I have been in Argentina for two and a half days, and I have already had two experiences with the Argentinian black market. One good, and one not so good.
I will start with the good (cause I am generally positive like that)! The economy in Argentina is rocky right now, and there is an interesting phenomenon that is happening with the Peso. The US dollar is coveted here, so I brought that to exchange. I was told by our guide that I could get a better exchange rate on the ground than prior to coming here. Here’s why.
The proper exchange rate right now is $9 pesos to every $1 US dollar. But, at hotels and shops all over the place, they will exchange your money for you, and depending on how the wind blows, you will get $13 – $15 Pesos for every $1 US dollar. The bonus for them… they have the stronger dollar, rather than pesos. The bonus for a tourist, things are cheaper if you use the Pesos to buy things (and presumably sort of helping the economy, I think). $100 bills can get a higher exchange rate than $20 bills (I only had 20s – but still got a good rate I think).
In Bariloche, our guide took us to a shop and one by one, we went in the back and exchanged our money. I basically got the equivalent of $70 more than if I exchanged at home. It was funny and really clandestine, and I would have been a bit weirded out if our guide wasn’t helping.
Now for the not so positive experience. After landing in Bariloche (from a 1.5 hour flight from Buenos Aires), we have been non-stop moving. It wasn’t until last night that I opened my small suitcase to realize my lock was no longer on it. And, not only that, my Bose headphones, travel alarm clock, ear plugs and one sock were gone (all from one pocket inside the bag).
I haven’t had anything like this happen to me before, and its shitty. I normally take my prized headphones in my carry on, but with this tour I was trying to travel light this day (not realizing our bags were making their way straight to the hotel). Lesson learned, if you care about it, carry it. Which is why my passport and other really important things are always with me on flights.
But here’s the thing… there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s just stuff, and stuff that can be easily replaced for me. I shrug my shoulders and move on.
Because of the economy, things like Bose headphones and iphones are out of the reach of many of the people in the country – so they would be valuable. Our guide said if you have your phone out, just be careful about it… it’s something people may be interested in here. That said, Argentina and Buenos Aires in particular are supposed to be very safe overall (especially in comparison to some other Latin American countries).
So, to the Argentinian baggage handler (I assume) who broke into my bag and took my stuff – I hope you enjoy the shit out of my Bose headphones. Or at least sell it for some really great stuff or lots of US dollars.