Is it harder for tourists to exchange money in Argentina?

For those who have been to Argentina in the last four years, it is evident that you have found out that the excellent deal is to have your money in big bills and exchange it illegally. Travelers from all over the world are currently receiving more for their currency, which is due to the Argentina's banning of black and illegal markets that used to trade for 30% less that the required official rate. For Argentinian citizens who wanted the safety of dollars, they accepted lower rates from black markets as this was the only way to escape the government's tight currency measures.

Currently, all these activities are taking another route. President Mauricio Marci, earlier this month, eliminated barriers on how many pesos can be exchanged for dollars and other currencies. The climax of those barriers led to Argentinian pesos' official value to crumble overnight that dropping by 30% in less than 24 hours. However, on the black market, pesos rose slightly.

According to Dr. Federico Weinschelbaum, a professor and an economist at Universidad de San Andrés in Argentina, the abolition of this gap that exists will result in a steadier economy for Argentina on the long-run. On the short-run, Argentina's economy that is running in the background is likely to rise. Those who are highly affected by this change are the ones who depended fully on the black market as the main source of income, which is clearly a significant amount.

The centre of Buenos Aires's downtown, the extremely busy streets have been surrounded by shops and the unique ambient sound of women and men shouting "Cambio! Dolares, Reales, Euros, Cambio,” is common, giving both locals and foreigners the same best exchange rate as that of a black market for the past few years. These black market operators are referred to as “arbolitos" meaning little trees because they do not stay for long in one location as they exchange green paper. The currency that is exchanged on the black market is referred to as dollar blue. The arbolitos have been in operation for over a decade now, but in November 2011, they expanded into a big forest. The black market expanded vigorously, and it was successful to the extent that it was almost becoming legal.

Even if exchanging currencies in a location outside of a designated exchange place or an official bank is illegal, it is common in Argentina to see police officers on black markets, but they watch transactions take place without doing anything.

A 24-year-old confessed that he has been working as a black market exchanger for the past seven years. He said that he started off as a seller of city tours, but for the past two years he has been making huge profits as an arbolito. He further added that on each block there are over 30 arbolitos, which translates to about 500 arbolitos on a single street. However, it is strongly believed that these numbers are yet to reduce soon. He says that in about three to four months there will be a remarkable decrease on the streets. The arbolitos are currently suffering from the economic punch, but they are continuing with their black market business for as long as they can. For them, this means that they can go on with their businesses as long as no new law enforcement has been put in place.

Many are saying that they have been told anything concerning their black market business as illegal. Though, they have been once pulled by Argentina’s Federal Administration of Public Income. They normally don't take anything serious as they demand identification and take some information and leave.

Pato, who is a middle-aged owner of a newspaper kiosk selling on Florida Street, also said that he just fell into the black market business because getting into it was very simple.

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Isuru Karavita

He graduated from the university of Hertfordshire with a BEng(Hons) in Digital Communication and Electronic Engineering. 

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