With it’s sophisticated and dynamic mix of culture, food and people – Buenos Aires is one of South America’s most alluring cities. From its stunning European influence to its friendly locals, Argentina’s capital is a very beautiful and intriguing city. But like any other big city there is crime, and Buenos Aires is renowned for being quite a dangerous city. However, if you keep your wits about you and use common sense you can generally get by just fine.
Here are some Buenos Aires safety and travel tips to help you navigate your way through this great city!
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CURRENCY + MONEY
+ BRING US DOLLARS
This is the one thing I wish I had known before going to Argentina – you can literally double your money if you have US dollars.
Since Argentina’s debt crisis in 2002, the currency Peso has been subject to high inflation rates that are continuing to increase rapidly. With such an unstable and quickly devaluing currency, Argentinians want to get their hands on more stable currencies like the US dollar – which is significantly hard to get if you’re Argentinean. This is where the “blue” rate or illegal dollar black-market comes into play. By exchanging your USD for Argentinean Peso you will get a significantly higher rate than you would receive at a normal currency exchange or when withdrawing from an ATM.
For a safe place to exchange your money – ask a local, tour guide or your hotel/hostel. Otherwise you can walk down Avenida Florida, where you will find many people shouting “cambio” to you – don’t be afraid to haggle with them to get the best rate. Just be sure to check that the money you have been given is not fake.
If you do not want to take part in the dollar blackmarket, you are still able to get heavy discounts at stores, hotels and restaurants by paying in US currency.
+ BEWARE OF COUNTERFEIT BILLS
There are many counterfeit bills floating around Argentina, so be sure to check that you have been given real money when it comes to receiving change or when exchanging money. There are many ways to tell if the notes are real; one way is to hold the bill up to the light and make sure that you can see that it has interlaced foil just off-centre on the big notes. Furthermore, check for the watermark and the quality of the paper.
+ CARRY SMALL CHANGE ON YOU
Always try to carry some small change on you, whether it be notes or coins. There is a lack of change in Buenos Aires and coins are scarce, so if you don’t have small change, don’t be surprised if the shop prices get rounded up or you’re given sweets to compensate your loss – it’s common!
+ CARRY ID
Try and carry ID on you at all times. In many shops such as grocery stores and pharmacies, you will need to present your ID in order to pay by card.
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+ STICK TO THE SAFER NEIGHBOURHOODS
Try and stick to the safer neighborhoods if you are alone or wandering the city at night. The safest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires are Recoleta, Palermo and Puerto Madero. One of the most dangerous neighbourhoods is La Boca, so exercise caution while there – try to stay in the tourist areas and do not wander too far from these areas if you are by yourself.
+ DONT CARRY VALUABLES WITH YOU
Leave all expensive or important valuables (passports!) locked in the safe at your hotel.
Always know where your belongings are – keep your bag in front of you, keep your camera tied around your wrist, don’t keep your phones on the table and don’t hang your handbag on the chair behind you.
I’d usually keep the larger money notes in my bra and keep some small change in my bag/pocket (that way if the possibility did arise and I were to get robbed, I would have something to give them). All I had in my handbag was a camera, map and notebook.
+ BEWARE OF THE DISTRACTION METHOD
One of the most common scams in Buenos Aires is for someone to squirt a mustard-type liquid on you and then offer to help clean you up, cleaning out your valuables at the same time! More often than not, they are non-threatening looking people such as an old lady. If someone attempts to help you clean off the foul liquid, hold onto your valuables, look them in the eye and in a stern voice say no, then leave the area immediately to get to a safe location or your hotel.
+ LOOK WHERE YOU’RE GOING
Always keep an eye out for where you are and where you’re going. Look when you’re crossing the street – cars aren’t likely to stop for you. Look out for dog poo – there is a huge scene for dog walking in Buenos Aires. Keep an eye out for petty crime – if a place looks a bit suss, get out of there.
+ AVOID PROTESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS
Like every other South American city, protests and demonstrations are common and occur frequently – especially in Buenos Aires. Even though many of these protests are held with good intentions, they can often turn violent quickly, so try to avoid staying for long and immediately leave the area if anything bad starts happening.
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Try and use RADIO Taxis when travelling around Buenos Aires as they are the official taxis that are registered with the government. They are generally safer and have more accurate meters than other Taxis – making it less likely that you will be ripped off.
+ COMMON TAXI SCAMS TO LOOK OUT FOR:
- Counterfeit bill swapping – you will hand over a $50 or $100 bill and they will say they have no change and give you back a fake one. To avoid this, try and pay with smaller notes or when you are handing over the note – look at the serial number on the bill so you are not scammed.
- Taking you the long way around to increase the price.
+ OTHER TAXI TIPS:
- Always ask for an estimate price before getting into the taxi.
- If you call to book a taxi, you will be charged more.
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OTHER USEFUL TIPS
- Many restaurants have a table service fee per person + the 10% service tip.
- Shopping is relatively expensive in Buenos Aires compared to other cities in South America – expect prices that are definitely more expensive than the US and more on par with Europe and Australia.
- Argentinians party LATE – don’t expect there to be anyone out before 11pm, and the party to be happening until 2am.
- People from certain countries have to pay a reciprocity fee in order to enter Argentina (such as Australia), so make sure that you pay that and have a copy of your receipt before arriving in Argentina or you will not be let in.