Argentine peso (AR$)
Budget: Less than US$60
- Dorm bed: US$15–22
- Double room in good budget hotel: US$65
- Cheap main dish: under US$11
- Three-star hotel room: US$75–150
- Average main dish: US$10–16
- Four-hour bus ticket: US$30
Top End: More than US$200
- Five-star hotel room: US$165+
- Fine main dish: over US$17
- Taxi trip across town: US$12
Unlike many other South American countries, bargaining is generally not the norm in Argentina.
ATMs are widely available, though tend to run out of money in tourist destinations. Credit cards are accepted in most hotels and restaurants.
Cajeros automáticos (ATMs) are found in nearly every city and town in Argentina and can also be used for cash advances on major credit cards. They’re the best way to get money, and nearly all have instructions in English. Limits on withdrawal can be very low –sometimes as low as US$115, though the withdrawal fee can be relatively high (not including charges by your home bank). You can withdraw several times per day, but beware these charges – which are per transaction. Banelco ATMs tend to allow larger withdrawals.
Not all foreign cards work in ATMs. Bring more than one option and be sure to alert your home bank that you are traveling in Argentina.
In Patagonia, places like El Calafate and El Chaltén quickly run out of cash in high season.
- The Argentine unit of currency is the peso (AR$).
- Notes come in denominations of two, five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500 and 1000 pesos.
- One peso equals 100 centavos; coins come in denominations of five, 10, 25 and 50 centavos, as well as one and two pesos.
- At present, US dollars are accepted by many tourist-oriented businesses, but you should always carry some pesos.
- Don’t be dismayed if you receive dirty and hopelessly tattered banknotes; they’ll be accepted everywhere. Some places refuse torn or marked foreign banknotes, however, so make sure you arrive in Argentina with pristine bills.
- Counterfeiting, of both local and US bills, has become a problem in recent years, and merchants are very careful when accepting large denominations. You should be, too; look for a clear watermark or running thread on the largest bills, and get familiar with the local currency before you arrive in Argentina. See www.landingpadba.com/ba-basics-counterfeit-money. Being aware of fake bills is especially important in dark places like nightclubs or taxis.
- Getting change from large denominations can be a problem for small purchases. Large supermarkets and restaurants are your best bet. Always keep a stash of change with you, in both small bills and coins.
- Many (but not all!) tourist services, larger stores, hotels and restaurants – especially in the bigger cities – take credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard.
- The most widely accepted credit cards are Visa and MasterCard, though American Express and a few others are valid in some establishments. Before you leave home, warn your credit-card company that you’ll be using it abroad.
- Some businesses add a recargo (surcharge) of 5% to 10% toward credit-card purchases. Also, the actual amount you’ll eventually pay depends upon the official exchange rate not at the time of sale but when the purchase is posted to an overseas account, sometimes weeks later.
- If you use a credit card to pay restaurant bills, be aware that tips can’t usually be added to the bill. Many lower-end hotels and private tour companies will not accept credit cards. Many places will give you a small discount if you pay in cash rather than use a credit card.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- US dollars are by far the preferred foreign currency, although Chilean and Uruguayan pesos can be readily exchanged at the borders.
- Cash dollars and euros can be changed at banks and cambios (exchange houses) in most larger cities, but other currencies can be difficult to change outside Buenos Aires.
- You’ll need your passport to change money; it might be best to avoid any sort of street-tout money changer.
- Restaurants and cafes It’s customary to tip about 10% of the bill for decent service.
- Hotel staff, bus porters, delivery people, hotel porters and taxi drivers Give a few bills.
- Restaurant servers and spas Tip 15%.
An interesting note: when your server is taking your bill with payment away, saying ‘gracias’ usually implies that the server should keep the change as a tip. If you want change back, don’t say ‘gracias’ – say ‘cambio, por favor’ instead.
Note that tips can’t be added to credit-card bills, so carry cash for this purpose. Also note that the cubierto that some restaurants charge is not a tip; it's a sort of 'cover charge' for the use of utensils and bread.
Argentina’s popularity as a tourism destination has birthed an annoying two-tier pricing system: some businesses in certain areas (mostly in Buenos Aires, but also in Patagonia and parts of the Lake District) charge Argentines one price and ‘nonresidents’ a higher price. While you won’t find this everywhere, you will encounter it at some tango shows, museums, tours, estancias (ranches), national parks, airlines and upmarket hotels throughout the country.
Many accommodations also quote prices in US dollars rather than pesos. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting charged more than Argentines; the peso is just so unstable that places prefer to use a currency that isn’t always fluctuating. Also, lodgings now charge in US dollars so foreigners do not have to pay the accommodation tax.
Rates on the Rise
Lonely Planet aims to give its readers as precise an idea as possible of what things cost. Rather than just slapping hotels or restaurants into vague budget categories, we publish the actual rates and prices that businesses quote to us during research. The problem is that Argentina's inflation was running at an official rate of around 26% at the time of writing, and some unofficial estimates are more than double this. But we've found that readers prefer to have real numbers in their hands and do compensatory calculations themselves.
Argentina remains a decent-value destination, but don't expect our quoted prices to necessarily reflect your own experience. Our advice: call or check a few hotel or tour-operator websites before budgeting for your trip, just to make sure you're savvy about current rates.
- Very high commissions are levied on traveler’s checks, which are difficult to cash anywhere and specifically not recommended for travel in Argentina. Stores will not accept traveler’s checks, and outside Buenos Aires it’s even harder to change them.