Cash (dollars) is king in Buenos Aires – don’t leave home without them!
I´ve had it! I´m sick and tired of it, and I have to say something about it! I´ve had the pleasure of living in 5 different countries and visiting over 100 in my lifetime. Nearly 7 years ago I chose to settle in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Yeah, sometimes it feels like the ¨Capital¨ of the third world. So what? Yeah, Argentina is a bit behind the times, and customer service leaves a great deal to be desired. BUT? Does it really matter to tourists that inflation sucks for the locals and a greedy oil company has got it’s just deserts– not really?
The Argentine press is the most unpatriotic and self interested bunch I have come across in over 100 countries – sell both your country and tourism down the river why don’t you?
Buenos Aires is still cheap and it’s a great tourist destination.
If you bring dollars to Buenos Aires expect it to be an awful lot cheaper!
Besides, you have to give credit to any country where a liter of beer is less expensive than a liter of milk, and the government proudly proclaims wine as the official national beverage!
Sure there are protests on the streets, but they sure are lively, and very well organized, and although they disrupt traffic, for the tourist, it´s really a unique experience! The Argentines sure know how to protest. That´s for sure! There is also a police presence that is remarkable and unobtrusive and gives a real sense of security, and they are for the most part, eager to assist and not put off by ¨those dumb tourists¨ asking ¨stupid¨ questions. Besides, it gives some officers the chance to use their English and other languages – has anyone noticed that the new city police are generally multilingual?
The economy is what it is, and I have to admit, with some level of pain from all the changes and restrictions, it is holding its ground and is in much better shape than many more conservative commentators care to admit.
But, when you’re in Buenos Aires as a tourist why would you be interested in the politics – you need to know that a ½ liter of Pepsi is the equivalent of U$D1.30 or a street purchased (version of a) dirty water hot dog is U$D1.15, or a large, fast food pizza at Ugi´s goes to a walloping U$D4.00, or a great parillia (BBQ dinner of meats chicken and local specialties) for 3 people who won´t leave the table hungry is all of U$D50! Wow, wow, WOW!
What difference does it make to you if you buy gas for your rental car from the newly nationalized YPF gas station? Or whatever else goes on in the pink house where Cristina lives? You’re not here to protest, vote, pay taxes, and the government has made it nearly impossible for anyone who lives here to purchase a single dollar. You´re here to spend your money and have a good time doing it and getting the most for your dollar or your Euro is certainly going to help. And, then you can go home and brag to your friends about the great buys, and face it, we all do it, and that´s exactly what you will find!
None of this stupidity affects a tourist except in a positive way! The upside on this is every person who enters Argentina is allowed to bring in up to U$D10,000 and that includes as much as you can stuff into your 16 year old kid´s CD carrying bag! You´ll find during this period of restrictions that while dollars are nearly impossible to buy, and if you do expect to pay 5 pesos or more per dollar, the sell rate on dollars, that is when you change them to pesos is getting more favorable each day, and you can receive well near 4.4 pesos or more and just walking up Florida today I was offered 5 pesos for my dollars – damn, I have not got any!
By the way, if you are thinking about not bringing much cash, to borrow the cliché from yesteryear, ¨don´t leave home without it¨. If you intended to use your credit cards in ATMs or for cash advances while here, be aware that you will receive Pesos, not dollars for the transactions at the official rates. When street vendors and some shops are offering up to 5.20 for a dollar, you would be stark raving made not to bring dollar cash.
While tourism related prices, like everything else have increased, Argentina is still a safe haven for tourism at acceptable prices. Sure, the 4 and 5 star hotels will make you pay dearly for your plain vanilla, 35m2 box of a room, and although temporary apartment rentals have risen somewhat over the past few months (thanks to the government ending its 10 year subsidy on utilities and simultaneously raising property taxes OUCH!) a rental will still save you over 50% on a hotel bill in most cases, if you are reasonable enough to realize that you´re not going to find anything decent for under U$D300 a week or U$D800 a month.
Street prices are still a bargain compared to most places in the world. I can buy and cook a kilo of the world´s best dead cow still for under $10 a kilo (that´s about U$D5 a pound!) I can go out and have the same in a great café or restaurant for about AR$70, soup to nuts, or about U$D16! I can ride the subway for about 60 cents, or take a bus for about 25 cents.
So, what´s the beef?
Look, do you believe everything you read? I hope not! Bad press sells good in the press! This is my home! I adore Buenos Aires, and the rest of this expansive and beautiful country with its great potential, its people, it sites, it smells, it noises, it´s crazy politics, and it´s rotten customer service! But, it´s all part of the experience.