(Photo by Metro Transportation Library and Archive)
Buenos Aires is a gorgeous city to visit and walk in, however, as in any big city, certain precautions must be taken to avoid unpleasant situations. Below are some safety tips for visitors.
1- Avoid looking like a foreigner. Pickpocket and scam artists are always on the lookout for weaknesses and not knowing the language or the place is an obvious disadvantage. Try not to bring attention to this and avoid getting lost by planning your routes in advance. Also, pay attention to your surroundings. It’s easy to get distracted with the sights so carry bags where you can watch them and make sure zippers are closed and valuables can’t be easily accessed.
2- Speaking of valuables, don’t flash your jewelry, money and technology around. It is better to carry cameras in a purse or knapsack that to have them hanging around the neck. I-Phones and laptops are also high on thieves wanted list. Although not so common anymore, there are also “moto-chorros” (motorcycle thieves) that zoom by and rip necklaces and purses from people on the streets. Don’t bring your passport with you (just a photocopy for ID is fine), or all your money on your excursions, and leave jewelry behind if possible.
3- Call taxis from reputable cab companies such as Radio Taxi Porteño (4566-5777), or have to hotel call you one. This will prevent taxi scam situations or unpleasant moments, and if you do have an ugly encounter you can report it to the company. Also, know your addresses and routes to prevent getting a runaround.
4- Take heed of the age-old warning, “be wary of strangers.” Many city scam artists approach their victims by appearing to need help and stirring compassion. A common scam is for example the “distraught foreigner that has been robbed of everything and needs your money.” Another recent anecdote from travelers was of two inoffensive looking old ladies who “accidentally” spilled drinks on tourists and then proceeded to wipe them clean of all their money! If you feel uncomfortable or your gut tells you that someone who is approaching you is dangerous, listen to it. It is better to be safe than sorry.
5- Avoid walking in certain areas at night. In general in the city center it is best to take cabs. Walking around very busy bar/restaurant streets such as central Palermo, Cañitas, Puerto Madero and Recoleta are ok, but don’t stray too much to the smaller side streets. Also, avoid walking in the areas of Retiro, San Nicolás, La Boca and downtown at night, they are dangerous. Most parks tend to be hold-up hotspots at night too. San Telmo has safe and unsafe areas at night and is better to take cabs to and from destinations. During the day, keep an eye out in La Boca, Congreso, the small streets around San Nicolás (the neighborhood where the Casa Rosada, Tortoni and other attractions are) and in Retiro (it is not advisable to wander past the train station towards the river). If you are going to an area you don´t know about, ask the hotel or take a cab.
6- There isn’t much danger in public transport, regular pickpockets mostly. If you are traveling in the subway, and specially if it is full, keep your bag on your chest where you can watch it. Be wary of anyone who stands too close when getting on and off from transport, and look out for people standing by who have a sweater hanging over their forearm as it is a typical tactic to cover their hand as they pick pockets and purses. At night opt for buses or cabs and stay away from train and subway.