This post is written mainly for the benefit of other people planning to travel to Argentina.
Argentina is in a bit of an economic crisis. The annual inflation rate is 40%.
When inflation is this high it is better to store savings in more stable currencies, like the US dollar or Euro. The official bank exchange rate in Argentina for $1 is 8.5 pesos. However, the official rate dictated by the government is not a free market rate and is detached from the reality of the economic situation. This has led to a parallel black market exchange for US dollars, called Dólar Blue.
On the street we can change $1 for between 12-13.2 pesos. Literally on the street, there are guys with large wads of cash that change money, usually at corners or in the central plaza. Sounds sketchy, but that’s how it’s done. Technically these money changers on the street are illegal, but it’s not enforced, hence the Blue Market.
Important to know, better rates are given for 50 and 100 dollar bills. For example, you will get more pesos if you have a 100 dollar bill, rather than five 20 dollar bills. We didn’t know this and came with bills of an assortment of denominations. We’ve even had money changers refuse to accept anything less than a 100 dollar bill.
So it’s best to come to Argentina with US dollars, in denominations of 50s or 100s. Exchange rates vary between cities. We can only speak to the cities we have been through and exchanged money. The best rate we have encountered was in Mendoza (13.2 pesos for $1). You have some bargaining power when exchanging larger amounts.
Also, bills must be crisp and clean, no markings or tears. For 10 minutes I argued with the guy in the hotdog stand/money exchange at Paso Jama about the legitimacy of my 50 dollar bill. He was rubbing it vigorously on a white piece of paper and the ink was not leaving a green smear. He was insistent that real US bills will leave a mark. All of the 50 dollar bills we were carrying were new 50s that we got from a US bank. I don’t know what to tell you buddy, maybe the ink on the new bills is different? He finally accepted it, but just to bust his balls I inspected each Argentine bill he gave me and requested he change out damaged bills. It seems all Argentine bills are in terrible condition. I had no idea what Argentina’s currency looked like. He could have given me the equivalent of Argentine monopoly money and I wouldn’t have known the difference.
By afternoon we are out in ranch country for the beef industry. Most of the scrubland we pass is fenced, making camping options limited. Luckily we find a dirt track along the fence line (probably for ranchers to check on their fence). It’s a perfect place to camp because it’s flat and we are hidden from the road, camouflaged in the scrub.