I just returned from a trip to the bottom of South America and it made my bargain-seeking heart flutter. For the moment, Argentina prices for travelers are the lowest I have ever seen. This just might be the best travel value in the world right now after you land in Buenos Aires.
When I went to Argentina in 2017, back when an economist was running the country instead of a populist, I lamented that the country had become too pricey for me to recommend to budget travelers anymore. It was still a wonderful place worth visiting for a long list of reasons, but I and the other travelers I talked to were surprised at how much they were spending for meals, hotels, transportation, and attractions.
This is a country that regularly lurches from crisis to calm to disaster again, so it’s often just a matter of waiting around long enough for an opportunity. That time began not much later and my timing was exquisite on this 2022 trip: Argentina travel prices are at a record low.
Argentina’s Odd Financial System and a Yo-yo Economy
If you study the history of Argentina, it’s a fascinating study of a people who seem pre-determined to not let a good thing last. Just when they start to head down the right economic path and are prospering, they somehow self-sabotage themselves and go into a financial nosedive that lasts for years. If you look at a long-term chart of their currency, their economic output, their interest rates, or inflation, they all bounce around like a yo-yo, seldom sustaining any long-term upward trend.
The downward trends tend to last quite a while though and this most recent one is a doozie. Here’s what has happened to the value of 100 Argentine pesos against the dollar since early 2018.
What makes it even worse is, that’s the chart for the official currency exchange rate that the government and banks use. It’s really a fiction in the real world though, where a dollar actually fetches twice as much. This creates an interesting dynamic for travelers, expats in Argentina, and some residents. “If you tip us in pesos we will spend it, if you tip us in dollars we will save it,” one hiking guide in Patagonia told me. If you live there, you know the value of your pesos will go down over time, so you need to buy something with them.
As I mentioned in a post I wrote while I was in the country, you need to bring lots of cash to Argentina when you’re heading that way. Preferably crisp and recent notes of $100 or €100. That’s because you can exchange that on the street or at the right exchange booth for nearly double the official rate. This “blue rate” reflects the real value instead of a government’s artificial value and the latter is what you’ll get from the bank.
In other words, if you take money from an ATM instead of exchanging cash, everything will cost you twice as much. Here’s the difference you can find on the web for today so you can see, but all prices in this post are based on 200 pesos to the dollar because that’s about what it was when I was there. Plus it makes the math easier.
Is Argentina Travel a Deal Now?
Argentina travel prices are some of the lowest in the world now if you follow the right strategies. Bring cash, choose your lodging carefully, and avoid situations where you have to pay the official exchange rate instead of the blue rate.
There are two factors that can trip you up if you are traveling on a budget: flight prices and hotel prices. Both these services are priced in dollars more often than not, so it’s hard to find cheap one-way flights to there, even if you’re flexible. There’s just not as much competition as there is to many other South American countries further north. You’re also not going to book the Four Seasons for a hundred bucks. You can check flight prices on the booking sites and see, but they often cost more than $1,000 from the USA or Canada to get there.
Then we paid $230 for round-trip domestic flights from Buenos Aires to Calafate in Patagonia. Not terrible, especially since the fare included checked luggage, but there’s not much competition on most routes.
Thankfully we flew down on mileage thanks to points racked up with the right credit card, so we avoided the high airfares.
Everything else is a bargain though and lodging can be too if you do it right.
Lodging Prices in Buenos Aires and Elsewhere
If you search hotel prices on HotelsCombined, you find decent deals, but not blowout ones. Being priced in dollars, they’re artificially high really. Most in Buenos Aires are in the $20 to $200 range, with a few luxury outliers above that. It is a good deal to find a high-end hotel for $200 a night, but I’m guessing if you’re reading this post you’re probably looking to spend less.
So here’s what I would advise: go straight to the rental apartment sites and don’t move around so much that you have to change hotels every few days. We rented a place in Buenos Aires and normally we would look for a bargain in the $20 to $40 range. There were at least 30 to choose from in a nice area. By bumping it up to the $60 range though, we could get something fabulous, so we splurged a bit and spent $68 per night with all fees. Our large apartment had an outdoor terrace with a Jacuzzi and work space, a well-equipped kitchen, lots of natural light, and a great Palermo location. We loved it.
Prices go down from there in other cities. In Salta you can find some full apartments under $30. There are hundreds of them available in that city alone. When I searched Mendoza with random dates for next month, more than 250 apartments were available for $50 or less per night, a good number less than $30.
The Best Deals Are Domestic Items Prices for Locals
Where you’re really going to find the bargains right now in Argentina is in goods and services that are priced for locals, especially the ones that don’t require any imported materials. Argentina grows a lot of food, thankfully, plus it’s a leading producer of beef, wine, and the ingredients to make beer.
Services that locals use more than tourists are going to be priced accordingly. This would include taxi rides, bus rides, haircuts, attraction admissions, or shoeshines. Sure, prices will go up over time thanks to inflation, but since wages aren’t going up accordingly, there’s a limit to how much anyone can raise prices and still do business.
For now, Argentina is definitely on the list of the cheapest places to live in the world. So I’ll update my post on living costs later. But right now, this would be a terrific base for a digital nomad, either in buzzing Buenos Aires, more laid-back Mendoza, or chilling out by a lake in Patagonia. If you’re a traveler breezing through for a while like I was, here’s what you can expect to pay.
Again, these are at the “blue rate” not the official rate, figured at 200 to the dollar. These prices are based on what I found in the two places where I spent the most time: Patagonia and Buenos Aires. You may find even cheaper deals in smaller towns and cities in other regions.
Argentina Prices for Food and Drink
I gained a bit of weight on my trip to Argentina because the food and drink prices were just too good to pass up. No, I didn’t need that piece of cake for dessert, but it was $1.50! No, I probably didn’t need to drink so much craft beer, but it was 1/3 or less what I’d spend in the USA so I couldn’t resist.
We were not at all careful when we were going out to eat. We “splurged” on a $20 seafood meal pictured at the top and “splurged” again for what ended up being a ridiculous amount of food at a parilla restaurant. At that one I got a big steak I couldn’t finish, a big plate of fries, an empanada, bread, and two glasses of wine for $9.50.
It’s a glorious feeling to know that you can walk into almost any restaurant and it’s not going to cost you more than $30 for two–and that’s if you’re going all-out. We never even hit that mark, actually, even though we went to some nice places.
We didn’t eat out 100% of the time though because we had a kitchen in our apartment. Here’s what we got for $16 when we went out grocery shopping one day:
That is three apples, four plums, two lemons a pint of olives, gourmet yogurt, three kinds of good cheese, a smoked sausage, three craft beers, and some plastic wrap.
Here are some sampleArgentina travel prices we paid and saw while traveling in the country.
500 grams of pasta – 36 cents
3 sandwiches or bake-at-home pizza – $2
Take-out empanadas – 50 cents to $1.20 each
Sandwiches to go from a deli – $1.10 to $1.90
Pint of craft beer in a store – 80 cents to $1.50
Pint of craft beer in a pub – $1.50 to $2.40
Pint of craft beer in the airport – $2
Decent bottle of wine in a store – $1.80 to $3
Premium bottle of wine in a store – $2.50 to $10
Glass of house wine in a restaurant – $1 to $2.50 (cheaper than bottled water or soda)
Espresso or good coffee – 50 cents to $2
Good aged cheese – $2 to $3.50 for 250 grams (half pound)
Set lunch with glass of wine – $4 to $8
Large pizza w/toppings – $3 to $6
2-scoop cup of premium gelato – $1.75 to $2.50
Seasonal fruit & vegetables – 50 cents to $1.50 per kilo
Spices – 35 to 70 cents for 50 grams
Some random promotional street sign prices I saw on the street just to give you an idea:
3 kilos of duck – $5
2 kilos of ground beef – $4
30 eggs – $2.30
2 medialuna pastries and coffee in a cafe – $1.50
12-pack of mass-market Quilmes beer – $4
1 kilo of good ice cream – $4
Services Prices and Getting Around in Argentina
We weren’t in Argentina to get a whole lot of things done that required local labor, but I did get a haircut in a fancy barbershop in the nicest area of Recoleta for $8 including a 16-ounce amber beer. I asked a shoeshine guy how much he charged and it was the equivalent of a buck. Here are a few other Argentina travel prices for services and transportation.
Men’s haircut in a barbershop – $2 to $5
Men’s haircut in a fancy barbershop – $6 to $8 (includes a drink)
In-apartment professional massage – $25
Facial in a neighborhood spa – $10.50
20-minute taxi ride – $1.25 to $2
20-minute Uber ride – $1.50 to $4
Subway ride – 28 cents
Local bus ride – 12 to 28 cents
Shuttle or taxi from the international airport – $12 to $30
Bus from Buenos Aires to Mendoza – $32 to $44
This will hopefully give you an idea of what to expect if you travel to Argentina this year. Just do it soon if this country is on your list because one thing that’s a constant in that country is change. I’ve seen four sets of prices in the four times I’ve been there and you have to pounce on great opportunities when they arise.
Editor’s note: This post was created in 2022 after I spent three weeks traveling in Argentina.