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Get Everything Half Price When Traveling in Argentina!

It is no secret that the economy in Argentina is not going so well at the moment. For the tourists going to Argentina this is good news as everything gets cheaper, but locals are loosing their money from inflation and jobs from poor company turnover. Some people make protests in the street and are not happy with the foreigners exploiting the situation even more by the three steps I am about to tell you, and maybe you will understand after some background information.

Ever since the Argentinean Peso started to drop significantly in 2012, people started to change their whole savings into other currencies to secure themselves against their money becoming worthless. The government was then quick to put a ban on the US dollars and other currencies, and as a result the Argentineans could not withdraw foreign currency or change their currency, even when going abroad. And just like all other illegal things it became available in the underground at much more expensive prices. The profits were big as well, which probably is the reason why you will find (probably) hundreds of people in Florida Street and LaValle Avenue shouting “Cambio”, “Dollars, “Euros” etc in hopes of buying some dollars of you that they can sell to the Argentineans afterwards.

Therefore; when travelling to Argentina bring as many dollars as you can get as you can sell them to as much as 10-12 pesos when they at the official market rate are only worth around 7-8 Argentinean Pesos. Even restaurants and hotels will sometimes accept dollars at the “blue market rate”, which would save you/ give you around 30% extra on everything you buy! If you cannot get dollars at home you can just take a ferry over to Colonia in Uruguay, which costs around 60 US dollars round trip (market rate) where you can withdraw as many dollars as you want from all ATMs. When exchanging on the street you have to be careful to get real notes (not fake ones) be descrete and jump into a taxi once you have done the exchange. How much people offer you for your dollars also depends a littlebit on the amount and shape of your dollars (crisp hundreds are the best), but this link will show you daily updated rates of the dollar on the blue market.

Once you have the money changed you should go crazy when shopping as Buenos Aires is the perfect city with good selection of stores and cheap prices. Argentina, unlike most other South American countries is not a place where bartering is common. But, the economy is not going too well and the shops are very eager to get you to buy from them, so there is some leeway, namely asking for a cash discount, which many places is around 10% which can save you some money if you are shopping a lot. And hey, you already have all your money in cash from exchanging money from dollars, so why not ask for it?

On top of that, all tourists have a bonus when shopping abroad. Namely that they are not obliged to pay tax on the things they buy as long as they are leaving the country for good within three months of the purchase. When shopping we asked for tax free/ tax refund forms so that we could get 17% of everything we bought refunded upon departure from Argentina. We got refunded our tax both at the harbour when leaving to Uruguay and at the border post when leaving to Brazil and if you are planning on flying you can also go to the tax office at the airport to get it refunded there as well.

So if you if you are planning on going on a shopping holiday soon, make it Buenos Aires in Argentina- the Paris of South America, as you will not find as good selection for as cheap anywhere else than here at the moment.


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Salta in the Argentinean Northlands

About two hours after passing San Salvador de Jujuy by bus, we arrived at Salta, our first stop in Argentina. We had absolutely no impression of the city prior to our arrival, and that might have helped us getting the good experience as we had when being there.

Salta was our first big city since La Paz, and it was also the most western city we had visited so far on our travels in South America. Our hotel was located right next to the main shopping street, which was pretty much where we spent most of our time in Salta.

For the evenings we also went to the Balcarce street, where most of the restaurants were Peñas, traditional Argentinean restaurants with folkloric live music. All of the bands playing did quite a bit of talking to the restaurant guests and invited them up for dancing with their dance performers. One of the dances also ended up in the whole restaurant getting up and dancing bologne out on the street. A visit to a Peña is definately something that should not be missed when going to Argentina.

Photo: Harwin Gill
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The Wine Region of Cafayate

Around 200 kilometers south of Salta is a valley called Cafayate which is known for its good conditions for growing wine, having around 240 sunny days a year. I had booked a 12 hour day trip that would take me there starting with an early hotel pickup at our hotel in Salta around 7 o’clock. The first part of the trip we were just people up more and more old spanish speaking people, that snored the first hours of the drive. Our guide had not made it any easier either, speaking non stop for the four and a half hours it took us to reach Cafayate. The second half of the drive was through some pretty spectacular mountains as well, but with her pointing at every rock, telling us that they looked like frogs, munks, seals, ships, castels etc it was also a bit hard enjoying even that.It was first when we went down the mountains and into the small town of Cafayate that things looked a bit more promising. Our guide told us that she was not licenced to guide in wineries so she let us off the bus, free to do a wine tour of Domingo Hermanos and to explore the town by our own for a few hours. Since everyone but me and a Taiwaneese guy were Spanish native speakers, the tour was done in Spanish only. We were shown the whole process of producing wine, from the wine yard where the grapes grow, through the machinery, storage tanks and finally to the highlight that everyone had been looking forward to: the wine tasting. The tasting was not like I have tried before where we would get a littlebit in the bottom of the glass, but here they poured three almost full glasses for each to drink, one white and two red.

The Taiwaneese guy had been sitting next to me on the bus the whole day without saying a word, but after the tasting he suddenly had gotten the curage to come up to me and ask if I wanted to look around the town and have dinner with him, and with a new gotten friend the long ride home went much quicker taking me back to our group in the evening for a last night out in Salta.