Top 5 Cons in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a sophisticated city that’s popular with tourists — and the conmen who prey on tourists. But learning the most common con games can help to keep you safe.
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Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina, and the country’s largest city. The city is known for its lively and sophisticated cultural scene and European atmosphere, and it attracts millions of tourists from around the globe each year. But like most major cities of the world, it also attracts those who try to make an illegal living off tourists. If travelling to Buenos Aires, watch out for these con games—they’re some of the most common to be found there.
1. Customs agents looking for bribes
The scamming begins the second you land in Buenos Aires. It is not uncommon for customs agents to single out people they think might be good for a bribe. They will search through your luggage and insist that you can’t bring in certain items, especially electronics. Sometimes it’s legitimate and they are doing their job, but a lot of the time, it’s just a scam. Your best defense is to pretend you don’t understand a word they are saying. Eventually, they will get tired of trying to mime things and let you through.
2. Taxis outside the airport
As soon as you exit the airport, you’ll be swarmed by taxi drivers looking to be your ride. Do not let any of them grab your luggage and usher your into their car. Make sure you talk to a few different taxi drivers, including the company stands in the airport. Once you have a feel for the prices, you can negotiate with a driver.
Usually, taxis in Buenos Aires run on a meter, but from the airport you should always get a set price. The prices are set by which barrio, or neighborhood, you are going to, so try to have that handy. There is a fee to exit the airport, which you are responsible for—but only pay the exit fee, not their fee to get back in. Always ask what the exit fee is before you get in the car, otherwise they might try to stick you with an outrageous price at the end of your ride.
3. Locals asking for directions
Locals love to prey on tourists who are trying to blend in. They give you an ego boost by coming up to you and asking for directions. They may even compliment how great your Spanish is for having just arrived. Meanwhile, their partner will be robbing you blind. You will be so distracted by the supposedly lost local, you won’t even notice someone rummaging through your bag.
Buenos Aires is full of fast-fingered pickpockets. If you let your guard down in a crowded area for even a second, chances are you will be missing a few things from your bag. The subway and bus lines often lure you into a false sense of security, but pickpockets love public transit because they can rob a large number of people, then just hop off at the next stop before anyone notices a thing. Locals never interfere with pickpockets, so even if they see you being robbed, they won’t say anything to you or do anything to stop it.
Always keep your valuables stored in the inner pockets of your bag, and don’t leave your bag hanging on your back or side; keep it guarded in front of your body. If you have to carry a large amount of money or valuables (which is not recommended) make sure to store it in different places so that if you do fall victim to a crafty pickpocket, you won’t lose everything.
5. Fellow traveller looking for a friend
Most travellers love meeting other travellers and becoming fast friends, but you have to be a little more wary of friendly “travellers” in Buenos Aires. Sometimes locals will get chummy with tourists by pretending to also be a tourist. They will suggest you see the sights together and maybe get a drink. The drink is often drugged, so they can take everything you have on you and then make you clean out your bank out at the nearest ATM.
The way to spot these scammers is to listen for strange accents that don’t match up with their alleged country of origin, holes in their travel stories, or several travellers in a group that want to make friends. They usually work in groups so it is easier to overpower you when the time comes.
As scary as all these cons may sound, most of them are pretty avoidable if you just stay alert.