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I went for lunch with a friend a couple of days ago, we had a sandwich each, a drink and a coffee. The bill came to 128 pesos. That may not mean anything to you but had we not finished our delicious lunch, we may well have choked on it.

Everybody that has spent any length of time in Buenos Aires has stories about how expensive it has become. I first came here nearly 3 years ago when 6 of us ate (in a good but basic cafe) a main meal and dessert and had change from 100 pesos. The first thing you’re going to do is look up how much 100 pesos is. I’ll save you the bother, as of today 100 pesos is  £17.54 ($25.50 or €21.25). That makes our lunch clock in at £22.45, London prices indeed.

To put this into some sort of comparison, I went for a job interview the other day. It’s a customer-facing role for a professional company, requiring language skills and technology experience. Take home pay is 3,000 pesos a month (£526.33). If you’re sharing a decent flat and lucky enough to pay Argentinian rates (as opposed to tourist short-term rates) your rent & services will come to around half of that. This leaves you with £263 a month, that’s 10 lunches for 2. And I am, of course, one of the lucky few.

Veinte Pesos

Veinte Pesos. Flickr image by Irargerich.

Whatever great economic progress the government is trumping, the fact remains that living here remains a struggle for the vast majority of the population (working full-time in a coffee shop pays about 1,200 pesos a month).

To illustrate this, there is a nice parallel to the Big Mac Index, the Ugi’s Pizza index, which tracks the cost of a plain Muzzerela pizza at resolutely working-class pizza chain, Ugi’s Pizza. In the last 10 years, it’s gone from 2 pesos to 16 (64% in real terms). If that’s just too depressing to contemplate, here are some great shots of people who just won’t be put off by a 16 peso pizza.