Safety in Buenos Aires Argentina

By: Josie Stephens

Like many other major cities, pickpocketing is one of the biggest (if not, the biggest crime) in Buenos Aires. However, it is worse here than in other countries you may have heard about or traveled to. Rather than just taking things slyly out of your bag, they may even take your phone right out of your hand if you’re using it on the street. Especially if you have an iPhone, be super careful. Not many natives have iPhones here because they are so expensive. In extreme cases, they may attack you in order to get to your phone or wallet. It is NOT common that they use weapons, fortunately, but being pushed to the ground and/or having your phone taken is still not a pleasant experience.

If you are super worried about this, I recommend just leaving your iPhone or expensive smartphone at home altogether and buying a cheap smartphone here. The reason I recommend a cheap smartphone rather than a flip phone is because it would be helpful to be able to still be able to use a GPS and WhatsApp and things of that nature. But, if you get a cheap phone, the camera will be of very poor quality, so if you are interested in taking pictures while you’re there, I would recommend bringing or buying some sort of camera.

But, there are other measures you can take to prevent being pickpocketing and/or being mugged. Simply DO NOT use your phone on the street or sidewalk. If you’re calling an Uber, for example, go into a convenience store and call it from inside of there. If you need directions on your GPS, either memorize the path by using street names and counting the number of blocks, or put on headphones and have the GPS announce the directions to you in your ears. Keep your phone in your front pocket with your hand over your pocket at all times, or even better, get a cross-body bag or a fanny pack type of bag that sits at the front of your body. Getting a lock to attach to the opening of the bag will give you extra security. If you are wearing a backpack, wear it backwards so it sits at the front of your body.

If you must take out your phone, like I said, it is best to pull into a secluded area or into a store. But in some cases, I just really wanted to take a picture of something beautiful I saw while walking around the city (which will happen often because Buenos Aires is a beautiful city). So in that instance, I would check my surroundings to see if anyone was close by. Once the coast was clear, I would take out my phone quickly to take a picture. I would grip the phone tightly while holding it with two hands (one hand on the top of the phone and one hand on the bottom of the phone). The key for all of this is just to be aware of your surroundings at all times.

This may seem overwhelming and scary; it definitely was for me at first. I did not know about these guidelines until a few days into my trip, and it was a hard pill for me to swallow at first. But once I got a cross-body bag and a lock for it, I felt much better. You will get used to it eventually. It’s also good to remember that unlike the US, violence with weapons is not very much of an issue here – they are not trying to injure you or kill you, they are just trying to get your valuables. An unforeseen positive that came out of this was that I ended up using my phone much less than usual, allowing me to simply enjoy the moment and my surroundings more.