Saturday, August 15, 2009

Casa de Cambio – bring your Albanian gorilla

In recent years, using traveler checks in Argentina wasn’t a good idea. First, it was expensive to exchange them. Secondly, they were impractical as banks close at 3:30pm.

For the first time, bringing dollars wasn’t a good idea either. On my recent trip, I visited several big banks and non let me exchange them for pesos. “Solamente si sos cliente” – only for clients of the bank.

On Santa Fe, a major shopping street in Buenos Aires, I only found a single ‘casa de cambio’. It was in the back of a small and dim-lit shopping mall. I would attempt to exchange my fistful of dollars, but did not bring my Albanian body guard gorilla to guide me back safely to the street.

Don’t exchange at the guy in the street yelling “Dolares, Euros’. This is Nuevas Reinas/ Nine Queens country after all. Watch out for fake pesos. Or single side printed pesos.

Luckily I do have another option and can ask my brother in law to exchange at his bank.

What do other tourists do? Perhaps there are more casa de cambio near La Florida, the most popular shopping area. But don’t expect great exchange rates, now that they're set by the casa de cambio monopoly.

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