Argentina’s Currency: Everything You Need to Know About the Argentine Peso

When planning a trip to the captivating land of Argentina, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the local currency, the Argentine Peso. While this vibrant country boasts a rich cultural tapestry, breathtaking landscapes, and mouthwatering cuisine, understanding its currency is a key part of your journey.

When preparing for a trip to Argentina, it’s crucial to get acquainted with the local currency, the Argentine Peso. Despite the country’s vibrant culture, stunning landscapes, and delicious food, understanding its currency is vital due to unique economic factors like high inflation, evolving rules, and black market exchange rates. This article will guide you on maximizing your travel experience in Argentina so you can travel with confidence and save money.

Overview of Argentina’s Currency

The Argentine Peso: Argentina’s Currency

The Argentine Peso (ARS) is the official currency of Argentina, and its exchange rate is subject to wild fluctuations, making it prudent to monitor the currency closely when planning and managing your finances before (and during) your visit. It’s vital to understand that the Argentine government employs various exchange rates tailored to specific economic activities. This includes a specific rate for tourists and a parallel “black market” rate that many, including tourists, often turn to. 

For travelers, there are two main rates to be aware of: the “dólar bolsa” or “MEP” and the “dólar blue.” These rates play a pivotal role in your financial transactions while in Argentina. Staying informed about these exchange rates will significantly impact the value of your spending and the overall financial dynamics during your stay.

But before we jump into more detail on those rates, here’s a quick overview of the currency as a whole.

A Brief History of the Argentine Peso

The history of the Argentine peso is marked by a series of economic ups and downs, reflecting the country’s turbulent economic and political past. The peso, introduced in 1826, was initially linked to the silver standard, ensuring its stability and widespread acceptance. However, throughout the 20th century, the peso endured numerous devaluations, often driven by political instability, excessive government spending, and a lack of foreign exchange reserves. 

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Argentina implemented the Convertibility Plan, pegging the peso to the U.S. dollar at a 1:1 exchange rate. This brought temporary stability but led to mounting external debt. The early 2000s saw a severe economic crisis, resulting in a dramatic devaluation of the peso and the abandonment of the peg. 

In the following years, the currency underwent various experiments, including the introduction of multiple exchange rates and capital controls. These controls were implemented to stabilize the economy, manage foreign exchange reserves, and address issues such as inflation and currency depreciation. 

In practical terms, capital controls may involve limitations on foreign currency purchases, restrictions on transferring funds abroad, or other measures aimed at regulating the movement of capital in and out of the country. However, the peso’s value continued to erode due to high inflation and fiscal deficits, and this turbulence continues to this day. 

In short, the Argentine peso’s history is one of persistent challenges, reflecting the broader economic and political issues that have characterized Argentina’s recent past.

ARS: The Currency Code for Argentine Peso

The ISO currency code for the Argentine Peso is ARS, and its symbol is $. Interestingly, this symbol is shared with the United States dollar ($), causing occasional confusion. To distinguish between different pesos in Latin America, the practice is to use the country’s two-letter code preceding the peso symbol, like AR$ for Argentina or MX$ for Mexico

However, in Argentina, it’s common to simply use $ for Argentine pesos, which happens to be the same symbol used for the U.S. dollar, though the US dollar is not typically used in everyday transactions so confusion is limited. On rare occasions, you might encounter the U.S. dollar represented as an S with a double vertical line, but more commonly, it’s denoted as USD or US$.

The Value of the Argentine Peso Against the USD

Understanding the Value of ARS to USD

Understanding the exchange rate between the Argentine Peso (ARS) and the United States Dollar (USD) is essential for travelers (and anyone else making financial transactions between the two currencies). Numerous tools and resources are available to grasp this ever-changing value relationship, which can fluctuate weekly or even daily. Websites like and offer valuable insights into various dollar rates, including the “dólar oficial” (official rate), “dólar blue” (parallel market rate), “dólar contado con liqui” (related to offshore transactions), “dólar bolsa” or “dólar mep” (related to local stock exchanges), “dólar crypto” and the “dólar tarjeta” or “dolar turista”. 

Note: It is important to remember that the 'tourist dollar' is a value considered by Argentinians leaving the country; it has nothing to do with the exchange rate used for tourists entering Argentina, for whom the official exchange rate is that of the 'dólar MEP' or 'dólar bolsa’ (stock market dollar).

However, as mentioned above, you only need to focus on the ‘bolsa’’ and ‘blue’ dollar rates, as these are the primary rates of relevance for travelers in Argentina.

ARS to USD: Currency Pairings in the Exchange Market

In Argentina, there are often strict government controls and regulations on the exchange of currency. This has been the case for at least two decades. Although the new government aims to normalize the exchange market, a specific date for this transformation remains unknown.

Currently, the official exchange rate, as set by the government, may not accurately reflect the actual market demand for dollars. This situation is commonly known as ‘el cepo’ (the trap). To circumvent these restrictions, the dólar blue market, also referred to as the “blue dollar” or “parallel dollar,” has emerged as an alternative and unofficial currency exchange market.

The dólar blue rate typically offers a higher exchange rate for U.S. dollars compared to the official rate. This market arises due to factors like capital controls, currency restrictions, and a history of high inflation in Argentina. People turn to the dólar blue when they need dollars for various purposes, including saving, traveling, or protecting their assets from the effects of inflation.

As a result, the government has taken measures to limit or regulate access to the dólar blue market at various times in an attempt to stabilize the official exchange rate and control capital flight.The existence of the dólar blue reflects the complex economic situation in Argentina, where currency devaluation and fluctuations are common. It’s crucial to emphasize that the “dólar blue” market operated in an illegal domain until the assumption of the new government, which has now legalized it. Consequently, for the past few weeks, engaging in the buying and selling of dollars in the parallel market no longer entails any legal risk.

USD for Tourists: Currency Pairings in the Exchange Market

In Argentina, the government has a system to protect tourists’ funds from the informal market. According to Comunicación “A” 7630, tourists and non-residents can access an exchange rate tied to the MEP dollar (dólar bolsa) when using foreign-issued debit and credit cards. 

*Avoid extra fees with our recommendations for the best travel credit cards here.*This “dólar MEP” or “dólar bolsa” rate surpasses the official rate by a 30%. For instance, with the official rate at 1 USD = 795 ARS, the “dólar MEP” offers 1 USD = 1094 ARS, giving you more pesos for your dollars. Importantly, this “dólar MEP” or “dólar bolsa” is akin to the unofficial ‘blue dollar’ market, that currently is $1100 per US dollar.

Paying in Argentina: Navigating Currency and Payment Methods

Peso CurrencyUnderstanding the Denominations of the Argentinian

When using cash in Argentina, you’ll typically handle the following denominations of bills: 

  • 10
  • 20
  • 50
  • 100
  • 200
  • 500
  • 1,000
  • And, less commonly, 2,000.

As of January 2024, the exchange rate hovers around 1 U.S. dollar equating to approximately 1,000 pesos. This results in a currency system where the denominations are relatively low, necessitating a significant number of bills for most transactions. 

For instance, if you’re dining at a restaurant and your bill amounts to 25 USD, which can easily cover a delightful meal, you would find yourself juggling 25 bills of 1,000 pesos. Additionally, there are lower denomination coins available, but they are often overlooked due to their minimal values of 1, 2, 5, and 10 pesos, making them somewhat inconspicuous in daily transactions.

To initiate the process of “normalization,” the new government plans to introduce new denominations of 10,000 and 20,000 in the coming days.

Using the ATM in the Argentina’s Economy

In Argentina, ATMs are typically situated inside secured rooms adjacent to banks, primarily for security purposes. Access to these rooms usually requires swiping your card through a card reader to unlock the door. However, it’s worth noting that some of these security measures may not always function as intended, and you may just open the door by pushing it. Additionally, you can also locate ATMs inside supermarkets and shopping malls for added convenience.

When you withdraw cash from these ATMs, you’ll receive the official exchange rate, which is typically less favorable than the “dólar MEP” or “dólar bolsa” rate. For this reason, it’s advisable to consider using your debit or credit card for transactions and reserving cash withdrawals from ATMs as a last resort.For more information on how to save tons of money while traveling, check out our article on travel banking.

Gratuity Guidelines: Tipping with Argentine Pesos

Argentinians are accustomed to tipping, and it’s a customary practice in the country. Much like tipping in Mexico and many other Latin American countries, the expected amount for a tip is typically around 10% of the total bill. Of course, you’re welcome to be more generous, as the staff will certainly appreciate it. 

It’s important to note that tips are usually not included in the bill, and you cannot add them to your card payment. Instead, you will need cash for tipping. While in a few very touristy places, they might allow you to include the tip on your card payment, this is not the norm in Argentina so prepare accordingly and have cash on hand.

Paying with Your Card in Argentina: A Convenient Payment Option

Unless you acquire cash from the unofficial market, using your card tends to be more convenient than paying with cash. In restaurants, it’s common for the waiter to take your card to the cashier, and then return it to you. While this practice is customary and generally trustworthy, as a tourist, it may be advisable to request the portable card terminal (Posnet) to your table or even opt to pay directly at the cashier. Politely explaining that you prefer not to lose sight of your credit card is a reasonable request in such cases. And you can practice your Spanish by saying, “Por favor, ¿podrías traerme el posnet?” (Please, could you bring me the card machine?).

Sending Money to Argentina

Bank Transfers to Argentina: What You Need to Know

As unusual as it may seem, the Argentinian Central Bank authorities have introduced a unique initiative to prevent tourist dollars from flowing into the unofficial market. Since 2021, tourists visiting Argentina have had the option to open a dedicated local bank account specifically designed for their needs. To open one, you are required to maintain a personal bank account in your home country from which you can transfer funds. 

Upon opening this account, you will receive a debit card, allowing you to make payments or withdraw pesos from ATMs at a favorable exchange rate (“dólar MEP” or “dólar bolsa”). 

If you’re just visiting for a short period of time, this likely won’t be worth it. But if you’re staying for weeks or months, you might end up saving enough money to justify the time spent setting up your account. That said, for most travelers, this won’t be necessary.

Note: this account is solely intended for spending within Argentina and cannot be used for receiving funds from other individuals or for investment purposes. 

As mentioned earlier, the government is committed to normalizing the exchange market as soon as possible. While no specific date has been provided, indications suggest that this may occur in 2024.

Alternative Methods for Sending Money to Argentina

If you prefer using cash over cards, currently, obtaining cash from ATMs without an Argentinian bank account may not be convenient as you’ll receive the official exchange rate. This is why many foreign individuals opt to use Western Union to transfer funds from their own bank accounts in their home countries and get cash. Despite incurring fees, Western Union provides a favorable exchange rate, making it a preferred choice.

Digital Wallets and Cryptocurrencies in Argentina

One consequence of the Argentinean foreign currency restrictions is the proliferation of cryptocurrency markets. They provide Argentinians with an avenue to shield themselves from peso devaluation, allowing them to invest in cryptocurrencies pegged to the U.S. dollar, such as USDT (Tether), USDC (USDcoin), DAI, and others. 

Various digital wallet services like Dollarapp, Lemon, Prex, allow you to handle your cryptocurrencies within Argentina. These apps provide a credit card number, either Mastercard or Visa. You can request a physical card or use your phone with Google Pay.

When using cryptocurrency in Argentina, you’re essentially converting it to Argentine Pesos at the “Cripto dollar” rate. Check the value in the app—it’s tied to the “dólar MEP” or “dólar bolsa”, which fluctuates based on market conditions.

How to Get the Best Exchange Rate When Converting Dollars to Argentine Pesos

At this point, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all this information, but don’t worry — getting the best rate is easier than you think! 

When we mention a “good exchange rate,” we’re referring to a rate that is about 35% more than the official one. You can achieve this favorable rate by using your credit or debit card, obtaining pesos through Western Union, selling your cryptocurrencies, or engaging in transactions on the unofficial market (the “dollar blue”).

It’s important to note that the Argentine financial landscape is subject to daily fluctuations, and the best rate may vary from one instrument to another on any given day. Nonetheless, the differences between these rates tend to be minimal, and in my opinion, it’s not worth the time and effort to perform extensive calculations. Here is a current rate comparison as of January 2024:

“dólar oficial” = $795

“dólar MEP” or “dólar Bolsa” = $1094

“dólar Blue” = $1100

“dólar cripto” = $1108

Understanding the Argentine Peso Parallel or Unofficial Market

The Argentine Black Currency Market: A Guide for Travelers

Since 2011, with a brief hiatus between 2015 and 2019, Argentina has enforced “el cepo cambiario,” a set of restrictions on currency exchange. These restrictions apply to both individuals and companies due to the substantial demand for U.S. dollars. This demand is driven by Argentinians seeking to shield themselves from peso devaluation. 

Furthermore, any international bank transfers into Argentina are automatically converted into pesos at the official rate, which is relatively low because of these currency controls. Nonetheless, the quest for U.S. dollars persists, leading to the growth of the unofficial market.

Converting Argentine Pesos in the Black Market

Currently, the ”dólar blue” market offers exchange rates 35% more than the official market. It’s quite easy for travelers to access this market; you can simply ask a local for help. For instance, when you’re on Florida Street in Buenos Aires, which is a central spot, you’ll likely hear people shouting “cambio dólares” (dollar exchange). These folks are often called “arbolitos” or “little trees,” and they can exchange your dollars to pesos at the “dólar blue” rate for that day.

This market was illegal until the assumption of the new government in December 2023. While there is no legal protection if something goes wrong, it is no longer considered an illegal transaction. However, If you’re considering using it, make sure to consult a trustworthy local beforehand. And before making any currency exchange, be sure to check the current rates online on websites like or It’s always a good idea to stay informed about the latest rates so you know if you’re getting ripped off.

What Can You Purchase with 100 USD in Argentina?

Right now, in the ”dólar blue” market, you can get around 110,000 ARS for 100 USD. However, if you exchange at the official rate, you’ll only get 97,000 ARS.

With that amount, you can enjoy a splendid dinner for three at top restaurants in Buenos Aires or have about five meals at more casual places. It’s enough to buy groceries for a group of three or four people for at least one week. You can cover the cost of a hotel or Airbnb for two or three nights, or treat yourself to a day in upscale neighborhoods like Puerto Madero.

On the flip side, when it comes to buying clothes, shoes, and electronics, you might find them to be equally as expensive or even pricier than back home. So, make sure you plan your spending wisely!

Which Payment Method Is Most Convenient for Travelers?

As I mentioned earlier, the difference in exchange rates between the “dólar blue” market, using your debit and credit cards, or paying with cryptocurrencies isn’t significant enough, in my opinion, to justify spending a lot of time comparing them. Using your cards will likely get you a good exchange rate, as will using your cryptocurrency wallet. Additionally, refrain from carrying a substantial amount of bills in your pocket. 

If you have to make small purchases, you’ll find that cards are accepted virtually everywhere. However, if you still find yourself in need of cash, don’t hesitate to seek assistance from a local, such as the staff at your hotel or the owner of your Airbnb. They can provide helpful guidance.

Argentina’s Economic Projections for 2024

One month has passed since Javier Milei, the newly elected president of Argentina, took office, with promises to lift all the restrictions mentioned in this article. He has emphasized that the process of lifting ‘el cepo’ and other restrictions will take a few months to implement fully. Milei has outlined that addressing other preliminary issues is necessary before these changes can be made. We will continue to update the information in this article as the situation develops.

Understanding the Argentine Peso is essential for travelers visiting Argentina. The country’s currency has a complex history with fluctuating exchange rates, including the dollar for tourists (dólar MEP or bolsa) and the “dólar blue.” Paying in Argentina involves handling various denominations of bills and coins, and 10% gratuity is customary.

It’s important to note that these currency issues, while complex, do not pose a significant hurdle to enjoying Argentina. In fact, understanding the exchange rates can work to a traveler’s advantage, providing an opportunity for affordable vacations by taking advantage of favorable exchange rates and knowing how and when to use cash or card.

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