The “dolar blue,” Argentina’s black market rate to buy dollars, has been on a tear in January – setting new highs every week. Today’s rate of $7.81 pesos to one US dollar sets another record, and widens the gap between the official rate ($4.9755) and the unofficial rate to an amazing 57%.
For a good explanation of some of the reasons for this gap, check out FT’s Argentina’s “Blue” Dollar Blues article. It provides a pretty good summary of this phenomenon. But, the better question for most expats and tourists alike is “How can I take advantage of this huge discrepancy?”
The first thing to realize is that you’d better plan to put away your foreign credit and ATM cards. Those are only going to get you the official rate (plus fees). Cash is king here, so plan on bringing it with you (crisp hundred dollar bills are best) or transferring money here with Xoom or Azimo and getting a rate close to the blue rate with less risk.
You see, once you have the dollars here, you need to find a currency exchange house called a “cueva” to exchange money for you at the unofficial rate. For tourists, Calle Florida is often the best bet with money changers on the street calling people to come inside and sell their dollars. This is not without its risks – fake bills, poor exchange rates, robberies, AFIP busts, and language barriers, just to name a few. Still, if you have a strong spirit of adventure, this could be the best avenue for you.
Before you head to Florida Street, you can find the dollar blue rate on a number of websites including: Ambito, Dolarblue.net (always lower than the others), Dolar-Blue.com and even on it’s own Dolar Blue Facebook page which has over 12,500 likes. The rate you should expect to get for your smaller transaction is about 5% less than the “compra” price listed on these sites – about $7.3815 today.
Too risky for you? Then you’ll probably want to turn to Xoom (or Azimo for UK accounts) which has been doing a good job in keeping up with the blue dollar rate. Their rate today is $7.2339. We’ve written about Xoom a number of times in the past so feel free to check out our other articles, but basically their service allows anyone with a US bank account or credit card to transfer money to Argentina and then pick it up in pesos when they get here. It’s a relatively simple process that will make your money go a lot further… It’s much nicer to divide by seven than by five.
(If you use my Xoom links, we’ll both get a $15 Amazon gift card after your first transaction.)