Argentina: Tips to Travel Safely

I’ve been asked, is Argentina really dangerous?

WELL, I did hear from friends who stayed there for several months that mugging was extremely common. So is theft and getting ripped off.

However, if you stay smart and take the necessary precautions, you should be all right. Here are some of my top tips to have a safe trip.

1. Avoid La Boca in Buenos Aires.
A wonderfully colourful place that has a section catering to tourists (“La Caminita”). However, do NOT venture anywhere else beyond the touristy part – even locals will tell you to GTFO for your own sake.

ARG2_Buenos Aires_Caminito
image from http://www.socialphy.com
Clearly the touristy part of La Boca

2. Mugging and pickpocketing
is extremely common. Please be very careful. Do NOT walk the streets alone, and if you have to at a late hour, just take a cab back.

Watch out for your bags and handphones as well – iPhones are particularly ‘popular’. In fact, just leave your phone at home if you can help it.

3. Taxi rip offs:
Those with the sign on top, i.e. the ‘radio taxis’, are much less likely to rip you off. These are the taxis that operate with a company. Taxis without the sign are independent drivers – one guy tried quoting me 500 pesos for a drive that should have only cost 20. Nice try mister -_-

On average I paid between 40 – 80 pesos, whether it was afternoon or night for 20 to 30 minute cab rides.

Note that both taxi types look very similar – the differentiator is that sign topper!

taxiba
images from lapchilddiaries.blogspot.com and  http://www.buenosaires54.com

4. Fake monies:
Watch out for fake money! This is especially so for 50 and 100 peso notes (there are two types of 100 peso notes currently in circulation: one with a gentleman on it, another with a lady).

There are four key ways to figure out if you’ve received a fake note and whether you should take on the burly guy lurking in the corner of the money changer. Or not.

100-argentine-pesos-banknote-obverseimage from nomadiknation.com

1. Shimmery number:
The value of the note should be printed in a shimmery ink at the top of the note. No shimmer, no glimmer.. of erm authenticity.

2. Solid silver line:
This runs across the note and should be silvery.

3. Face watermark:
You should see a face when you hold the note up to the light (cue twilight zone music).

4. Texture:
Does the paper feel textured, or smooth like your legs right after you’ve waxed them?

Don’t feel awkward about checking your notes upon receipt: it’s a common practice in Argentina.

For more information and illustrations, check out this site. It even has a quiz to test your powers of recognition (how handy):

http://santelmoloft.com/2011/07/22/fake-money-in-argentina/ 

Exchange rate: the black market
Look for a rate that is at least 9 pesos to 1 USD. The official rate was 6.2 pesos to 1 USD, and many places will offer 7 to 10.

9 was the minimum I would accept in Dec 2013 (although this rate fluctuates because inflation in the country is insane – was about 25% from May – dec 2013). I found rates on Florida street to be amongst the most competitive, but always check for legit notes as many will tell you to stay away from here.

Some restaurants and shops will also allow you to pay in USD, but change will always be returned in pesos.

– – –

This list is far from exhaustive and only reflects the things I was most conscious of during my short two week trip there. As any true Singaporean will tell you, you can never be too careful so check out this site for 181 tips on Buenos Aires warnings.

Also, these tips go beyond just Buenos Aires. I was in the South in Bariloche,  and was told similar tales of caution by locals.

Travel safe!

3 thoughts on “Argentina: Tips to Travel Safely

  1. hi sonia good post, btw how much should be the budget per person. Im planning to travel from singapore (excluding flight tickets)

    1. Hi there!

      Excluding flight tickets, a reasonable budget for Argentina would be about on par with travel to, say, Eastern Europe. Accommodation cost me about 10-15SGD a night for a 6 man hostel, meals about 5-10SGD. Food is a little pricey and not very tasty, unfortunately 😦 Shopping is really great especially at the weekend flea markets (bring about $100 SGD for that – expect lots of handcrafted artisan rings, leather goods etc – go crazy). As for things to do/see, you can do loads of free things (like watching street tango, strolling parks) and take day trips out for cheap (10SGD trains out?) or go more luxe. Hope this helps a little to give a general idea of the expected budget!

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