Since 2010 (I think), Argentina has had an official exchange rate that was a complete fiction. You could not buy dollars at the official rate. With this piece of economic lunacy, Argentina joined such economic basket cases as Venezuela, Vietnam, and Cuba.
The market (or as I prefer to call it, “real”) exchange rate often offered 50-100% more pesos per dollar than the official “fake” rate, leading to a black market for dollars called the “dólar blue.” During the dólar blue years, savvy travelers have eschewed changing money in banks or using ATM cards or credit cards while in Argentina. Instead, the play was to bring crisp $100 bills and change them in cuevas, illegal exchange houses.
For instance, on Monday I exchanged $100 in Buenos Aires for 1,440 pesos on the black market. Taking them to a bank would have offered only 978 pesos.
Today, that all changes. Argentina is scrapping its official exchange rate, meaning that you can legally buy and sell dollars at the market exchange rate. That means you can take pesos out of ATMs or use your no-foreign-transaction-fee credit cards in Argentina and get a fair rate. (Make sure to get this ATM card, which has no fees worldwide.)
This is exciting news for me, since I spend so much time in Argentina. It means I will no longer have to take thousands of dollars in cash every time I head to my favorite country.
This is also exciting news for Argentina because it means that the new president is actually following through on campaign promises that should liberalize the Argentine economy, which has battled 20%+ inflation for several years.
This is good news for you if you plan to travel to Argentina because it means renting cars and buying domestic plane tickets will be a lot easier. Both previously required paying in cash, which was a big hassle, to avoid paying a third more than Argentines pay.
Congrats to Argentina on rejoining the rest of the world today by letting its currency’s value be decided by the market.
PS Argentina, while you’re doing smart things with your currency, can you please introduce 200, 500, and 1,000 peso bills? The fact that the largest current bill is worth less than $7 makes transporting cash annoying and paying group restaurant bills comical.