Skip Navigation

The Pickpocket Lowdown in Santiago.

Travel Forums Central/South America & The Caribbean The Pickpocket Lowdown in Santiago.

Last Post This thread is marked as being about Chile
1. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 933 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Listen gang. I am not one to be reactionary. I have a good dose of skepticism built into me. I put off writing something like this for weeks, but recent events make that irresponsible. So understand that I seldom make grand proclamations in this vein.

Your Shit Is Going To Get Ripped Off In Santiago If You Lose Focus For ONE MINUTE.

I have not been everywhere in the world, far far from it. But in the places that I HAVE been, I have never seen anything like this. People have tried to pickpocket me before. It's a thing that travellers have to watch for. In Santiago, however, this has been taken to a whole new level....for me, at least.

The first time I came to Santiago, I had two pickpocketing attempts. One was extremely clever. As I was on the Metro, heading for the bus station out of town, I had let Bugs sit on the deck, and had slung my Laptop daypack. I had made sure the zippers were all done up because it was a little over stuffed, and I didn't want anything to fall out.

If you have ever been to Santiago, you know the Metro is PACKED pretty much all day. So I ended up with people behind me. It was a couple, the young guy had his back to me, and he bumped into me hard several times while he canoodled with his girl. I let the matter slide, because the guy was facing away.

The crowd thinned out, and I saw a local get on the Metro and suddenly gasp because he had forgotten to move his day pack around so he could see it. This twigged me and I moved my pack around quickly.

There were five zippers on that pack...Every one was gaping open......You could see all the toilet paper I was carrying....(most of the toilets I visit in Latin America are berfeft of TP.)plus some pairs of socks and heinously folded english language comic book I found. While the guy's back was bumping me, his girl friend was reaching around him to go through my shit....Very clever. But I figured it was isolated. (I lost nothing, by the way...Every pocket had useless junk.)

But now I live here. I ride the Metro every damned day...And, believe me, it can SUCK ASS! I carry a satchel now. You can sling it around in front, or to the back, or to the side. You can access it while still wearing it. You can take off jacket while never taking the damned thing off.

The thing has one outside zipper. I make sure, every day, that zipper is closed tight. I mean, I am obsessed with that zipper.

Every day...'scuse me....EVERY DAY. That zipper is opened by some jerkweed on the Metro. I wait for it. I am getting good at feeling the bump. I have clonged three guys in the head over this zipper...even though that compartment contains only toilet paper.(My own In Joke)

They are brazen here...and they don't care if they get spotted, depending on where they are. I saw a guy feel a kid dip for his wallet in a crowd, and the kid smiled and just booked....and came back twenty minutes later.

In a giant open mall, that was EMPTY, I've had two guys try to bump me for a wallet. I didn't wait for the dip. I just slapped them both upside the head. They protested, but too fucking bad.

Catch the way this is going? It's rampant!!!

So today is the capper. I see a guy in an Ekono, a local grocery, just stuffing shit into his pants....who is his lookout? His nine year old daughter. Now, having lived a somewhat seedy lifestyle in another iteration, I would have been willing to let this slide if the guy was doing this to feed his daughter.....Nope. He was stealing chocolate bars and gum. I pointed the guy out to the two security guys patrolling the store...The nodded, but let the guy walk out...They didn't care....Grim.

But I save the best for last. After this, I go to my Santiago local, "Teppy's Schop" Unofficial home of the ColoColino. The other day I was in there an heard a guy say he got his cell ripped off. He was angry as shit and railed against the people who wouldn't speak up if they saw a guy rip him off. Today I saw that same guy. A "Street Thief" came in selling an IPhone that everybody knew he just lifted....this same fucking Melonhead bought it from him with a smile. Even the victimized are in on the scam.


Have a nice day...and GLOT


[ Edit: Edited on 25-Aug-2009, at 20:07 by Piecar ]

2. Posted by SamSalmon (Respected Member 626 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I don't believe you!

According to media reports in El Norte Chile is a stunning free market success story a thriving economic engine that's crime free and where everyone is gainfully employed/there's an empanada in every pocket not toilet paper or some thief's hand!

3. Posted by BedouinLeo (Inactive 698 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

I have walked the streets of Santiago at night and it felt a lot safer than Rio. OK I dont parade my wallet and passport for all to see but thats the right move isnt it? Never a spot of trouble while there. I didnt find it the friendliest city in the world, but the views are just wonderful albeit through choking amounts of smog.

4. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 933 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Yep. No violent crime. True enough. Vandalism, pickpocketing, shoplifting, smash and grabs. Definitely.

Glad you liked the city. It has it's charms, I guess.


5. Posted by ChileGuide (Budding Member 2 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

Well I am Chilean , I ve lived in Santiago all my life , I went Highschool in downtown and now I am a tour-guide for 11 years already, What you say , is true, but, It's not that Bad , I think you experimented something that you might not be used to, but here is our real world , so everybody take the precautions, I would never think to carry my backpack in the back in downtown , Santiago, Buenos Aires, Lima, Rio, Sao Paulo, Mexico City, Where I know exist this issue of pick pockets. Flashing jewelry is not a good idea either.
So, I think you have to be careful as any big city in the world, the only difference that here in Chile, Minors are completely "immune" to the justice, they know if they commit some ilegal act, they will be realease 1 day after, is sad I know , but is true , so, most of the pickpockets are minors.
Buttom Line , Santiago will be safe as soon as you take your own precautions:


1. No jewels nor expensive watch
2. Dont wear you wallet in the back pocket , safety belts are highly recommeded!
3. No Passport in the streets , make a xerox, you don't need ANY ID to exchange money
4. NEVER wear your backpack in your back in crowded places
5. Don't SHOW OFF , your IPOD, IPHONE, etc , specially in pedestrian streets like Ahumada, Plaza de Armas , Mercado Central.
6. Take always toilette paper with you , that's is TRUE!!!
7. NEVER exchange money in the streets.
8. Take a pocket digital camera for SANTIAGO and keep your SLR for landscapes everywhere else in the country.
9. Try to look yourself simple, and if you are on vacations , avoid rush-hours ( 7:30 am -10:00 am) (5:30 pm- 09:00 pm)
10. I' ve been pick-pocketed ONCE since I live here. It's a beautiful crowded city, with issues as any , the invitation is to relax and enjoy a "mote con huesillos" or " corvina con salsa margarita" or " cafe con piernas" and relax!
Santiago is not THAT bad!:)

6. Posted by Piecar (Travel Guru 933 posts) 8y Star this if you like it!

They really should put that on a poster.

"Santiago is not THAT bad."

I agree. There is lots to love about Santiago. Great architecture. Great access to the surrounding wilderness. Fantastic mass transit. People who are fine.

Just watch your stuff....and don't let them push you around on the street. You'll see what I mean when you get here.


Post 7 was removed by a moderator