On the Left Side of the Law

After almost two months on the road, seeking the unknown, it was time to cover some familiar ground. Those who know me well know that Buenos Aires holds a special place in my heart, so my last three weeks of traveling – this time around – was reserved for Argentina.

 

Three years had passed since my last visit, and I was happy to see that not much had changed. Ducks were still swimming in the pond in my favorite park, the ice cream was still dangerously addictive, and the same couple was dancing tango at the sunday market in San Telmo.

Tango at the Sunday Market in San Telmo

One of Buenos Aires’ many parks

However, one thing had changed: The economic situation.

 

Before I left Ecuador, I was told to withdraw dollars there. The benefit was that if I brought US dollars to Argentina, I could go to the blue (read black) market and get a better exchange rate.

 

Due to regulations on the amount of dollars the argentines are allowed to purchase, there’s demand for a black market, and the country operates with two rates: The official (1 dollar = around 9 pesos) and the blue (1 dollar = around 12 pesos).

 

Being a big fan of the law, this sounded a bit too sketchy for me. But the more argentines I met traveling, the more I was adviced to withdraw dollars – so I did.

 

From my past visits in Buenos Aires I already knew that calle Florida, one of the main streets in microcentro, would be full of men whispering «cambio» as soon I’d walk by. My argentine friends had warned me against mingling with this crowd on my own, since there was a big chance of getting fake money. To find another way to enter the blue market wasn’t the easiest mission, but in the end I was adviced to go to a particular lottery house.

 

Accompanied by a magical pen that could bust the fake notes, I found my way to the mysterious house of lottery tickets and blue dollars. Greeted by a sleepy cashier I was quite unsure about what to do next, but after staring at me for a while she gave me a questioning look and uttered the magical word «cambio». I nodded and was instantly pointed towards a thick, blue metal door.

 

On the other side of the door the procedure was easy: A cashier told me the blue rate of the day (12.40 for big notes and 12.10 for the small ones), and money was exchanged.

 

Exchanging money on the black market is quite different from my everyday life back home, but in Argentina everyone talks about the blue dollar. In addition to the need of foreign currency for travel reasons, US dollars and euros are attractive because they’re more stable than the argentine peso. In other words, a lot of people keep their savings in dollars or euros to protect the money from inflation, which again feeds the need for a black market.

 

Puerto Madero at twilight

After my visit to the black money market, it was time for a night out – Buenos style! The city is known for it’s loco night life, where a night out actually literally means a whole night out.

 

If you’re heading to a boliche (night club) before 3 am, don’t expect much to be going on. They don’t come alive before around 3 or 4, and then the party goes on until sunrise and ends at the breakfast table.

 

For this particular night, my friend Pato and I had planned a big night out. The only problem was that the following day was election day (not the main one, but still an election), which meant that all the bars and clubs was closed that particular night – or at least they were supposed to be..

 

However, laws didn’t stop Buenos Aires’ night life, and the solution was found in an abandoned house with a secret address. Behind locked doors, two bands did justice to their 1930’s outfits by playing gipsy jazz and swing. Drinks were sold for cash, and happy people nodded to the rhythm whilst smoking illegal substances. So much for closing the bars before election day, but as a city of millions, something’s always bound to be going on in Buenos Aires.

 

As mentioned, Buenos Aires holds a special place in my heart. The city vibe, the night life, the weather, the ice cream, the steaks and the fascinating culture are all reasons why, but nothing beats the amazing people I’ve met there!

 

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    1. Rimsha February 6, 2017

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