I am currently staying about 20 minutes north of a town called San Martin de Los Andes, which is located in the lake region of Argentine Patagonia. San Martin, as locals refer to it, is a fly fishing hub nestled alongside Lácar Lake, surrounded by the Andes and not far from Argentina’s border with Chile. Hiking and backpacking options are plentiful with Argentina’s version of the Appalachian trail, the Huella Andina, spreading out in either direction north and south. But the real draw around here is world class fly fishing.

This is a very special piece of southern South America that I’ve traveled thoroughly since moving my home base to Buenos Aires, full of forested national parks, volcanos, lakes, and rivers.

Lolog Lake

There is an airport in San Martin, airport code CPC, but it is only served by one airline: Aerolineas Argentinas. Bariloche, which is south of San Martin and has the arrow pointing to it on the map above, is a bigger town and has the most serviced airport in the area. It’s a beautiful 3ish hour drive between Bariloche and San Martin, along what’s called the Camino de los Siete Lagos. You can also take a route called Paso Cordoba, which we did on accident, and weren’t too sorry about.

The arrival of low cost carriers Norwegian Air, Andes, and Fly Bondi have drastically cheapened the flight market in this country. Domestic flights used to be quite expensive, but now you can fly roundtrip to even far away places (yes, Argentina is a large country!) for $200. I see domestic roundtrips as low as $50 to places closer to Buenos Aires.

With a cheap Norwegian flight available, I didn’t use miles or points to save money on this trip. It wouldn’t have been worth it. In case you’re curious, your options to Bariloche from Buenos Aires are redeeming SkyTeam miles on Aerolineas Argentinas (likeDelta SkyMiles or Flying Blue), or redeeming oneworld miles on LATAM.

We’re so happy you’re in Argentina, Norwegian! Please stay.

I did, however, use some Airbnb tactics for big savings.

Negotiating the Price on Airbnb

A long time ago I learned a valuable tip from MileValue founder Scott Grimmer: The sticker price of an Airbnb rental is often not written in stone, and the amount of leverage you have in a negotiation jumps drastically closer to your desired reservation date.

If a place isn’t booked a few days out, then the owner would probably rather earn less money than nothing. And the chance their property remains unbooked increases the closer you get to the date you want to book. I refer to this negotiation tactic as “the low-ball”, and as I am typically a last minute booker/traveler, whenever I’m considering Airbnb for accommodation (which is the majority of the time) I almost always throw out a couple low-ball offers for aspirational properties. It works more than half the time.

Our cozy house outside San Martin, with panaromic views and this fireplace we’ve had burning 24/7.

Everything for this trip was booked within a week of departure: flights, car rental, and Airbnb. I wrote the following message to the owner of the property we were interested in (originally written in Spanish, but translated here in English):

Hola!

How are you? My name is Sarah Page, and I live in Buenos Aires with my boyfriend. We are from the United States but we speak Spanish because we moved to BA many years ago! We are totally in love with your house, but we are only two people [the house has four bedrooms] and we cannot pay $120/USD per night. How does $90 a night sound? If you send me that offer I can confirm now.

Thanks for your time! I hope we see each other soon 🙂

And it worked!

View from the bedroom. The living room also has sweeping windows with the same view.

El Dolar Blue

We ended up negotiating off of Airbnb to discuss paying in cash.

I don’t necessarily like evading Airbnb as I believe they are due their cut, but the economic situation right now in Argentina is complicated. The next section isn’t going to apply to the majority of people nor am I supporting taking a reservation off of Airbnb. But I think you’ll find it interesting nonetheless. The black market for dollars in Argentina–called the Blue Dollar–is back, and presents arbitrage opportunities.

Long story short, since the blue dollar returned, cash is once again king.

If we had paid the owner through Airbnb on a credit card, the official rate we would have gotten would have been around 60 pesos to the dollar. At my proposed rate of $90/night, that’s 5,400 pesos. The property owner, in order to buy dollars which is something Argentines do to protect their rapidly depreciating pesos, would have had to spend around 70 pesos to buy one dollar at that point. So in order to give him the real value of 90/night, which for him is 6,300 pesos a night, without changing our cost, we paid him 69,300 pesos in cash.

Lago Lácar, the lake that San Martin de Los Andes sits on

69,300 pesos is almost 10,000 more pesos than what he would have earned if we had done it through Airbnb.

Furthermore, we have a way of exchanging dollars at a rate of around 80. That means what we ended up paying was a total of $866 for 11 nights instead of $990…

($90 per night x 11 nights) / 80 pesos exchange rate

…bringing down the price from $90/night to $78/night for us. $78 a night is a far cry from the original listing price of $120 a night.

I love Airbnb because of the ability to find stunning, unique properties in remote locations, often for a fraction of the cost of a hotel. You have to be willing to deal with more inconveniences sometimes, as of course Airbnb’s are managed by people, not corporations. But if you’re a flexible and experienced traveler, I think Airbnb is 100% the way to go. 

Bottom Line

While I typically book my reservations on Airbnb–for the security that provides both the owner and myself and to give Airbnb their cut–due to the wonky economic situation in Argentina right now it made a lot more sense paying in cash this time. 

The take away here is that negotiating the price of an Airbnb is an effective way to drop your accommodation cost, especially if you’re negotiating for reservation dates without much anticipation, when the owner has a bigger incentive to fill their empty apartment/house/room. The property owners get occupants, you pay less, and everyone wins. 

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