Between groups of backpackers travelling on a budget, tips and tricks on how to bring down your daily spending are some of the most valuable, yet intangible things to have. With each border crossing in South America you will be confronted with new issues and new pitfalls from your arrival country, and we take a look at a few of the best ways to keep from unnecessarily spending.
The ATM situation
The tumultuous economic situation in Argentina is no secret, but is very confusing, and sometimes as a traveller, you only feel the wrath of it. You may look at that tour you overpaid for, or that dinner and drinks that dented your daily budget, but nothing is more absurd than paying to take out money in order to spend. It’s like paying cover to enter a club, to pay an extortionate amount for watered down drinks – it simply makes no sense. Unfortunately, in Argentina, you are going to pay between $7 and $10 USD (€5.60 to €8) per transaction. That doesn’t sound so bad? Well, Argentina limits your amount per transaction to 3000 Argentine Pesos, roughly $150 USD (€120), so now you are paying that fee usually a couple times a week and trust us, it adds up.
Which ATMs to use?
There are no shortage of banks to choose from, but the annoying thing is that there are only 2 types of cajero automaticos (ATMs) in Argentina and they are Banelco, and Link, and both are extremely unreliable. A Banelco bank is marked with the red capitalized “B” with three little lines coming off the back and charge around $10 USD (€8) for a transaction, whereas the Link logo is a green circle with yellow writing saying Link in the center. This ATM is generally the more reliable, and charges less, about $7 USD (€5.6) a transaction. It is advised to take that extra time to find a Link ATM as the Banelco ATMs have been known to crash and eat cards, or charge for transactions that have not given the recipient any money.
How to minimize fees
In order to avoid ATM fees it is usually advised to take out a large lump sum, but with the banks limiting this, that is not possible without doing it in multiple transactions which defeats the purpose.
Whenever a supermarket asks you for the option to do cash back, jump at it! Usually this is only reserved for Argentinian residents paying with national credit cards, but some of the supermarkets will give you the option and that way it will just tack on the cost to your groceries, without paying the ridiculous transaction costs. Figure out what their maximum amount is, and seriously considering wiping them completely out of cash!
Another option is to look towards Western Union. Many of the cities in Argentina will have a Western Union, and you can use the Price Estimator on the Western Union site to figure out the total cost of essentially sending money to yourself. If you are organized, transferring money to Western Union via your bank (from credit or debit card the fee increases with the amount but is almost instant) it will take around 4 days, but the reasonable fee does not increase for the amount you want to transfer, which will allow you to take out a large sum of money at a very little percentage.
With Aerolineas Argentinas being a useful occasional option to cover huge distances, your primary form of transport will be busses, and a bus every few days will sting your bank account, even if the distance is minimal.
Also similar to air travel, there is very little rhyme or reason to the cost. For example, if you purchase the ticket at the bus station, a 20 hour ride from San Carlos to Bariloche to Mendoza will set you back around $75 USD (€60), and a bus ride of half the duration from Mendoza to Cordoba, will cost you the same.
Best way to avoid this and save yourself a walk to the bus station is to visit the AndesMar website and look at prices on there. AndesMar is one the largest and highest quality bus lines in Argentina but their website will also show pricing from other companies like San Juan Mar del Plata, CATA, El Rapido, Chevalier, and San Juan, other companies you will become accustomed to seeing.
Also, view the promociones they have available as sometimes they offer your route at a supreme discount if you take Sin Servicio (without service), meaning you won’t be receiving the baked chicken nugget and fruit punch dinner they serve onboard.
The other Golden Rules of Travel apply in regards to cooking for yourself to save money, shopping around to find the best deal, and roughing it a little, but these first hand tips will save you big time on the useless spending that infuriates any budget traveller.