There have been a lot of changes with the economy in the last years. There was inflation every year. In 2007 a pizza cost 10 pesos, today it costs 100 pesos. In 2007 the exchange rate was 3 pesos to the dollar and the rate was official, with no blue market that we knew of.
Due to protectionist policies by the government, Argentines are restricted from freely buying dollars, so a blue market has emerged.
Today, the exchange rate has three tiers. There is the official exchange rate at 8.5 pesos to the dollar, the blue market which is 13.5 pesos to the dollar, and the black market which I know nothing about. These rates vary each day. I don’t know the legal ramifications for the buyers of the dollars on the blue market, but it is not a back alley affair. You shouldn’t have any trouble finding somebody to ‘cambio’ your dollars for the 13 pesos/dollar rate. In fact, the blue rate is posted daily, just as the official rate is. What you need to do is bring dollars into the country with you when you come. If you do not bring enough and you end up using your credit card or the ATM, then you will get the official rate. Bring the money in $100 dollar bill increments – this is most desirable. We got 13.2 pesos to the dollar, making 100 pesos worth about $7.50.
So, back to that pizza. In 2007 a pizza cost 10 pesos, or approx. $3.35 USD. Today a pizza costs 100 pesos, or approximately $11.75 USD on the official rate or $7.50 USD on the blue market. For Americans, being a tourist is more costly now, but if you can use the blue market exchange rate, it is still very inexpensive.
This devaluation of the currency has made the lowly peso worth very little. Coins, or monedas, seem impossible to find. If something costs, for example, 250.50 pesos, you will not be given 49.50 in change. Your change will be rounded up to 50 pesos. Our apartment has a washer/dryer in the basement that we can use for 6 pesos a wash and 7 pesos a dry, but who has 6 pesos?
Of course some things cost less here and some things cost more. For example, in Belfast a pint of beer from the grocery store cost $3 USD, in Buenos Aires a liter of Quilmes cost 15 pesos or $1.75 official rate and $1.15 blue market. Electronics cost more in BA. An average Barbie doll is 1,000 pesos!
It appears there are no automatic withdrawals for paying bills. People stand in long lines to pay utility and credit card bills. Also, cash is used for large sums. When we paid for our classes at Universidad de Buenos Aires, we needed to pay $8000 pesos in cash. Even in 100 peso increments, this is quite a stack of cash.