Things to Know About Money in Patagonia

1. There’s a black market for American dollars
About 10 years ago, Argentina defaulted on their national debt, and the Argentine peso lost all of its value. Banks froze people’s assets and fortunes became worthless overnight. Now, in an effort to keep Argentine currency in the country (and in theory help it retain its value), their president has placed a limit on the amount of American currency that any individual citizen can buy.

Why would you want to buy American currency? Because American currency holds its value. If you keep all of your money in pesos, and the peso devalues again, then you lose all your money. But if you have American dollars, no matter what happens to the peso, you will have something of value. So, in lieu of savings accounts, people are hoarding American dollars in cash. The problem is, people are no longer allowed to have American dollars. Boom—black market.

In many store windows there are signs offering better prices for food and services if you pay in dollars. Every family I stayed with offered to arrange services for me that they would book, pay for in pesos, and then request that I give them American money in exchange.

2. Prices of things
• A bottle of Fernet: $4
• Six empanadas and 1.5L of Coke: $10
• A four-hour boat ride through the Beagle Channel, hunky Argentinian scientist/tour guide and unlimited yerba mate and beer included: $50 

3. Tipping policies are way more sane 
You do not tip cab drivers. You also only tip waiters 10%. Tipping 10% was kind of difficult… it made me feel extremely rude. I had a free continental breakfast in a hotel in Buenos Aires where the concierge, this kid who looked like he was still in high school, actually waited on the breakfast tables personally while simultaneously running the front desk. I left as a tip about the equivalent of what a cup of coffee would cost him, and that seemed fair to me, but I think the amount of cash I left embarrassed him.

4. … but cubierto is super lame!
“Cubierto” is something that you may see itemized on your restaurant tab, and is basically a fee for your silverware. It’s 8-20 pesos, or about $1.50 to $4, and universally annoying to tourists and Argentines alike.

5. Nobody wants your pesos
I have about $40 in pesos I was unable to spend before I left, and no bank will exchange it. Apparently the currency is so volatile brokers are unwilling to handle it.

 

Eve O’Neill works at Yelp. Photo via.

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6 Comments / Post A Comment

OH! Now it all makes sense. I just got back and was wondering why every 10 feet, there were shady guys trying to exchange money.

And yes the empanadas are soo so good there.

I ended up with 100 pesos left that I just added to my dead currency collection of a few thousand lire and a few hundred trillion zimbabwe dollars.

You should also mention the $160 reciprocity fee. Not a visa, just a cover charge for Americans that’s basically Argentina saying you make us pay to enter so we’ll make you pay to enter.

@forget it i quit A lot of countries do that, including Brazil.

At least you’re not expected to tip the embassy employees after paying them to do their fucking jobs, I guess.

eveo (#600)

@forget it i quit

You are so right about that reciprocity thing, it’s such a drag. Maybe I’ll put together another article!!

josefinastrummer (#1,850)

I think you mean Argentina Patagonia. This would not fly in Chilean Patagonian.

And that reciprocity fee in Argentina isn’t always there for Americans…my cousin flew into Buenos Aires and didn’t have to pay a dime. But when I flew within Argentina, I had to pay an “airport” fee of about $50. When I came into Chile, I had to pay a one time $137 American cash and it was stamped in my passport before I could get through customs.

BadUncle (#449)

Didn’t Argentina peg the peso to the dollar in 90s?

inspector_tiger (#2,651)

I’m not sure how it is in Argentina, but in a lot of countries waiters are paid a decent wage per hour, so the tips don’t need to be as high for them to survive on it…

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