I consider myself fairly well informed on all things travel. I read the books, searched the blogs, and thought I was ready. However, I missed the importance of this crucial detail and I want to share with you one thing you need to know before visiting Argentina. It could make or break your trip.
Money is not always available when you need it
I’ve visited countries with unstable currencies. Heck: Indonesia’s Rupiah dropped 30% during a single visit to Bali. However, I’ve never visited a country where I literally could not get money. That has happened to me more than once in our week in Argentina.
We arrived into AEP- Buenos Aires’ domestic airport- Monday morning the 3rd. I immediately found an ATM, but just as quickly found it was empty. At 9AM the currency exchange booth was closed. I was a bit concerned to find an empty ATM but figured the one at the Iguazu airport would be open.
Well, it apparently was open, but this ATM couldn’t read my Capital One debit card. IGR didn’t have an open exchange booth as most flights coming into it are domestic. No problem- I’ll just change money at the hotel.
Except the hotel was out of pesos as well. They thought “we might have some tomorrow” but at that moment I was completely without pesos to pay a taxi or to buy anything else outside of the hotel.
I found a taxi driver willing to accept US Dollars- note: bring small bills- and she drove me into Puerto Iguazu to get some cash. It took us three banks to find an ATM with money in it that would also accept my card.
Finding an ATM with Cash Only Solves the Problem for a Few Hours
Turns out Argentine payday is the 1st of the month and ATMs get cleared out the minute that paycheck hits. Because of the lack of cash ATMs have strict limits about what you can take out. Scott at MileValue, who lived in Buenos Aires, is the only person who I’ve seen cover the money situation in detail.
So once you do find an ATM that works, you can only get 2,000 (about $120 as of this writing) or a bit more at a time. I did find that you can do back to back transactions so I successfully pulled out 4K pesos. The ATM charges HUGE fees: about $6 per transaction, so you’ll definitely want a card that rebates your ATM fees here.
Iguazu Falls? Not Without Pesos.
If you’ve traveled all the way to Iguazu, you want to see the falls. Iguazu Falls national park charges a large entrance fee: for us it was 1,630 ($100ish) pesos, due in cash, in pesos only, for a family of 4 (500 adults, 130 6-12). TIP: hold on to your tickets! Take them to the box office at the end of the day to be validated. If you do so, day 2 will be 1/2 price.
Add in the 600 for round trip taxi and a single trip could clean out your cash before you even buy a bottle of water. There’s an ATM at the entrance, but (guess what?) it was empty on Tuesday morning the 4th. Thank goodness the hotel had pesos by then, but they only let us change $100. Later that day the park ATM had cash so we muddled through.
Even BA needs more cash than you think
More restaurants and activities than you think are cash only. Even tourist spots like Cafe Tortoni only sell tickets to their 380 peso ($23) Tango show in cash. Fortunately they did accept US Dollars at a decent rate. Our cruise tickets in Tigre? 540 pesos for 4, cash only.
At this moment, Sunday morning at 9AM, we have exactly 152 pesos in our possession. First order of business this morning is to find an exchange place or an ATM.
In most places I try to keep the cash on hand to a minimum in case of theft. I had planned to supplement my US cash stash with ATM visits and charge card usage so only brought about $300 a week to spend. At this rate our month’s worth of cash wouldn’t last 10 days.
Thank goodness Uber is alive and well in Buenos Aires. However, even that is not hassle free. Turns out Uber only accepts Visa or Mastercard. American Express credits or Uber gift cards will not help you here.
Crossing the Border into Uruguay
We leave tomorrow for Colonia and it appears the money situation there is much easier. From there we head for Chile. If anyone has had similar experiences getting money in Chile, please let me know so I can get some US cash in Uruguay!
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