Let’s backtrack a bit and step by step I hope to fill you in and (update this lazy blog) about what’s been happening with us for the last month since we started our “Americas Adventure”…
Step 1: Landed in Buenos Aires, Argentina (7 Feb 2018) and checked into a cute and comfortable apartment in the city center. We stayed there till the bike arrived from London.
We scheduled our bike to be flown into Buenos Aires a bit later than us, to minimize any possible airport storage fees. We also wanted to make sure it avoided arriving during the weekend or Carnaval holiday which of course would have equaled extra storage fees.
Step 2: Cash Crisis!! We did a bit of research about whether to withdraw cash at the ATM in Buenos Aires or to bring a bunch of Euros/Dollars with us. We read that Cash is King in most of South America, and specifically Argentina, so we intended to bring a stash of Euros with us.
But due to me being quite ill and our excitement about finally starting our “Americas Adventure” we ended up checking into our flight and walking past all the ATMs in Schiphol airport. By the time we remembered ‘Oh yes, we need to get our hands on some Euros’ the only ATMs available were charging some ridiculous ATM fees.
We decided to ignore the advice we read about bringing a good amount of cash, and learned the hard way that Argentina has EVEN MORE ridiculous ATM withdrawal fees/withdrawal limits—much MUCH worse that in the “Checked in” area of Schiphol airport…
Argentine ATM fee (for foreign accounts) is a flat 200 ARS (8 euros) no matter how little you withdraw….
Argentine Withdrawal Limit (depending on your bank) is 3,000 ARS which amounts to a meager 120 euros. Obviously, this would last 2 people only a couple of days…and if you are staying in Argentina for any amount of time this will get frustrating.
We had some pretty hefty fees to pay to get our motorbike out of customs, to get our motorbike import papers, to pay our customs agents and of course the airport fees. There was no way we were going to spend hundreds of euros just on withdrawal fees.
A couple of the fees we managed to arrange to pay by card, but the rest needed CASH! US of A Dollars preferred!
If we had brought Euros with us we would not have had any problems because we could have easily exchanged our Euros to Dollars or just paid with Euros. But because we were naive and didn’t believe that in this day and age it would be a problem, we were really stumped about how to get a hold of enough cash in time to get our motorbike on the day it arrived (yes, we didn’t want to leave it in the airport any later than necessary)
And oh, did we mention they have a daily withdrawal limit? Even if we used both our cards and withdrew from different ATMs–the maximum amount allowed–we would have had to visit the ATM a minimum of 10 TIMES, over the span of a week, to get approximately 1000 euros out of our accounts and of course spend a minimum of 8o euros in the process….
Add on our apartment, food and transport fees and of course we needed more than 1000 euros so our dilemma was QUITE ridiculous!
Perhaps for some, 8 euros per withdrawal isn’t dramatic, but we were used to ZERO withdrawal fees and very high withdrawal limits so this came as a shock!
After a day of stress and frantic Googling we decided to give Azimo a try. This was a bit of a risk for us as we never even heard of Azimo before. But we read favorable reviews, they have a 100% money back guarantee, and they had an easy connection with our Dutch ING bank.
Money Gram and Western Union was out of the question as they have pretty high transfer fees, and they would not have been able to get the cash to us in time.
We had only 1 day (due to the Carnaval holidays) to send our money from our Dutch account to Azimo, to be transferred to Argentina, and then be picked up by ourselves (with our passport and some other special questions to verify ID) at an Argentine bank which served as the Azimo representative.
To make a long story short. We downloaded the Azimo app. Made our Azimo profile. Connected it with our bank. Sent our money to ourselves. Waited a couple of hours for the transaction to go through (they do warn you that it might take 1-2 working days, depending on your bank) and fortunately our transaction only took a couple of hours…and wallah, we got the notification that our money was ready to pick up at any of their local bank representatives.
The notification email reminded us to bring the correct pre-arranged ID and gave us a list of banks we could pick it up from.
We chose the one that was in walking distance. There was que of a about 15-20 people also using Azimo services and with a bit of mumble-fumble, showing the correct ID and awkward sign language (the guy behind the heavily barred counter didn’t speak a word of English) we walked out with our bundle of much needed cash!
We say BUNDLE, because while they DO have 500 peso bills…they don’t seem to use them much, so we got stacks of 100s, 50s and 20s.
There was no way we were going to count our crazy amount of cash in front of all the people in the que (it was a bank, but it looked like more like a black market currency exchange) and we were so happy that so far, our risk taking was paying off, we decided to cut our loses and make a beeline to our apartment with our bulging bag of cash.
When we got to our apartment, we were pleasantly surprised that the amount we received was correct to the Peso.
While the whole pick up the cash experience was a bit disconcerting, the actual process of using Azimo was rather smooth and we saved a lot of time potentially stalking numerous ATMs (they regularly run out of cash, so you have to visit a few ATMs to get the maximum withdrawal) and miserable ATM fees.
So please learn from our lesson. Bring Euros or Dollars with you when visiting South America–specifically Argentina!