Argentina is a notoriously expensive country. Years of economic mismanagement and economic depression has led to rampant inflation, a black market for currency, and high prices for just about everything. I expected the worst. In a country that used to be a bargain, I had low expectations for “doing Argentina on a budget.” However, I was pleasantly surprised and found that, while expensive, Argentina still had plenty of opportunities to save money.
Yes, the country is not as cheap as nearby Chile, Peru, or Bolivia, but Argentina doesn’t need to break the bank either. I found plenty of opportunities to balance my costs. Beyond the universal money-saving advice — cooking your own food, couchsurfing, free tours, etc. — that I talk about on the blog, here are a few destination-specific travel ninja tips that will help you save money on your next visit:
Hitchhike – While not common in the north of the country, if you’re in Patagonia, you’ll see many locals and tourists alike hitchhiking, as long-distance buses in that part of the country can be very expensive and infrequent. It’s simply more convenient to hitchhike. This common way to get around is highly recommended. In fact, our solo female travel guru Kristin is currently over there and has hitchhiked all the way from Bariloche down to Torres del Paine so far!
Find the cheap eats – Looking to eat cheap? Empanada, choripán (sausage on bread) stands, and local hole-in-the-wall burger and pizza shops are your best options. It’s not the healthiest food, but it’s economical and tasty! Empanadas go for around 8-15 Pesos ( less than $1 USD), choripán for 25 ($2 USD), and pizza and burgers lunch specials for around 40 ($3 USD).
Eat out at fancy meals – Argentina was a weird paradox. What is cheap elsewhere is expensive here, and vice versa. At 100-130 pesos ($6-8 USD) for a sandwich and drink at a cafe, lunch is not cheap. That’s not going to break the bank, but you can dine on expensive steaks, wine, and sides for 500 pesos ($30 USD)! A full, delicious, filling meal vs. a sandwich? Easy. You get more value on the higher end! Splurge on steaks and fancy dinners in this budget tip turned upside-down.
For everything else, go for the cheap eats or make your own sandwiches (and given the lack of veggies in restaurants around the country, it’s a lot healthier to make your food!).
Buy your wine – 40 pesos ($3 USD) bottles of wine in the supermarket is a phenomenal deal. Grab a bottle, drink it up. It’s really good too! (Another tip: stick to wine. Liquor and beer are more expensive in Argentina!)
Rent a bike – You can rent bicycles from hostels and rental shops for 150 pesos ($10 USD) a day in most major cities. It’s an inexpensive way to get around and also out of the cities. This is especially useful when you’re in Mendoza’s wine country and you’re trying to get from winery to winery. Most hostels rent bikes or can direct you to the cheapest bike rental shop.
Camp – As you start to travel south to Patagonia, accommodation costs get higher and higher. Hostels are often 250 pesos ($17 USD) or more a night here (as opposed to as cheap as 90 ($6 USD) a night in Buenos Aires). Look for camping opportunities as often as possible. When you aren’t in the national parks (where you can obviously camp), many hostels will let you pitch your tent for a small fee.
Try out Airbnb – If hostels or camping aren’t your jam, I found a ton of Airbnb opportunities throughout the country starting at 500 pesos ($40 USD) a night for your own apartment.
Explore the outdoors – Hiking is free, and throughout the country you’ll find plenty of opportunities to enjoy this and other outdoor activities since Argentina is blessed with many city parks and nature reserves where you can spend the day wandering around and relaxing. (And, of course, there are a plethora of national parks where you can do multi-day treks!).
Don’t fly domestically – Thanks to a tax on foreigners, airfare in Argentina for non-residents is quite expensive. A two-hour flight can cost as much as $200 USD! Unless you are in a rush, don’t fly. Take the bus.
Dance for free – If you find yourself in Buenos Aries on a Sunday, you can find free tango events in San Telmo at 8pm on Sundays. (On Monday, there’s the famous La Bomba de Tiempo, a music and dance event. It’s 90 pesos ($6 USD) but completely worth every penny! It was an unreal dance and music show!)
Argentina was tremendous and I was sad I didn’t get to see more of the country but with direct and fairly cheap flights from the United States, I suspect I’ll be back. I gorged on steaks, became a slight wino, and unstressed myself in the mountains! This isn’t the cheapest country in South America, but through smart spending, there’s no need to blow your budget in the land of steak, wine, and tango.
Note: All Pesos to USD conversions were rounded to the nearest whole number.
Note #2: As people pointed out in the comments, there’s a lot of inflation in Argentina so be sure to double check current prices before you!