Do the Math!

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Figuring out how much a cup of coffee costs in Buenos Aires is like reading the Third Policeman, the ground keeps shifting beneath you. Buenos Aires can be expensive; just how expensive, is difficult to say. On our first day, we lunched lavishly on rib-eyes and wine. Straightforward, till we went to pay for it. The restaurant refused both our credit and debit cards; cash is king.

Coffee in the café on Calle Jorge Luis Borges, Palermo costs $35 (Arg pesos). How much is that? Pick a number, it’s hard to know. Today, withdrawing pesos by ATM yields $10.64 for the euro. One can exchange euro notes in a bank at this official rate or more profitably swap on a street for $18.20-today’s blue rate. Yes, there is both an official and a thriving, parallel ‘blue rate’ for foreign notes which is legal, quoted daily in newspapers and easily obtained.

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Lost? Not yet? Well here’s more; both rates fluctuate. On arrival, three weeks ago, the blue rate was $16.20 to the euro but now it’s $18.20. Possibly, making everything now 12% cheaper for us, provided you’re happy to galumph around underground exchange houses with fistfuls of pesos. The largest note is $100 (do the math!!) But, whatever rate or calculations you use, BA can be very costly. Clothes, shoes and sportswear are dear using the blue rates, never mind officially. Confused? Me too, daily. A friend, hearing that I was visiting Argentina for 6 months, told me to bring cash, which I did. He then told me to watch for pick pockets, which I do.

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