Blue Dollar AKA Dólar Blue or Unofficial Dollar is parallel dollar rate of USD in Argentina. This is the cost of buying and selling a physical dollar bill in a cueva, or clandestine financial house in Buenos Aires. This is the best price you’ll get if you are buying or selling physical bills, and the transaction is done with no involvement of any government-sanctioned or licensed entity (like a bank).
Since the country’s government introduced tough currency change restrictions on its people, a black market has emerged. In short, you can change your money at an official outlet for one price; or you can go to an unofficial trader and get it changed at the “blue” rate – which will put many more pesos in your pocket. Taking plenty of hard cash contradicts the usual advice to tourists travelling abroad, but many visitors to Argentina have been doing just that to take advantage of the black market rates.
So how do you track down the more favourable blue rate? Many foreign visitors set up a local contact who can make the change, or ask their hotel to recommend a “cueva” (literally meaning cave; in reality, more like fully functioning businesses, accepting dollars, euros and pounds). Other tourists simply head to central shopping streets and respond to not-so-subtle calls of “Cambio! Cambio!” (exchange); the wise ones having checked the current rate first, so they can barter.
If you want to stick to using US dollars in your day-to-day transactions, that’s common too. The Argentinian market, which experienced a complete economic meltdown in 2001/02, has quickly adapted. Many businesses, including hotels and restaurants, will accept US dollars. Some will work to the blue rate, even though that is illegal, or they will come close to it. When a shopkeeper recognises you are a tourist, you are likely to be offered an upfront deal: “We accept dollars at 12 pesos”, or something similar.
The dual rate began after the government initiated a number of restrictions on currency exchange in an attempt to prop up the fledging peso and reduce capital flight (ie investors taking their fortunes out of the country). Argentinians have, of course, been hit much worse than any visitor. There has been a prohibitive amount of red tape they have to get through if they wanted to exchange pesos to dollars