The Dolar Blue in Argentina: How to get the best exchange rate in Argentina

argpeso

Ah, the Dolar Blue… the unofficial exchange rate of US Dollars in Argentina.  Aka, the BEST exchange rate for US Dollars in Argentina.  The banks and ATM’s only dish out the official exchange rate.  Get the Dolar Blue.  Do it.  The country is almost 50% off with the Dolar Blue. Here’s how to get it, but first a bit of background.

In mid 2012, Argentinian President Christina Kirchner passed several financial reforms with the intent to reduce inflation, reduce the strain on the central bank from so many people buying US Dollars, hold the Argentinian Peso steady and keep it in circulation (due to inflation, Argentinians often opt to keep their money in other currencies outside of the Argentina).  It’s a tough row to hoe.  Inflation is a constant worry in Argentina.  So bad that US banks have not accepted the Argentinian Peso for exchange into US dollars for around a decade.  Same story with EU banks.

argpeso

These new financial reforms essentially make it illegal to convert Argentinian Pesos to any other currency.  (Technically it is possible, but the monetary amount it limited and there is a ton of paperwork, like proving your income level).  So, what does this mean?  People, especially Argentinians that travel abroad, still want Dollars and there is no easy legal way to do it.  Enter the “Blue Market”.

So, here’s what you need to know.

*Note, I do feel a bit bad about contributing to the monetary problems of Argentina, I hope they sort out their financial situation soon and there will be no need for the Blue.

1.) It is called the “Dolar Blue” not the “Dolar Azul”. Weird, I know.

2.) It is technically illegal to change US Dollars for Arg. Pesos at Casa de Cambios, hotels, restaurants, with guys on the street.  But don’t worry.  Seriously.  More on this later.

3.) The Blue rate changes everyday.  Track it here: http://www.dolarblue.net/

4.) It is fairly easy to get the Blue rate in large cities, but almost impossible in small rural towns.  The farther south in Patagonia, the worse the Blue rate gets (when we were there, the Blue was trading at 8.5, and best we could find was 6.8.

5.) When NOT in Buenos Aires, most people want clean, crisp $100 US bills.  You will get a lower rate for $20s.  It’s all about logistics.  Easier to carry a thousand dollars out of the country in $100s than $20s. Play it safe and bring $100s if you can.

6.) There are some rumors of counterfeit Pesos being exchanged, but we never had an issue.  We exchanged money all over the country and never had a problem.  I don’t think we were lucky, we were just participating in a business.  Plus, if we were exchanging $10,000 USD at a time, I would be a bit more worried about them sneaking in some fake ones, but with only changing at most $1,000 at a time, we were able to check every bill.  We also knew to look for the watermark (just hold it up to the light) and also knew what real pesos look like (we got some initially from an ATM.)

7.) Xoom.com  If you don’t know about this service, learn about it and emblazon it into your memory.  We only learned about it at the end of our trip. This online money transfer service allows you to transfer money from your US bank account (or any country) to yourself while traveling in Argentina (available for pickup at their locations).  It is a lifesaver.  They charge a fee for this transfer (a percentage) and offer a rate that is much better than the official rate, but not quite as good as the Blue.  They do, afterall, want to make money off of the transfer.

xoom

In Argentina, Xoom works with the company “]MORE[" for money transfers, so you will pick up your money at a ]MORE[ store, not Xoom.

More-money-location-Buenos-aires1

]more[ office in Buenos Aires. There are several locations listed online, but rumor had it there is only this one on Liberdad, between Marcelo T. Avlear and Santa Fe, a block from Plaza Liberdad

The online signup is quick and free and the money is usually available for pick up within the hour.  Hot damn.

*NOTE* Xoom does not have pick up locations south of Mendoza that I know of.  Stock up while you can.

8.) Everybody does it.  Seriously, everybody knows about the Dolar Blue and usually knows someone that wants dollars.  This is not a super shady operation, it’s the norm of life in Argentina right now.

So, where to go? Despite it being technically illegal, there are plenty of places to get the Dolar Blue.

In Buenos Aires

Walk down the Florida Peatonal and you will be bombarded by money changers.  “Cambio! Cambio!” “Dollars! Dollars, you have Dollars?”.  Just ask one of these guys their rate, if you don’t like it, move on to the next one.  They will usually ask how much you want to change.  The more you have, the better the rate.  But you should be able to haggle a bit no matter what.  And you should always haggle.  You may only get $0.1 difference, but that’s ok.  Haggle anyway.

You won’t get the exact trading rate for the Blue, but you can get close to it.  When changing $400 USD, the Blue was at 9.2 to the dollar.  We got 9.0 on Florida Ave.

The touts that shout “Cambio! Cambio!” get a small cut from your transaction.  If you will be in Buenos Aires for awhile, take note of where the tout leads you and next time go directly to the office.  You’ll get a slightly better rate.

floridaave

Outside of Buenos Aires

Casa de Cambios – usually Casa de Cambios will give you the blue rate, or close to it.  They tend to have the official exchange rate posted clearly, but just go up to the counter and ask what their rate for dollars is.  They may tell you or write it down on a piece of paper and show you.  If you like the rate, go for it.  There will be no official recipe or paperwork.

If Casa de Cambios aren’t around, or aren’t giving a good rate, ask at hotels, restaurants, small shops, you never know.  I usually asked something along the line of “Is there a place I can change dollars around here?” “Hay un lugar puedo cambiar dolars circa de aca?”  This way I wasn’t asking them to do something illegal and they could easily say no if they didn’t want to exchange.  I was never treated rudely or yelled at.  However, Cesar, who is Hispanic, was given some dirty looks when he asked to change dollars.  We think this is because it wasn’t as obvious that he was a tourist??  But again, I never was treated rudely or given bad looks when I asked about changing dollars.

If you are entering Argentina from Northern Chile or Bolivia, Salta is a good place to get the Dolar Blue.

Mendoza has no issue getting the Dolar Blue, just go to Casa de Cambios, a large hotel, or ask a local.

Bariloche has plenty of places to exchange, but they all want $100s.

El Calafate was tough, the Casa de Cambio was offering the official rate and we found a small shop to exchange dollars for 6.8.  We didn’t know about xoom.com yet (though I’m not sure if they have an office down there).

Argentina remains one of our hands down favorite countries- incredibly warm and hospitable people, to die for food and wine, and stunning geography- a true overlanding paradise.  With the Dolar Blue, your money will go farther and you can live the high life.  How often do overlanders get to do that?!

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54 Responses to The Dolar Blue in Argentina: How to get the best exchange rate in Argentina

  1. James says:

    dolar blue dolar blue! how i love you so

  2. Brenton says:

    Oh man, we can’t wait to get back down there…we’re going to have a meat coma! Good info on the xoom, I’ve never heard of that. Thanks!

  3. alex says:

    Can you bring it back to the states and exchange it back to dollars for a profit? What are the restrictions? Um visiting family and thought of the trade. Thanks

    • Danni says:

      Sadly, only Chile and Uruguay will exchange Argentinian pesos and at a much, much lower rate (~40%). No other country will go near it due to it’s plummeting value. Good for tourists with dollars, bad for Argentinians.

  4. Josh says:

    I’m thinking about going to Argentina for honeymoon over New Years and think the gap btw official and blue rate will be huge then as ppl want dollars for their summer vacations.

    Two questions:
    1) how would you handle making hotel/flight reservations in advance? not keen on having honeymoon be day-by-day adventure but also not keen on paying 90% premium on reservations by using official rate.
    2) when you withdraw $ from ATM, that’s at official rate, right?

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Josh,
      Thanks for reading the blog. Regarding your questions:

      1- Since the dollar blue market is based on cash transactions I am not sure how you can leverage it for flights, unless you were paying for flights with in Argentina. Instead of a hotel, you might want to consider renting an apartment from a private owner and paying them in pesos to take advantage of the dollar. You will have to insist on paying in pesos and it would help if they didn’t know that you were an American entering with dollars. You can find plenty of good places on the net.

      2- Yes, withdrawing from ATMs in BA is done at the official rate.

      Hope that helps! BA is an awesome city and would be a great honeymoon destination.

      Cheers,
      Cesar

  5. monica says:

    any chance you know how to transfer dollars and pick them up in Buenos Aires? I see that XOOM works only from the US…Would appreciate some info, thank you. :)

  6. monica says:

    I meant from Canada to Buenos Aires…

  7. bastos says:

    How safe can it be if i wanna change 50000US?

    • Cesar says:

      I would say pretty safe. The more dollars you have the better rate you will get, and always negotiate for more. If you want to play it safe, change $1500 at a time. If you can do find a Casa de Cambio without the help of a street tout, even better. They get a commission.~ Cesar

    • Graham says:

      Sorry but did you mean 50,000 or 5,000?
      Do NOT try to enter Argentina with more than US10,000 per traveller. I have seen people arrested and the money confiscated at the airport.
      It is under the anti terrorism and anti drug money laws but used as an excuse to impound dollars.

      • Cesar says:

        Thanks for catching the era Graham. Of course anyone that has traveled internationally has filled out the custom forms and knows that 10k US dollars is the limit and the consequences involved. Happy travels!

  8. Manny says:

    Hello, I was wondering if someone knows exactly where I might be able to exchange argentine pesos into dollars, I heard of a couple of currency exchange places in Uruguay but I also heard that they won’t exchange argentine pesos anymore, if anyone has an idea or has changed them within these few months, please feel free to share the info.

    • Cesar says:

      Manny,

      Any where we encountered that would possibly change ARG pesos to dollars where anl giving about 40% of the peso value. We saw this first hand in Chile.
      Our advice- spend every last peso on wine and beef. You won’t regret it.~Cesar

  9. clive says:

    Any ideas as to where in Salta we can exchange dollar blue? Also, is Xoom.com available for UK bank accounts, it only seems to be available for US bank accounts?

    • Cesar says:

      We changed dollars at the hotels in Salta. You just need to ask around- some will say no, and some will eagerly change dollars for you. Always check the current rate on the internet to see what you should be getting for the dolar blue.
      Not sure about UK accounts for XOOM, sorry.
      Enjoy the empanadas Salta! They were some of the best.
      Cheers,
      Cesar

  10. steven says:

    From the UK, you can use Azimo.com, it’s the same service as xoom, but specifically for people with UK banks. Cheers!

  11. Hello,

    Please, what’s the name of the small shop in El Calafate? I’m travelling to there next sunday and I’m really interested to get a better rate!

    Thanks!

  12. simon says:

    hi people i used exchangeinargentina.com they gave me much better rate than xoom and was very safe is all in cash and the ship the money right to your hotel or flat

    • Cesar says:

      Awesome! Glad it worked out.

    • YBZ says:

      How did the exchangeinargentina service work? Supposedly they delivered money to you whereever you are. Do you have to pay up first or does money exchange take place at the specified location?

      • Cesar says:

        Sorry, I am not familiar with Exchange in Argentina service. We used XOOM in BA or found a money changer or hotel willing to change dollars for us.
        Cheers,
        Cesar

  13. Damiano says:

    Excellent article – I had heard of the Dolar Blue but this gave me the detail I craved! :-) I live in Euroland – do you happen to know if they offer a good “Blue” rate for Euros? It would easier to bring Euros instead of exchanging them into Dollars and then into Pesos.

    Thanks Muchly!

  14. emily says:

    im heading to ba in december and want to take advantage of xoom. do the more money locations require any paperwork or do you just need an id? is this an easy enough transaction to navigate if you don’t know much spanish?

    thanks!
    emily

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Emily,
      XOOM just required a passport. Otherwise, the transaction was smooth and easy. And since they basically cater to Americans, not much complicated Spanish is required.
      Looks like the Dolar Blue is up to 9.8! Hopefully it will stay that way until December.
      BTW- we had an fabulous time in BA- loved it!
      Cheers,
      Cesar

  15. T says:

    Dollar Blue in Bariloche.

    I spent a buch of time online trying to identify where to actually get the Blue rate for $ in Bariloche. Basically I found no specific info online other than people saying that you might get approached on the street and/or you can get it at restaurants/hotels. I was hoping for more detailed info but alas found little…

    That being said, I am in Bariloche right now and got 9.5 to the dollar with $100 & $50 bills. The 1st block east off the square on Mitre (south side of the street). There were a couple of arbolitos on the street saying “Cambio” and changing the cash out of a t-shirt shop. I didn’t feel sketched out and I had actually negotiated the rate a little up from the 9.4 rate he initially quoted. It seems that you need 100′s and 50′s to play with the rate much unless you have a local to work through or are very comfortable with Spanish and willing to spend some time on the matter.

    OK, good luck. Make sure you get your $ changed out if you are headed south b/c there are little options in Calafate and Chalten (best I found was 8). Current arbolito rate at time of writing is 9.45 and the cueva rate is 9.6

  16. Kate says:

    Thanks for the info. Could you please tell us where in calafate and chalten you found 8?

    Thanks so much

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Kate,

      At both Calafate and Chalten we had to go around to the hotels and stores and ask if they wanted to change dollars. Some people will be happy to, some people with give you a dirty look and say no. We found it was best to ask discreetly when there were no other customers in ear shot. I am pretty sure we got someone to change for us at at a run of the mill souvenir shop in Calafate (can’t remember the specific one) and didn’t change any in Chalten. It was definitely harder to change in Patagonia then on other areas of ARG.
      We did learn that the people that were eager to change were those who traveled to the US regularly (ie hotel owners) and they were always looking for bigger bills since it was easier to travel to the US with larger denominations. So I would make sure you had $100 bills on hand to and make that part of your spiel when trying to find a shop owner to change with.

      Good luck and enjoy Patagonia! It is awesome!

      Cheers,
      Cesar

    • Maria says:

      Hi Kate,

      Did you have any luck in Calafate? I’m going next week! Any specifics, names of shops, hotels, etc. would be greatly appreciated!

      • Brenton says:

        Calafate: A friend of ours said she changed at 9.5 with the pump attendants at the YPF petrol station, just off the main drag. May want to check there!

  17. Seb says:

    Hey,

    Thanks for the info about the Dolar Blue. I live in Australia and am heading to La Plata in May next year for an art project with the local community. I have never been to Argentina before and was stunned when my contacts asked me to bring USD to exchange on the ‘informal market’. Are there any major issues bringing USD or, more preferably, AUD into the country to exchange for Dolar Blue once arrived?

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Seb

    • Cesar says:

      Seb,

      We dont have experience with the AUD in ARG, but I knowing in what high demand the USD is in ARG, change AUD for USD and bring as much as you can. As we noted, the USD is usually in high demand from Argentinians who travel alot, so the you can find hotel owners and other business folks who will be happy and eager to change at a good rate. It the south of ARG, you gt a better rate for larger bills (ie $100). We didn’t make it to La Plata, but I am sure you will easily find a place/person who wants to exchange for USD.

      Hope that helps!

      Cesar

  18. Olga says:

    Hi, guys!
    What about buying something online (amazon) using my dollar card? Am I affected in this case or by paying in dollars for something which value is stated in dollars I am avoiding the official rate problem?

    Thank you!

    • Cesar says:

      Olga,

      Good question. My guess is that you wouldn’t get the dolar blue rate on your card, only in cash transactions, giving that the dolar blue is ‘informal’ in the ARG economy.

      Cheers,
      Cesar

  19. Martin says:

    Late answer for Damiano – it is still better to echange EUR to USD and get better “blue” rate for them…

  20. Victor says:

    Can anyone help me recommend the place to change dollar blue in ushuaia and el calafate? I am in ushuaia and will go to el calafate tomorrow.

    • Cesar says:

      Victor,

      I don’t think we had to exchange when we were in Ushuaia, and given that it is a bit of a touristy place, you might not get a great rate. That said, there are plenty of shops and hotels on the main drag that might be willing to exchange. (there are also plenty of ATMs)

      Good luck!

      Cesar

  21. robert says:

    Hi guys i heard about the blue rate and counterfit bills to, did somebody get exactly the rate that appears in dolarblue.net ?

    • Cesar says:

      Hola- never encountered any counterfeit issues. We (my wife) always made it a point to have our own calculator when changing money- in any country. Just good practice.

  22. Devender Kainth says:

    DO i need to have a local ID to be able to recieve money from Xoom? When i was on the website, it asked me for an address in Argentina.. does it still work if i have my passport from my home country and no address in Argentina?

    • Cesar says:

      Devander,

      We just used our passport, no problem. You can just put in a local hotel as your address since they don’t verify. It was super easy.

      Cesar

  23. alejandro santamarina says:

    you are encouraging an illegal activity you may as well tell tourist where to buy heroin or crack

  24. peter says:

    I used a service that was very safe for us and gave me much better rate than dolarblue.net is call exchangeinargentina.com the good part is that they ship the money to your hotel so you dont have to go looking for a cave or “cueva” i stay at plaza hotel and recieve the pesos in the lobby from a guy of the company is somebody need advice let me know i was to concern of counterfit bills in argentina but this person was very polite and serious

    • Cesar says:

      Peter,

      Thanks for the info. I am sure it will be useful to other travelers in ARG.

      Cheers,
      Cesar

    • Florine says:

      Hi Peter,
      We will go to BA in one week. Which service did you use? Can you tell mee more about it? What was the rate?
      Thank you!
      Florine

      • peter says:

        has a web page call exchangeinargentina.com very easy and safe, also work on weekends ????
        hope this info helps florine

  25. andrea says:

    hello! if I change US dlls to argentinian pesos.. and dont finish them, where is the best rate to change argentinian pesos to US dlls in Buenos Aires?

    • Cesar says:

      Hi Andrea,

      From what we gathered it is almost impossible to change Pesos to dollars even if you are from the US, hence the black market to buy dollars. The laws recently changed allowing Argentinians to buy dollars, but there is a steep tax to do so. I would do my darndest to not have any pesos left over at the end of your trip – more cash for that yummy wine! The US and European banks stopped exchanging/excepting pesos in 2000. Unfortunately Argentinians pesos are not worth anything outside of Argentina with the exception of the neighboring countries of Uruguay and Chile where they are worth about half their actual value. Wine! Wine!! Wine!

      -danni

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