A Local’s Guide to Living as an Expat in Buenos Aires

Obelisco de Buenos Aires (with a demostration)

Buenos Aires has become an amazing city for expats. With the huge increase in remote work opportunities, digital nomads are more common than ever. And Argentina’s capital has a lot to offer.

It’s not only the ever-decreasing peso’s value which causes a favourable exchange rate (1 USD is ~1000 ARS on the “blue rate” at the moment). Buenos Aires is known for its cultural richness and diversity, vibrant social scene, outstanding cuisine, warm weather and quality of life. Safety can be controversial, but I’d say the capital is safe enough for South American standards.

Best Areas for Expats and Digital Nomads in Buenos Aires

San Telmo

This is one of the key aspects for any expat, in BA and in any other city with a considerable size. Fortunately, the best (most) areas to live in Buenos Aires are very close to each other, and most (all) expats live there. We have a full post dedicated to this topic, but we can provide a summary right here.

  • Palermo. The most popular area in Buenos Aires for expats, tourists and locals (Argentineans from other parts of the country who go to the capital to work or study). Very hip, with plenty of options for food, culture and nightlife. There are 3 sub-areas but they are similar and super close: Soho (more pubs and restaurants), Hollywood, Chico.
  • Recoleta. The second most popular (and recommended) neighbourhood to stay in BA. Considered another “safe heaven”. Good vibe, although maybe not as hipster as Palermo.
  • Belgrano. It is primarily a residential neighbourhood, characterized by tree-lined streets and a mix of architectural styles.
  • Colegiales, Villa Crespo, Villa Urquiza, Chacarita. These are good value-for-money areas. They are cheaper than the three above and actually not far. The offer of shops and restaurants is not the same, but they could be considered more local areas, which they called “barrios”.
  • San Telmo. The oldest barrio (neighbourhood) of BA. It is characterized by its colonial buildings, cafes, tango parlours, antique shops on its cobblestone streets, bohemian atmosphere, and unique character. It is a tourist attraction on its own, so even if you don’t stay in the area you should visit and walk the neighbourhood. But it is important to clarify that it is not as safe as the others on the list (but nothing too serious, really).
  • Puerto Madero. The newest neighbourhood in this list. It is ideal for travellers seeking a modern and well-maintained infrastructure, together with an upscale and waterfront experience. It is also the safest.
  • Microcentro. Often referred to simply as “El Centro,” is the central business district of BA, and its character is more commercial and formal.

How to exchange money in Argentina?

All dollar types in Argentina (at the time of writing)

Don’t get too confused with the table above that shows all exchange rates. As an expat, this is what you need to know.

  • Dolar Oficial. The official rate set by the government which is completely unrealistic. You should avoid this always.
  • Dolar Blue. This is the unofficial rate that can be purchased only on the street. “The one which a scary guy in a trenchcoat will sell you on a random corner”. Jokes apart, you may be able to find people who can sell at this rate, but it is “illegal”. On the bright side, the difference with the official is huge. You could buy this if you find a trustworthy person, and there are also “established money exchanges” (called “cuevas” -Spanish for caves-), like Cambio Baires.
  • Dollar MEP. (“Mercado Electrónico de Pagos”) It is also known as the “dólar bolsa” (stock market dollar) and is calculated by buying and selling certain Argentine bonds that are quoted both in pesos and dollars. This is the one you are going to use because it is the one charged to foreign cards (credit and debit). So the best you can do is to use your foreign card, as this rate is similar to the best one which is the Blue one. Your card is normally charged the official but you get a refund with the difference to the MEP rate, so be patient. (See the news here and the official resolution here)
  • Cash. You will need cash, eventually, despite that most places accept cards nowadays.
    • When do you need cash? Some shops may charge you extra (it is or used to be illegal, but they do it anyway) for using credit cards. But the main case is similar as consists of a considerable discount (10 to 15%) for paying in cash.
    • How can I get cash? Do not use ATMs. The best you can do is to use Western Union*, which gives you a rate similar to Blue (CCL). bear in mind that only the first transaction is free. (*You’ll get a $20 Amazon.com e-gift code if register and send $100 with the link above, -US only-). 
    • What about Uruguay? An alternative is to go to Uruguay and use ATMs, but the trip is going to be more expensive than the difference. They have a limit of USD300 per day from ATMs.

If you bring cash, make sure you bring USD in 100 bills, and the latest notes available. There is a different rate for older notes (“care chica vs cara grande”). EUR are also ok but other currencies are more difficult to sell.

What about Revolut/Monzo or those online banks that offer better rates? These banks cannot do “their magic” in Argentina, which consists of charging no fee (except at weekends) and giving you a much better rate than banks (a real-time exchange rate for foreign exchange). So they work as foreign debit cards.

What about AMEX? It is accepted in many places, although not as widely as Visa or Mastercard. If you still want to use it, better to have a backup.

Why are there many different rates in Argentina?

Interesting video explaining the monetary situation

Argentina’s economy has been a mess since 1930 and has seen a bigger decline from 1970 onwards.

An accumulation of a number of factors affecting the economy, including dictatorships and populist governments, led to high inflation which led to a controversial economic plan (1 dollar = 1 peso) which led to the country being in default and the big crisis of 2001. This crisis meant that people could not change pesos for dollars anymore as they wished, which led to a restriction on the dollars you could exchange which led to an “unofficial market” (also called black market).

And that’s how (in a very short summary) the unofficial rate, also called blue, was born. The rest of the rates (dollar types) are simply patches over an endless economic crisis.

This video above summarises very well the issue that the country is facing now. It is actually about how to take advantage of the official exchange rate to buy online, but it explains the situation well.

Co-working spaces in Buenos Aires

There are many coworking spaces in BA, even WeWork has 3 locations. So you can simply search in your preferred area. Some recommended ones are the following.

Alternatively, there are many coffee shops that let you work for a while and the internet connection is quite good.

Where to find accommodation?

Airbnb could be the most expensive website to rent flats in Buenos Aires. They target tourists so prices are normally per day and high.

For longer terms, there are other websites, in some of them you can even deal with owners directly. Bear in mind that 3 months is the minimum contract for most rentals outside of Airbnb.

Some websites used by locals are the following.

  • Zonaprop. Probably the best Argentinean website for both buying and renting.
  • Mercadolibre. This is the Argentinean Amazon, essentially. But besides being able to buy anything at good prices, there are also numerous properties listed and you use the platform to contact its owner or publishers.
  • Argenprop. Similar to the first one above.

There are also a few websites more focused on foreigners, as follows.

And there are also international agencies like Remax. And with most things these days, some Facebook groups like Buenos Aires – Real estate are also used to find flats.

Mobile Data and Internet

The main three mobile companies are the following: Claro, Movistar, and Personal. All of them offer pay-as-you-go plans (and many more) and work well.

Installing Argentinean apps in your iPhone when your Apple account region is different

One of the main problems you may have is that you cannot install some Argentinean apps (e.g. Cuenta DNI, Mercado Pago) on your app store because your Apple account is in a different region. There are two options here:

  1. Change your account region to Argentina (you will need to set a payment method), install all the apps you need, and then switch back to your original region.
  2. Sometimes you can’t change the region because your other apps (e.g. baking) won’t work or update anymore. In other cases, Apple wouldn’t let you change the region until you cancel some recurring subscriptions. In these cases, you can:
    • Create a second Apple ID, set it to Argentina region, use it to download the Argentinian apps, and then switch back to your original Apple ID.
    • You then just have to switch Apple ID now and then to update the Argentinian apps when needed.

Spanish Lessons

Facebook groups are an excellent source of private teachers. If you search there you will find teachers recommended by others and even teachers that offer their services. There are also some academies like the ones below.

Public Transport


Uber is NOT the best option in Buenos Aires. I’d advise to simply avoid it. It is more expensive most of the time and sometimes there are issues when charging the card (e.g. charge limit due to a high number which is actually in pesos).

The best Uber-style app is Cabify (this link gives you a 30% discount on your next 5 rides). The best about these apps is that you can use your foreign card and get charged the MEP dollar (very close to the best one, Blue).

The cheapest alternative is normally a street cab (the black and yellow cars). Many people are concerned about being ripped off. That could happen; however, there are apps for ordering trustworthy cabs: BA Taxi (the official free app from the BA government), Taxi Premium.

Transport from the Airport

If you still want to avoid taxis, Tienda Leon could be your best choice. It is a private shuttle bus that covers both airports (Ezeiza and Aeroparque) and takes you to the city. Bear in mind that you may need an additional taxi depending on your destination.

Another alternative is the 8 Semirapido Bus. It’s by far the cheapest option but you need a SUBE card and it takes a while.

Facebook groups

The best group I’ve seen for expats is Digital Nomads Buenos Aires. There are a few others, some of them more specific.

Language exchange

There are a couple of language exchange groups and initiatives if you are interested:

FAQs about moving to Buenos Aires

Shall I buy clothes, equipment (e.g. hiking) and electronics before I move to Argentina?

Yes! Argentina has a super high inflation (~140% per year) and a price distortion. Clothes, equipment and electronics can cost double. There is not much variety and most things are imported. So buy everything in your home country!

Where can I find good beer in Buenos Aires?

Beer in BA (and Argentina in general) is not as good as most places in Europe and the US. The quality is lower, and the hops are not nearly as good, resulting in more watery and less hoppy/hazy beers. The beer industry also faced a sudden popularity and many breweries could not cope with the demand. Most chains like Temple do not offer good beers compared to other countries. But there are good ones, as follows.

Where can I find good indoor activities for young kids?

More content about Buenos Aires and Argentina

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