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Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

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London (England)
posts: 4
reviews: 83
Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

On my first day in Valparaiso I had my day-sack snatched by two young men and in a separate incident was set up for the "mustard trick" (someone throws some gunge over you and an accomplice offers to help clear it up and picks your pockets while s/he does so) but walked away. The second day passed without crime, so the average is only one crime a day (and of course the second incident may have been an accident and a genuinely helpful man).

I was not doing anything especially foolish. In both cases I was on tourist board recommended walking routes, the first time at the top of the ascensor near the Lord Cochrane museum, the second just off the Elchavir Plaza (now admittedly rather seedy, though still a hub of commerce) on the Plan - and I may have got the name wrong - my guidebook was in my day-sack. Both incidents took place in the afternoon, in daylight, with people all around. But I was obviously a gringo tourist. And perhaps I am uniquely incompetent - I also had something stolen out of my bag in Santiago. But even I had no trouble in three weeks in the North of Chile (or in any of my other travels in Europe, Austalasia and Asia (apart from a mugging in Isfahan, Iran in 1985)).

What is other travellers´actual experience of crime in Valparaiso (and Chile more generally)?

Is Valparaiso worth visiting? Well, a jaundiced view of Valparaiso would be: the plan is just a collection of commercial buildings as in many European cities, though rather more run down. The ascensors are just boxes with no view on the journey - and too short to justify the ride unless v old or v unfit. And the uphill romantic views of the housing rising up the amphitheatre only works in a few places where the accommodation has been restored - mostly you are just looking at run-down old houses. And if you are too cautious to take out your camera or to wander around the alleys then tourism is not going to be much fun.

If it was crime-free I´d say Valparaiso was worth a day trip for some views from the miradors. But it is not crime-free.

So I would say that people need to think about the risk of crime before deciding whether to visit Valparaiso (and come to that Santiago) in a way that one does not have to in say the North of the country. And there the impressive landscapes offer something that one just does not get in Europe and that make the journey well worthwhile, whereas Valparaiso is a more "normal" tourist experience.

What do others think?

Toronto, Canada
Destination Expert
for Chile, Santiago
posts: 4,936
reviews: 7
1. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

It is enfuruiating to be subject to crime anywhere. Unbfortunately, anywhere one can be the victim of crime. It isn´t even safe to saty home.

posts: 53
reviews: 3
2. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

When I was living in south Chile, I visited Santiago and Valparaiso with another girl and the two of us felt safe at all times. Just one weird thing happend in Valop when I was taking a picture with my digial camera this Chilean woman told me to put it away right away it wasnt safe. So i did and that was that? Any big city is dangerous but ive personally never been mugged or anything so either im lucky (which is more likely) or just not the victim type? But I think Valpo can be worth the visit if your into seeing cities because there are some nice things to do. I agree its not the nicest and most interesting city ive been to but you just kinda have to go there...

San Diego
posts: 6
reviews: 7
3. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

That is a bummer that you got taken advantage of!

In 1998 (granted a while ago) I lived in Valpo with a family for 1 month. I was 20yrs. old at the time, blonde American and I never had any problems. I don't know if things have changed but I always felt very safe in Valpo. Occasionally I walked home late at night from the bus stop after going dancing in Viña. Probably not the smartest thing to do but I did it and had no problems.

As far as Santiago is concerned you have to be aware of your surroundings and make sure if you have a backpack or purse on the bus/metro that you hold it and NEVER put anything in a front zip pocket of a backpack. You are just asking for your wallet or cd player/ipod to be stolen. It's pretty standard fair for a large city.

I loved living in Valpo for 4 weeks. I found it very charming and so unique! I went out dancing all the time and there were wonderful little clubs and bars. Some of the bars were very old and really took you back to a different era. Also there were tons of little "hole in the wall" restaurants that were so cute and truly inspired by Valparaiso's history. Most of my classmates (it was a study abroad program) were placed in homes in Vina del Mar. I was one of the few who was placed in Valpo. I was so thankful that I was because Vina is nice but lacks the history and character of Valpo.

Maybe you should give it a second chance :)

posts: 1
4. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

We were just there in Valparaiso. During the day light on a suggested walking tour path in a square full of people while we are waiting for my husband and father-in-law to meet us. one guy snathed my camera. when my mother-in-law and I put up little chase. two guys pretending to help try to snatch my purse first, then one guy turn aroud and snatched my mother-in-law's purse when she came help me. It was a major scare since we were expecting pick pockets not out right mugging during the middle of the day in a square full of people. No a single person came to help. The police was nice but not one of them in the station speak english. My husband been to chile 6 years ago. his impression is that Santiage have gotten safer and cleaner, while Valparaiso seem to have gotten much worse even in appearance. Some vendor also told him not to stay around in front of a historic chruch. apparently camera snatching is very common....

Otherwise it is a beautiful city with a great view. I say go to Vino De Mar and you can just look at Valparaiso from a safe distance.


posts: 1
5. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

Michael (& all)

Valparaiso is the biggest Port in Chile. Big cities have their good and bad, I greup in the area and just like in Manhattan, if you hang out in Downtown, Midtown or Upper East Side you'll be fine, if instead you walk far into 9th/10th Ave you may get robbed or let's say you go too far north and find yourself in Harlem which is not quite a safe area. (I got lost there once when I first arrived to NY area).

Valparaiso and Vina del Mar have their good and bad like anywhere else, just don't trust to strangers and enjoy the visit, Chilean food is delicious and the scenes are breathtaking as well. Just make sure you stay in the public safe areas and Good luck!

Washington DC
posts: 5
reviews: 4
6. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

I spent 5 days plus there back in Nov 04 and never had a problem - and we stayed in the middle of a barrio near Neruda's house that wasn't exactly what I would call upscale. Bad things can happen just about anywhere and you have to be alert. Overall my experience in Valpo was fantastic and I would highly recommend it as a destination to visit in Chile.

Sussex, England
posts: 43
reviews: 34
7. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

It is always very unfortunate if you are the victim of crime, and you have my sympathy. Unfortunately no city is free of it these days. Valparaiso is one of my favourite cities, I used to live there many years ago and love going back. The only thing I can say is that I believe it is no worse than many cities and better than some, and it is rarely violent crime against tourists.

The only crime I have been aware of in the last few years is when a Chilean girl married to an Englishman I know had her bag snatched, the police had it back, unharmed, within two hours. There is a big advantage in Chile that there is an efficient and (relatively I supose) uncorrupt police force, certainly the best in Latin America and probably much further than that. I don't think you can expect them to speak English though.

I am quite surprised you suffered this experience. I have wandered around with a camera many times.

Personally I love the ascensors and they are one of the many charms of Valparaiso, there are still several I have not been on, they are so hidden away.

San Francisco
posts: 470
reviews: 3
8. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

I was almost killed once in Madrid, Spain... seriously.. I was strangled until I passed out and then robbed...

would I go back to Madrid?.. heck yes.

would I walk home alone and wasted from a club at 4 in the morning?... heck no.

posts: 8
reviews: 1
9. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

I was in Valpo off and on for more than 2 weeks this past September. I had been warned about petty crime and told to stay away from certain areas (Uruguay Street, for example). Well, I never went out walking at night but during the day I did a lot. I sometimes took out my camera to take pictures and twice sort of got lost walking down from my hotel (the Ultramar), though one never gets really lost since the idea is to keep walking down. The point is that I was in fairly poor non-commercial areas alone for longish periods of time. I never had a problem. I am a woman and was always walking alone but was often mistaken for non-North American. I don't know if that helped.

One day in my wanderings I found myself on Uruguay by mistake. It was different, with lots of sidewalk vendors packed close together, but I wasn't at all afraid.

I needed to buy a charger for my cell phone (had left it in a hotel in Santiago I think) and went to Vina. I finally found an Internet cafe outside the mall across from the big mall. (Sorry I don't remember the names.) The young woman who sold me the charger offered to charge my phone while I did some shopping. I asked her for a receipt and she looked at me like I had two heads and promised there would be no problem. I decided to trust her, frankly just to see what would happen. Maybe that was foolish, but when I went back my phone was still there and had been charged. Who knows?

I don't know if my having lived in New York for quite a long time and also having lived in different parts (not the rich areas) of Boston helped or not. I wonder if I just know how to carry myself or something. I should say that I always carried my money, etc. in a "fanny pack," but often had a bag or at least camera bag with me.

As others have written, I think crime takes place in most urban areas (except perhaps for some that have totalitarian governments and that's a trade-off I don't like). I found Valpo vibrant and richly-textured, particularly in comparison to Vina, where I stayed a bit last year, and Santiago. I the latter two cities I felt that I could easily have been somewhere in the U.S. if only they had been speaking English ;-) In Valpo I knew I was in a different country.

posts: 25
reviews: 3
10. Re: Crime - is Valparaiso worth a visit?

I lived with a family in Vina for 6 weeks about four years ago. It was study abroad trip and most of my classmates were placed with families in Valpo. When comparing the two, Vina is most definitely safer, hands down. But like anywhere, you just have to be smart- with maybe a bit of luck thrown in. Looking back, I certainly did some stupid things, like interviewing street music pirates and wandering around with only a map to guide me around Santiago. But I was never really afraid, except maybe of all of the wild dogs that hang out everywhere. I certainly stuck out as a American woman everywhere I went, but for the most part people were very nice and tried to be as helpful as possible. The family I stayed with was always concerned about me, especially when I went out in Vina alone with my camera hanging around my neck, but I never had any trouble. As a woman, though, in Valpo and parts of Santiago, it is just best practice to have at least one other person with you. It's harder to get into bad situations that way. Definitely, Michael, if you ever go back to Chile, stay in Vina- it is so much nicer! You can always visit Valpo and bring along a friend and a wary eye.