In the City of Buenos Aires, CABA for the locals, you can get a barbecue for 4 people, including sides of fries or salad, for 35 dollars. You can have a large pizza at one of Buenos Aires’ most iconic pizza places, Guerrin, for as little as 5 dollars. What kind of magic is that?
Travelers that come to Argentina are always surprised by the quality of Argentine cuisine, first. Then, when the time comes to pay the bill, they are shocked by the prices. Most Argentine restaurants serve homemade quality food, made with fresh ingredients and regional spices, at a very low price—for a tourist, that is.
Argentina is a great travel destination for people with a good appetite. Food prices for travelers are a bargain. One of the reasons is that the government subsidizes many services in the country, including energy, transport, and production. So, compared to other Latin American countries and not to mention the world, Argentina is a cheap country to live in.
Another reason is that Argentina’s economy has been for decades under an odd phenomenon we call the blue rate. Here’s how it works: the exchange rate you can find in the street is double the price of the official rate because the government determines an artificial exchange value—the value that official institutions run with—to try to mask the inflation. This is why, paying in cash will get you double your money than if you were to simply take money from an ATM.
To put it in numbers, a $100 or €100 note is equivalent to approximately 10,000 Argentine pesos at the official exchange rate, but 20,000 pesos at the blue rate, in the street. As an example, a premium bottle of wine in a store can be as little as $8, provided you pay with cash. A glass of wine in a restaurant can range from $1 to $2.50. A week’s worth of groceries can be as little as $20.
Going back to the matter of inflation, Argentina is a country that seems to go through one economic crisis after another, never finding any kind of stability. The Argentine peso is constantly losing its value, due to poor administrative decisions, resulting in very low salaries.
For the general Argentine population, food prices are not cheap at all. In fact, they are incredibly expensive and perpetually spiking. According to a survey, the average salary in Argentina is about 90,000 pesos, which translates to as little as 450 American dollars a month. Because the salaries seldom can keep up with such a volatile economy, for those who make an income in the local currency, the cost of living always seems too high. This is why Argentina seems incredibly cheap, despite having an economy that is always in crisis and with such tight government regulations.