So you’re considering taking a trip to Argentina’s capitol, but you’re wondering whether or not it’s safe to visit as a tourist? It’s pretty common to be concerned when going to a new place, especially if you don’t speak the local language, but it’s always important to first find out if these concerns are even justified. So let’s get right to it.
When it comes to South America, most people already have a predisposition that they will be at a higher risk of violent crime. Depending on what it is they do, this could be true. However, people often also forget that there is a high risk of violent crime in their own cities or countries, depending on what they do there as well. Columbia, for example, is notorious for being home to violent drug cartels and this scares off many potential tourists (Ryne, included), but for some reason, many young tourists feel the need to seek out cocaine or other illicit drugs while on vacation there. Naturally, this is how the most dicey situations occur. No matter where you are in the world, if you seek out trouble, then you are more likely to find it. Obviously, Columbia has nothing to do with Argentina, but these are the types of things that give the rest of the continent a bad reputation. So what about Argentina, then?
Argentina is one of the safest countries in the Western Hemisphere. While Buenos Aires has the highest crime rate of any Argentinian city, it remains one of the safest cities in Latin America. In fact, violent crime is continuously decreasing in Buenos Aires from year to year. As of 2019, the homicide rate in Buenos Aires dropped to 4.7 per 100,000; the lowest of all major cities south of the United States. In fact, there are currently 61 U.S. cities with a homicide rate that is at least double that of Buenos Aires. Astonishing, huh? Maybe it’s time to learn Spanish and expatriate to Argentina.
If you’re still caught up on that second sentence of the previous paragraph, it’s also important to remember that crime rates are always higher in densely populated areas and capitol cities. This is even more relevant in Argentina because almost 1/3 of the country’s population lives in the Buenos Aires metropolitan area. From that, you could conclude that your risk of becoming victim to a crime outside of Buenos Aires is even lower. However, just because the homicide rate is low, doesn’t mean you’re totally risk free. So what do you need to watch out for in Buenos Aires?
Crimes Affecting Tourists in Buenos Aires
If you read the U.S. Overseas Security Advisory Council Argentina 2020 Crime & Safety Report or the UK government’s Argentina Travel Advice, you could easily be scared into canceling your trip all together. Sadly, sensationalism is one of a government’s few strengths. The reality is that if you practice common-sense personal safety precautions, then you will be just as safe in Buenos Aires as in your local supermarket. The most common crimes affecting tourists are pickpockets and scams. Pickpockets are present in every city on planet Earth and so are scammers. As long as you’re smart and keep a clear head, you’re not likely to fall victim to one of these types of crime.
The easiest way to prevent pickpocket attempts is to carry your valuables in a sturdy, lockable (recommended) bag and keep that bag on the front of your body. Don’t carry it on your back, for example. We each carry a Pacsafe while traveling and have never had any problems. American tourists are known for stowing their wallets or phones in their back pockets, making it way too easy for any thief to snatch them. The next thing to do is to be weary of any stranger touching you for any reason. Did someone “accidentally” spill something on you? Accept their apology, but don’t let them touch you. Walk away and clean yourself up. Even if it was an accident, you don’t want to take the chance that it was actually intentional and risk someone cleaning you out while cleaning you up. Finally, you are not obligated to pay for anything that you don’t want. Scammers all over the world try to trick tourists into buying things by offering them something for free and then after they accept it, the scammer tells them it’s only free with the purchase of a way overpriced item.
Our Own Experience with Pickpockets in Buenos Aires
We felt extremely safe during our week in Buenos Aires, but I (Ryne) do have a little story to tell. We took a walking tour while in Buenos Aires and we were part of a huge group of about 40 tourists. At one point during the tour, I noticed a woman and a small girl (presumably her daughter) who had not been there before yet who were now walking with the group. I thought it was suspicious, so I was trying to keep my eye on them without appearing rude. At one point, I felt a small hand touching my hip and leg. Sure enough, it was the little girl. I simply said hello to her to let her know that I was aware of her presence. She ignored me, then her and her mother left immediately. It’s very common for women and children to be the perpetrators of pickpocketing and I’m convinced that this was indeed an attempted robbery. I don’t know if they got to anyone else in the group, but since I had my Pacsafe over my shoulder and on the front of my body, there was no chance for anyone to get to my valuables.
Buenos Aires is super safe for tourists, as long as they apply some common sense. There are a couple of neighborhoods that you should avoid, but you will hear about these from your hotel or hostel. Most notably is the “La Boca” neighborhood. It’s supposed to be interesting, but we didn’t bother going there because of the warning from our hostel. Otherwise, there is no reason to be afraid of visiting Buenos Aires. In fact, we highly recommend a trip, as it is currently one of our favorite cities in the world. When you do decide to go, you’ll definitely want to first read our Buenos Aires Travel Guide.