Just hinting at taking a trip to Latin America often gets hisses of disapproval and gasps of pure shock. “Do you even know how dangerous that is?” And while these remarks, more often than not, come from a place of love and genuine worry, it gets to be unnerving. Sometimes it’s even plain exhausting!
And while the possibility of danger is not something to take lightly, it is something you can easily lower. Do people get robbed everywhere? Yes. Is there more sketchy activity in Latin America than in Australia? Yes. It is true, however, that Buenos Aires (heck, Argentina in general) is much safer than some other countries in Latin America, so don’t get squeamish if you want to travel to Argentina solo.
Reliable sources such as the British, the Canadian and the American Government and Lonely Planet consider Argentina as a place to take normal security precautions. What should you consider then when traveling to Argentina?
- Keep away from demonstrations and strikes: street protests are part of Argentina’s culture, especially in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo area. Generally, these have little effect on tourists other than blocking traffic or making it difficult to see Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada.
- Careful walking around with your phone in public: this precaution is for everyone, wither a local or a foreigner. Cellphones are often snatched, especially while waiting for the bus. Therefore, keep yours in a safe place, and if deciding to use it in the street, be vigilant.
- Watch out for distraction techniques and pickpocketers: while walking around the city, on the bus or on the subway, be alert!
Here are some tips to reduce the chance of anything happening while you travel to Argentina:
1. Hidden Treasures
If you have a money belt that can go under your shirt, use that to hide your cash, cards, passport, cell phone, etc. You can also hide money in your shoes, in your bra -for ladies-, and always divvy up your money; half in one place and the other half somewhere else. There are also amazing new travel inventions such as zippered scarves, which have big enough zippered pockets to hide money, credit cards, passports, etc. without any lumps or bulks.
2. Don’t let money be seen
It’s something not thought about too often, but take out your money only right before you are about to pay for something, and extract the smallest amount possible. For example, if you’re buying a 12 pesos candy bar at a kiosk, don’t whip out a 500 pesos bill. Also, whenever getting change back, stay where you are and put it back in your wallet or purse before leaving. Don’t walk onto the sidewalk still fumbling with your money, and the same goes for ATMs. Lately, many hobos are taking ATMs as nighttime residencies: visit ATMs before 6 pm in order to avoid seeing them.
3. Walk along main avenues at night
Whether you’re walking back to your hotel or even to the bus stop, try to walk as much as you can along the larger, well-lit avenues even if it’s a block or two out of your way. There’s usually always people walking along these avenues late at night and it will make you feel much more at ease. There’s even a new smartphone app out called The Companion, which virtually walks you home. If there’s a change in your pattern (if you start running, get pushed, etc.) the app sends an alert to your friend or family member. You then have 15 seconds to push a button that says if you’re okay or not. It can alert officials if you need them and even turns your phone into an alarm device.
4. When in doubt, keep walking
Robbers have various tricks (like this) to get to your wallet or iPhone; some of them involve them stopping you to ask for something (like directions). Don’t panic, 90% of the time people really are just asking if you know where the stop for the 37 is—I’ve asked for directions more times than I can count. However, if your Spanish isn’t up to par and it’s nighttime, just keep walking. It’s better to appear rude than to be without money.
5. Dress to fit in
No, I’m not saying you have to throw out your personal style and that you have to pretend to be Argentine for your trip (because heck, foreigners can have huge advantages here sometimes). Do keep in mind that when it’s 60 degrees out, it’s considered cold here, and your sandals or flip-flops -no matter how cute- will be regarded as tourism apparel. Argentines are generally put-together and fashionable. Get more details on how to dress like a local here. Other fashion tips are: avoid your khaki bermuda shorts and go easy with “vacation” hats.
These are tips not only specific to Argentina, as they’re applicable anywhere in the world. It’s a great idea to travel to Argentina solo, as it’s a bit more westernized and more advanced than some other Latin American countries. Don’t be afraid to throw on your backpack and hop on that plane!