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Friday, 26 April, 2002, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
Argentine stories: travel on a shoestring
Pedestrians walk past a closed bank in the financial district in Buenos Aires
Cash machines emptied as banks shut their doors
As Argentina's financial crisis grinds on, ordinary people are suffering more and more. In the latest of a series of eye-witness accounts, BBC News Online reader Saul Philpott tells us how his holiday in Argentina has turned into a search for cash machines rather than adventure.

I have wanted to visit Tierra del Fuego and the southern-most part of South America for some time.

Three friends and I met in Buenos Aires and flew down to Calafate which is situated near the Chilean Patagonia, the nearest large town being Rio Gallegos in Argentina.

On arrival in Calafate Airport we had some dollars with us, but not enough to see us through the whole nine day stay.

First we tried the cash machine in the airport, which said that it did not accept our cards, and when we tried the only two cash machines in town they too produced the same message.

It was then that we realised that they did not have any money in them at all.

On top of this the only bank in town was closed due to the government imposed indefinite bank holiday.


On the day that the government announced the bank closures, the cash machines were emptied of both pesos and dollars by people anxious to get to their money before it was too late.

Relying on credit

It has now been three days since we arrived, and the cash machines have still not been refilled, the banks are still closed, and we are running out of both dollars and pesos.

To top it all our debit cards do not work in any shop.

We have resorted to paying for everything we can with credit cards, which, for our accommodation means paying a 10% charge on top of what we would have had to pay in cash.

There is absolutely no way to get any money at all, however every shop on the high street is exchanging dollars for pesos.

Shut off electronic boards of exchanging houses
Using cash for transactions is becoming harder

We have been forced to consider going over the border to Chile, since we have realised that our plan to go to Rio Gallegos, roughly 300km away, in the hope of finding a cash machine with money in it would only end in failure.

Everywhere people are talking about the closures and none are optimistic about the date that the banks will reopen.

It is an incredible situation, and yet, walking up the high street one would hardly guess that the country was the grip of an economic crisis.

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See also:

19 Dec 01 | Business
Argentine crisis ripples spread
28 Mar 02 | Business
Aid returns to Argentina
20 Apr 02 | Business
Argentina closes all banks
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