Here is the information I provide my students about staying safe in Argentina. Given the recent Radio Taxi experience of one of our posters, I thought prospective visitors might find this information useful....but, please,don't let the small possibility that you will encounter a problem deter you from going out and enjoying this fantastic city....
DANGERS & ANNOYANCES IN BUENOS AIRES
Every big city has its dangers. The purpose of this information is to share with you some of the more common crimes or annoyances that occur in Buenos Aires so that you can become more aware of your surroundings
Problem: A popular scam is for a thief to spray the victim with mustard or ketchup from a hidden plastic squeeze bottle and then for an accomplice (or possibly the same person) to point out the stain and offer to 'help clean up'. While the victim is temporarily caught off guard, the kind helper picks his/her pocket.
What to do:
• If you are squirted with any substance: Walk away quickly. Make noise. Under no circumstances should you allow yourself to be ushered into an alley.
• A second precaution is not to carry a wallet. Instead carry your money in a concealed pouch, tucked inside of your clothing. If you do carry a wallet, try keeping it in your front pocket and place a rubber band around it.
• Carry your driver's license and a photocopy of your passport with you for identification. Leave the original in the dorm in a place of safekeeping.
• Carry only small amounts of money with you. No more than you will need for that specific outing.
Problem: There is currently an influx of counterfeit bills and it is easy to be deceived unless you are aware of what to look for.
What to do: The best way to determine if a bill is counterfeit is to look through the bill for the shadow picture hidden in the bill, usually the face of an important Argentine. If you can't see the picture, you are holding a genuine counterfeit bill. Don't be afraid to check each bill when you receive it, the person giving it to you might not know it is counterfeit either. Recently, the government has started issuing new bills with additional safety factors (e.g. silver thread through the bill, raised lettering, color changes if viewed from different angles), however, as long as the older bills are still in use, there continues to be a threat of counterfeiting.
Never exchange money on the street. Use a bank or licensed exchange house to reduce the possibility of receiving counterfit bills.
Problem: It is becoming increasingly popular for cashiers to try and make a profit by not giving you the correct change from your purchase.
What to do: Pay attention when you are receiving change for a purchase by being aware of what denomination bill you paid with and by always counting your change.
TAXI ROBBERIES AND TIPS FOR SAFETY
Problem: Although the large majority of taxis in Buenos Aires are driven by honest, hard-working people, there are others which are driven by those waiting to catch someone off guard and take more than just the taxi fare. These robberies tend to originate in the downtown or micro-center areas and mostly target male passengers. Although women are less involved, they are by no means safe from this either. The general scheme of these robberies is for the taxi driver to pick up either one or two "partners", who quickly jump into the taxi with you to prevent an escape. They will then drive you around to various bank machines to withdraw cash; usually until you reach your daily withdrawal limit. Another frequent taxi robbery is for the driver to insist that you have tried to pay him with a "counterfeit bill". As you reach for your wallet this allows him to see the money inside, grab it from you and force you out of the taxi, possibly with a weapon of some sort. We have also heard of taxistas insisting on driving to the nearest bank machine in order for you to withdraw money that is not "counterfeit".
What to do:
The best advice is to phone ahead or ask the restaurant or hotel workers to phone for you for a radio taxi.
If hailing from the street, try to pick a newer model taxi or one that has Radio Taxi written on the side.
If possible, only use a radio taxi or remise (see Car Services and Radio Taxis).
Do not choose a taxi that doesn't have the front passenger seat pulled up as far as possible towards the dashboard (if the front seat is back, this better enables the driver to pick up a "partner".
Do not use a taxi that doesn't have the license visible
Memorize the taxista's license number or either call a friend and give them the information over a cell phone. This allows the driver to know that his information has been recorded.
Lock the doors once inside.
NEVER hail a cab after leaving a bank or instant bank machine.
SWITCHING BILLS IN A TAXI
Problem: There are endless stories of taxi drivers quickly switching a bill you give them for a smaller bill and trying to make you believe that you shorted the driver. (You give them a $50, they quickly change it without you noticing and swear you only gave them a $10).
What to Do: Make sure you KNOW what denomination you are handing over and make sure the taxi driver is aware of this, especially when dealing with bills over $10. Even better, have change and give them the exact amount.
Note: The advice of picking up one peso coins and using them to pay for short taxi rides is an excellent idea. I will include this advice for my students this year!
POSITIVE TAXI EXPERIENCES
It's popular among portenos to claim that all taxi drivers are dishonest and, while it is true that a very small minority of drivers are not to be trusted, it should also be remembered that the vast majority are honest, hard-working people trying to make a living and charging a good deal less than their counterparts in many North American and European cities. This is not meant to give the impression that nothing bad ever happens in a taxi but to provide a bit of perspective on the frequent claim that all taxi drivers are thieves and con men. They most certainly are not!
CAUTION WITH JEWELRY
Problem: Upon your arrival in Buenos Aires you may notice that Argentine women love to wear jewelry but that diamond engagement rings or any piece of jewelry where a diamond is paramount is not common in this culture. Although Buenos Aires is one of the safest Latin American cities, we do not recommend wearing this type of jewelry on a daily basis because it will draw attention and you will become a more visible target for a thief.
What to do: Use caution and common sense when choosing when and where you should wear your jewelry or nice watches. You should keep it to a minimum, such as dinner at a nice restaurant or maybe a party at a friend's house where you are not taking public transportation, taxis or walking a long distance.
Best advice...leave your Rolex at home and wear your timex.
There are purse snatchers in most areas that attract tourists. One common method is for two thieves to partner, with one grabbing your bag with the partner waiting nearby on a motorscooter so the thief can jump on and they can escape quickly.....
What to do.
Walk facing traffic on one way streets. Keep your bag on the side nearest the buildings and away from the street.
Wear your camera and shoulder bags across your body instead of dangling off your shoulder. Keep back packs in front of you, instead of on your back to reduce the possibility of having your purse snatched.