Landing in a new country is not always easy, especially if you are really far from home, as is the case with almost all our travelers. Some things may differ from their home country: the time zone, the weather and the seasons, and the currency. But let’s go step by step and start at the end … In this article, I will tell you how to get “pesos ($)”, our local currency, if you start your trip in Buenos Aires.
Currency exchange: life in “pesos ($)”!
In Argentina, the local currency is the “Argentine peso”. In Buenos Aires we use only pesos, and this is also the case in the rest of the country – except in some very touristic destinations like Ushuaia where occasionally they accept dollars, and some hotels will also change small amounts of dollars. The first thing you should know is that, although you can use your credit card in many restaurants and large businesses, you will need cash to travel through Argentina. We pay some things in cash: purchases in small stores, taxis, tips in restaurants, etc., as well as the entrance fees to the National Parks where our main natural beauties like the Iguazu Falls and the Perito Moreno Glacier are located. In almost all of the national parks they will only accept payment in local currency and in cash, so you should anticipate this expense also before undertaking the rest of your trip in other parts of the country. But let’s go back to Buenos Aires, and your first day in the city. What are the options to change money and acquire local currency?
Change in the National Bank
The only bank that you can change money in Argentina is the National Bank, but only in some of its offices, namely these three: the Ministro Pistarini International Airport (located in Terminal A where almost all international flights arrive), an annex of the bank at the Jorge Newbery Local Airport, or the headquarters of Plaza de Mayo (the main square in the city where the Government House or “Casa Rosada” is located). Let’s talk about the branch of the international airport. If your flight arrives between 9 am and 10 am, the branch will probably be full as there will be many other international flights arriving. On the other hand, if your flight arrives earlier in the morning, in the middle of the day or at night, this branch will be less busy and it is a good idea to change your money here. This branch is the only one open 24 hours a day.
The annex located at the Jorge Newbery local airport is open every day from 6 am to 12 am (it is only disabled between 6 pm and 7 pm to close the cashier’s day). It is located next to the international arrivals terminal (some international flights from Chile, for example, arrive at this airport as well).
The branch at the Plaza de Mayo, like the rest of the banks in Argentina, opens from 10 am to 3 pm, and is closed at the weekend. If you don’t have much time, this is probably not the best option as you will find many people in the bank running their daily errands. To change money you just need to bring your passport, and Brazilian tourists only need their permission to enter the country.
Branch at Plaza de Mayo
Official exchange houses
There are many exchange houses around the capital, especially in the “Microcentro” area of Buenos Aires, the neighborhood where most people go to work and where the main buildings of the public administration are located (Government House, Central Bank, etc.). Here is a list of those published on the Central Bank’s website (both for Buenos Aires, which appears as CAPITAL FEDERAL-, and for other provinces in Argentina).
Many are in the surroundings of the Plaza de Mayo, in known streets of downtown Buenos Aires: Florida, San Martin, Sarmiento, etc. Some open from 9 am to 5 pm and remain closed during the weekend.
The “arbolitos” of Florida Street
Calle Florida is one of the most visited streets in the Microcentro. It is a pedestrianised street full of shops and stretches from the Avenida de Mayo to Plaza San Martín in the Retiro neighborhood. Walking down Florida you will pass millions of typical souvenir shops until you reach the Galeria Pacifico, which is decorated with incredible paintings inside that are worth seeing. So let’s suppose you decide to walk down Florida. It is crowded with people coming and going, to lunch, to do paperwork or who are running because they are late to the office. This is the frenetic pace of every great metropolis. But for you, on vacation, you move through the street at a slower pace, enjoying the urban and unknown landscape, stopping to see what the businesses on this side of the world have to offer, or to ask the artisans who also sell their wares on the ground. If you start the route in Avenida de Mayo you will see that Florida Street is actually called Peru, but it is the same street. From there, the Galeria is about 800 meters away. In a moment you will cross the famous Corrientes Avenue, the street of the old “porteño night”, and you can take a picture in front of Buenos Aires’ famous Obelisco. As soon as you reach the other side and continue the walk you will begin to see that several people are standing in the middle of the street shouting “cambio, cambio”, or “change, change”. These are the so-called “arbolitos”, people who work for the unofficial exchange offices, and not recommended for foreign currency exchange, so it is better to continue on towards the Galeria!
Tango dancers in Florida St.
Another quick and easy option to get Argentine pesos is with your credit card at ATMs. You can find ATM in almost every bank in the city, and they can also be used at weekends. The withdrawal limit is between $ 2000 and $ 3000 pesos per day. How far will this sum of money get you in Buenos Aires? It is not a large sum but it will stretch to food expenses, public transportation, a cheap tour or show or some small gifts. I always use the same example: keep in mind that a typical breakfast (coffee with milk and toast or croissants) can cost you between $ 60 and $ 80 pesos, so the $ 100 pesos bills fly out of your wallet very quickly. A cheap dinner can cost you $ 250 per person and an expensive one between $ 500 and $ 700. A taxi from Palermo (one of the most trendy neighborhoods and one often visited by locals) to the Microcentro can cost you $ 200.
Many travelers prefer to deal with ATMs to get pesos. However, there is always a commission that the bank takes when you withdraw money from other ATMs, so you should find out before traveling how much yours will charge you.
Another thing to consider if you’re planning on taking money out from ATMs: check whether the days before or after your arrival are bank or public holidays, as in these cases people usually withdraw a lot of money for holidays and ATMs are generally empty.
ATMs in the rest of the country
Being that Buenos Aires is the largest city in Argentina, the possibility of finding full and undamaged ATMs is very high. But, in smaller cities with a lot of tourist traffic such as El Calafate, Puerto Iguazú and Ushuaia, there are usually not many and in some cases they may not even be working. That’s why we always recommend that if you are starting your trip in Buenos Aires to get enough cash out here, then you can enjoy your trip in peace.