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  • Writer's pictureTom Mazur

The "Blue Dollar" in Argentina: a complete explanation!

Updated: Mar 8, 2022

Blue Dollar in Argentina: A complete explanation Banner for article Luli and Tom

Table of contents:

What is the "Blue Dollar" or “Dolar Blue”?

How many dollars can I bring into Argentina?

The "Blue Dollar" exchange rate.

Can I use my credit card in Argentina?

Where to get the "Blue Dollar"?

How to exchange your dollars for the "Blue Dollar" rate? Some tips!

Argentina finally opened its borders again on the 1st of November 2021. Since then I got a few messages from friends and people on Instagram asking if I had tips about traveling to Argentina.

Yes, I do. In fact, I will tell you the biggest travel hack which people are unaware of when traveling to this beautiful country. What if you can save almost 50% of your holiday budget with what I’m about to explain? Exactly. I would definitely keep on reading if I were you ;-)

I’ll explain you what the "Blue Dollar" or "Dolar Blue" exactly is. Where to exchange USD bills in Buenos Aires and of course I’ll give you some tips and advice to do the transaction.

What is the "Blue Dollar" or “Dolar Blue”?

The “Blue Dollar” is the price of the US dollar in the blue/unofficial market in Argentina. This is the cost if buying and selling a physical dollar bill in a “cueva” or on the street. The transaction is done with no involvement of any bank. BUT, don’t be scared, everybody does this and the government knows. Let me explain you why. The dual rate began after the government started many restrictions on currency exchange in an attempt to reduce investors taking their hard earned money out of the country.

Since a very long time Argentina is struggling with inflation and many people rather change their pesos for another currency to keep their savings safe. Sadly, Argentinians are only allowed to change a limited amount of pesos for dollars per month. Because of that, there developed a “black/blue” unofficial market because the demand is too high to keep up. Argentinians are real travellers and with only a maximum amount of dollars to change every month, the people have no other choice than to change it on the alternative market. That’s why the price of the “Blue Dollar” is much higher than the price of the “official dollar”. The difference between the official dollar and the blue dollar can sometimes be up to 100%! Which means you get 50% more value for your money if you change your dollars for pesos. For sure the reason why foreigners are very interested in these transactions!

A lot of tourists who travel to Argentina for the first time may not be familiar with how informal the Argentine economy can be. I remember Luli explaining the entire "Blue Dollar thing" and me keeping my mouth open without believing what she was saying… After almost one year I can guarantee you that thanks to her I saved thousands of dollars!

Also my dad visited me and as a former banker, he couldn’t understand why there was the official and unofficial dollar. And of course why everything was way cheaper for him because we did exchange it on the "Blue market"… Of course it is important to bring the dollars into the country yourself. If you don’t do that you can never get the best rate.

How many dollars can I bring into Argentina?

Taking plenty of cash would normally not be the advice to give to tourists travelling abroad, but many visitors to Argentina have been doing so. If you are coming to Argentina, you can can import up to US$10,000 or its equivalent without having to declare it! Of course, you will definitely need WAY less if you are just here on holidays…

The blue dollar exchange rate.

Let’s give you an example with some real numbers. Let’s say you'll travel around Argentina for 2 weeks and you bring in USD 1000 in cash and want to exchange them for pesos (AR$).

Option 1. You exchange your money at an official bank. On the time of writing (February 2022), the official exchange rate for your USD would be:

USD 1 = 106 AR$

USD 1000 = 106.000 AR$

Option 2. You exchange your money in the parallel market. On the time of writing (February 2022), the blue exchange rate for your USD would be:

USD 1 = 211 AR$

USD 1000 = 211.000 AR$ I know which one you would choose… Keep in mind that these values can change very quickly because of the unstable economy. Before changing your dollars it’s always good to check the exchange rate. I always do that here:

Can I use my credit card in Argentina?

Of course you can use your credit card BUT… In Argentina “Cash is King”. Therefore, you should keep in mind using your credit/debit card isn’t always in your favour… These transactions occur with the official exchange rate.

Conclusion: it’s better to exchange cash money. Of course sometimes there is no other option than using a credit card (for example when renting a car) but you can save so much money if you don’t!

Where to get the "Blue Dollar"?

You just arrived in Argentina. Now what? How do you change your dollars for the more favourable blue rate? You are probably wondering how difficult it can be for a foreigner to do this? It is not difficult at all! It’s also good to make clear that exchanging money in the parallel market is not illegal or punishable by law! It is simply a private transaction between two people that agree on another price than the official one.

If you have friends in Argentina, I’m sure they will be happy to help you to find a contact to make the change. Sometimes, hotels or Airbnbs exchange USD at the blue rate! It may be a good idea to ask them! They might recommend you a “Cueva” or can arrange someone to come to the hotel to do the transaction. If they cannot help you, of course you can always send us a message on Instagram and we can send you our personal contact!

Another option would be to go on a little adventure. Head to one of the biggest shopping streets (Calle Florida) in the city and talk to the people saying “Cambio! Cambio!” (“Change! Change!”) For sure you’ll find at least one... (Luli and I once walked in Florida street and had a competition who was closest to guessing how many cambios there were… I won with more than 40…)

Of course make sure you check the current rate first, so you can negotiate. And remember, if you do this, always be aware of people taking advantage of a tourist… They might give you a worse rate for example. Of course I don’t want to scare you and I never heard of bad experiences. But, as anywhere in the world, there are scam artists and people who try to frame you.

If you want to know more about the different areas of Buenos Aires check out our article:

"Top things to do in Buenos Airos, Argentina"

How to exchange your dollars for the "Blue Dollar" rate? Some tips!

As I said before it’s better to have a contact who you trust, but if you do it yourself on Calle Florida, here are some tips.

  • Go there during the day, when it’s light outside and there are plenty of people around. Even during the weekend you’ll find many people who would love to help you. Also during the day there is usually a lot of police around and it will give you a safer feeling.

  • To get in touch with a person to change your money will not be any problem. It is likely that they will ask you to follow them to their office, shop or even to a newspaper kiosk. Don’t worry, this is completely normal, because you don’t want the entire street to see the amount of money you are exchanging.

  • All USD bills that you would like to exchange should be in perfect condition. You’ll get the best rate for $100 and 50$ bills. The lower the value of the banknote, the less good the exchange rate will be) About that, it is better and safer if you exchange small amounts.

  • Try not to exchange large amounts of money all at once! If you are here for a bit of time it's better to return the next week because the rate can have gone up a lot! Also, don’t forget that it could be a lot of AR $ bills you will receive and they may take some space in your bag/backpack.

  • Being a foreign tourist, maybe the traders want to pay you less than what the website says. Showing your phone with the quote will let them know that you are well informed. If they don't want to do the transaction, try your luck elsewhere. There's plenty of people around who do want to do the exchange.

I hope I could help you and gave you all the information you were looking for! Good luck with exchanging your Dollars to Pesos to have the most incredible holiday of your life in this beautiful country!

Safe travels Tom


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