Pre Travel Currency Options
The official currency of Argentina is the Argentine Peso, however it's common to use US dollars when travelling in the country, and most hotels and restaurants will accept them.
Up until very recently Argentina had a black market so travelling with and spending US dollars in cash was an absolute must.
Since the arrival of the new government, the black market no longer insists so in theory it makes no difference if you spend USD cash, use an ATM or use a credit card - the exchange rate should be the same.
We think it is still a good idea to travel with USD cash although it will be much easier to exchange them at an official rate now that the black market no longer exists. Please bare in mind that this is all very new and so some parts of Patagonia might still be cheaper if spending USD cash.
This interesting BBC article about the lifting of the Black Market is definitely worth a read.
The official currency of Chile is the Chilean Peso. In Chile everything is official so you can simply pay by card or withdraw cash from an ATM.
Travellers cheques are not advised for either country as they are hard to change and are given a very low rate.
Accessing Funds in Patagonia
There are 'casas de cambio' (money exchange booths) throughout the city of Buenos Aires that you can use to exchange your money. There is also a branch of the state owned bank, Banco de La Nacion, in the arrivals area of Buenos Aires airport. Here you can exchange currency at the market rate. There are plenty of ATMs and exchange companies in Bariloche and Ushuaia.
However, the ATMs in El Calafate are notoriously problematic and there is only one ATM in El Chalten which is often empty. Therefore make sure you arrive with plenty of cash, as not everywhere will accept credit cards.
ATMs are widely available in most major towns, but make sure you stock up before travelling to more remote areas.
The nearest place to Torres del Paine to get cash is Puerto Natales. All of the refugios and hotels will accept USD cash and credit/debit cards, and you will actually pay less by paying with either of these methods for food/drinks etc. The National Park Entrance Fee, if not included in your trip, must be paid in Chilean Pesos.
Travellers should be aware that there is a charge for withdrawing from a foreign credit or debit card. This is usually around AR$80-85 per transaction.
The cash machines in El Chalten are usually empty, and the bank is rarely open. A lot of the restaurants in the town only accept cash; therefore it is important that you stock up on Argentinian Pesos before travelling to the town.
Budgeting Your Trip & Tipping
Budget Per Day
As a rough guide you should budget $25-50 USD per person per day for your lunch and dinner.
- At $25 USD per person per day expect simpler food/restaurants with little to no wine or beer
- At $50 USD per person per day expect top end restaurants with some good wine and great service
- At $35 USD per person per day you could have a mix of both
It is at your discretion whether or not you choose to tip, however if you do decide to tip, we generally suggest as a rule of thumb:
- Hotels: $20 USD per day - given at the end of your stay at an all inclusive hotel
- Cruises: $10 USD per day - you can give this to reception at the end of your cruise
- Meals: 10% of your bill
- Guides: $10-20 USD per day for a group of 1 or 2, or $3-5 USD per day for larger groups - this will be paid at the end of your tour/excursion to your guide
It's up to you to decide if you would like to tip, but there are some great guides out there who are passionate, knowledgeable and really go the extra mile to make your trip as good as it can possibly be, and it's nice to reward them.