Fake money has become a real problem in Argentina, particularly in Buenos Aires. Even before we landed we were warned to watch out for fakes – to check each note by holding it up to the light to confirm the watermark and NOT to exchange money at the airport, a known purveyor of fake notes! Imagine, the airport!
It’s so prevalent here that it’s quite ok to take your time and reject notes in stores if you’re handed one, no offence is taken but it’s unsettling, in this predominantly cash society, to be constantly checking your change and, at times, refusing the change handed to you if the note looks dodgy – and there are on-line lessons in how to tell. I’m sure I’ll get used to it though, eventually.
ATM’s are surprisingly few and far between in BA – they’re not on every street corner like in London or Sydney, and when you do find one there’s no guarantee you’ll get money out of it, plus it may in fact run out of cash, particularly we’re told on a Friday. And the most surprising thing is that you’re limited to 1500-2000 ARS per transaction. That’s roughly A$50-70 or just £30-40 at a time – and it dishes out ARS100 notes which are worth practically nothing, like £2. But, having said all that, your money goes a long way here, particularly if you’re exchanging £ or US$, though expect to walk around with a wad of small notes in your wallet, so another thing we’re not that used to anymore – no pay wave / tap-and-go convenience here I’m afraid.
Another oddity is at the Supermarket. As a foreigner using a foreign credit card you’ll need to present your passport, which involves checking and double-checking details, writing down numbers and then having to countersign the receipt, all whilst the line behind you stares you down…
Perhaps all of this is a symptom of Argentina’s increasing financial woes. I saw one poor woman shopping in the supermarket having to hand back items one by one at the check-out because she didn’t have enough money – heartbreaking.