Travel & Money in Argentina: The Blue Dollar

by on 21st March, 2023

 Travel Money in Argentina: Currency Exchange, Best Rates, and Blue Dollar

The Argentine Peso is experiencing a volatile time on currency exchanges. For travellers, that uncertainty makes it a great and more affordable time to visit Argentina, thanks to favourable exchange rates.

While it’s true that the country’s rampant inflation and unstable currency do indeed make it a little more complicated to pay for things in Argentina.

In Argentina, cash, and the US dollar, rule. And, once you understand how to navigate the exchange system, you could get almost twice as many Pesos as the official exchange rate. That will make that Malbec taste a little more delicious.

Discover everything you need to know about the Argentine Peso, its relationship with the US and blue dollar, and how and where to change money.


Plaza de Mayo, Buenos Aires, Argentina




Pesos, USD Dollars, or Dollar Blue: Which to Take to Argentina?

The Argentine Peso is the official currency of Argentina. The first rule of the Argentine Peso is never to buy any Pesos before travelling to Argentina.

The Peso has dropped in value enormously recently. The official Peso to US dollar exchange rate is fixed at an unrealistically poor level. That has led to a surging demand on the black market for more stable US dollars.

The alternative blue dollar, or dólar blu, is popular once more. Argentinians want US dollars and are willing to pay a high (Peso) price to get them. So much so that you can almost double your money by living like a porteño.

For example, these are the Peso exchange rates at the time of writing Sept 2023):

  • Official exchange rate:            1 USD = 350 Argentine Pesos
  • Bank rate:                                1 USD = 350 Argentine Pesos
  • Blue dollar rate:                       1 USD = 750 Argentine Pesos

As you can see, you can almost double your money by exchanging at the blue dollar rate. That does involve you taking all your spending money to Argentina in US dollars and being willing to put in some groundwork at money exchangers. Let’s look at the alternatives to the blue dollar first.




Do I Have to Take Cash to Argentina?

You don’t have to take US dollars to Argentina; there are other options, but none offer the rates available with the blue dollar. The question is, how much are you willing to pay for the convenience of cards?

Also, only some establishments accept card payments and many offer discounts for payment in US dollars or cash.

Some card companies like Visa and Mastercard now offer visitors to Argentina, e.g., foreigners, an MEP rate (electronic payment market rate). This MEP rate maybe 5-10% below the blue dollar rate and applies to purchases and cash withdrawals.

As a reference point, Visa’s online MEP rate checker (convert from Peso to US dollar), at the time of writing, offered 660 Pesos to the dollar, compared to 350 Pesos (official) and 750 Pesos (blue).

You may be charged at the official rate first and then ‘correct’ the amount to its MEP rate later. Also, check with your card company if the MEP applies to all payment types; some QR payments may register at the punitive official rate.

Withdrawal fees can reach up to 10 US dollars per transaction. Also, limits on withdrawal amounts mean you may stack up hefty charges while withdrawing cash several times.

Remember, anyone without the MEP card rate offer who withdraws Pesos from an ATM or pays by credit or debit card will be charged the official or bank exchange rate PLUS any associated bank fees.




Can I Use Western Union in Argentina?

Many major towns and cities in Argentina have Western Union (WU) branches and offer another way to avoid carrying lots of cash around the country.

You can set up and send US dollars to a Western Union account before heading to Argentina and withdraw that as Pesos at WU offices. You should get something close to the MEP rate, about 5-10% below the blue dollar rate.

Check your itinerary against WU branch locations and the amount of Pesos you can withdraw; some remote branches have limits. Remember that WU has fees for their services, and check if using your card or travelling with US dollars offers better value.


Where’s The Best Place to Exchange Money in Argentina?

The best value way to pay for goods and services in Argentina is to join the locals in a queue and buy Argentine Pesos at the blue dollar value.

Argentinians’ love affair with the USD means almost anyone will offer to change your dollars for Pesos.

Popular unofficial currency exchanges exist in many surprise locations. Ask your hotel or a guide for a trusted blue dollar money changer, known locally as ‘cuevas’. Don’t be surprised if it’s in a café, shopping centre, or an office. Find the best rates, change a little at a time, and return when you trust the cueva.

In Buenos Aires, Calle Florida bustles with money changers called ‘arbolitos’, or little trees. This nickname has been bestowed upon them because of the many green leaves of the US dollars they carry. These arbolitos may take you to their cueva to complete the transaction. Again, shop around for the best rates and start with a small deal.

Every town and city has lots of blue dollar exchange options. You must plan if visiting remote areas like Patagonia or Jujuy.


Rainbow close up glacier Perito Moreno, Argentina



What to Remember When Changing Money in Argentina

  • Take clean US dollar bills from home, preferably 50s and 100s; lower-value dollars attract lower exchange rates
  • Don’t change money in the streets
  • Ask for recommended cuevas from someone you trust (hotel, guide)
  • Shop around and check several arbolito rates before exchanging there
  • Swap what you need — and not everything — in one transaction
  • Only change money if you feel comfortable with the proceedings
  • Check for Peso forgeries before completing the change
  • Have a safe storage place like a money belt
  • Be wary of people watching; muggings are not unknown
  • Use your hotel’s safe to store your US dollars
  • Changing Pesos back to US dollars attracts poor rates, so don’t change more than you need


Base of Fitzroy and lake with hikers and ice, Chalten, Argentina



Money, Blue Dollar, and Argentina

Argentina’s multi-layered exchange rate system offers several options to travellers. Choose which best suits your travel style.

Those who want to squeeze every cent from their buck must join the locals in the cuevas and swap US dollars for Pesos. That takes time from your trip but also gives a glimpse of local life. Anyone heading to a remote part of Argentina may need to do some planning to ensure a good cash flow. Some shops and restaurants may also offer Peso or US dollar payment discounts.

Card lovers may get an MEP rate close to the blue dollar but will still pay 5-10% more per transaction, plus fees. Don’t expect to be offered discounts with card payments, and not every establishment accepts card payments.

Western Union is an option for those with an account and a concrete itinerary that takes in towns with WU branches. Again, the rate will likely be below that of the blue dollar, and queuing may be involved.

With some planning, most people can avoid the official rates and ATM fees that can make Argentina feel more expensive than it is.

Been inspired to travel to Argentina? Contact us for more.


Camp 3 on vacas valley Route Aconcagua Argentina


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Contact Us
Get in touch