When acquiring Argentinian Pesos to spend in Argentina its always best to avoid using foreign bank cards and ATMs. This is because the government controlled exchange rate is always substantially lower than the real exchange rate known as the ‘Dólar Blue‘.
The Dólar Blue is accessed by bringing USD cash into Argentina. Or through cash transfer services like Western Union.
Accessing cash in Buenos Aires and paying for goods
As an Australian, Western Union and Wise are always my preferred option. Because it saves me from needing to buy USD cash and then exchange it in Argentina for pesos. Losing fees on the purchase and the sale of USD cash.
Western Union works out significantly cheaper if your home currency isn’t USD. Western Union is the best option for acquiring local Argentinian pesos (ARS) for any non American travelers to Argentina.
But there’s a catch with Western Union in Buenos Aires. And that catch is the size of transactions and the availability of Western Union shops.
Theoretically you can transfer up to $50,000 at a time through Western Union. And there are Western Union dealers all over Argentina. In Buenos Aires there’s almost one WU dealer on every block. The problem is that most Western Union shops in Buenos Aires don’t have enough cash to deal with relatively small transactions.
Say that you send yourself $250. Then only about half the Western Union dealers in Buenos Aires will have enough cash on hand to process the transaction. If you send $500 then about a quarter of all stores will have enough cash.
If you send more than $500 then there really is only one Western Union outlet I’ve found that can reliably process larger transaction in Buenos Aires. And that’s Western Union on the corner of Av. Cordoba and Montevideo.
Western Union at the corner of Cordoba & Montevideo
The Western Union outlet at Cordoba y Montevideo can process virtually any transaction size. But it will frequently have lines out the door and up the street. During peak periods, it can take hours to get to the counter.
If you get to the counter on closing time (6pm) after spending hours in their line, you may just get told ‘too bad we’re closed’. So make sure you always visit this Western Union outlet around the middle of the day.
If you’re visiting the Western Union on Cordoba y Montevideo to collect cash as a foreigner, you must have your passport with you. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people spend hours in line waiting, only to get to the counter and realise they don’t have their passport.
When they realise they don’t have their passports and can’t get their cash, these foreigners then begin to waste everyones time. They waste everyone else’s time by holding up the cashiers. Arguing with the cashiers because they didn’t read the rules and don’t have their passports.
If you don’t take your passport with you to Western Union in Argentina, no amount of arguing with the cashier will get you your money. If you have no passport, you get no cash.
Western Union Dólar Blue FAQ
Blue Dollar Argentina – The Dólar Blue
How do I get the blue dollar rate in Argentina?
Does Western Union pay out at the Dólar Blue rate?
Can I access the ‘tourist dollar’ (MEP) exchange rate with a foreign Visa or Mastercard?
Western Union And The Dólar Blue in Argentina
Western Union is the best option for accessing the dólar blue in Argentina. It’s the easiest and most reliable method for getting Argentine pesos at Argentina’s ‘blue dollar’ rate.
The least reliable method for accessing the dólar blue is cash. You can bring USD to Argentina and you can exchange it at the official, legally registered exchange shops for the blue rate. But they will be incredibly picky which notes they take.
Avoid Cuevas (or caves). These are unofficial and unlicensed exchanges that have no signage. You need to ask a local to find these underground currency exchanges and you should avoid them. They will not give you a better rate and you will likely get fake notes, lesser exchange rates or robbed.
Avoid Arbolitos and Calle Florida (Florida Street). Arbolitos (little trees) are the guys who stand around yelling ‘cambio cambio’ in Florida Street and other high traffic areas throughout Buenos Aires. These guys will not give you a better rate and they will likely give you fake notes, lesser exchange rates or rob you.
Calle Florida and its surrounding area in Centro is the location where you’re most likely to experience scams in Argentina. In particular the mustard scam where they will spray you with goo and offer to help you clean it off, while picking your pockets.
If you’d like to learn more about the dólar blue, what it is and why it exists, along with how to better access the full blue dollar rate in Argentina, you can read my article on the dólar blue.
Liked this article? Check out our other travel articles on Argentina.
Where Can I Get More Information About Buenos Aires?
I’ve made my Buenos Aires City Guide available on this website. And I recommend you read it before traveling to Argentina. It will help you navigate Buenos Aires and Argentine society.
My Buenos Aires City Guide will save you a lot of time and a significant amount of money on your trip to Argentina. And it will make your trip just a little more fun!
Read the most complete Buenos Aires City Guide.