Safety Tips for South America:
South America is one of the favorite travel destinations in the world, especially for Trekkers. With places like Rio de Janeiro, Santiago and Buenos Aires, and extremely low costs if compared to United States and Europe, South America is getting more visitors each year. But this wonderful continent is also labeled as a dangerous place, and almost everyone who thinks to visit it face doubts about how safe it really is.
Since it’s a continent that faces deep problems with social inequality, crime rates are in fact worse than in most developed countries. And as such, worrying about criminality in South America is no exaggeration, but assuming that the problem is big enough to prevent you from going there may be.
The real question is: “Is it possible to travel through South America feeling as safe as in countries like England or The United States?”. And the answer is: Yes, it is. Although some precautions must be taken, but nothing out of ordinary, just small actions that will decrease the chances of you having to deal with criminal activity.
First thing to consider is that not every place in South America has problems with crime. Countries like Uruguay and Chile are as safe as any developed country, with some dangerous areas like in any other place. On the other hand there are a few countries considered to be more risky, like Brazil and Colombia, but even those have a lot of crime free zones, where walking alone at night is as safe as in Manhattan or London.
Then what can you do to make sure you are as safe as you can possibly be? In fact, a lot of the preemptive measures you must take while travelling in South America are already part of the life of most seasoned travelers, since acting cautiously improves your safety no matter where you are, and especially in big cities where petty crimes are usually pretty common. So here’s a list of those precautions you can take to be sure you will be safe while visiting this beautiful continent:
- Avoid showing valuable items: Stealing from someone is a pretty dangerous activity, therefore most thieves won’t risk approaching someone if they have no reason to believe there is something valuable to take. Be extra careful with items like expensive cameras, smartphones and jewelry.
- Hide your wallet: Pickpocketing is a major problem in every touristic destination. so keep your wallet always in your sight and never leave it in your back pocket.
- Stay away from desert places: A thief is very unlikely to approach you violently in a well-lit street, full of people all around, since the chances of somebody noticing and calling the police is pretty big, but if you are the only person walking in a dark street, the mugger may think that he can get away with it.
- Also stay alert while in crowded places: Although violent crimes very rarely happen in crowded places, this is the best scenario for pickpocketing. So when you face a crowd be mindful of your belongings, especially if you notice someone uncomfortably close to you
- Make friends: As we said before, a criminal tries to reduce risks as much as he can. Following that logic, mugging someone alone is much easier than mugging a group of people. So connect with people, be friendly and try to keep in touch with your fellow travelers, with them around, your trip will be much safer, and probably much nicer too.
- Be careful with con artists: Another huge issue for travelers are con artists. They exploit the fact that tourist very often lack basic information about their new surroundings and therefore are more likely to be fooled. Always suspect when someone approaches you to offer help, money, products or services you didn’t ask for. Always check every penny that goes through your hand, since giving tourists the wrong change is not uncommon, also pay attention when changing currencies, getting fake money while exchanging is one of the classics cons in the continent. Another important tip is never stop for beggars or people asking for money to charity, since a lot of times this is just a cover up to try to steal from you while you are distracted.
- Always gather information from trustworthy sources: Remember to ask about the safe areas of the city, trustworthy establishments and if it’s safe to walk at night. The more information you have, the easier it will be to make smart choices concerning your safety.
- Keep in touch with friends and family: A lot of people tend to isolate themselves from their everyday life, to fully enjoy their vacations. Even though that is a valid approach to traveling, it is not the best option if you are visiting a country with considerable safety issues. So at least try to periodically send news and information to your peers back at home. Cause if something goes wrong, someone will notice your lack of communication and investigate what is going on.
Following those simple tips and of course, using common sense, will dramatically improve your safety while visiting any country in South America. Actually, these are probably good guidelines for any big city around the world.