Plata

The money situation down here is interesting. The government is hyper-restrictive with the currency, meaning it is difficult to obtain U.S. dollars (legally). On the black market, referred to as the “blue” market down here, you can exchange dollars and pesos all day long. They refer to the little, unofficial exchange houses near calle Florida in Centro (downtown) as “arbolitos” – literally translated to “little trees”. The government sets the official exchange rate at around 4.6 pesos to 1 USD, but everyone knows that’s bullshit. With the inflation climbing by as much as 25% per year, 4.6 ARS to 1 USD is a pretend, make believe number that is optimistic at best. On the blue market at the exchange houses, you can get up to 6.3+ ARS : 1 USD. Everyone wants dollars since they are more stable due to the inflating ARS. Many people have watched their savings or investments go way down just because of the devalued peso. A lot of real estate agencies down here will only accept USD as a form of payment for a temporary lease. So as an American dealing with companies like that, you have two options: carry a ton of cash on you when you come into Argentina from another country, or try your luck at a shady exchange house downtown. I wouldn’t feel comfortable going to an illegal exchange house even if they spoke English fluently.  Obviously they don’t, so it would be that much more difficult to have to call them out and be aggressive when they hand you fake bills, a very common practice, or pull some other trick on you. As a result, we try to only deal with businesses that accept pesos. The place we’re staying in now is one of those places that only accepted dollars, so I had to carry the proceeds of selling my motorcycle, roughly 4k USD, in my pocket for the duration of the trip. Not my idea of an activity that gives you peace of mind…

So how do we get pesos? Well, you could go to an ATM and take money out. The thing is they will give it to you at the official exchange rate AND charge you a international fee on top of that. So now you’re getting hit with a charge and you’re getting less money than your dollars are actually worth. Ouch. Erin and I have yet to use an ATM, and will only do so in case of emergency. So the best way we’ve found is to wire money via xoom.com.  They will give it to you at around 6.05+ (varies day to day), which is almost as good as the blue market rate. Once you go online and send the transfer, you have to pick it up from one of a few locations around the city. The closest one to us is downtown off the Tribunales (courts) stop. Depending on which cashier you get, your transaction can either be smooth or feel like you’re on the witness stand. The second time I went, the woman asked me a ton of questions, including which company I worked for and what their website is.  Now, I’ve not entered that information into xoom’s site, so I have no idea how she’s cross referencing that, but who knows what they’re doing. At the end of the day I walked out with pesos at close to the blue rate, so I was thankful. Since these transfers are kind of annoying and can be very time consuming depending on what time of day you go (Portenos LOVE to wait in line for shit apparently), you wind up taking out a good chunk of money to last you a while. This provides elevated blood pressure on the train, especially considering my iPhone was taken from my skinny jeans’ pocket without me feeling a thing. Just like in New York, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.

*La Plata = cash

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