One thing you will have to get used to here as a foreigner is the lack of currency in circulation. When you take money out of a bank machine, you are usually given either 100 or 50 peso bills. If you’re lucky, you may be able to get some 10s or 20s, but don’t count on it. Unfortunately, 50s and 100s are rarely accepted in smaller locales. So you are often stuck in situations where you have these very large bills, but but you can’t pay with them. These bills are usually accepted in restaurants, supermarkets, and clothing stores. Therefore, be sure to save your smaller bills for when you are paying in smaller locales, like kiosks, taxis, little bars, etc.
Another even bigger problem with the Argentine currency is the lack of small pocket change. Once again, this is mostly a problem in smaller locales, but you will almost always be asked to help out with change anywhere you go. If something is $220, you are expected to give $2.20, or $2.25 if you can. If you are buying something at a kiosk, using a computer, making a phone call, at the subway, or buying something in a bakery, you will definitely need to use change. For example, if something costs $2.20, paying with a $5 peso bill will not likely be accepted. This becomes very difficult. Everywhere you go, people expect you to use your change; however, you need as much change as possible, because you will need to use it on the buses, and in these stores.
I have been turned away many times from kiosks for not having exact or close to exact change. That is how bad the problem is – certain places will actually turn away business for lack of change. The Subte actually stops charging passengers from time to time when they don´t have enough change. They do this to avoid violence, because the argentines can become very upset about this lack of change (and you can´t blame them, it gets very frustrating)!!!
It is important you know these “unwritten rules” when you are living or visiting Buenos Aires. If you do not, you will likely upset or fluster the employees, and could receive some piercing stares, or some grumbling. Just try to remember, it is not the fault people in the stores, even though sometimes it feels that way. No one in all of Argentina is happy about this, so it is important that everyone collaborates and tries to minimize the problem.
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