The capital of Argentina is known for beef, tango, and nightlife. A cosmopolitan city, it’s a popular place to visit when travelling to South America. However, these types of things typically come with a price tag leading to the question, is Buenos Aires expensive? Read on to find out.
Is Buenos Aires Expensive?
This is a tough question because it’s relative. I’m sure local residents of Buenos Aires will tell you that it is expensive. However, as a traveller, there is a really simple hack that drops the prices in Buenos Aires pretty much in half; the blue dollar or the blue market.
So, what is this blue dollar? Essentially, it’s selling American dollars at an unofficial rate. While this sounds a little bit black-market I can assure you that it is entirely normal and a part of everyday life in Buenos Aires. Instead of getting Argentinian pesos before you leave or visiting an ATM when you arrive, bring US dollars. You will then visit an exchange office (I visited a Western Union) that offers the blue dollar rate and there you can exchange your USD for Argentinian pesos at the blue rate, which is nearly double the official rate. These exchange offices exist all around the city, so you just need to ask your accommodation where the nearest one is.
It might take a little more effort than just visiting an ATM, but this travel hack will save you tons of money in Buenos Aires and across Argentina. It adds up really quickly and makes travelling to Buenos Aires much more affordable. Throughout the rest of the article, I’m going to share some of the expected costs for travel throughout Buenos Aires at both the official rate and blue dollar rate so you can see how worthwhile this hack really is.
Buenos Aires transportation
Buenos Aires is a huge city. So big that it has two airports. Ezeiza Airport (EZE) is the furthest from the city, about 40 minutes to an hour depending on where you are staying. A decent taxi rate for this route will be about $30 USD, though some may charge more. The second airport, Aeroparque Jorge Newbery (AEP) is much closer to the heart of the city and should cost less. Again, it depends on who you book your transfer through. There’s also a ferry station but it’s also in the heart of the city and will likely only cost a few dollars depending on where you are going.
Apps such as Uber and Cabify are also incredibly popular in the city and very affordable- especially when you take advantage of the blue dollar. Uber is a bit of a grey area, and there have been reports of altercations with cab drivers, however, when I visited in January of 2023 there were no issues. You can pay in cash (pesos) or by credit card.
Buenos Aires is not a very walkable city. A huge part of that is due to the size of the city, but safety is also a concern, especially at night. Petty crime, like pickpocketing, is very common in Buenos Aires and some areas are worse than others and should be avoided in general. It’s worth doing some research ahead of time or speaking with the reception staff at your hotel or another local to have an idea of where is ok and not so ok to go.
Buenos Aires public transportation
Buenos Aires does have a metro station and bus system but, from a tourist’s point of view, it’s not the easiest to use. Buses can be a bit tricky to figure out, and the metro system is very spread out. Some neighbourhoods only have one station which can easily mean a 30-minute walk to catch the subway. While it is inexpensive and easy to use, Uber or Cabify often end up being the best value since they save on time and the blue rate means you are getting great value.
Where to stay in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires, like most major cities, has a big mix of accommodation options ranging from 5-star hotels to backpacker-friendly hostels and apartment rentals. If you are looking for some recommendations for midrange places (around $75USD/night) consider the following:
While the blue dollar rate can technically apply to accommodation, it’s a bit trickier because they will often charge you in advance in USD. If you don’t have to pay until you arrive, it might be worth asking how much the rate would be in Argentinian pesos and see if they will offer you a number that’s a better deal with the blue dollar rate.
Best area to stay in Buenos Aires
Palermo Soho is perhaps one of the most popular neighbourhoods for tourists to stay in Buenos Aires. This neighbourhood is considered to be one of the safest and is full of fun cafes, bars, restaurants (including famous steakhouses), and bars.
Another popular spot, especially for individuals travelling on a budget, is San Telmo. It’s one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Buenos Aires and is known for its bohemian vibe.
It’s recommended that you do not stay in La Boca. While this is a fun place to visit during the day, it’s one of the poorest parts of the city and is best avoided after dark.
Things to do in Buenos Aires
So, what is there to do in Buenos Aires? There’s definitely enough to keep you busy for a few days. Some of the most popular attractions in Buenos Aires include:
- Caminito in La Boca: the colourful streets where the Tango was born
- Go to a Tango show (maybe even consider taking a tango class!)
- Recoleta Cemetary: the burial place of Evita. It is also considered to be one of the best cemeteries in the world.
- El Ateno Grand Splendid: a beautiful bookshop housed in an old theatre
- Café Tortoni: a famous coffee house
- San Telmo Market
- Japanese Garden
- Palacio Barolo
- Go to a futbol game (you will need to buy a ticket well in advance)
For history and some stories about the city, you may also want to consider joining a walking tour. Buenos Aires Free Walks offers a range of free (tip-based) and paid tours through various neighbourhoods, including the city centre, La Boca, and a street art tour of Palermo Soho.
Buenos Aires Food
When it comes to food in Buenos Aires there is no doubt that beef is king. The city has no shortage of steakhouses to choose from, including some famous ones such as Don Julio and La Cabrera. Note that you will need to make reservations for these restaurants well in advance.
Buenos Aires is also a great place to get other Argentinian favourites such as Malbec wine, dulce de leche, alfajores, and mate (the national drink!). You can also find lots of Italian food here, Argentina is also known for having good pizzas and pasta dishes.
Again, keep in mind that by using the blue dollar rate, you can save nearly half the price on these meals. I had a couple of delicious steak and wine dinners that should be been $60USD but thanks to this rate, was really only $30USD.
Buenos Aires Street Food
While the steak and wine should not be missed in Buenos Aires you also need to be sure to try some of the local street foods. These include Argentinian sausage sandwiches called choripan and, of course, empanadas. These types of food will only cost a couple of dollars and will be some of the best things you eat in Buenos Aires. For the best places, watch where the locals go. It’s usually small hole-in-the-wall type spots you’d otherwise walk by.
Buenos Aires trip cost
While the blue dollar rate makes a huge difference, Buenos Aires still has the potential of being an expensive city. Some retailers, especially international brands, seem to have higher prices in Argentine pesos as a way to avoid the blue dollar rate deals. So, make sure you do conversions before you buy to know exactly what you are spending.
That said, if you are looking to explore Buenos Aires on a budget, you absolutely can. Those sticking to a mid-range budget can definitely get by with $100/day (including your accommodation). With the blue rate, you might even be able to splurge a little more than you expected.
Does the blue dollar rate work with credit cards?
Some Visa and Mastercard credit cards will also give you the blue dollar rate, however, this is a new development, so it’s worth testing before relying on it. American Express cards still only offer the official exchange rate.
What about trains in Buenos Aires and beyond?
The train system in Argentina is lacking, which is really too bad because the country is big and has so much to see. While there are still a few routes in place, popular itineraries, such as a Buenos Aires to Mendoza train, don’t exist anymore. Instead, you’ll need to rely on domestic flights and buses.
How long do you need in Buenos Aires?
It’s a huge city, but you can see the highlights in three days.