Experiencing hyperinflation as a tourist in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina’s hyperinflation is well-documented across the internet. Three days before we arrived, the Argentinian government approved a new 2,000 bill note. Spencer and I heard from a few friends who had just traveled to the area that they had used the black market to double their money by trading it at the blue dollar rate, or unofficial rate. We were nervous to try this, but found that every traveler we talked to had taken advantage of the black market and had their own ‘person’ they could connect us to on WhatsApp. Credit card companies have also started charging the blue dollar rate at the end of last year to discourage tourists like us from going to the streets. Back in December 2022, the value of the currency was estimated by the Producer Price Index to be closer to 425 to the dollar based on the amount of pesos currently in the market at that time.

So how did we do exchange our money? We went searching for a cueva, or cave, by first asking our hotel security. No luck there, but we somehow stumbled upon Calle Florida, the known street for exchanging cash. People are standing around yelling cambia, or change, to every tourist walking by. It took us several blocks before we found a woman with purple hair named Victoria that we felt comfortable talking to. She gave us an initial rate of 367 for 1. We ended up exchanging at a rate of 350 to 1 because we only had twenties on hand (not the highest-value 100 dollar bills). After agreeing to her rate, she took us inside to a building, up one floor in an elevator, down the hallway to a dingy room with a glass window. She communicated our rate for us to a faceless person and said we would get ARS$70,000 for US$200. According to the official 188 to 1 rate, that means we just got $372 in Argentinian pesos for that $200 we just exchanged.

On February 8, 2023, we were able to get a someone to give us a rate of 375 to 1 rate (official rate was 188 to 1 at the time). If you were trading in lower bills than a $100, the rate went down to 363 to 1. Had we waited until we met some other tourists with better connections, we could have gotten a better rate — but I do have to say the thrill of trying it on our own was worth at least a few lost dollars.

So, why would people be willing to trade at the blue dollar rate? The government has restricted Argentinians from trading more than 200 dollars worth of pesos per month. Most locals don’t have the capacity to purchase foreign currency, because they can’t get access to a US dollar account. Meanwhile, the Argentinian peso has risen from about 100 pesos to the dollar to 190 pesos to the dollar in the last year. Every day, their money is worth less and less. To protect their savings, they are trying to trade their money to a more stable foreign currency, and to do that, they are willing to sell their money for more because there’s a lack of foreign currency in the market.

There’s many great articles that dive deeper on the historical and political context. I’ll leave a few here that we found helpful in case you want to dive deeper:

One thought on “Experiencing hyperinflation as a tourist in Buenos Aires, Argentina

  1. Pingback: A couple of days spent in Buenos Aires – ticket for two

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