For your trip to Chile/Argentina, we would recommend the following:

  • Take US dollars with you in cash, either as your main spending money or as a backup currency. Bring notes in a mixture of 100, 50, 20 and 10s. The amount you take will depend on how long you are travelling, but please ensure you only take as much as your travel insurance covers you to carry. Euros can also be exchanged, but are not as widely accepted for spending money/tipping as USD.

  • Ensure your notes/bills are crisp and new, even the smallest bend or tear can mean that a note isn't accepted.

  • Bring notes in a mixture of denominations, ensuring they are crisp and new – even the smallest tear or bend can mean that a note isn’t accepted. Large bills will give you the best rate of exchange, but small bills will be useful for tipping.

  • Take two credit or debit cards with you (in case one doesn’t work) to withdraw local currency from ATMs and for paying in restaurants; Visa, Mastercard and Amex are widely accepted. Please be aware that you may be charged high fees every time you use an ATM or pay with a card so do check with your bank before travelling. ATMs will only expend local currency. Credit Cards are more widely accepted in Chile than in Argentina.

  • Chilean and Argentinian Pesos are not considered major currencies, and so banks and foreign exchange companies in your home country are unlikely to have a readily available supply. This is why it is a good idea to travel with US dollars to either spend as US dollars (if in Argentina) or exchange into local currencyUpon returning home you may find it difficult to trade in any excess pesos you may have.

  • Traveller's cheques are not advised for either country as they are very hard to change and are given a very low rate.

  • Be aware that both the Chilean and Argentine peso symbol is $, which is not to be confused with the $ symbol for the United States dollar.


The official currency of Chile is the Chilean Peso ($). In contrast to Argentina, US dollars are rarely used day-to-day when paying for things but are easy to exchange during office hours (9am to 6pm). Some hotels may exchange USD for pesos in an emergency, but we wouldn’t recommend that you rely on it.

Credit and debit cards are widely accepted throughout Chile. You can also easily withdraw cash from an ATM.  

Chile does not have a significant black market for foreign currency so you’ll largely find the same rate being applied throughout the country. 

You can see all legal Chilean peso tender notes on the Central Bank of Chile’s official website.

Currency, budgeting & tipping in Patagonia

Chilean pesos


Currency, budgeting & tipping in Patagonia

Argentine pesos

The official currency of Argentina is the Argentine Peso ($), however, it's common to use US dollars when travelling in the country.

Argentina currently has a significant black market (known as the 'blue' market) for foreign currency, so travelling with and spending US dollars in cash is an absolute must. This is an accepted way of life here, so don’t worry, you’re not doing anything illegal. Most establishments (cafes, bars, restaurants and tour operators) will accept US dollars in cash at a much better rate of exchange, saving you anywhere from 50-100% over the official rate of exchange

Not all places will take foreign currency, so you will have to always carry a small number of Argentine Pesos (AR$) for paying for taxis, museums etc. Careful, the sign for the Argentine peso is $, which is easily confused with the US dollar sign.

You can see all legal Argentine peso tender notes on the Central Bank of Argentina’s official website.

A note about Western Union

9 de Julio Avenue, Buenos Aires, Argentina

9 de Julio Avenue, Buenos Aires

We don't recommend relying solely on Western Union (or any other money-wire company) to send you cash for you to collect on holiday. Given the significant lack of foreign currency throughout the country, you will only be given cash in Argentine pesos (not USD) and there will likely be limits to how much cash can be obtained per transaction, albeit the exchange rate will likely be favourable and close to the Blue-rate. This will result in you wasting time going to different WU offices trying to procure your cash and a considerable amount of stress.

We've had reports of people waiting 2hrs for cash at the El Calafate WU. The only way to guarantee you'll have the dollars cash to spend in Argentina is to pack them. Given the security risk this might present, budget accordingly and be prudent.

In early 2023, the Argentine government reached an agreement with credit card companies to allow foreigners to pay for goods and services at approximately the blue rate. At present this represents a safe and efficient way for tourists to take advantage of the beneficial exchange rate. That said, you should be ready to use cash if circumstances change: if there’s one thing the history of Argentina teaches us it’s that the economy is predictably unpredictable.

If you would like to understand more about the Argentine economy, both its history and the current situation, we recommend reading this article written by Swoop's Product & Partnerships Manager, David (also featured in the video above). 

David is half Argentine and has spent many years living in and exploring Argentina.


Whilst travelling


Welcome to El Chaltén

All major towns in Chilean and Argentinian Patagonia have ATMs, but please note that El Calafate and El Chalten are notoriously problematic, so try to plan ahead and withdraw enough cash in Buenos Aires. If you are arriving from Chile, then a good way to get local currency is to pay for your dinner in US dollars, as the change will be given to you in local currency.

Most restaurants in towns accept Visa/Mastercard/Amex, however, please be aware that cards are not usually accepted in more remote parts of Chile and Argentina, so do stock up on local currency before venturing into more remote areas.

Even if you intend to pay by card and withdraw local currency from an ATM, please ensure that you carry some US dollars cash as your backup currency (remember to only take as much as your travel insurance covers you to carry).

Important considerations

Currency, budgeting & tipping in Patagonia
  • The ATMs in El Calafate are notoriously problematic and there is only one ATM in El Chalten, which is often empty. Make sure you arrive in remote areas with plenty of cash, as not everywhere will accept credit cards. 
  • You may have to pay entrance fees to national parks or museums. These will have to be paid in cash, in the local currency, so make sure you have this ready before your excursion.
  • You will sometimes have to pay small taxes at bus stations and ports ($2-3 USD). These would need to be paid in cash in the local currency. We always strive to inform you beforehand that you need to pay these.
  • You may be charged high fees when using an ATM or paying with a card, so do check with your bank before travelling. If you are paying a fixed fee, it is worth taking out a large sum at the start of your trip. Merchants often impose a 2-4% surcharge for paying with a card, which means paying in cash is often cheaper.
  • Change (smaller notes and coins) can be hard to come by in Patagonia, so be sure to break up your large notes whenever you can (sometimes smaller shops may not be able to sell you anything if you are trying to pay with a high note denomination). 
  • Your US dollar notes should be new, as even the smallest tear or bend can mean that a note isn’t accepted.
  • Confusingly, the symbol for the Chilean Peso (CLP) and Argentinian Peso (ARS) is the dollar sign $.
Customer review background image

What our customers think of Currency, budgeting & tipping in Patagonia

Take 15% more cash out than you planned. Tipping guides, drivers and others adds up - we wish we would have had more cash on hand to really express our appreciation to all those that treated us so well! Read the full review

Travelled: December 2021

Jonathan Staker - USA

Bring tons of US cash to Argentina. You cannot get much cash from the ATM’s in Patagonia. Read the full review

Travelled: December 2019

Karen Belding - United States Of America

Pay guide gratuity in euros or US dollars rather than the local currency so that you don't get stuck with too many AR Pesos – their currency is not accepted outside of their country, including Chile. Read the full review

Travelled: September 2018

Tracie Wingo - USA



While in Argentina, a rough budget of $30-60 USD per person per day for lunch and dinner may be helpful.

In Chile, $40-80 USD per person per day should suffice.

However, this will obviously depend on where you choose to eat.

Currency, budgeting & tipping in Patagonia
Swoop Says background image

Swoop says

The only cash machine in El Chalten is 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 cash before travelling to the town.


It is customary to leave a tip for guides, drivers and hotel staff in USD at the end of their services, but you may want to carry a few extra pesos for tipping in local establishments such as restaurants and bars. It is at your discretion whether or not you choose to tip, but we generally suggest the following guidelines:

  • Hotels: $20 USD per person, per day - given at the end of your stay at an all-inclusive hotel
  • Cruises: $10 USD per person, per day - you can give this to the reception at the end of your cruise
  • Meals: 10% of your bill - sometimes restaurants will charge you a modest ‘cubierto’ fee, this is not the tip for your waiter, but a cover charge for bread and nibbles. Tips at restaurants cannot usually be charged to your card so should be left in cash.
  • Guides: $10-20 USD per person, 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

Tipping your guide, hotel or restaurant staff is at your discretion, but you will not have access to cash when in Torres del Paine National Park so please budget accordingly. Some hotels will provide tipping guidelines, others may not.

Stella Australis, Patagonian cruising vessel in the Darwin Range, Tierra del Fuego

Darwin Range, Tierra del Fuego

It is up to you to decide if you would like to tip. Guides are paid and do not rely on tips for their income, however, they work long hours throughout the season and are knowledgeable and passionate about what they do. Tipping is a great way to show your appreciation for the great experience they gave you.

It may also be helpful to note:

  • Hotels sometimes have guides associated with the hotel, sometimes the guides are outsourced. In each case, tipping etiquette varies and it's worth asking the hotel.
  • Sometimes you can tip via the front desk at the end of your stay at a hotel for everything, sometimes you might be expected to tip the hotel restaurant staff separately. It is worth asking before your stay.
  • Each hotel is likely to have a different physical approach to actually tipping - sometimes you leave cash in an envelope, and other times it can be charged onto a credit card. Again, ask the hotel how they do it.
Trekking from Estancia Cristina, Patagonia

Trekking from Estancia Cristina

Swoop Says background image

David says

Try to use up your Chilean or Argentine pesos before you leave Patagonia as you’ll not likely be able to exchange them when you get back home.

David Hilton Patagonia Product & Partnership Manager

Further reading

Booking flights

Booking flights

Getting to your trip starting location will most likely involve some air travel. Here is our brief guide on flights; including reservations, taxes and baggage.

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