Skip Navigation

Safty issues in SA

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean Safty issues in SA

  • 1
  • 2

Last Post

1. Posted by cat.n. (Budding Member 32 posts) 9y

Hi everybody.
Just wondered about safty in SA, i'm going all round pretty much apart from columbia. I know most of it is just down to common sence, such as, don't go out after dark, don't wear anything that looks valuable etc. but i also know that somtimes its down to luck and wrong place wrong time :( (not that i'm trying to put a downer on my trip or anything lol). I just wondered if there was any advice from any of you SA gurus out there . Thanks

2. Posted by samsara_ (Travel Guru 5353 posts) 9y

Hi Cat,

Well, you're going with the right attitude, in my opinion. It's just good sense to have a healthy awareness that you could be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and be prepared to deal with it. ;)
The best advice is dont let fear dissuade you from new experiences or enjoying yourself, and risks pay off too! :)

Obvious things:
Dont wander out alone at night unless you feel it's reasonably safe
Keep your passport and valuables on you at all times out of sight
Have a back-up plan just in case you do get mugged (eg emergency money stash)
Try to have eyes at the back of your head Be wary of someone approaching you to distract you while you are targetted from behind.
If you are on an overnight bus make sure you dont leave any belongings on the seat beside you. Most likely, they won't be there when you wake up.

You will have an amazing time in South America :) I had some of the best experiences of my life there!
Safe travelling!

3. Posted by cat.n. (Budding Member 32 posts) 9y

I thought so, suppose i've just got to hope they'll pick on someone else lol. Did you encounter any problems at all, if so how did you deal with them?

4. Posted by ppereira (Full Member 25 posts) 9y

I was a female backpacking in all southamerica ... pretty scary at first.. but as long as you don't have the "I am soo lost" face.. you'll be ok, every city/town has it's rough spots.. so try to avoid them specially at night.. distribute your money all over (In Bolivia the cops try to ask for money, of course I only had 20 bolivares in my wallet and that was all I had to give them :) lucky me!!!)

Try to make a travelling group while you are travelling, it is more fun and safer!!!

Good travelling!!


5. Posted by bentivogli (Travel Guru 2398 posts) 9y

This topic comes up again and again; SA is just about as safe or unsafe as, say, Europe or US. Exercise caution, act savvy, and you'll be all right.

6. Posted by ritchies69 (Budding Member 11 posts) 9y

Agree with the last poster. If you're not going to go out after dark then you're fairly going to limit what you can do and how much fun you can have. It's SA not Iraq

I also don't agree with the idea of keeping your passport and valuables with you at all times. What if you get mugged? If you're in a hostel where there's lockers or the people seem cool then just leave it there.

Once you're in a place for a day you'll get to know how safe it is. Buenos Aires and many other places are just like cities in Europe.

Never heard of anyone getting mugged, only people getting scammed. So just watch out for the kethup on the back, or someone telling you have to put your day bag in a certain place on the bus; otherwise just enjoy it.

7. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 9y

Colombia is by far the most interesting destination in all of South America and security is better than anywhere but Chile.

8. Posted by sarahNdom (First Time Poster 1 posts) 9y

Maybe by sharing our experience with you, it may put your mind at rest! We had a bag stolen in San Antonio de Tachira on the Venezuela / Columbia border which although didn't have our passports in it, did contain our credit cards and some cash, with the exception of $20 that we had in a money belt. Obviously it had to be on a Saturday morning and the only Western Union outlet wasn't open until the Monday! We reported the crime at the police station and then had to get a report from the local court building. The detectives we met there were really helpful and sympathetic to our situation. It had just turned dark and they drove us to a local takeaway and bought us dinner as they knew we had no money. They then took us back to the dodgy hotel/brothel which was the only place we could afford to stay (the door on our room didn't even close properly) and had a word with the owner to ensure we would be safe. The next morning, on his day off, one of the detectives picked us up from the hotel and drove us 2 hours to the nearest city where there would be a Western Union outlet open on a Sunday. Talk about going the extra mile! He also bought us breakfast in a farmers cafe in the Andes which was a really kind gesture and an experience in itself which we would never have done if this hadn't had happened. On arrival in the city, believe it or not, all the telephone lines were down and so Western Union wasn't able to complete a transaction for us anyway, bad luck or what? The detective ended up contacting the British Embassy for us and then drove us to meet one of their staff who personally lent us the money to stay in a hotel until the following day when Western Union would hopefully be working again. The Embassy staff paid for a taxi to a hotel where they had booked us a room. The lady who ran the hotel was lovely and when she heard what had happened to us offered to take us into the countryside to eat with her family as she was very keen for us to understand that the majority of Venezuelan people were good people and not criminals. To be honest, in a weird kind of way, because we had the bag stolen, we ended up meeting some amazingly helpful and kind people who bent over backwards to help us in their country. On reflection, it is difficult to believe that this would be the response if this happened to a traveller in our home city of Manchester, UK. I hope you find this reassuring. Obviously, use your common sense to stay safe, but remember it would be such a shame to miss out on any of the great places South America has to offer because of concerns about safety. Essay over!

9. Posted by dbloom (Travel Guru 586 posts) 9y

Although men and women have equal rights by law in Mexico and other Latin American countries, and more and more women work outside the home and hold public office, traditional ideas still dominate in many areas. This should not deter you from traveling to Mexico, Central nor South America on your own. You can have a great time and learn a lot, just remember that your safety is your top priority and consider these tips to avoid harassment and stay safe.

1) Dress like the locals
Mexicans (and most other Latin Americans) tend to dress conservatively, and if you would like to avoid unwanted attention, it's a good idea to do likewise. In coastal areas, shorts and tank tops are acceptable, but inland, women usually wear pants or skirts.

2) Arrive during the day
If at all possible, get a flight or bus that allows you to arrive at any new destination with enough daylight hours left in the day for you to find your hotel and get oriented.

3) Look like you know where you're going (even if you don't)
Don't stand on the street looking at your map or guidebook. Ask for directions at your hotel or in a store or restaurant. Write down the directions, or draw a small map on a piece of paper that you can consult without other people noticing.

4) Ignore catcalls
If men call out to you on the street, the best thing you can do is to just keep walking, don't respond and avoid making eye contact. Any response by you, even a negative one, will be seen as an invitation to continue the interaction.

5) Put your safety before your budget
Choose a hotel in an area that feels safe to you, even if it costs more. Your security and comfort are worth it, and you will enjoy your trip a great deal more.

6) Curb your alcohol intake
If you're traveling on your own, you need to keep your wits about you. Drink only in the company of people you trust. Remember that at higher altitudes you may feel the effects of alcohol more rapidly.

7) Beware of the "gabachero" (Mexican slang)..there exists teh same type of amle hunter in many beach resort and travel destinations throughout L.A...........
This is a term used for a Mexican man who makes a career out of pursuing foreign women. He may want sex or the things a foreign woman can afford: dinner in nice restaurants, a trip to the beach or even to her country. If you enjoy the company and don't mind footing the bill, go ahead, just don't be fooled about his intentions.

8) Learn a few phrases
If you don't speak Spanish, at least learn a few phrases that you can use if you are being harassed. The phrase "Estoy esperando a mi esposo," (I'm waiting for my husband) works surprisingly well to get rid of unwanted suitors.
Also, know how to ask for help: "Ayudeme, por favor." Say this directly to someone nearby if you're being harassed and need help. Many Mexicans/Latin Americans will avoid getting involved in a situation unless they are asked directly.

9) Practice general precautions against theft
Don't wear expensive jewelry and keep any valuables in your hotel's safe or carry them on your body, under your clothes. Keep your money in a few different places. Wear comfortable shoes so you can run if necessary.

10) Trust your instincts
If a person or situation feels uncomfortable, get away fast. Don't worry about being rude. Your safety is so much more important than being nice.

10. Posted by marlis (Travel Guru 1167 posts) 9y

Perfect advise,dbloom