We had read lots online about how expensive Argentina and Chile both are, however we didn’t know if this was in comparing the cheap cost of living we had experienced since Colombia, or in comparison to prices at home in Ireland! As the Argentina posts continue we very quickly learned that it’s expensive compared to anywhere else-New York would be a budget destination right now! Coupled with its crazy inflation and expensive prices, Argentina has had difficulty with its currency in the past. Up until the start of 2016, the country operated a “blue market” for trading US dollars in exchange for Argentinian pesos. The exchange rate on the street was an average of about $1 for 15-16 pesos, while the bank rates were below half of this! The result also meant it was basically impossible to use your cards in Argentina as you would be working on the bank rate of exchange. We carried some dollars with us from Ecuador where we last used them as we really didn’t know what the situation would be like when we got to Argentina. At the moment, the banks and money exchange offices are offering basically the same amounts (15 pesos) but there is a charge of US $6 every time you use an ATM, and a maximum withdrawal of 2,400 pesos ($160), making it cheaper to operate in cash where possible.
The money complications do not end there however, despite rectifying the blue market it would appear the banks are not capable to deal with the demands in the country. We spent just under three weeks in Argentina and there wasn’t a single visit to an ATM that was straightforward! The majority of them run out of money- and bearing in mind we are only working with $160 at a time! We usually ended up spending a hour each time we tried to withdraw, and a visit to 3-4 banks. One day in Iguazu falls, we queued behind 32 people (yes, I counted!) waiting for an ATM and hoping it would still have cash when it got to our turn!! It really is a crazy set up and I’m not sure how the locals overcome it for living in the country.
Anyways when we FINALLY got some money changed after our arrival in Salta, (on our taxis timer mind you as it wasn’t possible at the bus station), we arrived to our air bnb accommodation. We used air bnb throughout our Argentina journey as it was actually cheaper than hostels and in most cases we rented our own place which was really nice after months of sharing kitchens and space and hostels. It had been about 12 hours travel that day so was straight to bed for us!
We only had a quick stopover scheduled in Salta to break up our travel and didn’t have anything on our agenda. Our apartment was located about 5km from the centre so we set off for a day of exploring. The area we were staying in was called Avenue Golf and unfortunately I was too occupied staring at the mansions to remember to take photos but it was so beautiful-picture desperate houses! The houses were all gigantic with pristine gardens and cars to match so it made for a very entertaining walk to the city.
Our first stop was to a spot called La Criollita for breakfast. This is a famous empanaderia in Salta. We had tried empanadas on the South American adventure already but we had no idea they would become our best friends in Argentina! They are very popular and widely available, mainly filled with cheese, chicken or meat options, and similar to mini pie at home.
Anything we had researched about Salta had returned results with lists of churches! We basically did a self guided city tour seeing some of the churches and the main plaza for the afternoon.
Our search for a supermarket led us to Carrefour which we were familiar with from Europe and happy to find. It was certainly more expensive than we had been used to for the previous two months but I don’t think we realized the extent of it at that point! We enjoyed our first Argentinian steak that night but after all our build up we were really disappointed as our lacking Spanish led us to order the wrong thing 😦 we ended up with more of a roast beef than a sirloin!! Anyways it was still really yummy but we would continue our search over the next few weeks!