Buenos Aires is one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in South America. Known for its rich culture, art galleries, fascinating history, and lively nightlife; Buenos Aires is a top destination for tourists from all over the world. It also happens to be the meeting point for many tours to Antarctica. Buenos Aires hotels can be expensive, yet saving money on your next hotel stay is very possible. Especially if you pay for your hotel in cash or with a Visa or Mastercard issued from outside of Argentina.
When it comes to accommodation, Buenos Aires has a wide range of hotels to suit all tastes and budgets. From a slew of luxury hotels, hostels, AirBnbs, mid range hotels and boutique hotels, Buenos Aires offers it all. The hardest decision you will make is where to stay. From the newer neighborhood of Puerto Madero to Palermo Soho or San Telmo, Buenos Aires has all the options. Honestly though, the real question is how to save money on your next stay in Buenos Aires.
Save Money Across Argentina
Argentina has been struggling with high inflation rates for several years. In Argentina, inflation has been a persistent problem since the early 2000s. Inflation rates have varied from year to year, but they have generally been high. In 2021, Argentina’s inflation rate was around 47%, one of the highest in the world. The official exchange rate has been out of control, $1 USD was worth less than 5 Peso’s during my first visit to Argentina just 12 years ago. Now, the official exchange rate is $1 to 195! Yet, better rates are available thanks to the “blue paseo.”
Exchange Cash for Blue Peso
The “Blue peso” is a term used to refer to the unofficial currency exchange rate for the Argentine Peso. Cambios or cash exchanges which are not official banks often will exchange USD for a higher exchange rate than the official rate. In early Feb 2023, during my visit, the Cambio rate was 340-400 Paseo’s per $1. $100 and $50 bills received a higher rate than smaller bills.
Do note, it is technically illegal to exchange currency at the unofficial rate, but not really enforced. Despite this, many cambios in Argentina advertise the higher rate for the Blue Paseo. In addition, many restaurants, shops etc will give you the known rate for the blue paseo if paying in USD. Several times while shopping and eating out, I was asked to pay in USD instead of Peso or credit card. The merchant would then offer me between 340 to 400 paso for each USD I provided them. Any change back was in Argentine Pesos.
Even if you exchange your cash for Pesos at a cambio, when you pay for anything, including hotels in Argentina with peso, you will save nearly 40% over the official exchange rate. Using cash saves you money on hotels, but isn’t the ultimate cash saving option. Credit cards are the best option, cash is king for nearly everything else.
Use a Credit Card
Whenever you stay in a hotel in Buenos Aires or Argentina you can avoid paying value added tax by using a foreign credit card. Some hotels will ask you to fill out a form for their records. Yet, by simply using a non-Argentine credit card, you can save 21% on every hotel stay in the country. This is better than any hotel deal you’ll find. It’s a simple 21% saving immediately! Of the three hotels I stayed in during my time in Argentina, only the Alvera Icon hotel in Puerto Madero required the form. Other hotels automatically removed it when I checked in.
Visa & MasterCard Blue Peso Rate
For those traveling from outside of Argentina you can save even more money by paying for your hotel stay with a foreign Visa or Mastercard. The same can be said for any purchase across Argentina. From dinner to shopping, Visa and mastercards receive a better rate.
In a bid to boost tourism dollars in Argentina, the government has allowed MasterCard Inc. and Visa Inc. to start offering travelers an exchange rate that nearly doubles their purchasing power. This rate fluctuates but is usually between 300 to 325 Pesos per $1 usd. Nearly 30% better than the government’s official exchange rate. This rate went into effect in December 2022.
Most hotels will advertise costs in USD. Yet, when your credit card is charged, it is charged in Argentine Peso at the official 1:195 rate. This means that if the hotel costs $200 per night your credit card will be charged 39,000 Pesos. But then Visa and Mastercard will convert it back to USD at the 1:300-325 rate!
From my experience credit cards show the official exchange rate while pending, but then updates to the tourist Blue Peso rate when officially posting. Most of my Chase Visa purchases were processed at 325 to $1. For one night, I opted to stay the Palacio Duhau – Park Hyatt Buenos Aires. The official Hyatt Prive rate with $100 resort credit was $750. Upon check-in for one night, my credit card showed a pre-authorization hold of over $1,000 usd!
Upon check out, my stay posted 4 days later for just $455! Just 60% of the actual advertise cost. A huge cost saving. Not only did I have 19,500 pesos as a resort credit. I enjoyed late check out, a complimentary upgrade confirmed at booking, a gift of macaroons on check in, and free full breakfast! Not bad given the huge cost savings I enjoyed. Just one of many benefits of using a travel agent! These benefits are only available to Hyatt Prive guests.
Furthermore, I did not have to pay the 21% VAT and my stay was 40% cheaper than shown online once converted to pesos and back to USD. The tourist credit card Blue Peso rate for the win! Do note, American Express does not offer the tourist Blue Peso rate and still converts at the official 1:195 rate. Avoid using your American Express when in Argentina.
Avoid Online Travel Agencies
The biggest mistake you can make on your next trip to Argentina is using an online travel agency. Online Travel agencies usually charge you in full for your stay before arrival. This will result in higher fees and total costs. Do not use a prepaid rate. These rates are processed by non-Argentinian companies and will be processed at the advertised price. These prices usually include value added tax as well, and if it’s prepaid, it’s not refundable. Resulting in you not only paying more upfront, but paying a 21% tax which you are not required to pay.
The same is to be said about Airbnb or VRBO. Their banks are in the US. This means that if the price is advertised for $300 a night, you will be charged $300 a night. There’s no saving, as there is no conversion to the Peso before charging your card.
If you want to save money, use a travel agent that can book you a guaranteed rate. It may appear higher, but when the price actually posts, you will save at least 40% given the current approved Visa and Mastercard rates. Just remember, do not use an American Express card.
Buenos Aires hotels and all of Argentina offer tons of options for every traveler. Thanks to the Blue Peso and the approved visa and mastercard tourist exchange rate, travelers can save hundreds of dollars each night on a hotel stay. I personally find using my credit card easier than visiting a cambio. Plus, by using a credit card, you can instantly save 21% on the value add tax.
If you are traveling to Buenos Aires, be sure to book with a travel agent who understands the ins and outs of Argentina. Their currency is like no other in the world. If you pre-pay for your hotel on a website you will pay more. Expedia, hotels.com and Airbnb will charge you in USD. This means the price they advertise is the price you will pay. Meanwhile, agents like myself are aware of the tourist rate and can secure you rates which will easily save you hundreds of dollars on your vacation. Are you ready to book your Argentina Vacation? Contact me at Scott and Thomas Travel and ask for Rocky.