Travel Q&A

Q. I'm flying to Buenos Aires for a week. I've read about the better exchange rate available for the "dolar blue". Am I best off taking US dollars and changing them over there? I'm a bit nervous about trying to bargain with a dealer, but the difference in the rates seems boggling. James Swan, Sussex

A. Argentina's excellent "blue market" is a straightforward way to get a much-improved rate of exchange and therefore reduce the cost of your trip.

Argentina tries to shore up a creaky currency by fixing, on occasion, exchange rates that bear little relation to economic reality. The consequence is a parallel market for the local currency, in this case the peso. The dolar blue market does not operate as a sideline of the organised-crime industry; it functions openly, legally and almost entirely honestly, with traders in every town and city.

Take a wad of US dollars in denominations from $10 to $100. Make sure that they are reasonably clean. At Buenos Aires international airport, pay for the fast, frequent bus to the city centre with a credit card. Then put away the plastic for the rest of the trip, because you will receive a better rate for cash.

At your hotel, ask the staff where the blue market operates. Many traders can be found on the street, where they yell: "Change money?" Most visitors, though, prefer to exchange in a shop or with a travel agent.

To find the prevailing rate, look at – I have made a link to a page on the website of La Nacion newspaper which shows the rates. The official rate is 8.50 pesos to the dollar, while the blue rate is $13 – a 53 per cent bonus. The more you change, the better the rate you can expect, if you're up for a bit of haggling.

If you're going anywhere more rural, change the money first – or you may struggle to find anyone who will change money.

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