One of the first things you will need to do on arrival in Argentina is to get some Pesos. Because the Argentine economy seems to have a financial crisis about once a decade, you cannot get pesos outside the country.
Five years ago one dollar would have got you eight pesos. One year ago, one dollar got you thirty-seven pesos. In January 2020 you will get sixty pesos for one dollar.
Sixty pesos is not bad but you can do better. How? By selling at the blue dollar rate. What is the blue dollar?
The blue dollar is what the unofficial black market rate is called. At the moment it is 20% more than the official rate. 20% is a lot of money and 20% more spending money on holiday is most welcome.
Why is the blue dollar so high. Because of the constant economic problems, people in Argentina have lost faith in the peso. Just imagine if you had all your savings in pesos five years ago when it was eight to the dollar and now you need sixty to buy one dollar.
People want to have their savings in dollars and buy them as much as they can. The government in an effort to stop people buying dollars have said people can only buy two hundred dollars a month. Anyone that wants more turn to the black market and the blue dollar.
Because it is a black market rate, people have to pay a bit more. The official buy rate is 65 pesos for one dollar. The blue dollar will cost you seventy-nine pesos for one dollar. The good news for tourists is if you are selling dollars they pay you more then the official rate. I got seventy-three. That is 21% more then if I went to the bank.
In Buenos Aires, there is a place called Florida street. People line the street shouting Cambio, Cambio. This is where you can change your dollars for the blue dollar rate.
I had visions of a dodgy guy with a sachel in a laneway off Florida street. When I went to the guy who changed my money, it was a financial broker. I passed three steel doors. The latest currency prices from all over the world were on the screens. He was happy with my dollars, and I was delighted with my 21% extra pesos.
Poverty is never too far away when you travel around South America. Because Argentina is in another crisis, it is very visible in places in Buenos Aires.
In the city centre, you can see whole families sleeping on mattresses. Parents and young kids. The most vulnerable in society and the latest victims of yet another economic mess.
There is one thing I notice on my way through South America that is always the same. I have seen it with refugees from Venezuela and now in Buenos Aires.
Whenever children are living on the street with parents I see those parents, playing with the children a lot. I think they are trying to deflect the awfulness of the situation and try to make their children’s day as normal as possible.
Hearing those kids laugh regularly, it seems to work in the short term. In the longterm, I am not sure.
So what is the food like in Buenos Aires? Like all things in Argentina, it is complicated.
Most of the restaurants serve good food. If you like your steak, you will like Buenos Aires. Due to the weak peso, you will also find good restaurants for less than you will pay in Europe.
Small cafes can be hit and miss. Average to poor. Supermarkets here are some of the worse I have ever seen. Very little worth buying and low quality. Argentina is protective of its home industry. I don’t think it is easy to export goods here. Because of this, the choice can be an inferior local food offering.
So with the economic crisis. Hit and miss food am I disappointed with Buenos Aires. 100% no. So far, it is everything I hoped it to be. I am falling in love with this city.
Unlike all other south American capital cities, I have visited Buenos Aires is not just nice in a small area in the centre. With its wide avenues and unique buildings economic crisis or not this is a serious city.
Its beauty and grandeur spread far from the centre. It has substance. It is rightly considered one of the great cities on the planet.
I have spent my first week at a hectic pace seeing the city. For my time here I have booked an AIRBNB apartment in the plush Palermo area. The area is full of coffee shops, trendy bars and high scale restaurants.
I usually prefer to stay in places with a bit more edge, but the apartment is amazing for twenty-two euro a night and right next to a metro station. I use the metro to visit many parts of the city. A metro trip costs 0.15 cent.
While I have not used the plush restaurants, I have visited many coffee shops bars and the beautiful parks.
Despite the latest economic crisis, the restaurants here seem to be busy. I don’t think I have ever seen so many dog walkers. If you can pay someone to walk your dog, life is not so bad.
If you are coming to Buenos Aires, I would recommend staying in Palermo. It is very nice and more importantly, safer than a lot of other places in Buenos Aires.
On Saturday I took a walk around the amazing Puerto Madero area of Buenos Aires.
This area was selected in the 1890s to be the main commercial area for shipping. Buenos Aires. The river plate has been a difficult river for shipping to navigate. Two failed British invasions on Buenos Aires will testify to that.
Puerto Madero was chosen to be a new deeper water port to serve Buenos Aires. Opened in the late 1890s, it never worked as it was designed to be. The process of unloading ships was slow and expensive.
Soon after opening, even larger ships began sailing the seas. The port was never used in the way it was hoped, and the area fell into a state of disrepair.
After many unsuccessful attempts, a serious regeneration begins in the 1990s. The whole area has been transformed. Large parks. Riverside bars and restaurants are everywhere. It is a must-see part of the city.
Every major inner-city development I have ever seen are all the same. The working class have moved out, and the rich have taken over. Puerto Madero is no different. The good thing is walking around here is still free, and worth a visit should you be in Buenos Aires.
On Sunday I took a visit to the famous San Telmo Sunday market. San Telmo is very near the centre. The market is full of arts and crafts. There were some great street tango shows.
San Telmo has a bit of a reputation as an unsafe area, especially at night. From what I could see the area is being gentrified. Looks like it is almost time for the working class to have to leave.
The Irish in Argentina
The most famous Irish connection with Argentia would have to be Argentina’s, Che Guevara. The blood of Irish rebels flowed through my son’s veins said Guevara’s father.
It is not that well know, but Argentia has the world fifth largest Irish diaspora. There were many attractions for many Irish to go to Argentina to escape the Irish famine.
Unlike North America, they did not suffer the same discrimination. Irish immigrants to North America found their English oppressors in Ireland were also in North America.
Argentina proved to be a better option for many. It was mostly catholic, and many Irish thrived working the very good land.
Irish emigration slowed down after what is known as the Dresden affair. Almost 1,800 emigrants set sail on the steamer city of Dresden. Many did not survive the voyage.
They were settled in Napostá which had poor agricultural land. Many returned to Ireland. In 1889 the bishop of Cashel advised his flock never to set foot on the Argentine Republic.
This weeks video is from the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires.
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