Attitude is essential: strive to look aware and purposeful at all times. Don't wear any jewelry you're not willing to lose. Even imitation jewelry and small items can attract attention and are best left behind. Keep a very firm hold of purses and cameras when out and about, and keep them on your lap in restaurants, not dangling off the back of your chair.
Always remain alert for pickpockets. Try to keep your cash and credit cards in different places, so that if one gets stolen you can fall back on the other. Tickets and other valuables are best left in hotel safes. Avoid carrying large sums of money around, but always keep enough to have something to hand over if you do get mugged. Another time-honored tactic is to keep a dummy wallet (an old one containing an expired credit card and a small amount of cash) in your pocket, with your real cash in an inside or vest pocket: if your "wallet" gets stolen you have little to lose.
It bears repeating to any female headed to Argentina for the first time: women can expect pointed looks, the occasional piropo (a flirtatious remark, usually alluding to some physical aspect), and some advances. These catcalls rarely escalate into actual physical harassment—the best reaction is to make like local girls and ignore it; reply only if you're really confident with Spanish curse words. Going to a bar alone will be seen as an open invitation for attention. If you're heading out for the night, it's wise to take a taxi.
In Buenos Aires there's a notable police presence in areas popular with tourists, such as San Telmo and Palermo, which seems to deter potential pickpockets and hustlers. However, Argentinians have little faith in their police forces: many officers are corrupt and involved in protection rackets or dealing in stolen goods. At best, the police are well meaning but under-equipped, so don't count on them to come to your rescue in a difficult situation. Reporting crimes is usually ineffectual, and is worth the time it takes only if you need the report for insurance.
The most important advice we can give you is to not put up a struggle in the unlikely event of being mugged or robbed. Nearly all physical attacks on tourists are the direct result of their resisting would-be pickpockets or muggers. Comply with demands, hand over your stuff, and try to get the situation over with as quickly as possible—then let your travel insurance take care of it.
Argentines like to speak their minds, and there has been a huge increase in strikes and street protests since the economic crisis of 2001-02. Protesters frequently block streets and squares in downtown Buenos Aires, causing major traffic jams. Some are protesting government policies, others may be showing support for these. Either way, trigger-happy local police have historically proved themselves more of a worry than the demonstrators, but though protests are usually peaceful, exercise caution if you happen across one.
Beware scams such as a kindly passer-by offering to help you clean the mustard/ketchup/cream that has somehow appeared on your clothes: while your attention is occupied, an accomplice picks your pocket or snatches your bag.
Taxi drivers in big cities are usually honest, but occasionally they decide to take people for a ride, literally. All official cabs have meters, so make sure this is turned on. Some scam artists have hidden switches that make the meter tick over more quickly, but simply driving a circuitous route is a more common ploy. It helps to have an idea where you're going and how long it will take. Local lore says that, if hailing taxis on the street, those with lights on top (usually labeled "Radio Taxi") are more trustworthy. Late at night, try to call for a cab—all hotels and restaurants, no matter how cheap, have a number and will usually call for you.
When asking for price quotes when shopping in touristy areas, always confirm whether the price is in dollars or pesos. Some salespeople, especially street vendors, have found that they can take advantage of confused tourists by charging dollars for goods that are actually priced in pesos. If you're in doubt about that beautiful leather coat, don't be shy about asking if the number on the tag is in pesos or dollars.
Advisories and Other Information
Transportation Security Administration (www.tsa.gov.)
U.S. Department of State (www.travel.state.gov.)
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