For the Love of Monedas

Photo Credit: Crissfer

Buenos Aires has turned me into a liar. Actually, it’s turned a lot of people into liars.

Every day is a fight to obtain monedas in Buenos Aires. I’m a scheming sort of person now; all of my business transactions are laden with the thought: “Will this person give me a moneda?” and “How can I obtain a moneda from this person without seeming like a jerk?” The stress! It turns what should be friendly business transactions into deceptive, bitter ones.

Buying something is a game. Shopkeepers defiantly state, “There are no monedas,” while the customers defiantly claim to have no monedas to give to the cashier. Metrovias Subte (the subway) allowed customers to enter for free last Monday because they did not have enough monedas to give out in change. A client punched a ticket attendant due to some aggravation. Stores are strapped because banks limit the amount of monedas they allow businesses.

A black market exists where bus companies sell bags of monedas with a markup. People allegedly hoard millions of pesos worth of monedas which would explain such dry circulation.

Monedas are important because buses here only take coins. The buses are the best and easiest method of transport, as the subway is limited in its reaches for the city. Also, I need monedas to do laundry. It’s enough to make me feel like Ebenezer Scrooge, scooping my monedas in a little bag and counting them preciously. At times I figure in a good walk into my day to avoid spending 90 centavos.

Ken at Un Año sin Primavera found a reasonable work-around to get coins when he lived in BA. Sallycat also shared her calculating ways to obtain monedas.

Photo Credit: Remi de Nimega

I don’t think the moneda situation will improve. People are used to living this way. The only thing we can do is try to get monedas in respectful ways. Also, if we give our favorite shopkeepers monedas when necessary, they often take care of us when a moneda is needed. This, I like.

Update: Although I didn’t have time to verify, there is supposedly a special counter in the Retiro train station where you can get change.



Filed under Argentina

8 responses to “For the Love of Monedas

  1. The moneda situation was the same when I lived in BsAs 10 years ago. Our trick was the local Disco supermarkets. We used to go and buy our groceries there and break our large bills. I would always calculate my shopping carefully so I knew there would be some moneda change. I stopped at a kiosko once to buy some peanuts on my way somewhere (was terribly hungry and had missed lunch) and the kiosko lady handed me the peanuts and I handed her a $10 note. She asked me if I had anything smaller and I apologised and said no. Then she snatched the peanuts out of my hand and stuck her finger in the air moving it back and forth and tsk tsking with her mouth. There were no peanuts for me that day. I was absolutely amazed at how offended she became–it was as if I’d insulted her personally.

    BTW found your blog at Go Where the Taxista Takes You. I love reading what other people think of BsAs. It’s crazy, but it’s got a very special place in my heart!

    Hey Suzi,

    Thanks for your comment! I don’t feel guilty getting change at Disco and Carrefour; they don’t put up much of a hassle. I figure they can take the punch.

    I can’t believe the cashier didn’t sell you the peanuts!

  2. The situation in BsAs with coins is crazy (I felt the crunch when I was there on my trip). I have to say, though, that the problem seems more or less confined to the capital. I didn’t have trouble at all while traveling through other parts of Buenos Aires province. It is aggravating when something like getting change begins to take over your life!

  3. I recall getting a free subway ride in Buenos Aires when I was there because I didn’t have the monedas to pay. Guess the shortage does have its advantages sometimes 🙂

    Glad you’ve learned to embrace the mullet! My friend emerged from a B.A. hair salon with a ‘do that involved lots of crazy layers and blonde streaks. Quite unfortunate, but, hey, part of the experience.

    I didn’t spend much time in Santiago, so can’t offer many recommendations. But I can help you out if you’re heading down to Torres del Paine National Park, where I lived for half a year. It’s amazingly beautiful down there, I definitely recommend going.

    Happy travels!


  4. A very interesting post AND comments. Thank you.

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  6. I feel so guilty today, because I basically was very aggressive in demanding my monedas at the little supermercado. My change should have been 3.70 but he cleverly gave me 4 pesos (two 2-peso bills), even though he HAD the change. I really needed change so I gave him back to the 4 pesos and I insisted that he give me change. I have never been like that. He said “No, no tengo nada” oh really? Then what’s that mountain of coins there. I see that you have plenty. We went back and for with “yes you do have change” “no I don’t” “yes you do” “no I don’t” and I mentioned that the law says he only gets to round it up if he really doesn’t have coins. But he had plenty of coins and was being selfish. I also shook my hand (with fingers together) in the air in that Italian way and said “por favor!” I won the fight.
    But I don’t know what’s gotten into me. I have gotten so much more open and assertive since living here. And now that I’m desperate for monedas, ay ay ay.

    I felt so guilty. I hate displeasing people. But then I think of the mountains of coins in front of him and I believe I had the right to insist on my correct change.

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  8. I live in the “burbs” and we don’t seem to have that problem. Yes, I’ve heard about the problem downtown. When my sister was visiting in December, we did all the touristy stuff and took the buses. It was amazing how quickly you go through a whole handful of coins. Still, up here, I don’t have that problem much. Maybe I don’t ride the buses much! 🙂

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