Money & Shopping
The official currency of Argentina is the peso (ARS), divided into 100 centavos. Coins come in 5, 10, 25, 50 centavos and 1 and 2 peso denominations. Banknotes are issued in values of 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 pesos. Be prepared to receive small change in the form of golosinas (candies), especially in Chinese supermarkets.
Since 1969 thirteen zeroes have been dropped (a factor of ten trillion) as differing names of peso have been revalued again and again.
In more recent times the exchange rate hovered around ARS3 = USD1 from 2002 to 2008, dipped to about ARS4 = USD1 from 2009 to 2011 and officially reached 6 pesos in Nov 2013. Since a new office took charge of the government in December 2015, all currency restrictions were lifted and the average exchange rate is about 15ARS/USD (Nov 2016)
The government pegs the peso at an artificially high level and heavily restricts currency exchange from pesos into dollars, leading to a thriving black market in the "blue dollar" (dólar blue). The market is so huge that the latest rates are published in newspapers and on websites like DolarBlue.net. As of September 2014, the government rate is 8.40 pesos per US dollar, while the black market rate fluctuates around ARS14 = USD1. This translates to USD100 being worth around 840 pesos if exchanged officially or withdrawn from an ATM, versus 1,400 pesos on the black market. Other currencies like the Chilean and Uruguayan peso exhibit similar behaviour when exchanged for pesos, although the dollar commands a premium. The best rates will be received for USD100 bills in good conditions when exchanging more than USD1000.
Black market dealers are called arbolitos ("little trees") and they operate from cuevas("caves"). They can be found everywhere, with Florida St in Buenos Aires being particularly notorious. If you choose to go down this route, remember that this is illegal, so take all possible precautions to avoid getting ripped off and remember that your money may be confiscated if you are busted by the police.
In October 2013 all exchange places at Foz do Iguaçu were officially selling Argentinian pesos for rates closer to the Blue rate than to the official rate. Other options to get a good rate are to transfer money electronically using services such as Xoom (only from the US) or Azimo (only from the UK) or compare with My Currency Transfer (from any country).
In December 2015 the newly elected government lifted most of the currency restrictions and unified the exchange rates with the peso trading within a band of 13-15 ARS/USD, blue dollar is no longer recommended as an exchange option, since you can get pesos anywere with a simmilar rate.
Peso purchases with foreign credit cards get exchanged at the terrible official rate, so this is best avoided. If you want to use a debit or credit card, the checkout operator in places like supermarkets will require you to present both your card and a form of identification such as a drivers' licence. Present both simultaneously at checkout and with confidence. A lack of confidence will lead to a request for your passport as identification. For larger purchases such as long-distance bus tickets you will need to present your passport and your credit card. Although this makes shopping difficult, do try to keep your passport in a location such as a hotel-room safe.
PIN cards have become the most common ones and should be accepted anywere, as well as magnetic band cards. PINs should be accepted but if not, the shop attendant will ask you to sign the invoice. Contactless credit cards are not commonly accepted as of November 2016.
There is no obligation to tip in Argentina although it is considered customary. Sometimes rounding up or telling them to "keep the change" is enough on small checks, deliveries, gasoline tenders, etc. Leaving at least a 10% tip is considered kind and polite at restaurants, cafes, hotels, beauty parlors, barbers, ushers and car-washes. Tipping bartenders is not customary. Leaving no tip when feeling unsatisfied is not an uncommon gesture, and it's interpreted as such. Taxicab drivers do not expect to be tipped, but most people do so.
Another local custom is to tip the ushers in theaters and opera houses when they're also in charge of handing out the programmes (one may request one without tipping, at the risk of being considered cheap).
Service fees are included in most upscale hotels and restaurants, usually around 15%.
The fashion and art scenes are booming. Buenos Aires' signature European-South American style overflows with unique art pieces, art deco furniture, and antiques. Creative and independent, local fashion designers - who are becoming a source of inspiration for the U.S. and European high-end markets - compose their collections based on lots of leather, wools, woven fabrics, and delicate laces with a gaucho twist. At times, the exchange rate can present good value for international tourists. For example, in early 2006 the dollar and the euro were strong in comparison with the then-weak Argentina peso.
Fashionable clothing and leather products can be found in most commercial areas; jackets, boots and shoes are easily available. However, Buenos Aires has a relatively mild climate, so truly cold-weather gear is harder to find here. Long coats or heavy gloves may not be in stock; similarly, jeans and other basics have a thin construction compared with those in cooler countries. The Andes regions and Patagonia are considerably colder in the winter, so thick clothing is much easier to find here.
Electronics are not cheap, as they are subject to heavy import tariffs. The price of music, books, and movies lags slightly behind changes in the exchange rate and can offer a bargain if the volatile exchange rates are in your favour.
Most freestanding shops in Buenos Aires are open 10:00-20:00 on weekdays, and some of them also Saturdays and Sundays, depending on what area of the city they are in. Enclosed malls, however, set their own hours, and are also open on the weekends.
Most places outside of the city of Buenos Aires, where most stores remain open during a siesta, still observe a siesta from approximately noon until 16:00; almost all businesses are closed during this time. The precise closing hours vary from store to store, according to the preferences of the owner. Shops and offices generally open again in the evening until 21:00 or 22:00.