Staying safe in Buenos Aires
I have been to Buenos Aires three times, (2004, 2011, 2014) and have had some of the best trips of my life here. It’s a fantastic city with a very cosmopolitan atmosphere and as my blog posts show, somewhere I could quite happily live.
It’s not all idyllic though. It’s important to be aware of the crime situation and you should try to be alert at all times. I’m fairly street smart, having lived in some pretty tough neighbourhoods, so I’ve rarely had problems. I go quite regularly to quite dodgy cities like Naples, or pickpocketing hubs like Barcelona and Madrid, andI would say BsAs is hairier than any of them.
The things that have happened to me personally have all been quite minor and involved taxi drivers. Once on the way to the airport a cabbie tried to overcharge me and became quite aggressive during the journey. I just kept my cool and didn’t react. When we arrived at the terminal, I took a video of him as I paid the correct fare. I also threatened him with the police. and he backed down very quickly.
On another occasion I made the mistake of taking a cab from the rank outside the Retiro central bus station. A taxi mafia controls things here. I was watching the meter as we drove and the fare suddenly jumped up to something much higher than it should have been. I paid up as it was small beer to me and I didn’t want any hassle as I had all my bags with me. Next time I arrived at the bus station though I walked a couple of blocks and flagged a cab down rather than use that rank again.
Another friend’s taxi drove off with her suitcase still in the back, although she got it back via the police six days later, minus a few valuables. The advice from my hotel concierge was that you should only flag down moving cabs and never take ones parked up or waiting in a rank. I also sometimes take pictures of their number plate and taxi licence as an extra security measure.
Another thing to watch out for is how your change is given. I’ve heard of waiters not returning spare change from the bill or not applying the discount for cash payments.
Counterfeit money is also a problem. Someone I know even received counterfeit notes out of a bank ATM! She couldn’t complain because the bank was shut at the time. The advice from a local was to only use the machines when the bank is open so that you can complain immediately. It’s probably a good idea to have plenty of smaller denomination notes for taxis so your not dealing with lots of paper. If you are given a high denomination note, check the watermark.
Most crimes are non-violent and most areas are fairly safe in central BsAs however in some neighbourhoods such as La Boca, everyone should beware of muggers. An elderly female friend was hit and had her camera stolen when she made the mistake of going down a side street in La Boca at night. Another tall, middle aged male friend did a similar thing and was lassoed around the neck with a belt from behind, pulled down and again had his camera taken. Yet another acquaintance was chased but got away, all in the same area.
Even in the more upmarket Retiro, an older female colleague was set upon by a gang of kids and her bag was stolen. However, Recoleta (the area where work usually puts me up) is relatively safer and you only have to watch out for pickpockets (eg pairs of women standing near you pretending to take photos) and opportunists (eg people who hang around in hotel lobbies and walk off with your bag).
So, if you are alert and aware I’m sure everything will be ok. Please don’t let any of this put you off coming here, Buenos Aires is a fantastic city!