One word you cannot fail to hear in Argentina is 'cambio'. Circa 2009, the government banned dollars as a currency within Argentina. Argentinians simply don't trust their own currency, the Peso, and are therefore stockpiling dollars to try and prevent their saving disappearing within seconds at the next devaluation of the peso. As such, Argentinians are desperate for dollars and the only way to really get them is via travellers from abroad. The usual conversation rate is $1= 5.5 pesos, and thats what you'll get from a travel agent abroad or from the ATMs in Argentina. However, the "blue dollar", as they call the black market in Argentina, offers anywhere between 8-10 pesos depending on the day; it's a real market and it fluctuates throughout the day as any legal stock exchange.
It's a crazy system and one unique to Argentina's economic woes. And it's not really hidden; it's blatant and brash, with traders shouting 'cambio' at the top of their voices on the highstreet regardless of any police or other authority presence. Cambio traders are everywhere; on some roads it is hard to move more than 5 metres without being assailed by several sellers and when we questioned one seller why she wasn't more worried about the police she simply, and honestly answered 'well, they need to change their money too...'
Deals aren't done on the street though and once you've haggled the rate to a level you're happy with then you generally move to the place where the money is exchanged. We personally went to a magazine kiosk, an empty storefront in a shopping mall (literally a shell of a room with one man at his desk counting dollars) and a converted hotel room which was refitted in the style of a bank, complete with cashiers, glass panels and security doors. Friends of ours have gone to restaurants, florists and a particularly innovative fake estate agent. Which leads to another fact about Argentina; apparently you can only buy a house in Argentina in US $, in a country that has banned the dollar- we still can't work this one out...!
In a bid to try and get a grip on the situation, the government has issued a new law which allows citizens to trade in their dollars for bonds in the government's electricity and water companies. The (very!) unpopular President has decreed that she will lead by example and has reportedly released her $3 million, held in a foreign dollar-only account, to buy these bonds. We all have to take a hit in such terrible times, eh?