For anyone traveling to Argentina these days one of the first things to know about is the blue dollar exchange rate. What is the 'dolar blue'? In short it’s the black exchange market for US dollars in Argentina.
The thing is, it’s not that black (or at least hard to find), in fact you can easily find places to exchange money at the blue dollar rate on the streets of Buenos Aires, Mendoza, and other cities within Argentina. You’ll find that almost everyone in Argentina knows about it, but you’d be surprised how many foreigners come to travel Argentina only to learn about the blue dollar until it’s too late. Heck, even the national newspaper publishes the blue dollar side-by-side with the official dollar exchange rate.
Given that the blue dollar has been as high at 16 pesos per dollar in recent months, it’s possible to exchange US Dollars for almost double the official rate you’ll get by walking into a bank. However the blue dollar exchange rate fluctuations dramatically and within the three months that I was in the country it has ranged from 14.5 to 11.15 pesos per dollar.
The obvious answer of how to exchange money at the blue dollar rate is to travel to Argentina enough USD to cover your trip. This also means lugging around a lot of cash, which is never a great idea in any country, let alone Argentina.
Apart from this you’ll have to trust the exchange place you do business with, or multiple places if you change cities. I haven't had any bad experiences of receiving counterfeit bills, but it’s always a good idea to know how to determine a real bill vs. a fake one.
Tip: Buy a counterfeit money detector pen for a few bucks and use it when exchanging money.
If you don’t want to deal with any of this or simply just run out of USD to exchange while traveling Argentina there is another great option. You can send yourself money to Argentina at close to the blue dollar rate at a reasonably low fee.
The money transferring service is called Xoom and is a US based company that allows you to send money almost anywhere in the world for a small fee. You have to option to send money using a bank account, debit card or credit card (watch out for cash advance fees).
I used Xoom money transfers several times while in Argentina and found it to be incredibly useful and a great exchange USD to ARS.
All you need to do is go to Xoom.com and create a new account. After you have an account set-up it’s really easily to send yourself money and you can even do it the same day using a debit card. Expect several days to verify your bank account if you go that route.
If you use my referral link you’ll also get a free $25 Amazon or Walmart gift card after you send $100 or more using Xoom. I will also earn a $25 credit if you sign-up through my link, so thanks in advance if you do!
Once you have an account and are logged in you can send money to Argentina using a bank account, debit card, or credit card. The fees are slightly higher when using debit or credit cards, but the transaction is almost instantaneous. Also note that most credit cards are going to charge you a cash advance fee, but if you are earning 2% back with a cash back card it may be worth it.
If you send money using a bank account it may take up to several days for the transaction to complete. If you’re going to send money multiple times it may be worth it since it’s the cheapest method possible.
You can calculate the fees and current exchange rate on this page. You don’t get exactly the blue dollar rate, but using Xoom is a sure bet for exchanging money from a secure source and you’ll be getting a way better deal than exchange at the official rate.
From what I can tell the exchange rate on Xoom will be around 1 peso lower than the blue dollar rate in Buenos Aires. Meaning the blue dollar may be at 12.5 pesos per dollar, whereas the rate using Xoom will trail behind at 11.5. The further outside of Buenos Aires you go you can expect to get a lower exchange rate as well, which makes Xoom more attractive.
Travelers can easily log into Xoom and send money to themselves using Xoom’s money pick-up option. There are 66 money pick-up locations in Buenos Aires alone, and other locations throughout the country.
This is the easiest way to send yourself money and you just need to show up at any of the pick-up locations with a valid passport. Most of these locations close around 5 - 7 pm so make sure to send money early if you need same day pick up.
From my experience sending visa debit card only takes a few hours to process, so you can get the money you sent same day if done in the morning.
Note: At the time of publishing this post Xoom money sending transactions are only available for people with US based bank accounts.