In general, Buenos Aires is a safe place to visit. It’s true that petty robberies and scams can be common in areas of the city, but the rate of violent crimes here is much less than that of most major cities. For example, the murder rate here is about one-tenth that of Washington D.C.* With that in mind, when visiting Buenos Aires the smart traveler remains aware of his/her surroundings, vigilant to potential pick-pockets and petty thieves.
Although violent crimes are rare here in Buenos Aires, please don’t assume that robbers won’t hurt you. If you do happen to wind up in a sticky situation, don’t be brave, don’t take risks, just give them what they want and stay safe. To keep yourself from winding up in such a situation, here are a few tips and good observations to practice for your safety!
Safety Tip #1. Don’t carry expensive designer bags, sunglasses or flashy jewelry. The same can be said for electronics, and electronics cases. If it looks expensive, it could become a target for a thief.
A good rule of thumb is that crime in Buenos Aires is typically “opportunistic”.
Safety Tip #2. Be cautious while carrying your purse or bag, especially in crowded areas or while on public transport. It’s perfectly normal to wear your backpack over your chest in these situations in order to avoid someone’s sticky fingers getting into your belongings. Likewise, women should ALWAYS carry their purses directly under their arms and/or across their chests.
Safety Tip #3. Never leave your bag unattended, sling it over the back of a chair or even leave it on the top of a table while dining. It is always best to keep your bag on your person or wedged between your feet, even while dining. Even in places as frequented and familiar as Starbucks.
Safety Tip #4. Carry the minimum within your purse or wallet. As a general rule, don’t carry a ton of cash at one time and maybe have only one credit or ATM card on you. Carry a photocopy of your passport instead of the document itself.
Safety Tip #5. Read up on the common Buenos Aires scams and tricks that are used time and time again here. Knowing and recognizing a scam in the making can save you a lot of head and heart ache.
Safety Tip #6. Always check that $100 and $50 peso bills are not counterfeit. (See LandingPadBA.com’s guide to counterfeit currency in Argentina). The best technique is to examine the security thread. The plastic thread should weave in and out of the bill. Fakes will have pieces of imitation thread pasted on.
Safety Tip #7. Ignore suspicious people who try to approach you on the street. The mustard or bird poop scam was common a couple of years back, but could still be used or some variation of it.
Safety Tip #8. Try to only take taxis that are affiliated with a company (they have a company logo or lite sign above) like “Radio Taxi”, “Hola Taxi”, etc. The taxis that have simply a number on them work independently and have a higher chance of trying to pull a taxi scam.
All in all Buenos Aires is a fun, international destination full of things to do. Enjoy yourself and don’t be overly worried!
*The statistics presented within this article were gathered from materials published by the US Overseas Security Advisory Council and the Argentine Interior Security Commission. For further information, visit these sites: www.osac.gov and www.parlamentario.com
Updated: April 2014