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Dangers & Annoyances

  • For tourists, Argentina is one of the safest countries in Latin America. This isn’t to say you should skip down the street drunk with your long-lens camera dangling, but with a little common sense you can visit Argentina’s big cities as safely as you could London, Paris or New York. That said, crime has been on the rise.

Petty Crime

  • The economic crisis of 1999–2001 plunged a lot of people into poverty, and street crime (pickpocketing, bag-snatching and armed robbery) has subsequently risen, especially in Buenos Aires. Here, be especially watchful for pickpockets on crowded buses, on the Subte (subway) and at busy ferias (street markets). Still, most people feel perfectly safe in the big cities. In the small towns of the provinces you’d have to search for a crook to rob you.
  • Bus terminals are common places where tourists become separated from their possessions. For the most part bus terminals are safe, as they’re usually full of families traveling and saying goodbyes, but they can also be prime grounds for bag-snatchers. Always keep an eagle eye on your belongings. This is especially true in Buenos Aires’ Retiro station.
  • At sidewalk cafe or restaurant tables, always have your bag close to you, preferably touching your body. You can also place the strap around your leg or tie it around the furniture. Be careful showing off expensive electronics like laptops, iPods or iPads. Other places to be wary are tourist destinations and on crowded public transportation.
  • In Buenos Aires the Tourist Police provide interpreters and help victims of robberies and rip-offs.

Electronics Warning

Note that buying a smart phone, and especially an iPhone, is extremely expensive in Argentina due to import restrictions – and they are not widely available. This makes them easy targets for theft. If you do bring your smart phone, don’t flash it around unnecessarily or leave it unprotected somewhere. This goes for tablet computers and laptop computers, too.

Pickets & Protests

  • Street protests have become part of daily life in Argentina, especially in Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo area. Generally these have little effect on tourists other than blocking traffic or making it difficult to see Buenos Aires’ Plaza de Mayo and the Casa Rosada.
  • The country has many gremios or sindicatos (trade unions), and it seems that one of them is always on strike. Transportation unions sometimes go on strike, which can affect travelers directly by delaying domestic flights and bus services. It’s always a good idea to keep your eye on the news before traveling.

Drivers

  • Being a pedestrian in Argentina is perhaps one of the country’s more difficult ventures. Many Argentine drivers jump the gun when the traffic signal is about to change to green, drive extremely fast and change lanes unpredictably. Even though pedestrians at corners and crosswalks have the legal right of way, very few drivers respect this and will hardly slow down when you are crossing. Be especially careful of buses, which can be recklessly driven and, because of their large size, particularly dangerous.

Police & Military

  • The police and military have a reputation for being corrupt or irresponsible, but both are generally helpful and courteous to tourists. If you feel you’re being patted down for a bribe (most often if you’re driving), you can respond by tactfully paying up or asking the officer to accompany you to the police station to take care of it. The latter will likely cause the officer to drop it – though it could also lead you into the labyrinthine bureaucracy of the Argentine police system. Pretending you don’t understand Spanish may also frustrate a potential bribe.