How to Avoid Being a Target
in Buenos Aires
If you don’t want to be the target of con artists, thieves and scammers, follow these six tips to help ensure an incident-free vacation in Buenos Aires.
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Scammers in Buenos Aires, Argentina, are well practiced. While they might choose a random victim every so often, they usually look for certain things to limit risk on their part and ensure a better rate of success. Here are some of the ways they pick their targets.
You will never see a local wearing white socks and tennis shoes. Porteños (citizens of Buenos Aires) are much too fashionable for that. Other giveaways are t-shirts with English on them and out-of-season clothing. Argentines get cold much easier than many westerners, so when it’s 15 degrees Celsius outside, many of them will be wearing coats and scarves while tourists are out in shorts and t-shirts. You should also be wary of wearing any prominent name brands that cannot be found in Argentina. Lastly, keep your bling at home; flashing your jewelry around the city is only going to attract trouble.
This is a tough one, seeing as you’re going to need a map to get around. When you pull out that map on a street corner, you might as well toss your money right onto the sidewalk. If you don’t get pickpocketed while you’re studying the map, you might be followed until the scammer gets you in a less crowded area and feels more comfortable robbing you.
Thankfully, there is an easy solution for this one. Go to a local magazine stand and purchase a book called the Guia-T. The book is a guide of all the bus and subway lines in the city and doubles as an excellent pocket-sized map. Locals often refer to the Guia-T as the biblia, or Bible, so using one in public will not draw any attention.
3. Wandering eyes
Even if you forego the map and memorize your route, you may still be at risk. Every time you pause and glance at a street sign, it’s noticeable. You may think you are being sly, but to someone who knows what to look for, it’s painfully obvious. If you are going to memorize your route, memorize blocks instead of street names. Tell yourself, “straight three blocks, then right, walk four blocks, then left.” This technique keeps you from checking out street signs and makes it look like you are familiar with the area.
4. Foreign languages
This is a pretty obvious one, but it’s worth mentioning. If you are speaking any language other than Spanish, you are announcing that you are not from around here. While Buenos Aires is home to a large number of expatriates, scammers are usually smart enough to use other cues to figure out how new you are to the area. If you have to speak in your native tongue in public, be discreet, or at least keep your eyes open for anyone who is paying too much attention to you.
5. Cell phones
Locals and tourists alike have to be careful when using a cell phone in public. It is very common for thieves to simply snatch them right out of your hands. If you need to text in public, try not to do so while walking or while in crowded areas. Even if you are sitting in a restaurant, you need to keep your cell phone on your body because thieves often slip phones right off the table without anyone even noticing.
6. High-end electronics
Once again, even locals have to be careful with this one. Due to the strict import laws in Argentina, electronics such as BlackBerry smart phones, iPhones and iPods are incredibly expensive, making them very popular on the black market. If you own any high-end electronics, beware of using them in public. Many thieves will rob you in broad daylight for these types of items due to their high resale value.
If you keep all these easy-target giveaways in mind and stay alert, you are much more likely to have an incident-free vacation in Buenos Aires. However, if you are targeted, just remember that material things can be replaced. Do not fight back. Just scream, run and get to safety.