US.
Decimals: In the States, we use a comma after a number in the thousands and a decimal to show the cents, e.g. $US 1,200.50 (one thousand, two hundred dollars and fifty cents). Here in Argentina, they use a comma before the cents and vice versa, so the same amount in pesos may be written like this, $1.200,50. Some people may wonder if this is 1 peso with a whole lot of cents, but it’s really one thousand, two hundred pesos and fifty cents.
Banknotes (billetes) come in the following denominations: $2, $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 (more info here).
Coins (monedas) are like gold here because you have to use coins for the buses. There are 5-cent, 10-cent, 25-cent, 50-cent and 1-peso coins. There are 100 cents in a peso.
Frequently Asked Money Questions
- Are credit cards accepted?
Yes, but not always and not all credit cards. The most commonly accepted ones are American Express and Visa. Discover is not accepted anywhere in Argentina. If you’re going to a restaurant and you want to pay by credit card, check the Guia Oleo listing for that restaurant to see if they accept credit cards. When shopping, you can sometimes get a 10% discount if you pay in cash instead of using a credit card. And some places may actually charge a surcharge for credit card use.
- Can we pay in dollars?
Sometimes. You can always ask if they’ll accept dollars. Typically, you’ll be given the official exchange rate and in some cases they may even give you a discount for paying in dollars. It can’t hurt to ask. I’d reserve this technique for larger purchases when you might be able to negotiate the price.
- Should we get pesos before we leave?
I don’t think it’s necessary. You can use the ATMs at the airport (though they often don’t work) to get pesos when you arrive or exchange dollars there at the airport (though you’ll get better rates in the city than at the airport for exchanging). Also, you can pay in dollars for your taxi to wherever you’re going in the city if you use the taxi service in the main lobby of the airport just before the doors that lead outside. Once you’re in your area of town, you can get cash from the ATMs.
- What’s the best way to handle getting money while we’re there?
I’d come with some dollars (for emergency use) and count on using my ATM to get cash and using credit cards for most purchases. But, a lot of credit card companies will charge a 3% fee for foreign currency charges. Check with your particular company before leaving home. Some American Express cards don’t charge this and I believe Capital One cards also don’t. Make sure you tell your bank and credit card companies that you’ll be traveling overseas. Sometimes they’ll put a block on a card if it’s used abroad unless you’ve already told them you’ll be abroad.
- Should we bring travelers checks?
No. This one is easy to answer. Travelers checks are not accepted in stores, hotels, restaurants, etc. They’re not easy to change either and there is often a 10% charge for exchanging them. Outside of Buenos Aires, it will be nearly impossible to exchange travelers checks.
Got any other questions about using money while here in Argentina? Let us know in the comments below.